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Qualitative aspect of MES ROI

December 02, 2014

Qualitative aspect of MES ROI

So far we have established how a project team justifying the MES application may collect solid quantitative data regarding the ROI of the application, in terms of its ability to improve profitability, reduce costs and mitigate risks. But the MES is more than just a money making tool. The application is capable of making the overall plant operation better, more organized, more compliant and more transparent. Today we will find out how our project team may provide evidence to the top management that the MES actually provides a 360 degree improvement to the process.

From recording data to ensuring that Standard Operating Procedure is practiced: the MES as a control mechanism, providing both tangible and qualitative benefits to the plant.

The project team from our automotive plant can make their case for qualitative ROI, starting from the one avenue that is considered extremely critical for any plant: regulatory and quality compliance. Any automobile plant is generally subjected to a variety of regulatory requirements which - when managed manually - involve a lot of paperwork and require dedicated personnel (even a team) to ensure the plant and its operations remain compliant. Right from material regulations to training of personnel, the plant’s management might be required to collect and archive a lot of data on a daily basis.

The project team may demonstrate here that the MES pilot deployed is capable of recording the data in the prescribed formats, and it may also be intelligent enough to manage the compliance activity, thereby eliminating the rigorous paperwork. Say where operator training and certification is concerned, the team may show that the application not only acts as screening tool to ensure that the right person operates a particular machinery, it may also provide the operator required training by educating them how to perform the task. The MES may also be capable of reminding personnel and their supervisors that their certification is about to expire.

MES improves the overall process visibility and thereby helps make better, faster and more accurate decisions.

Now when it comes to process improvement, the team needs to demonstrate how the MES has improved a production line’s performance. One way to do that is to collect cycle time data before and after the MES pilot was deployed. The comparison with the baseline might just be enough to prove the MES’ impact on the performance, but since the MES collects data from various avenues of the process, the team needs to demonstrate how this availability of vital information in real time helps decision makers make the right call.

An effective way to make a qualitative case would be to interview managers, shift supervisors and technicians. Their feedback on how the MES has helped them make better decisions now as compared to earlier (when they had to wait for gathering all the data, or sometimes make decisions even without knowing all the facts) surely would be of great value. The evaluation might also include operators and other personnel ranging from the R&D to the Quality Control verticals. Establishing whether or not the MES improves their day to day work is often found critical to the success of implementing the MES in the facility.

Why talking to the plant-level personnel is that important? Because, let’s face the facts here, no matter how good an application is in terms of the financial benefits, it will never reach its true potential, unless it is accepted by its users and considered a better alternative than the earlier state of operation.

It may also reveal that the problems they faced previously (and never reported them - for one reason or another…) are now eliminated with the MES. To give an example: paint shop personnel may reveal that they had to wait for 30 minutes every day to gain a shift pass-down from the earlier shift’s operator and his supervisor, but now the MES provides them with all the relevant information. They can just read it on their iPad in 5 minutes or so, and start their work earlier.

Such data exposes to the management how the MES impacts the daily operations in a positive way and allows users to perform their tasks better than before. It also helps them understand how simple activities they considered necessary were actually wasteful and can now be removed from the process for good. It is this user experience data that might actually help create a potent case for the MES justification and tip the balance in the application’s favor, notwithstanding its other more tangible benefits.

This brings us to the end of our MES ROI series of articles. To provide a brief recap: like all other projects, MES justification is an elaborate process and it requires a competent project team to prove to the management that the application will align with the company’s strategy and will be beneficial in the long run. ROI related data should be given prime importance by the project team and all efforts should be made to make a factual case demonstrating the application’s ability to make money, save money, mitigate risks and above all improve the quality of the process, thereby making both process owners and stakeholders happy and satisfied.

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