It’s Time You Speak for the Plants

July 3, 2013
The Lorax might speak for the trees, but who speaks for the plants? The time has come for someone to speak for the manufacturing sites, production facilities or processing plants most of you are working in or supporting every day.

The Lorax might speak for the trees, but who speaks for the plants? I’m not talking about the Grickle-grass or various flowery plants in Dr. Seuss’s world of the Lorax. I’m talking about the manufacturing sites, production facilities or processing plants most of you are working in or supporting every day. The time has come for someone to speak for those plants.

At the MESA World Conference last fall in Coventry, England, I polled a room of 90 industry professionals, and found that they had a combined 894 years of “manufacturing/systems” experience and had been part of projects that collectively delivered more than €2.7 billion ($3.6 billion) of business value throughout their careers. Amazing numbers! However, when I asked how many of their bosses knew of their experience and the value they’ve delivered, it was as if the Once-ler had chopped down the Lorax’s last Truffula Tree. Not one hand was raised.

I’ve spent the past 20 years working with manufacturers large and small and near and far. In their plants are competent, creative, resourceful people, like you. Despite the ever-increasing speed of business and pressures put on the plants, you solve problems and find a way to get the job done. Safety first. Quality second. Everything else piled on top. Unfortunately, something has been missing.

What’s been missing is a discussion on quantified business value with your leaders. You’ve met the challenges time and again, but most never came back around and quantified the value of your efforts and made sure your leaders could articulate it. In fact, MESA’s Metrics That Matter Research at one point showed that although more than 70% of companies required return-on-investment (ROI) projections before a project, more than 70% of those companies never quantified their ROI after project implementation.

MESA recognized that many companies aren’t equipped to capture the financial benefits of their plant projects, and set out to help equip people with the tools and training to do so. The MESA Metrics Working Group was formed several years ago and has driven our Metrics That Matter Research every other year since 2006. The fifth project team is forming now and will publish its findings to our members in early 2014. The group published a Metrics Guidebook & Framework for tying plant performance metrics to company financial metrics. The MESA ROI Working Group was formed later, and is about to publish its work in a first-edition Return-on-Investment Guidebook. Also, the MESA Global Education Program (GEP) is teaching ROI as part of our MES/MOM Methodologies certificate programs to industry professionals around the world.

Beyond knowing how, the consequences of not talking about plant projects in terms of the company’s business value extend beyond your company and can actually be felt across the global industry. Most companies don’t talk openly about their operations because they don’t want to give away competitive secrets, not to mention financial or performance information. But the non-proprietary, non-competitive information on financial and performance improvement isn’t getting out either. That leaves everyone isolated. This limited knowledge sharing is holding everyone back. Since companies are not adequately aware of the proven solutions available to them, they add cost, risk and delays in finding, scoping, selecting and deploying them.

MESA is now in its 21st year serving industry. If there’s anything the past two decades have taught us quite plainly, it’s that we, as individuals, cannot affect change fast enough or effectively enough. As individuals, many of us struggle just to keep up. But together we have a chance. Companies are facing ever greater challenges, and they’re going to invest their resources where they know there’s business value. Together, we can speak with a unified voice and use that voice to show the value of your work and make sure we’re all heard.

>> Mike Yost brings more than 20 years of industrial, marketing and sales experience to his role as president of MESA International. He has held various leadership roles in automation and industrial software businesses. He holds a B.S. in industrial engineering from Pennsylvania State University.

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