Inside Smart Factory

How your digitisation project flops before it even starts!


Software and digitisation projects are usually complex and multi-layered. Comprehensive requirement profiles, complex interfaces and limited capacities are just a few of the challenges you have to face. Here we show you the classic stumbling blocks that are sure to turn your project into a flop even before the actual start – or not!

We shed light on topics such as clean maintenance of master data, delimitation of functions, establishment of project teams, exchange with experts outside the company, etc. and have compiled valuable tips that could decide the success of your new project.

As a software provider with over 30 years of experience in international projects, Industrie Informatik is confronted with a wide range of questions and misjudgements in the run-up to a project – questions that are deliberately formulated provocatively in this article. We provide answers that can make all the difference:

# 1 “We’ll program an MES like that ourselves!”

For those readers who can identify with this statement, we would first like to discuss the advantages of standard software over custom development:

Information technology is particularly fast-moving and dynamic. Only the decision in favour of standard software automatically guarantees functional and technological further development in the future. In the case of Industrie Informatik and the MES solution cronetwork, this is covered on the one hand by a maintenance contract and on the other hand by our endeavour to remain permanently ‘state-of-the-art’ in terms of usability and technology.

100 % release capability and investment security are further quality features of a future-oriented standard software. The users of cronetwork understand this to mean that all enhancements and adaptations are seamlessly incorporated into the software standard and are also available in the standard with the next release without additional costs. An update therefore no longer represents a new introduction or saves time-consuming and cost-intensive adaptation programming.

This community concept is worthwhile for all customers and industries: As industry-independent MES software, Industrie Informatik customers no longer only benefit from functional innovations from similar industries, but also from requirements from other sectors such as food and medical technology, which are subject to particularly strict guidelines with regard to verification obligations, among other things.

With the introduction of established standard software, the project implementation time (Time2Solution) can be significantly reduced compared to a complete in-house development.

‘Independence’ is also an important keyword in connection with standard software: this clearly means independence from individual persons and their know-how in the company as well as reduced dependence on the company’s own internal IT or programming – which also has advantages, especially in view of the general shortage of skilled workers.

As a software manufacturer, Industrie Informatik can offer you a decisive change: Standard software and customisation are no longer a contradiction in terms! Standard software has (at least in the case of cronetwork) shed its inevitable rigidity and can now be customised to your own needs and processes. cronetwork offers flexible and fine-grained customisation options coupled with complete release capability and security. Examples of this are intelligent data objects & portals, which enable individual, operative interfaces according to the “modular principle”. A wide range of standard visualisations and flexible customisation options up to pixel-perfect reporting and HMI/Scada interfaces guarantee specific interface designs. In addition, individual processes on the shop floor can be orchestrated using the latest bus technology and customised mobile applications can be created using no-code or low-code development, so that future requirements for a modern production management system can be met even faster and more agilely within the software standard.

As sparring partners, consultants critically scrutinise your processes and create the basis for appropriate standardisation. Your needs and holistic thinking from the very beginning are clearly the focus.


# 2  “Master data? They’ll fit! … and if not, then there is surely some configurator for it in the MES!””

It would be nice if this were actually so simple in practice, but unfortunately we cannot confirm this illusion! Master data must clearly be managed and maintained where it belongs according to the specifications: An ERP solution is and remains the leading system, for example, for article master data, work schedules, bill of materials, default times, etc. Nevertheless, the MES can, where it makes sense, expand master data or manage it itself.

The issue of master data quality should not be ignored. The chances of success of a digitisation project are directly dependent on correspondingly qualitative master data. An example: If target times do not realistically correspond to default times, even the best detailed planning will not bring the desired results! The good news: In the course of an MES implementation, the MES provides valuable information for continuous improvement, for example, in the direction of transparency or optimisation potentials such as in the area of default times.


# 3   “The goods receiving inspection is certainly also included in the MES!”

Industrie Informatik stands for a clear separation of functions and tasks in the respective systems intended for this purpose. The MES as the information hub or link between the ERP system and the machine level focuses on the role of execution and holds sovereignty over the processes in production.

