June 18, 2015

6 Factors to Consider when Selecting Manufacturing Software

6 Factors to Consider when Selecting a Manufacturing Intelligence Solution.
Avatar Polina Ivannikova

Every manufacturing organization must have a resilient operations strategy. After all, manufacturers are in the business of making products. You can’t make products if systems, equipment or processes are down. If this core competency can’t be consistently executed, significant risk exists at continued viability and survival.

Production processes are not simply put in place and forgotten. They must be carefully examined, modified and continuously improved over time. Those responsible for maintaining production throughput understand that systems must be put in place to ensure continued performance. In aggregate, these systems comprise an Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI) software, which essentially provide the “eyes and ears” of when a possible production issue has occurred, or is about to occur.

Given the importance of architecting such a solution, considerable research has been done on how to best implement. IDC Manufacturing Insights identifies several factors to consider when selecting an EMI provider. Not surprisingly, the choice has little to do with “speeds” or “feeds.”

Based on this report, here are six key factors you should consider when evaluating your manufacturing intelligence strategy, and what software provider you consider to partner with to implement:

  1. Industry experience: Does the vendor have a track record in your industry? Does the vendor understand not just what the metrics are but also what they mean and how certain processes influence performance? Choosing an experienced partner is a top priority.
  2. Analytics data model: Closely related to experience is the availability of a prebuilt model of common metrics and analytics data for manufacturing. The most time-consuming elements of any implementation are creating a model and achieving organizational consensus for it. A provider with a vetted model will get you to implementation and benefit realization in half the time.
  3. Actionable collaboration mechanism: Intelligence is of much less value if it is difficult to take immediate action on the information. Look for a manufacturing software vendor that has a collaboration story, preferably one that includes an industry-accepted ad hoc standard.
  4. Mobility: The vendor should have a well-developed approach to delivering intelligence to mobile devices. Operations managers may not be road warriors, but they are certainly “campus warriors” on the plant floor and in meetings rather than at their desk. This means they need information to make decisions more quickly on more portable devices such as smartphones or tablets. Time is money – especially when tasked with production performance management. Make sure your partner can support a range of form factors.
  5. Global experience: The ideal manufacturing software vendor has a proven track record in rolling out systems for globally integrated companies. Even if you don’t operate across multiple countries, it is highly likely you operate across a distributed environment. And, you likely have suppliers operating different locations. The future of EMI must include expanded supply chain visibility – assume this capability will be a requirement in the future, even if it isn’t today.
  6. Contextual awareness: Seek a solution provider that offers products that are more than just “charts and gauges” dashboards. While this type of product can unify performance metrics, they lack the ability to provide situational context. An application that can provide relevant, real-time context will be far superior in supporting faster decision support. An added benefit would be the ability to capture management actions so that the efficacy of decisions can be evaluated and improved, essentially creating operational management continuous improvement.

In the world of production performance optimization, manufacturing intelligence solutions play a critical role to maximizing uptime, efficiency and overall performance. A movement toward a resilient operations strategy best begins with an investment in a manufacturing intelligence software. One that is part of your Manufacturing Execution System is ideal. The near-term hard benefits are robust – and the long-term capabilities might just be the difference between your organization being a leader or laggard in your respective industry.

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