Smooth changeover to digital production

In today’s dynamic business environment, the implementation of an IT system is not only a key success factor, but is also becoming an essential tool that enables the operation of an organisation. Choosing the right IT implementation company becomes an extremely important part of this process. When it comes to digital transformation, it is crucial to take a holistic view of technology and integrate it with the business and employee environment. How to implement IT systems? How to prepare for digital transformation? Finally – does digital transformation have to be a ‘painful’ process? I will try to answer these and some other questions in the following text.

Start with planning

A holistic approach to IT systems assumes that a system is made up of individual components that influence each other. In this context, to create an effective IT system, it is first necessary to understand the system as a whole and the interactions between its parts. Very often, the starting point for improving business processes in manufacturing companies is planning – both long-term planning and medium- and short-term scheduling, in which we take into account the specifics of a given process, changeover matrices, auxiliary operations. When analysing the input state, it turns out that – while the material structures are well described – there is insufficient documentation of the technology in terms of routing. It is known which operations are to be performed, on which lines, with which resources, but there is not enough technological data quality to run advanced planning functions. How can planning be implemented without sufficiently well-developed technologies? There is then – understandably – a desire to postpone implementation, to develop the technologies first and only then move on to implementing the system for planning and scheduling.

The implementation of a planning system – like any other – must be able to be implemented in phases, for example by initially using reference technologies, i.e. base technologies that refer to certain parameters, a set of characteristics that are most often transmitted with the order or production order and that define the product. Instead of developing similar technological processes for each product, it is possible to create several or dozens (depending on the needs) of standard, base technologies, based on the parameters transmitted with the order, which makes them much easier to manage. The use of standardised technologies speeds up the process of implementing the system for production planning and allows, in the next implementation stage, the introduction of planning by technology per SKU.

System integration

It is also necessary to ensure the integration of IT systems and the seamless exchange of data between them – this is one of the essential elements of the IT systems implementation concept. There is no APS without MES, and vice versa – it is the plan created in APS that is implemented in MES. In ASPROVA APS, it is possible to accurately map the specifics of a production plant and take into account all process, material or resource availability constraints, but it must be fed with information from other systems (such as XPRIMER.MES, XPRIMER.CMMS, ERP). Only then does the planning process reflect what is happening in the individual departments or business units of the company and how production is currently progressing and the status of individual production orders. Integrating systems such as APS, MES, ERP with each other fits in with the idea of the Deming cycle, ensuring that the PDCA loop is realised.

Choosing the right IT system for your needs

When starting to implement an IT system, we need to ensure its scalability, i.e. the ability of the software to grow or change with user requirements. Scalability has both long-term and short-term benefits; at the beginning, it allows a company to focus on the functions needed for the ‘here and now’, to determine what the system needs to be at a certain time. However, maybe soon there will be new clients who will expect a new approach, different response times, different technologies and therefore new products. And so, for example, the scheduling manager must be able to build a new scheduling function taking into account the current situation and reflecting the actual process. The solutions we implement must be parameterisable – that is, dedicated to users, not to IT. It is not about new functionalities – tailored to a pandemic or the current political situation – but about the fact that a given system has the ability to reflect the specifics of the plant in 100% and accurately reflect the process with all its details.

ASPROVA APS takes individual optimisation criteria into account throughout the entire process management chain, from production technology, resource parameters, products and raw materials, to employee competence, the relationship between individual tasks and supply planning. This gives users the ability to react very quickly to dynamic changes and allows flexibility to be achieved. If we want to be flexible, we need to ensure that we can manage, modify or expand data effectively. Data analytics accelerates the mapping of supplier and raw material values and, consequently, the implementation of preventive measures in uncertain times. The ability to collect data from an ever-increasing number of sources, combined with the modernisation of systems and increasingly powerful analytical capabilities, enables manufacturers to take a holistic approach to production processes.

The right implementation partner who understands the business goals

Just as critical as choosing a system is choosing a well-matched implementation partner. Tailored – meaning one that understands our processes, relies on close cooperation, and finally ‘speaks our language’. Therefore, the first stage of implementation should be an analysis with the development of a dedicated implementation concept, which will answer the question – where will the changes have the greatest impact on the functioning of the entire organisation, and not just a fragment of it? The analysis is a prelude to the creation of a very detailed and, above all, feasible improvement concept, which indicates – in the context of future implementation – business objectives, ways of implementation, effects and defines costs. The correct definition of business objectives is also worth considering here. I often warn clients against taking shortcuts and reducing goal setting exclusively to operational requirements. If our implementation partner defines the goal at the level of system implementation, e.g. for production planning – a red light should definitely go on. Because a business goal – in the context of a production planning system – can be an increase in the level of use of production resources, higher production efficiency while maintaining the same level of employment, or minimisation of work in progress. These are the real objectives for which we want to implement an IT system and which will translate directly into financial benefits. The role of the business partner is also to assess the organisation’s preparation for implementation. At eq system, if we see that it is not possible to implement the change in one step, we propose implementation in stages, which allows us to go through the change in a smooth way. Just like the system to suit our needs, the implementation partner should be able to find its way around our specifics.

Artur Głodek
expert in the business analysis department of eq system

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