MESA chair: Plant floor talent at ‘center stage’

Could 2009 be a transformative year for manufacturing? At MESA International, we say, “Yes!” We suggest that it’s time for the shop floor – and its ability to make enterprise work processes more responsive and reliable – to get the attention it’s been lacking for so long.

By John Dyck June 1, 2009

Could 2009 be a transformative year for manufacturing? At MESA International, we say, “Yes!” We suggest that it’s time for the shop floor — and its ability to make enterprise work processes more responsive and reliable — to get the attention it’s been lacking for so long. After all, that’s where most of the value creation actually happens.

Sound like a pipe dream? Let’s look a little deeper…

Large-scale enterprise IT rollouts became possible largely because of IT’s long-term view of standards and their focus on implementation process rigor. Along the way, they learned how to create, justify, procure, implement and sustain large scale projects. The shop floor, on the other hand has been characterized by a tendency to “build it” and “fix it” at the lowest possible cost and with speed as the imperative, making standardization an elusive goal and process rigor a luxury few could afford.

These dynamics have influenced the evolution of two unique systems integration ecosystems — one that serves operations (plant-centric) and one that serves IT (business-centric). They operate in different realms, at very different price points.

There’s another small group of SIs focused on the operations management space between the shop floor and the enterprise, but few have been able to scale due to the differing dynamics of the two worlds they bring together, leaving us with too small of a community of these valuable partners.

We at MESA contend that for manufacturing to take a significant step forward in terms of productivity and cost competitiveness — in spite of, or perhaps because of, difficult economic times — all of the constituents in this landscape need to work together to better understand the complexities of the workflows on the shop floor and how technology must be applied to identify constraints, provide meaningful and standardized metrics, and dramatically cut costs.

The best practices of the enterprise players need to marry with the wealth of value uncovered and harnessed by the plant players for so many years, and we’re proposing that 2009 be the year when the plant floor finally arrives at center stage. The brightest minds of industry (yes, from operations and IT) and academia must join to focus their attention and budgets on this great challenge.

Perhaps the economic challenges we’re facing will prompt us to think differently, and to shine the spotlight on some of the less glamorous but high-value solutions that can consistently and dramatically cut costs, reduce waste and reshape our work processes to be more effective. MESA is the largest body of production and operations management thinkers and doers in the world, and there’s no organization better suited to facilitate this crucial dialogue.

Our board of directors has challenged our leadership teams to meet the challenges of 2009 with programs, materials and tools to show our membership ways to dramatically cut costs while improving productivity in manufacturing.

For more information on MESA International or to participate in our challenge visit www.mesa.org and click on ‘Get Involved’ or email chairman@mesa.org .

John Dyck, Chairman of the Board
MESA International