How Much Time Will My People Need To Spend Implementing and Maintaining an MES Solution?
A major part of making the decision to choose and implement a manufacturing execution system (MES) is deciding on the resources this project will take. The resources you will need to implement the MES will depend on the stage of the process. Various groups will also dedicate different levels of resources to this project, as their respective roles demand greater or lesser degrees of participation at each stage.
Factors that affect the scale of selection, implementation and maintenance include the size of the project, the type of MES, the types of machines, the degree of customization you need and how much support the MES provider offers during the process. Available support can range from completely hands-off once you purchase the software to ongoing comprehensive maintenance support.
While the following projection offers a rough estimate of the resources you will need at each stage, it is not set in stone. Before you begin the first stage, it is important to define several key parameters:
Resource Requirements Table
Your IT group can expect to be active at all stages of implementation. The success of the MES will depend in large measure on a reliably IT system with the required capability. In addition to maintaining connectivity with the machines, you may want your MES to also integrate with an ERP, your accounting department or another area. IT provides the expertise necessary to ensure and support connectivity.
IT professionals provide key insights at the selection stage. When it comes to choosing the right MES for your company's needs, your IT group assesses current network capabilities and whether they would need an upgrade or change in order to implement a particular MES.
The most cutting-edge, sophisticated MES in the world will do no good if it cannot connect to your systems. During the selection stage, IT professionals perform a comprehensive assessment of your current system in relation to each prospective MES package. This assessment should contain any recommendations for upgrades to your system. It should offer a complete definition of current and potential capabilities; unless you decide to install a completely new system, it is likely there are limits to how much you can upgrade, change or expand your current one.
The professionals in your IT department also have the technical knowledge and familiarity with MES software to provide valuable opinions on the packages under consideration. They can point out pros and cons as well as projections as to how implementation and maintenance would look, in particular if you want your MES to network not just with your shop floor machines but also integrate with systems such as accounting.
At the selection stage, you may need between one and three IT people. They would typically each devote 8-16 hours per week to the MES selection process, which usually takes a month or two. Of course, these estimates can vary depending on the size of the project, special issues to take into account and other unique factors.
If you will be running the MES on premises, rather than opting for a cloud-based service, your IT team will be highly active during this stage, which can last between one and six months. On-premises implementation means installing servers on the factory floor. The IT group buys, installs and configures servers based on the MES provider's specifications.
When opting for a cloud-based service, you will need IT to assess and implement appropriate security. Depending on your needs, even a largely cloud-based MES may work better and quicker with respect to particular functions, such as data collection, if the components governing these functions are installed on-site. IT will have the task of planning and optimizing the installation and integration process.
It is also this group's task to ensure connectivity with the line machines and any other departments, as deemed necessary. IT will also have to address security, installing appropriate firewalls and other protections. If the MES will connect to other devices, IT may need to provide security training to users. Generally, one or two people may handle implementation, allotting between eight and sixteen hours per week.
If the MES provider does not include troubleshooting, bug fixes, patches and updates as part of its services, you will need your IT group to periodically perform maintenance on the MES. While you may not always need to designate a position just for this function, your IT group will likely need to periodically allot time on an as-needed basis.
Your production management team uses its knowledge of your production line's current capabilities and problems to optimize the selection and implementation of the MES. Production management personnel understand the production process and take a leadership role in defining goals for its improvement through the MES.
The production management team has a high level of input into the selection process. They see the big picture in terms of what they need the system to accomplish. They set the performance and improvement parameters for the prospective MES and evaluate each proposed package's ability to meet them. Production managers will need to provide a full assessment of the current production process and areas that need specific types of improvement. They will also have to prioritize goals, as budgetary and other factors can make it unfeasible to choose an MES that will deliver everything.
At this stage, production management also takes a leadership role. This group assigns and supervises various stages of the project. Team members may need to devote between eight and twenty-four hours per week to monitor progress, set new goals and attend meetings to check on status updates and to address problems that arise. Production managers may also plan and implement training for shop floor users.
