Before you invest in a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) for your facility, you need to consider how easily and efficiently it will be deployed throughout your operation, and what the long-term relationship with your vendor will be like. A successful system deployment plan depends on far more than simply which product you select. Here are five key elements you should consider when assessing an MES vendor’s service capabilities.
Project Management and Execution
The success or failure of an enterprise-level system deployment depends heavily on a properly governed, defined, structured, and executed project plan. While it is important that an MES vendor have standardized and documented methodologies and processes, it is equally important that they have the ability to tailor those processes for each unique deployment. The project manager, in conjunction with the onsite deployment team, must be able to complete tasks in a timely manner while being able to overcome technical challenges as they arise. Your success depends on a group of professionals with the right mix of management ability, domain knowledge, and technical skills to get the job done.
Configuration and Customization
Some MES systems are 95% "out of the box" while others are built largely from scratch on a project-by-project basis. Regardless of the system you select, the vendor must be dynamic and creative and able to design and implement solutions to your unique requirements or manufacturing equipment. This should be carried out by high caliber designers and developers that have a deep knowledge of how and why the product was built. Why put your fate in the hands of third parties or subcontractors?
Training and Certification
Even a well deployed MES system will eventually fail if the user base does not know how to properly and efficiently use the system to perform their job functions. Your MES partner should have formalized programs, curricula, and objective testing to ensure that your users are fully trained. They should also offer ongoing programs that allow and incentivize users to remain current with their knowledge as new features and functions are added or enhanced. Finally, your MES vendor should be able to offer a variety training options to accommodate your busy schedules as well as your budget.
System Usage Audits
Every manufacturer faces changing customer requirements, evolving business conditions, and at least some staff turnover. All of these factors can, over time, erode the benefits you glean from your MES system. You need an MES vendor that is able to give you occasional 'checkups' to objectively determine if your system is still being leveraged fully. Proper system usage audits ensure that you get maximum ROI for months and years after the deployment project is completed.
Your relationship with your MES vendor doesn't end when the deployment project is over. You will rely on your MES partner for years to come for technical support, software upgrades, and system expansion. Make sure you understand your vendor's support structure, staff size and availability, and committed response times. It is also important to understand their cost model and frequency of software fixes and upgrades. You need assurance that your vendor will be there when you need them.
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