Software Users Take a Team Approach

When it comes to Operations Management software, manufacturing organizations rely on a team approach to purchase, implement and manage their applications. In this summary of results from our exclusive Automation World survey, learn about best practices for applications and find out who users trust most when it comes to making important software decisions.

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Operations management software plays a critical role in manufacturing—from visualization and data collection applications through integration with corporate business systems. Robust software applications that deliver proven results provide competitive advantage in the global marketplace.  

How is industry stacking up? What are the best practices to purchase, implement and manage Operations Management software? And whom do manufacturers turn to for information and application assistance?  

To answer these questions, Automation World conducted an exclusive survey of manufacturing software users and system integrators (SIs) who work in industries that span automotive, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical to chemical, petroleum and fabricated metals, among others. The survey, conducted in June, asked respondents about their purchasing, implementation and management practices for Operations Management software, which includes human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), manufacturing execution systems (MES), manufacturing intelligence and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) integration applications. More than 350 recipients completed the survey, with some surprising results.  

Operations management software is no longer the exclusive domain of engineers and operators. In fact, in 21 percent of organizations, the Information Technology (IT) department has primary responsibility for the ongoing management of Operations Management software. Engineering has primary responsibility in 48 percent of organizations, while Maintenance is primary in 15 percent and Operations in 13 percent of organizations.  

Overall, 71 percent of respondents say that engineering plays a role in the ongoing management of
Operations Management software, almost 50 percent say IT shares a role, 32 percent say maintenance has a role and 31 percent say operations shares a role in the ongoing management of applications.  

When it comes to purchases of Operation Management software, again there is a team approach. While 82 percent of respondents say they are personally involved in the purchase of Operations Management software, these respondents represent a multitude of departments. Asked to select all departments in their organizations who are involved in purchasing decisions for Operations Management software, 69 percent of respondents say engineering is involved; 48 percent say plant management is involved; IT, operations and maintenance are involved at 38 percent, 36 percent and 34 percent respectively; and the executive C-level is involved in 33 percent of purchases. Curiously, respondents say the purchasing department is involved in only 20 percent of organizations.  

Operator Interface/HMI was the most widely selected type of Operations Management software used in manufacturing organizations, as indicated by 87 percent of the respondents. SCADA software was second, selected by 74 percent of respondents. Other types of Operations Management software used by manufacturing organizations include Production Management (40 percent), Performance Management (25 percent), Enterprise Integration (23 percent) and
Manufacturing Intelligence (16 percent).

Manufacturing organizations are results-driven, with 72 percent of organizations saying they purchase and use Operations Management software to increase productivity, 68 percent buy to provide greater process visibility, and almost 60 percent buy to reduce downtime and increase quality. These performance issues will likely increase the popularity of Performance Management and Manufacturing Intelligence software applications for future purchases.

A second tier of factors driving the purchase and use of Operations Management software includes connection to corporate business systems (38 percent), to increase throughput (37 percent), to reduce labor costs (37 percent) and to reduce material and/or energy costs (36 percent). To expand capacity (32 percent) and for regulatory compliance (27 percent) were also reasons to purchase and use Operations Management software.

Of the various ways to purchase software, the largest percentage (44 percent) purchase through distributors. Additionally, 41 percent purchase software through system integrators (SIs), 35 percent through a global contract with a software supplier and 35 percent purchase locally, on a project-by-project basis. Only 17 percent of respondents purchase software through a corporate
department and 11 percent purchase on a global basis.

Manufacturing organizations use a variety of sources to research Operations Management software. These include vendor and/or distributor salespeople (58 percent), Internet searches/vendor Web sites (49 percent), corporate engineering (48 percent), vendor events (41 percent), references from industry users (40 percent) and industry publications (39 percent).

Of these, software users place the greatest amount of trust in their corporate engineering departments (ranked high by 68 percent of respondents) and in references from other industry users (65 percent). Much less trust is placed in vendor and/or distributor salespeople (ranked high by only 37 percent of respondents).

To implement software applications, respondents use the following methods: internal corporate engineering resources (61 percent), system integrators (51 percent), pilot projects (43 percent) and local plant resources (40 percent).

For the highest level of implementation success, software users say the best practice is to run a pilot program (ranked high by 70 percent of respondents), followed by using internal corporate engineering resources (63 percent) and system integrators (59 percent). A major simultaneous rollout across the corporation was voted as the least successful way to implement projects, with only 27 percent of respondents ranking this method as high.

Survey recipients were asked how satisfied they are with the purchasing process, implementation process and management of their Operations Management software. Those factors ranked highest in purchasing satisfaction include: on-time delivery (given a high ranking by 58 percent of respondents); knowledge of the salesperson (55 percent); and ongoing service contract (50 percent). While software users may not have the highest level of trust for salespeople, they acknowledge that salespeople know their products.

In the implementation process, highest satisfaction ratings were given to “software delivered expected results” (62 percent of recipients), “software integrated well with existing systems” (56 percent) and “project was on schedule” (52 percent). Respondents were not as satisfied with factors such as “no hidden costs” and “software was bug-free.”

In rating their satisfaction with the ongoing management of their Operations Management software, respondents in general were very satisfied with their software applications, with every factor listed
attaining a better than 50 percent high-satisfaction rating. These include: software provides measurable benefits (67 percent); lifecycle costs meet budget requirements (57 percent); vendor provides ongoing service and support (56 percent); and upgrades and version control are well managed (52 percent).

Clearly, the market for Operations Management software is looking for performance-driven results across a variety of operational and management parameters. Survey results indicate that successful applications share these characteristics:

  • Leverage a team that includes engineering, IT and operations
  • Access the capabilities of corporate engineering, system integrators and other industry references
  • Roll out software using pilot projects
  • Deliver measurable benefits and results-driven performance.

While manufacturers demand a lot from their Operations Management software, they are generally happy with their decisions. Asked if they would make the same purchase decision again, 60 percent of respondents ranked this factor as high, with only 3 percent ranking satisfaction with their purchase decision as very low. In the final analysis, Operations Management software is delivering the goods.

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