By Conrad Leiva, International Board Member of MESA International and member of MESA’s Technical Committee
I have been looking back at some of my favorite MESA.org resources from the past and I continue to find much of the strategy, roadmap and implementation insights from the last five years holding up very well to the test of time.
Most of these types of white papers and presentations in the MESA library do not drill down into the details of specific information technologies—those have been changing in the last five years. What these resources contain is advice on transforming manufacturing operations from leaders that managed and survived large manufacturing systems implementations. Leaders that generously shared their experience with the MESA community of peers.
An example of a timeless thought leadership presentation is Simon Jacobson’s “Multiple Site MES Projects: Managing for Success”  from 2010 with insights learned by AMR Research from interviews and surveys of multiple leading manufacturers in different industries including medical device, automotive, semiconductor, fragrance, durable goods and refining.
Can you believe it has been four years since the recession ended? Around 2010, the U.S. started coming out of the recession and leading manufacturers were starting to look at growth strategies and the need to modernize information systems to support these new strategies.
This quote from Terry Kline, CIO of General Motors, exemplifies the attitude change among many CIOs for the last four years: “We cannot continue to cut plants to make money. So I challenged my team—forget about Windows 7, forget about virtualization and VOIP phones—I don’t want to hear about that stuff. Go do that—that is the cost of entry. What are we (IT) doing to sell cars?”
My favorite insight from this presentation is about the benefits realized by implementing a manufacturing execution system (MES). The surveys and interviews revealed that successful projects had payback on the investment within a year, but more interesting was the discovery that many manufacturers reported unexpected additional benefits 3 to 10 times larger than that first year from indirect benefits like faster new product introductions, improved collaboration across internal departments and suppliers, and wins of new contracts thanks to the advanced capabilities.
Jacobson also discussed how manufacturers have been using centers of excellence (CoEs) to refine the configuration of the manufacturing system before deploying to multiple sites. Working close with the software vendor and making sure that IT owns the functional and business interfaces.
Keys to success from 2010 are still valid today:
- Cannot be driven from the bottom up
- Cannot be a technology initiative
- Is combined with process capabilities and continuous improvement efforts
- Surfaces critical measures and metrics for production and supply chain performance
- Addresses product manufacture and process control at the core
- Requires Engineering, Process, Quality, IT, Operations, and Finance to “unite”
 “Multiple Site MES Projects: Managing for Success”, Presentation by Simon Jacobson from AMR Research, MESA North America Conference 2010
Conrad is VP Product Marketing and Alliances at iBASEt. Conrad holds an M.S. in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech, certification in MES/MOM manufacturing operations management methodologies, and is a certified quality auditor. Conrad’s career has included consulting with many Aerospace & Defense companies on how to streamline the paperwork and information flow among Planning, Inventory, Quality, Production and Supply Chain disciplines. Recently, his work has focused on manufacturing intelligence and the integration between engineering, business, and manufacturing systems working with PLM and ERP partners.