Why Your Manufacturing Execution System Is Making Your Job Harder

So, you've spent a ton of money and who knows how much time implementing and getting people to use your Manufacturing Execution System (MES). Performance got a little better in the beginning but now it seems that things have gone right back to the old ways just with more data (a lot of which is incomplete and unreliable) and more meetings. The only change that really happened is that people got better at explaining why they're doing so poorly but still no real tangible results. Well that early bump you got in performance is called the Hawthorne effect. According to Wikipedia, "the Hawthorne effect (also referred to as the observer effect is a type of reactivity in which individuals modify or improve an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed." You can pretty much expect that bump in any area where there is increased focus such as implementing a new tracking system or taking Leadership Walks. However it does prove that improvement is possible and needs to be realized and sustained.

The reason your system isn't getting results is because most of them are designed to do the opposite of what they are intended to do. They disengage and demotivate your people. And guess whose job it becomes to cover this motivation gap...exactly; you! These systems do a few things wrong that actually drive people away from the culture of operational excellence that you so desire. Here are a few:

  1. Some require too much input from the operator and not the right stuff. Developers often don't understand shop floor life. No one wants to spent time putting stuff into the computer...no one! Except developers of course because that's what they get paid to do. A shop floor operator, supervisor, or anyone else should not have to spend any more than a few minutes per day entering stuff into the computer. And this should be mission critical knowledge that could only otherwise be passed from person to person. Solution: The Factory Operating System (fOS) is designed to minimize the input required from the operator. Each production run is captured in less than one minute.
  2. Some require too little input from the operator. These systems have successfully automated the data input part of the MES. This is very good... but very bad. The problem is that people completely tune the system out altogether and happily go through their days ignoring it (or worse, completely forgetting about it). This is bad because critical information such as key learnings about issues, best practices, and other vital knowledge get lost forever. This is not far from recreating the wheel every day. Solution: The fOS requires a manual input for each production run that takes less than a minute. This engages the operator in the system and requires shift notes to be shared so that a repository of issues, best-practices, and solutions can be created. It also calls the operator's attention to their own performance trend, which is displayed by default on the interactive reporting page when the user logs in.
  3. There's nothing in it for the operator to input the data. These MES systems tend to leave out a critical social element needed for driving true performance. People like to shine. They are motivated by looking good and being good at what they do. Nearly all MES systems completely ignore this reality and simply compile and show the data in a matter-of-fact way. This further disengages people because it's not personal and it's not for them; it's more for the company bosses to squeeze more out of them. Solution: The fOS leverages people's inherent need to shine by highlighting personal records, record breaking weeks, outperforming the standard, and other great successes. It sets everyone on the same playing field and encourages people and teams to win by eliminating waste and being more efficient. This makes so that the motivation to perform comes from the shop floor-up instead of the top-down.
  4. Some are only designed to encourage a top-down command and control culture; which gets short-term results but long-term demise (and possibly leads to a union forming in your factory). The way most of these things work is that the operator puts the data in and management shows up a while later with a big stick to punish the operator for either not doing it right or for being too inefficient. There is a gap in understanding that the people have the real power. They can make the company a huge success or a complete failure. For example, if one of them slips the wrong thing into the product, it could lead to a catastrophic PR nightmare in an instant and potentially bring your carefully crafted brainchild of a business to an instant death. Solution: The fOS employs the brilliant engagement techniques of Social Networks to help motivate people to do better. The better they do, the more it raises their social profile within the company. This is an incentive that money can't buy, and subsequently won't cost you a thing.
  5. They charge for installation, use, upgrades, and maintenance. The companies that make these systems are in business to make money, just like any other. They did a calculation that said you would pay for their software, then pay them to install it, then pay them to maintain it, then pay again to upgrade it, and also pay your own IT people to make it useful. And they tell you that you have to do all this in the name of data security or some other tactic. And so far you've done it. I don't blame you; you didn't know better. Unfortunately, this handsome cost of service keeps their solutions out of reach for many many manufacturers because as you know, it's almost impossible to justify implementing an MES financially. Thus, they have disengaged people simply by being inaccessible. Solution: The fOS is free. It's a social network that makes your factory more productive. We don't sell software; we give it away and consider it a marketing cost. We also don't sell ads on the site. No one will be calling you to ask if they could help you be more efficient or for any other reason if you use the fOS. However, if you would like to hire someone from the outside to help you with an issue, the site makes it very easy to do so. This is how we make money; by brokering projects. You have the option to post an improvement project and efficiency experts can bid and make the case for why you should hire them. This process is initiated by you when you're ready to take this action. The theory is that when you understand how much better you can be, you will take the action you need to take to close the gap. That's it. It's a win-win. Then you can take all the money you're putting into your current MES and use it to hire people to do the work needed to drive improvements.

So, to summarize, your MES system isn't very effective because it is disengaging the very people who have the power to make or break your business' success. Sure you can continue to live in fear of a data breach or some other thing and keep paying hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions on a big box MES, or you can choose to be in business to make money. Disclaimer, data security is extremely important and is why the fOS has implement beyond-bank level security protocols (we'll go through that in detail in another post). A manufacturing efficiency expert such as those at Manuficient can help you get the best out of any MES that you may be using or help you convert seamlessly to the fOS. Either way, we're just happy to see you doing better.

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Copyright © Calvin L Williams blog at calvinlwilliams.com [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Calvin L Williams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.