Why the Factory Review - Part 1

November 8, 2018 Roger Landman

Factory_review_erpWhen an organization takes a decision to purchase and implement an MES (Manufacturing Execution System) like SYSPRO M.O.M. (Manufacturing and Operations Management), it is because they have realised that they have problems in their manufacturing processes that are affecting the bottom line.

An MES is an end to end closed loop feedback system measuring and publishing the (relevant) key performance indicators (KPIs).  It would typically include a scheduling system, a data collection system for machine and employee data and an analytics system to present the measured performance.  The analytics (KPIs) is where the value add is – they will indicate which areas in the manufacturing cycle are the problem areas.

Typically, the first step in the implementation of any manufacturing software into a manufacturing business is the Factory Review.  The Factory Review is designed to help understand what is going on in the factory, the management structure and gather the necessary information to configure the software to the organization’s requirements.  However, while collecting this information, the Factory Review often uncovers a minefield of issues and misinformation that distorts the picture significantly.  On many occasions, it turns out that a number of these issues should have been identified and resolved by the leadership before the Factory Review occurs.

Preparation for the Factory Review is therefore highly recommended, and probably as important as the Factory Review itself.  The organization needs to prepare themselves and ensure that their manufacturing information is correct i.e. they have:

  1. Completed mapping out all of their processes
  2. Tidied up the current production processes
  3. Taken control of all of their manufacturing operations that are problematic
  4. Initiated some type of 5S programme to build onto the effort to ensure that the organization does not revert back to its old practices.

A common mistake is expecting the software implementation to resolve all of the internal issues, improve poorly designed processes and systems, and to drive the change management.  The software cannot do this – this is standard work for leaders.  The consultants involved in an implementation are software consultants, and are trained to implement software into an existing operation as it stands.  They are not trained to redesign poorly designed operational practices and factories.  This cannot be emphasized enough.

In many cases, the first step in preparing for the Factory Review the organization requires Industrial Engineers and Business Consultants to sort out the problems internally, and organize the manufacturing processes.

There are a number of areas to focus efforts here –

  • People – often one of the most overlooked aspects of any change to an organization is the people effect. The software implementation is going to affect the staff, and therefore a change management process must be included into the base plan.  While the end result is the optimization of the processes, without any staff buy-in the implementation is doomed.  An organization needs to “fertilize the soil” before planting so that the initiative will “bear fruit”.  The level of staff buy-in will make or break any initiative.
  • Organizational Alignment – a further consideration will be to ensure that the new software will align with the business processes. This is a two-way street – the software is customizable to a point, but requires specific inputs in specific sequences to ensure that the output is optimized.  There is a series of alignment activities that need to be undertaken to get the best out of the implementation.
  • Process Alignment – there needs to be internal alignment on the actual operational steps before implementing and designing the software solution. Often, the shop floor is doing something quite different to the management understanding of the process.  Usually this stems from poorly designed manufacturing steps which have been superseded by a “shop floor best practice” that is far more efficient, but very different to the perceived action.  The software will be configured to whatever the organization requests, therefore supervisors and shop floor workers are needed to help detail the exact activities.
  • Best Fit – there may be areas of the manufacturing process not supported by the software. The software consultants will implement and “best fit” the software to the current operations as provided by the organization, problems included.  A number of these poorly fitting areas have been identified as poorly designed manufacturing processes.  It is important to resolve these, and redesign them if necessary, during the pre-Factory Review process, otherwise they are embedded and automated into the business.

There are a number of areas to be considered and tidied up before launching into a Factory Review.  Clean data and clear process understanding are paramount to begin the Factory Review.

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