This guest post is authored by John Clemons, director of manufacturing IT at MAVERICK Technologies

While MES has been around for many, many years, some things haven’t changed very much.  Particularly, the mistakes that people make when they’re implementing MES seem to be the same year after year.  But, being aware of the potential pitfalls and staying focused on the business issues will go a long way toward ensuring the success of the project.Bussinessman pointing at SUCCESS

Sometimes projects are based on the capabilities of the software and not on the requirements of the business.  The path that the project takes is all about the capabilities of the software and not about solving the business problems.  The project becomes an IT project designed around the software and its features and capabilities and not a business project trying to solve business problems and make manufacturing more competitive.  This is often seen when the project plan is based on the software package and the tasks in the project plan are all about implementing specific modules, features, and capabilities.

This is also seen in the software product suppliers performing software installations and not project implementations.  For some of the large MES packages, only the software suppliers are even qualified to implement the software package and they don’t really perform a project implementation they perform a software installation.  Again, it’s all about the software and not about the business and that’s where the problem lies.

Any project that ends up being about the software package and not about the business issues is probably not going to be successful.  Many times the business issues that should be driving the implementation of the MES solution simply get lost.  They get lost in the midst of the project when the project is trying to implement the software package, trying to stay under budget, and trying to stay on schedule.  It’s exactly that old joke about remembering that you’re supposed to be draining the swamp when you’re surrounded by alligators.  It’s just that in many cases the software package is what’s bringing out most of the alligators.  Staying focused on the business is difficult but ultimately necessary to ensure the success of the project.  Remember the basics – even if the software package has great features, gets implemented on time, and on budget, if it doesn’t address the business issues and give the business what it needs, it’s a failure.

The successful project must always be about the business and giving the business what it needs.  The project needs to be led by the business and especially not the IT organization.  It can’t be an IT project; it has to be a business project.  IT must cede control and the business must step up and lead the project.

The project must be about driving fundamental change in the business and solving business issues.  No matter how big or how small, it must be about the business and driving change in the business.  It’s not about the technology and it’s not about technology change.  And, it’s especially not about technology for technology’s sake.

The complexities that are dealt with by the project should be the operational and business complexity and not the technology or technical complexity.  If the project finds itself dealing with complex technical solutions to try to support what are or should be simple business processes then something is wrong.  The complexity should lie in the business and operations issues to be solved and not in the technology solutions that the project is trying to implement.

Finally, since the project is driving change in the business there needs to be some serious leadership and support.  These types of projects are not for the faint of heart and they’re not for the poorly supported.  The project is going to need some significant support from management and it must be serious support from a high level.  And, it can’t be support for just a short time; it has to be long term support for the duration of the project, throughout the implementation of the project, and past the implementation to the point where the business benefits are actually being achieved and sustained.

MES projects should always be about the business and not the technology.  In fact, any project should be about the business and not the technology.  Just getting that right will go a long way toward ensuring a successful project.

John Clemons

About the Author
John Clemons is MAVERICK’s director of manufacturing IT with more than 30 years of education and experience in technology engineering, product/service innovation, project management and consulting services for world-class manufacturing enterprises. John has experience in the food, beverage and consumer packaged goods (CPG) sectors; the oil, natural gas and alternative energy sectors and the chemical and petrochemical sectors. He is a champion of lean manufacturing, operational performance excellence, total quality and other paradigms that optimize productivity, efficiency and profitability. A frequent industry speaker, writer and co-author of Information Technology for Manufacturing: Reducing Costs and Expanding Capabilities, contact John at john.clemons@mavtechglobal.com.

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