Thanks again for reading along with this blog series on manufacturing stories. Here are four take-aways that can help you lead your organization to achieve a brilliant 2017.

One – Build on, don’t replace

Process equipment is installed in a plant with the expectation that it will last for 10 or 20 years. Furthermore, these plants have manufacturing operations and intelligence systems like PLCs, SCADA, and historians where a lot of intellectual property has been invested and providing real value.

To leverage this investment, a manufacturing execution system (MES) or manufacturing operations management (MOM) system needs to leverage the exiting systems while adding specific value where a specific outcome is needed. These new investments should be added, leverage existing system data and provide a demonstrable ROI quickly.

Two—Everyone in the plant needs to use the same system to see value

To get the most of your manufacturing operations management system, everyone must be “on board” with the idea of using the same system. This can cause some angst among employees who like to do things their way, or are concerned with too much management oversight. Also, some operators think they can do better or are stuck in the old way of doing things. Unless the system is capturing all the information from all the machines and all the operator actions, it’s very hard to correlate performance across the entire plant.

Furthermore, operators may think that this is just another way for management to keep an eye on them, the big brother in the sky. They think, “I don’t want anybody to know how I operate my machine on my shift because I might do some things that are unconventional and get blamed for that”. This makes it hard to capture that tribal knowledge that the old-timers have on how to run the process and pass it on to a newer generation of operations personnel. But the reality is, you can’t optimize what you can’t measure, which means leadership needs to work with plant employees to show the empowerment that the new system provides.

Three – Tight margins make it even more important to make incremental investments

Let’s face it margins are tight, and getting tighter. Take CPG industries, for example. They have squeezed every cost out of the plant that they could. This makes it even harder for IT to justify investments. Maybe it’s time to look past the four walls of the plant for productivity improvements. Furthermore, the ubiquity of cheap sensors has not yet met with success in deployment in mass across the organization. Users are looking for incremental investments that will result in immediate wins that can be used to self-fund the next level of technology investment. They want something that is modular and provides greater agility in solving problems. More direct outcome-based.

Fourth – Have Resolve

At the same time the IT department is getting pressured to reduce costs. This usually results in a reduction in headcount. What is needed is to drive a new initiative that will have longevity and have a longer tenure of these IT professionals so they can carry the project through to completion and see the benefits from the strategy. MES systems are expensive to put in and require a faster payback than a five-year capitalization. Management doesn’t have the patience to wait for the benefit. Also, how can you guarantee that the operators will leverage it to get the benefit?

What’s a Manufacturing Leader to do

This goes into the leadership component of making MES and MOM investments. It takes a charismatic individual and like-minded team to get the entire organization behind the idea and to get the benefits from technology investments. The organization needs to use the investment and the tools provided. Many times, management is slow to change and people with great experience working in a department or field assume the solution based on past judgment rather than allowing fresh insight on how to approach the problem. Investment in an MES system versus 10 engineers with clipboards. Some management still believe this is a better investment versus the real-time collection of information and correlation that only computers can provide. They are slow to change their minds and approach to solving problems.

Technology investments should be part of long-term vision, with incremental steps on how to get there, but always with the end goal in sight.

At General Electric, we’ve experienced these things firsthand in our own factories and we can help by providing some counseling on how to approach the organizational change within your departments. Islands of information are not a technical problem. Information silos are created by people. So, choosing to become a digitized organization requires a mindset change and the effective leaders in the organization.

Miss the beginning of this series?  Read 12 Manufacturing Tips for a Brilliant 2017. Tip 1: Manufacturing Physics

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About the author

GE Digital

Driving Digital Transformation

GE Digital connects streams of machine data to powerful analytics and people, providing industrial companies with valuable insights to manage assets and operations more efficiently. World-class talent and software capabilities help drive digital industrial transformation for big gains in productivity, availability and longevity. We do this by leveraging Predix, our cloud-based operating system, purpose built for the unique needs of industry.

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