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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Barber

Building a Winning Team for MES Implementation: Navigating Challenges and Ensuring Success


Implementing an MES is a complex and challenging process that requires a well-coordinated team effort.

In order to be successful it is crucial to build a winning team with the right mix of skills, expertise, and a shared vision. This article will explore the key elements of assembling an MES team such as:

  • Identifying Key Stakeholders and Decision Makers

  • Selecting the right MES Project Manager

  • Leveraging Internal Expertise and Knowledge

  • Seeking External Expertise and Consultants

  • Defining Clear Roles and Responsibilities

  • Addressing Resistance to Change

  • Empowering Your MES Team for Success

In my experience, the team you build has the biggest impact on your success deploying an MES. Successful teams are defined at an Enterprise level, ensuring a centre of excellence for global standardisation, with stakeholders at all levels across operations and IT.

MES success is not just about the technology but about the people who use it. Invest in building a winning team, and you will set your organisation on a path to success.

Identifying Key Stakeholders and Decision Makers

Before starting to implement MES, it is essential to identify and involve the key stakeholders and decision-makers. These individuals will have a direct impact on the project's success and should be engaged from the early stages. Their support and input will be crucial throughout the implementation process, as they possess the power to influence organisation-wide decisions and allocate necessary resources.

By involving key stakeholders and decision-makers, you can ensure that all relevant perspectives are considered, and any potential barriers or concerns are addressed proactively. This collaborative approach will foster a sense of ownership and accountability among the team, increasing the chances of success.

Executive Sponsor

One important stakeholder to consider is the CEO or alternatively another top-level executive with the authority to allocate resources and make strategic decisions to support the implementation. Involving an executive sponsor from the beginning will ensure that the project receives the necessary attention and resources it needs to succeed. Enterprise MES projects usually have executive buy-in, as they are often seen as a strategic investment. If you are implementing MES at a plant level, without executive sponsorship, then you may struggle here.

IT Department

They will be responsible for implementing and maintaining the technical aspects of the MES system. Their expertise and input will be invaluable in selecting the right software, deployment options, hardware, and infrastructure to support the implementation. They will also be responsible for security and coordinating local IT across your manufacturing landscape. Involving the IT department early on will help identify any technical constraints or requirements that need to be considered during the planning phase.

Operational Teams

It is crucial to include representatives from production, quality, logistics, maintenance, and other relevant departments. Each of these departments plays a vital role in the success of an MES implementation, and their collaboration is essential for success. These individuals will be directly impacted by the MES implementation and can provide valuable insights into their specific needs and challenges. They can also be a blocker, so it's important to get their input and support early on. I can't stress how important it is to get operators involved, these are the people who the MES is designed to support, and they have all the knowledge around how the process runs.

When it comes to the implementation phase, the skills and knowledge in this team will directly correlate to the overall success of the project. Too many times manufacturers don't assemble the right team, or don't get buy-in across the business. If your organisation lacks these skills then consider hiring into these positions early.

Perhaps the most important person in the team is the project manager...

Selecting the right MES Project Manager

A successful implementation requires strong leadership and project management. It is vital to select an experienced MES project manager who will be responsible for overseeing the entire implementation process, and roll-out to other factories and warehouses in you manufacturing landscape.

The project manager should have a deep understanding of MES, your production processes, and the industry-specific challenges and best practices. This knowledge will enable them to make informed decisions and navigate potential obstacles effectively. With their expertise, they can ensure that the MES implementation aligns with the organisation's goals and objectives.

In addition to technical knowledge, the project manager should possess strong communication, organisational, and problem-solving skills to guide the team through the complexities of the implementation process. Effective communication is crucial for conveying project requirements, managing expectations, and fostering collaboration among team members, remember their could be people in the business who are not supportive of an MES implementation.

The project manager will serve as the main point of contact for team members, stakeholders, and external consultants. They must ensure that everyone is well-informed and involved in the project's progress. By maintaining open lines of communication, the project manager can address any concerns or issues promptly, minimising disruptions and delays.

They must develop a comprehensive project plan (along with the MES vendor) that outlines key milestones, deliverables, and dependencies. This plan will serve as a roadmap, guiding the team throughout the implementation process and ensuring that all activities are executed against the schedule.

The project manager should have strong problem-solving skills for identifying and resolving potential roadblocks, anticipating challenges and developing contingency plans to mitigate risks. By proactively addressing obstacles, the project manager can minimise disruptions and keep the implementation process on track.

Be in no doubt that the MES project manager role is a complex and challenging one, but also highly rewarding and interesting.

Leveraging Internal Expertise and Knowledge

An often overlooked aspect of building an MES implementation team is leveraging internal expertise and knowledge. Organisations often have employees who possess a wealth of knowledge and experience in the manufacturing processes, particularly operations people working on the shop floor. It's crucial to spend time with these people, and transfer as much knowledge as possible.

Identify these individuals and encourage their active involvement in the implementation process. By doing so, you not only tap into their process expertise but also boost employee morale and engagement. Using internal resources can also reduce costs associated with external consultants, making the implementation more cost-effective.

These people don't necessarily need to be part of the core team, but involve them when necessary, especially when discussing the manufacturing processes, and let them know they can come to you with any queries, questions, or suggestions.

Seeking External Expertise and Consultants

Although internal expertise is valuable, there are situations where seeking external expertise and consultants is necessary.

If you lack MES knowledge and expertise within the business then you probably want to consider hiring in an expert, or partnering with a consulting company. External consultants bring a fresh perspective and specialised knowledge to the team.

When selecting external consultants, ensure that they have a proven track record in MES implementation projects and are familiar with the specific challenges and requirements of your industry. You will want someone who is practical and hands-on with real-world experience, try to avoid people who thrive on theory, they will just complicate proceedings.

Collaborating with experienced consultants will complement the internal team's knowledge and provide valuable insights and guidance throughout the implementation process.

The MES vendor will also provide a team to run the project on their side, be sure to leverage them and take their advice. They are the experts, and often significantly more skilled and knowledgeable than dedicated external consultants.

Defining Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Clear roles and responsibilities are essential for successful team collaboration and efficient workflow. Define each team member's roles and responsibilities from the outset and communicate them effectively to ensure alignment and clarity.

Establish a communication plan that outlines the frequency, channels, and stakeholders involved in the communication process. Regular communication and collaboration will foster a sense of accountability, enable timely decision-making, and address any issues or roadblocks that may arise during the implementation.

Addressing Resistance to Change

Resistance to change is a common challenge during any implementation process. To overcome this hurdle, it is essential to address employee concerns and involve them in the decision-making process.

Communicate the benefits of the MES implementation to the entire organisation, highlighting how it aligns with the business goals and improves productivity, quality, and efficiency. Utilise your executive stakeholder to support you when sharing this vision if needed. Provide training and support to ensure employees are equipped with the necessary skills to adapt to the new system.

Engage employees in the process by asking for their feedback, involving them in testing and piloting phases, and celebrating small wins along the way. By considering how to address resistance to change early-on, you can create a more receptive and engaged team that is eager to embrace the changes brought by the implementation.

Empowering Your MES Team for Success

An empowered team is a successful team. Provide the necessary resources, tools, and support to enable your MES team to effectively carry out their responsibilities.

Encourage open communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing among team members. Foster a positive and inclusive work environment that values individual contributions and promotes teamwork.

Recognise and celebrate the team's achievements, milestones, and successful outcomes. Empowering your MES team will not only boost motivation and morale but also enhance their commitment and dedication to achieving the project goals.

Ultimately, for those people working on an MES project it can be a career defining opportunity. If the project succeeds, everyone wins.

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