OK. You’ve found a new manufacturing application you want to implement. It’s the best thing since sliced bread. You’ve configured it, tested it and tested it some more, and now you’re ready to drop it on the shop floor. It’s going to do lots and lots of wonderful things for the company, for manufacturing operations and even for the people there on the shop floor.
Well, not so fast. Putting a new manufacturing application on the shop floor is a lot more complicated than you might think. You’re going to impact a lot of people and the way they do their jobs. You’re going to impact the actual manufacturing process itself. Even a small application can have a disparately large impact on the people and the processes. And, despite what a lot of people might say (including the people that sold you the application) there is no absolute guarantee for success.
So what do you do? First of all, if you think about the go-live and do some basic blocking and tackling, you can greatly increase your chances for success. Make sure the application meets its requirements, has been configured correctly and, most importantly, works correctly, meeting the actual needs of the people on the shop floor.
Communication — Since the application is going to significantly impact the shop floor and a lot of people, you need to let everyone know what’s going on and what’s going to happen. Have the senior management team communicate with their staff regularly to let everyone know what’s happening and, most importantly, what’s about to happen when the application goes live.
Change management — Effectively manage the impact on everyone involved so everyone is comfortable with the changes, gets on board and gets ready to go when the application goes live.
Training — The new application will certainly require some type of training, but classroom training is probably least effective. You need to think about on-the-job training, mentoring, coaching, refresher training, remedial training and so on, to make sure it’s effective.
Support — If your operation is 24 hours a day, then your support for the application better be 24 hours a day as well. Your support staff needs to be highly trained and highly skilled, so when they get a call at 2:00 a.m. they can quickly and easily help work through the problem and keep the application humming.
Documentation — Keep documentation simple and easy for the people who use it. Things like user guides are good, but troubleshooting guides, cheat sheets, shortcuts, simple how-to pictures, examples and so on might be even better. If these kinds of documents are readily available, it’ll make the new application so much smoother and more successful.
Sustainment — The above is all well and good but doesn’t really get the job done if it falls off (or falls apart) after a few weeks. These efforts need to be sustained over a long period of time to ensure that the application is truly successful for the long haul.
So, when you get to go-live, just think about what it’s really going to take to be truly successful on the shop floor, and you should be in good shape. There’s still no absolute guarantee of success with a new application, but if you really think through the go-live process, you can greatly increase your chances for success. Good luck!!