The MES must not be made the scapegoat – as in the in-depth statement. This would also reduce the chances of success of the implementation project and acceptance in production. At this point, it is often necessary to re-evaluate the systems currently in use and, if necessary, ensure that they are used in a targeted manner.


# 4  “The MES will be up and running in 6 months, then we’ll be done, no problem!”

Please define realistic project lead times for you right from the start! This already starts with the selection process and the commercial discussions. The implementation period is highly dependent on factors such as project scope, complexity and internal personnel resources, so 6 to 15 months from order to project acceptance can be used as a rough guide. A major advantage of cronetwork in this case is its scalable and modular implementation, which allows you to achieve initial successes quickly.

We also recommend that you define project phases (PoC, piloting, rollout concepts, implementation, division according to production areas, …).

Do not let lead times or the preparation phase pass by unused. Topics such as IT infrastructure can already be dealt with or initial discussions with the works council, the analysis of master data or initial training for optimal preparation for workshops can take place.

The availability of internal resources is an essential factor for realistic planning of project lead times. Therefore, ask yourself: Are there enough internal personnel resources available or are there other parallel projects in order to avoid bottlenecks in advance?


# 5   “I’ll do the MES project myself on the side! It’ll work out!”

With regard to internal capacities, you should consider the following points according to our many years of project experience:

An MES implementation is a joint project in which different areas such as manufacturing, job scheduling, IT, ERP system managers, controlling, HR & maintenance play an important role in project planning and implementation and must contribute their expertise and time capacities.

As a rule, a digitisation project cannot be managed by one person or department alone. Define MES key users (as well as substitutes) and reserve the corresponding capacities. Experience shows that two to three times the effort on the part of Industrie Informatik is a guideline that should also be set by the customer. Of course, this is influenced by the complexity, the scope of the project and the customer’s own contribution to the implementation. Depending on the customer’s wishes, Industrie Informatik supports both approaches (extensive, independent processing by the customer OR by Industrie Informatik).

It has proven useful to set up suitable project structures at an early stage (first and/or second level support, central teams or teams per location, …).

In addition, please do not underestimate the capacities and the need for training for knowledge building or knowledge transfer to the end user and documentation for sustainable project success.


# 6  “What should an MES like this cost? We don’t need to budget much…”

In the meantime, the significance and scope of a Manufacturing Execution System has increased massively and is indispensable for the implementation of smart factory strategies or in the context of predictive analytics.

To answer the question of costs honestly, medium-sized manufacturing companies should calculate with amounts in the 6-digit range. However, these are not only the costs for software acquisition, but also the costs for setting up the necessary infrastructure, hardware components, internal resources, etc., which must be taken into account in the budget planning.

Plan your projects with foresight! Project phases can be assigned to budget phases, if necessary, in order to design the implementation of your digitisation project phase by phase and, if possible, to be able to divide the costs accordingly.

Experience shows that you are well advised to plan a ratio of services to licences of approximately 1:1. When choosing a partner, one thing is of decisive relevance in addition to technical expertise: Consultancy competence in the planning and implementation process! Industrie Informatik also offers you a wide range of customisation options for the standard software, which of course also require a necessary level of services on both sides.


# 7  “We are quite special in that respect! That’s why we’ve been doing it this way for decades!”

An MES project should also be seen as an opportunity to critically question and rethink one’s own processes. The question “Are we really that special?” can often be revised through discussions within the company, with the software provider, in exchanges with references or people from outside the company, and thus one or the other process can be standardised at second glance.

Another example in this context is the uncontrolled growth of order structures in the ERP system:
Question whether certain processes are still up-to-date or why some things had to be solved in this way many years ago. In this context, look for currently available standard functions for a more elegant solution. Industrie Informatik will be happy to advise you as a sparring partner.

Last but not least, use standard functions to create comparability within your company and to be flexibly prepared for the future!

Would you like to learn more?
We would be happy to advise you personally about project implementation and the possibilities of digitalisation in manufacturing!
Contact us
Michael Wolkerstorfer
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