The Biggest Challenge is Blank Paper
We love our technology at GE, we live it every day and we love talking about it. Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves that other people have very different lives, have wildly different priorities, and that the things we take for granted as basic, are new for them and that starting from a blank sheet of paper is often the biggest challenge we can all face.
A while back, we met with the senior vice president of a major aerospace company to talk about using our software to start a major MES project to help them stay ahead of the game … stay competitive. I paraphrase: “We know our business … but presumably you guys at GE have done this hundreds of times before … this will be one of a handful of major software projects we have rolled out … what is your advice on the best-practices of where to start and what does the big picture look like?”
When you hear this, it’s very tempting to jump into your big corporate PowerPoint and go the whole nine yards. But in situations like this, I remind myself of a great quote from Einstein: “If you can’t explain something simply then you don’t understand the subject." So we did the whole thing, step by step, on one sheet of paper, admittedly pretty busy looking, but in essence, the whole journey. We covered the good things, the bad things, and the downright ugly things, because knowing the pitfalls is just as important, and maybe more important, than hearing just the rosy story. We explained that the best programs build on predictable project steps (about 50 to 60 in all), with five major incremental steps of functionality and user buy-in.
He appreciated our candor and turned to his team, “I want you to start thinking about a project for every line-item on this sheet ... use this as your blueprint." Certainly there was a lot to come after, but that moment was the call-to-action.
So what are those five incremental steps for this engineer to order manufacturer?
Step 1: Eliminate paper-based traveler
Step 2: Provide digitize information to operators
Step 3: Fully digitize the quality process
Step 4: Take digital MES beyond the plant
Step 5: Create a digital record of the end product
So how did we do? Well, we are now working together and delivering on the program … no more blank paper.