Manufacturing Is Just Like Life – You Need Balance!

I was discussing life with some friends recently. The discussion centered on how life is really experienced in three dimensions – mental, physical, and spiritual. As always with this kind of topic, there were differences of opinion, which lead to some lengthy philosophical and at times heated discussions.

In the end though, we all agreed that in order to have the fullest experience in life, we must be able to find a balance between the mental, physical and spiritual dimensions. Nurturing and developing each dimension creates a balanced ecosystem that enables us as sentient beings to handle the ups and downs of life with grace.

If we focus all our attention on one dimension, or if one dimension is out of sorts, our ecosystem is not functioning in harmony, and in some way we have become less effective in life.

So what does all this have to do with manufacturing? Well, these life discussions lead me to the notion that manufacturing is really like life. Think about it; we also experience manufacturing in three dimensions—the business dimension, the engineering dimension, and the manufacturing dimension. Each is required to develop, produce, deliver and service our customers.

Now in today’s world, software drives each one of these dimensions, and the systems that do this are ERP, PLM and MES. Functions of each are required to effectively manage and grow manufacturing businesses – just like your life being balanced.

GE IP Blog Manufacturing

This is where the debate ramps up for manufacturing. The question at this point that comes up often is, “We have significant investment in our ERP systems, why can’t we just leverage this investment to manage manufacturing operations?” A great question right? Perhaps the real question is, “Can my ERP system handle the business functions it was intended for AND manage the manufacturing plant floor?” Does that provide the right balance?

To solve this balance conundrum, a number of factors must be considered:

  • What are you trying to accomplish within your manufacturing process? Higher throughput, less waste, high quality, better asset utilization, etc?
  • Do you have the ability to collect meaningful data? Asset data from sensors? Process data? Quality data? Execution data?
  • How much data do you want to collect?
  • Do you have a strategy to collect, store, access the data and deliver actionable information to the right personnel at the right time?
  • How about analytics? Do you want to understand why things are behaving the way they are by analyzing historical data? Predictive analytics?
  • What about genealogy and traceability of finished goods? As-built vs. as designed?

Bottom line is, your manufacturing operations are ripe with data to drive business insight. The value you will realize from that data is determined by the visibility you have into your manufacturing operations. No doubt leveraging your ERP investment will get you part of the way there – but you won’t have the balance you need.

At GE Intelligent Platforms, we believe in having systems do what they were intended to do—ERP for business, PLM for engineering, and MES for manufacturing Operational Excellence.

What do you think?

Jack Faett's picture

Jack Faett

Jack thinks manufacturing is a lot like life…you’ve got to manage and balance it effectively to get the most out of it. With more than 30 years of experience in manufacturing execution systems (MES), manufacturing energy and water efficiency, automation and high availability solutions, he knows what it takes to help manufacturers stay competitive.Connect with Jack on LinkedIn.

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