Agile Project Management for MES Deployments
Successful MES or MOM implementations require a more nimble project management style than traditional project management. Managing in “sprints”, with the Agile project management methodology, is more effective for these long-term, high-risk projects. Luigi de Bernardini's new blog on Automation World
Although recent years have seen a gradual proliferation of configurable products to create manufacturing execution systems (MES) or manufacturing operations management (MOM), a project based on these products always requires a significant amount of design and customization. This is because the main purpose of such a system is to support the business processes on which operations are based, bridging the gap between production and strategic management. Those processes are different from company to company and highly variable because of the company's needs to adapt itself to evolving market demands.
An MES or MOM project typically takes a considerable length of time to implement, with significant costs and a high inherent risk, since it impacts operations and production capacity, especially during the implementation phase while users are learning to use the new system. Mitigating the risk and economic impact of these projects requires careful attention to project management and a well-defined process of software development lifecycle management (SDLC).
However, traditional approaches to project management can't fully address the management of MES and MOM projects because of their variability. Rarely have I seen projects end with the same user requirements defined in the initial phase. Production operations and organizations often change several times during the implementation of the project.
To understand how traditional project management is not adequate to MES/MOM implementations, consider the steps invovled in a typical, monolithic project management process:
- General Specification
- User Requirement Specification (URS)
- Functional Requirements Specification (FRS)
- Detailed Design Specification (DDS)
- Build System
Between drafting the initial specifications and the time when the client starts to use what has been made, some time passes. This implies that any possible error of assessment in the initial stages has a heavy impact when it is detected—since it can affect a large number of features, as well as common components such as the structure of the database on which the system is based.
I often see that the user is unprepared to assess the impact that the adoption of an MES system will have on its organizational arrangements, therefore they thend to define the user requirements based on past experience. The simple adoption of the system, however, will lead to changes in the organization and the ranking of priorities. Features that were deemed indispensable lose importance and others that were not even considered become highly desirable.
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