The supplier has received the order to build the system and that is when the project really begins. As with all IT projects, a number of steps must be completed:
However, Manufacturing Execution System projects involve a large number of factors. In many cases, these factors are not adequately considered and planned for at the start of the project.
During the project, surprises arise and delays, overruns and frustration arise. A supplier knows these factors, and will probably have identified them, but often does not have the ability to highlight them properly within the organisation.
An experienced party who stands on the customer’s side and operates in close cooperation with the management can often make this happen. The project runs more smoothly for both parties; the supplier can work efficiently and the goals set by the customer are achieved.
Conditions for success
A large number of factors determine the success of the project:
In Manufacturing Execution System projects, the system is specified in three steps:
- User Specification
- Functional Specification
- Technical specification
Greywise has drawn up the user specification in various projects. This has advantages for both the client and the supplier. The working method of Greywise is characterised by:
- Proven approach based on the ISA-95 standard
- Focus on production processes and goods flows and securing tracking & tracing
- Involving end users at an early stage, which leads to higher acceptance
- All departments that will be involved with the new system are involved in good time
- Critical look at the business operations, pro-active with improvement proposals
- Description of interfaces and necessary adjustments in other systems
- Quick answers to questions because we know our way around the organisation
- Based on best practices in the food industry, not on the possibilities of the system
For the supplier, this means that he can work faster and more effectively with the functional and technical specifications. It saves time and increases quality.
A Manufacturing Execution System always has a number of interfaces:
- ERP system
- Operating system, such as PLCs, SCADA and DCS
- Peripheral equipment, such as scanners, label printers, weighing equipment and vision systems
Greywise draws up the interface specification, both substantively and technically, and ensures coordination between the various parties during the construction, testing and implementation phase.
The risk exists that a supplier focuses (too much) on the “happy flow” because too little time is taken during the specification phase to identify the exceptions.
Now, not all exceptions have to be included in the system, but there must be instructions on how operators should act. We take this into account during testing, documentation and training.
The system integrator provides a number of days of “train-the-trainer” and then it is up to your organisation to bring all future users up to the right level. It often turns out that the customer cannot free up enough people with the right level and skills to do this.
We know the material and we know what the training needs to meet. We make the training programme and can also give the training courses. It is important that this knowledge is secured in your organisation.
Besides classroom training and training on the job, we also provide complete E-learning programmes tailored to the needs of the customer. We provide the content that can be included in the E-learning environment of the
The supplier expects the customer to test the system. For this, a test plan must be written and test scripts must be prepared. In many cases, the customer does not have the expertise or the time to do this properly. Because we have also drawn up the specifications together with the customer, we are also capable of writing the tests that will show that the system meets these specifications.
We do this together with the future users (often operators) who carry out the tests. The tests are carried out in a test environment that approaches reality as closely as possible. We ensure that the system integrator also solves the errors and imperfections.
The better the testing, the fewer problems during the go-live. This prevents unplanned downtime and increases acceptance.
The user documentation must be practical. No thick books, but clear instructions on an A4 sheet, which are easily accessible and focused on the needs of the user. Where possible, we try to integrate the help function into the system. The users, often operators, are involved in drawing up the documentation.
The documentation is drawn up before the test and tested during the test for its practical workability. The use of the documentation is also part of the training.
Fall back procedures
After a thorough test of the system, the chance is small that something will go completely wrong during the start-up, thus endangering the production progress. But this situation must also be taken into account and it must be considered in advance whether it is possible to go back to the old situation or to keep production going via workarounds.
Reliability of the system
It is very important that the MES system is not the cause of unplanned production stops. Several factors play a role in this. One is the technical IT infrastructure, the servers and the network on which the application runs.
There are various ways of setting up this infrastructure. Usually, the more reliable, the more expensive. It is important to make the right choices.
A lot of energy is put into training the operators and there are good manuals ready. Nevertheless, operators will feel uncertain during the first few days. Extra support then contributes to more confidence, a steeper learning curve and better acceptance.
In case of problems, there is adequate support and operators can be guided in their contact with the support department.
Scope monitoring and change management
Of course, a good specification that includes all requirements and wishes is of primary importance. However, during the preparation and implementation, new insights will arise and new wishes will emerge.
Saying no to every request is impossible and saying yes to everything leads to delays and budget overruns.
The decision-making process will have to be properly organised and management involvement is a must.
Especially in the first months after go-live, the support department is regularly called upon. It is then important that the support employees are well trained and have the correct request scripts at their disposal. Support staff are often involved in the start-up phase of the project so that they get to know the system, the processes, the organisation and the people.
Our experience is that after go-live it takes too long before the Support Department is up to speed. This leads to unnecessary production downtime and frustration among users.
System Health Monitoring
The proper functioning of the MES depends on a large number of factors. The application may not stop unexpectedly, the various servers must function properly, the interfaces must work reliably and the network with routers and firewalls must be set up properly.
If a problem occurs somewhere, it is very important that this is signalled in time and preferably automatically. It is possible to monitor the various components for proper functioning. The status can be displayed on a dashboard that is visible, for example, in the control room and at the support department.
A common problem is a malfunctioning interface. If the consumption and revenue no longer pass through the ERP system, the stock is no longer displayed correctly in the ERP system. This may only be noticed hours later. If a start is only then made on solving the problem, this can lead to a production standstill.
The project manager of the system integrator will naturally strive to make the project a success.
He cannot do this alone.
A good project manager is also required on the client’s side, who will steer internal matters in the right direction:
- such as monitoring the scope and budget
- ensuring proper decision-making in the event of changes
- freeing up employees for activities in the project
- coordinating with production about the planning and reporting to the steering committee