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MESA Turns to Crowd Sourcing to Tackle Manufacturers' Biggest Challenges

May 11, 2017
From dealing with legacy systems to pressure to take on too much, manufacturing professionals get help from their peers at the M&T Conference and Show.

Peer groups are typically the most credible source of professional advice and insights, and that was the premise behind MESA (Manufacturing Solutions Association) International’s “FIX EVENT.”

The half-day workshop, held this week at IndustryWeek’s Manufacturing and Technology  (M&T) Conference and Show, brought manufacturing professionals together in an informal, collaborative setting to openly share current challenges and do some group think around possible solutions.

The annual M&T Show, which moves to different geographic locations, was held in Cleveland this year, May 8-10, 2017.

The FIX EVENT format speaks MESA’s Global Education Program mission, which is to foster collaboration among a global community of manufacturing professionals and promote the sharing of best practices. At the FIX Forum, it’s all about no stress, no pressure.

The problems aired will sound familiar to most any manufacturing professional.

At one table, participants expressed a common frustration: integrating legacy systems. “It’s our biggest hurdle,” said one operations manager, who grimaced at the prospect of migrating an aging AS/400 midrange server. “It’s definitely going last,” he chuckled.

Another participant described the challenges his company bumped up against when it was acquired by another company, which transitioned the company over to run SAP. “The problem wasn’t the internal team, it was the first vendor we worked with,” he explained. (Note the inauspicious reference to the “first” vendor.)

That vendor, he related, was seemingly a dream partner- eager to accommodate every request for any kind of report. “No matter how custom, they did it all. But then we started having all sorts of systems failures and problems.”

He figured the scenario with the first vendor set the implementation of SAP back at good 18 months.

Things were different the second time around. “The difference with this second vendor was that its response to every request was,  ‘Yes, we think we can do it. But do you want to do it?’” he said.

A common thread running through the conversation was the predictable  fallout from taking on too much in one project, with the added complexity even small hiccups can propagate exponentially.

That led to a focused discussion on the pressure from the top that manufacturing can sometimes feel to implement new technologies quickly or take on large-scale projects with higher degrees of risk and do it quickly and cost effectively.

One recommendation that clearly resonated was the concept of applying a lean tool--value stream mapping—to next generation projects. “

It can help you prioritize action items and reveal what has the most value, fending off pressure to take on everything at once,” said Conrad Leiva, VP Product Strategy and Alliances at iBASEt and member of the International Board at MESA.

“You know, taking a lean tool like value stream mapping and applying it to the IT world is an interesting idea, it had not crossed my mind,” said the participant struggling with his legacy systems.

Mission accomplished, MESA.

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