Production Management does not play an active role in maintaining the MES system. At this stage, maintenance falls to the IT group and/or the MES provider's support department.
Process engineers usually have fairly low involvement in the selection phase. They may provide consultations as to the machines and line processes, thus providing the decision-makers with a better understanding of some of the necessary parameters for a MES. Process engineers may also provide insights as to potential issues with industry standards and regulatory compliance, especially for manufacture of highly regulated products such as pharmaceuticals.
They may also assess whether it would be cost-effective or necessary to request custom components. Customization is more likely to be required if it is determined that new MES software would best serve the company's needs and it would not make sense to replace the older back-end system. Process engineers can define which components need to be customized based both on effectiveness and cost. In some cases, optional stock add-ons may work well while costing less than customization.
This stage demands a high level of involvement from process engineers. As the MES is installed, the process engineers will work with the provider and sometimes with IT to ensure proper integration takes place. They will also verify code. This stage may need as many as ten process engineers, who may need to work up to 24 hours per week on this project.
Process engineers will only become involved at this stage if new machines need to be added to the system or if connection is lost. They may also be needed to work with IT to ensure continued integration if either the machines or the MES undergo an upgrade or adjustments. Their input may also be needed if troubleshooting becomes necessary.
MES Project Manager
This function is only necessary during the implementation stage. You will need to select someone on your team to serve as project manager to oversee and coordinate implementation. Major tasks include setting up schedules, monitoring progress, holding meetings and keeping track of action items. This person will also bear responsibility for tackling problems and for pulling in additional consultation or team members as necessary.
A project manager overseeing a MES implementation should possess several qualifications in addition to project management expertise. While he or she may not need to understand all the technical details, it is important to have a clear concept of the project's goals and relevant performance metrics. The project manager will need to track budget compliance, time frames and resource allotment.
Problems often arise when an MES implementation project changes or expands its scope after its start. This throws off the careful plans and assessments that form the basis of the initial project outline. A key quality of a MES project manager is the ability to stay on track and address problems effectively without derailing the course of the project.
The project manager may also take charge of allotting the responsibility for planning and implementing user training, which is a key part of the implementation stage. Once your MES is integrated, you want it up and running. To facilitate this, you will need to provide appropriate user training in terms of operation and security.
The full extent of the project manager's responsibilities can depend on how actively the MES provider participates in the implementation process. If the provider's involvement is low, the project manager may also need to work with the provider's integration engineers, equipment suppliers and other personnel.
Will I Need a Full-Time MES Engineer?
A high-quality MES that meets your needs is a worthwhile investment. As you consider the resources you will need to allot to a smooth implementation, it is important to also look at prospective maintenance needs.
One major question is whether you will need to bring on a full-time employee or even a team to keep the MES working smoothly. With any MES, future needs are likely to include bug fixes, customizations, patches and new machine integrations. If these needs are likely to arise infrequently and to require little work, you can probably avoid having to create a full-time MES engineer position.
For instance, if you do not require a high degree of customization and do not anticipate having to integrate many new machines, your need will be low. The type of MES and its provider can also dictate how much work will need to go into every new integration and whether there will be frequent bugs or necessary patches.
Some companies find it necessary to have several MES engineers on a full-time basis. Others, with lighter maintenance needs, find it more expedient to fold MES maintenance duties into an existing position. Some MES providers take care of fixes, customization, new integrations and other maintenance needs. This setup is least burdensome in the long term.
Optimize Your MES Implementation Process
With many types of MES products available, it is important to select one that will improve your production processes, work with your existing systems and be cost effective. Figuring out the resources you will need is a key part of this process. If you do not plan on hiring additional employees for this purpose, you need to know your existing staff can handle implementation or seek out a provider that offers a high level of support. If your shop floor configuration poses problems for installing all necessary servers, you might consider cloud-based MES components.
Initial planning and research can help you avoid surprise expenses and disruptions during the implementation process. Contact Intraratio to discuss your MES and implementation support needs. We offer cutting-edge solutions and realistic, optimized approaches to integration in a variety of manufacturing settings.