While many ERP and manufacturing execution system (MES) vendors are incorporating business process management (BPM) capabilities in their software suites, there's much more to success with BPM than technology.
Corporate culture as well as an organization's best practices for knowledge capture, will determine the benefits that can be gained by leveraging BPM on the plant floor. Here are four best practices to consider during a BPM implementation:
- A phased approach. As with any enterprise software rollout, don't try to boil the ocean. Identify which plant or plants are best suited from productivity, cultural and mission-critical standpoints to make the switch. Once the kinks are worked out, then expand industrial BPM tools and practices to additional, perhaps more business-critical manufacturing operations. While initial plants might take six to nine months to roll out, companies will see a significant reduction in deployment time by taking a phased approach.
- Focus on the cultural shift. Most employees don't think about their specific job or task as part of an overall larger process flow. As a result, they don't know how to have the kinds of conversations and communications that can help identify changes needed to optimize plant floor processes. It's up to management to promote this understanding as part of the company culture and encourage every worker in the process to contribute.
- Foster change management. Part of the cultural challenge is getting factory workers accustomed to latency in their daily work lives to know how to react and respond to automation and real-time process change. These employees will be under a different type of scrutiny as manual steps are removed. Management needs to get them comfortable with these new directives and standards.
- Leverage knowledge transfer. As the manufacturing workforce hits retirement age, much of the intellectual property surrounding machinery on the plant floor is leaving with employees. Industrial BPM provides an opportunity to capture critical workflows around plant floor equipment, allowing companies to hire less skilled operators to run equipment while deploying more experienced workers elsewhere.
Beth Stackpole is a freelance writer who has covered manufacturing techniques and manufacturing technology extensively.