Why MES needs Implementation Providers
There are several reasons why MES needs Implementation Providers. These are companies focused on providing services, with a MES practice developed over many years, often with a strong MES-specific project methodology in place, and having the success of the project as the main objective.
Given the experience these providers have with different MES systems, they can easily see if a certain functional or non-functional feature is missing and how to supplement it, beyond an invaluable experience in integrating the MES with the other existing software applications.
In addition, and extremely important, some implementers are very specialized in certain segments; they may have a global presence or presence in specific regions where the projects take place; and very often have even previous experience with the clients in question.
Analysts understand the importance of Implementation Providers. Gartner publishes yearly a Market Guide for MES/MOM Implementation Providers and IDC published a complete Vendor Assessment of Manufacturing Systems Integrators, just to mention two examples.
As Critical Manufacturing’s success stories and brand awareness progresses, we’ve been developing increasingly large projects with multiple factories. Using experienced third-party resources as the extension of our Implementation teams is a natural step.
Critical Manufacturing uses Partners as a key part of their Go to Market strategy. We decided that in lieu of adding hundreds of staff members for project deployment and maintenance, we’d partner with Best in Class firms, around the world, to provide this service to our customers. It’s served us well. Over the past three to four years, we’ve added the leading global consulting and implementation firms to our roster of partners (you can see them all here).
A Strong Methodology on Partner Engagement and Enablement
These Partner companies are more than logos to us. They are a critical element in our customer care methodology. We see customers traveling on a continuum—they are also our partners in their journey to reach Digital Transformation. Our implementation, consulting and services partners provide the means to reach that transformation, with proven methodologies and practices, unique to their companies, but always following the Critical Manufacturing approach for successfully executing and maintaining a project.
To that end, well over a year ago we established a structured training and shadowing program in order to ensure to both us and our customers that the Critical Manufacturing partners can independently execute projects based on our proven best practices.
We start with selecting those companies to enter our program that have the industry background and successful, scalable projects in specific industry segments. We focus on complex discrete, including semiconductor; electronics and high tech; medical devices; automotive; aerospace and defense and box build. These industries all have a common need—for rigorous track, trace and genealogy; labor and materials management; recipe management; equipment and enterprise integration, etc. The partners must know the terminology of the market as well as the specific operations nuances in order to effectively administer a Critical Manufacturing (CM) project. Since we focus on multi-site scalability, our partners must also have the capability of supporting several sites in disbursed geographies, or conversely have deep experience within a specific territory.
Once a partner is selected, and the contractual paperwork is completed, partners undergo a deep onboarding process. Partners are first sent through a training regimen, using both virtual and on-site classes. This is a two week process with plenty of interaction. We call this phase ‘blended’ training since we use a mixture of both classroom learning, as well as online tools (as seen in the diagram below) to supplement the face to face experience. We’ve found by starting with the online training, and finishing with on-site learning improves the training experience and provides a faster ramp up time for the subsequent stages of enablement.
Our online tools include a Knowledge Base; a Documentation Portal (both technical and marketing); e-Learning; and commercial content such as White Papers. Collectively, the online tools are a foundational resource for partners (and customers) to access key Critical Manufacturing content. It provides the ability for partners to join in on group discussions on specific subjects and on the CM MES applications, for immediate knowledge transfer and accelerated learning.
After completing the training course, Partners are tested for their knowledge and learning prior to going to the next step of onboarding, shadowing.
Shadowing is a four-month process and focuses on readying a partner for deployment on a ‘live’ project by first providing an environment for guided learning under the watchful eye of the CM project team. The partner works side by side with the CM project team, sometimes at the project site, nowadays virtually with oversight, using technologies like Microsoft Teams for collaboration. This allows us to adequately monitor the progress of the partner and ensure that their activities and actions adhere to the CM project methodology.
Depending upon their role, the partner may participate in shadowing as a Project Manager, MES Developer, MES Modeler, or MES Solutions Architect. Each role has a specific skills set and qualifications associated with it, to make sure that our partners are equally monitored and measured by the same set of criteria as well as map to our own activity set as it relates to that specific responsibility.
At the end of the four month shadowing, there is another assessment to review progress and ensure that the partner’s skill sets continues to reflect the methodology of CM. The partner is then considered a ’Critical Manufacturing Certified Professional’ and can use that designation as confirmation of their achievements and commitment.
After the shadowing phase, we enter a phase called Transition, during which Implementation projects are done by a mixed team of professionals from CM and from the partner. The objective is to provide confidence to the customers that the project is performed with CM being accountable for its success and provide additional hands-on experience to the partners, so that they reach the final stage, which is the ‘Autonomous Partner.’
A high-level view of the full process is shown below:
With the advent of the global stay-in-place order, our partner onboarding regimen continues. We conduct most of the training and shadowing activities remotely, so we’ve been able to maintain the momentum of partner development—both signing new partners into the program, and further developing those that have joined us earlier.
How You as a Customer Can Use Partners
So you’ve now seen how we at Critical Manufacturing have used partners to extend and enrich our services to you. How we’ve put an extensive, far reaching program in place to ensure that our best practices are learned and proliferated through our partner channel. But how does this help you as a customer, or prospective customer, of Critical Manufacturing MES?
It’s all about accessibility and intimacy. Accessibility, as you have a company familiar with your operations, knowledgeable about a key application driving your operational productivity, and being a specialist in their industry. Intimacy, for they have a dedicated team that’s focused solely on you to ensure your success, with the backing of Critical Manufacturing that gives them the Certificate of Performance.
Partners can be used whether you are in a startup mode; implementing a new transformational project, or whether you are looking for iterative improvements in performance within a well-run plant. Partners can be an extended part of your team as well as ours.
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