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Are your manufacturing systems living up to their expec≠tations? Are they simple to operate? Do they function as the real communication system for your plant? Companies whose people answer "no" to these questions often pay the price of having frustrated users running dual systems without achieving the benefits originally projected from their implementation. Although there are many more successful manufacturing systems in place today than ever before, there are also more people questioning the value of the ones they have. One major issue is their complexity.

Reasons for Complexity

Historically, manufacturers have employed what appeared to be a continuous improvement process for developing and updating their manufacturing systems. As technology im≠proved, old systems were replaced with newer ones to take advantage of new functionality and hardware capabilities. Many of these decisions to "improve" were made with an eye on the technology rather than on the practical use of the systems, often creating a complex environment for the users.

As usage patterns were established in individual compa≠nies, modifications were made to the software and certain parts of the systems were discarded. These systems evolved over time, sometimes without a guiding strategy, and often following strategies that changed when new "fad" tech≠nologies and philosophies became popular, or when man≠agement changes occurred.

Another reason for complexity in today's systems is the drive for more capabilities and higher levels of precision. As software companies made modifications for individual customers, they added many of these modifications to their standard packages. Users' groups have also added to the standard offerings by pressuring their suppliers for changes and added functions. Sorting out the right combination of options for a specific application has become quite difficult.

The application of software to a business can create its own complexity. Over structuring routings, bills of material, and work center files can cause unnecessary work. Utiliz≠ing parts of the software that do not fit a given business can create non-value-added activities for the users.

New software does not always contain all of the features and functions that exist in the systems already in use. There is a great temptation to keep some of the old systems in place after new ones are installed. Changing the new systems to work like the old ones also leads to complexity.


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