5 Simple Steps for an Effective Manufacturing IT Program—Part 1

download (3)Almost all customers I work with have a project methodology that they follow for implementing large-scale IT projects. This is normally a waterfall-based approach, possibly sprinkled with agile aspects during the build phase.

Supporting this, some customers have a change acceleration program that can inject much-needed culture shifts at the right phases.

What I often find missing is an approach to tie both together, ensuring the plants know what is coming, how to prepare and which value milestones the program team can aim for.

An approach I've started using—one that has been well received by my customers—borrows directly from the shop floor and asks that you think of your IT project like a 5S program.

A 5S program comes from lean thinking and sets a plan in place to achieve a repeatable and sustainable process—no different than what we all want from our manufacturing IT programs!

It consists of five simple steps that I argue can be applied to large-scale IT initiatives to help tie together project methodology, change management, data readiness, ROI and TCO. These five steps are:

  • Sort
  • Set in order
  •  Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

In this post, I'm going to cover the first two steps, and my next post will cover the remaining three steps.

Step 1: Sort

No different than a tidy work space, this step is all about aligning business goals with IT initiatives, decluttering what the IT team are focused on, and choosing the right platform and IT partner to support a common and scalable approach. A huge indirect benefit of this early phase is knowing you are only investing in IT projects that fit this criteria, and not allowing plants to spend time and money on one-off or non-standard IT solutions.

Step 2: Set in order

Now that you've got a tidy work space, it's time to starting building something. The first questions you need to ask are:

  • What do we build first?
  • Will our customers (normally a plant) be ready once it's built?

Surprisingly, the challenge of how to build something, although something an architect or PM may lose sleep over, is often the easiest one to solve at this step. I'd always recommend you let your IT vendor worry about this while you focus on looking at the ROI, picking the right first functionality set to build out, and setting up a readiness matrix—both cultural and technical—to assess the plants.

The big value I see customers realize at this step is tapping into existing control layer or process standardization initiatives, and making sure they are aligned with the IT program that is coming.

In my next blog post, I will look at the final three steps of taking a manufacturing IT program through the 5S approach.

Luke Smaul

Luke works with GE customers to streamline technical programs and turn “complex” into “can do.” His experience and technical insight has helped countless customers implement today’s connected technology in their organizations. Connect with Luke on LinkedIn.

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