Bill Waddell, a noted Lean writer, often takes on corporate sacred cows in his blog. As a Lean practitioner, he hates waste. In his latest Manufacturing Leadership Center blog, he takes on IT support–especially big software implementations such as MES/MOM.

His point that companies should not just implement a big monolithic application that force everyone to adjust workflows in conformance with that software. Implementing those IT applications requires understanding your business practices before buying and implementing the software.

Here Waddell writes:

The thrust of the event is IT support for process optimization and that is a very tricky area. The problem is that IT itself is non-value adding waste, so investing in IT is investing in process de-optimization. That is not to say it is necessarily bad but any investment in IT should be done cautiously. I have been at this for a long time and I have never seen a $million+ IT investment result in rue process excellence. Instead, it typically results in higher overhead without much meaningful impact of the processes. Information tools to put critical, basic information in front of people who can actually improve the processes should be simple and relatively cheap.

That quote reveals a little of his biases, but definitely you should consider. In my long career I have discovered that adding automation just to add automation is a waste of time and money. But if you intelligently consider what you’re doing, you can add value to the operation.

Here he writes: Be wary of any software that is intended to put information in front of someone who does not add value – Six Sigma black belts, lean coordinators, executives, production planners, etc. The chances of such a system doing any more than merely institutionalizing people who do not add value are slim indeed. The most effective IT process improvement tools are designed to share information among the value adding folks working along the process you want to optimize. It should not require some big-brained staff type apart from the value creation chain to digest, analyze, filter and interpret the information.

And he discusses software that forces you to conform to it:

Run away as fast as you can from any software that is hard coded with the methodology for process improvement. The most effective tools are those that will support however process improvement works best in your organization, within your culture.

Food for thought.

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