Sprints & Marathons: Two lanes of the multi-site standards journey

As the world begins the celebration of the 32nd Olympic Games, a track & field analogy comes to mind when capturing AVEVA's 10+ years of experience in deploying manufacturing execution standards across multiple sites.

In the sport of competitive running, sprints and marathons are on opposite ends of the spectrum. While both are challenging and require intense training, they require very different skills and a different mindset. Even physically, these two athletes look different - the sprinter is muscular whereas the marathoner looks lean.

The 100-meter sprint lasts a matter of seconds. It requires a mentality where the sprinter does not hold back. From the explosive start to acceleration towards the finish line, it requires conditioning the body to release all the energy it has for those few seconds.

In contrast, a marathon focuses on the long run. A marathon mentality means being in it for the long haul. In fact, one expert describes it as developing a "mental toughness to work through the discomfort" of putting the body through the rigors of the 26-mile journey.

Similarly, when enabling standards across multiple sites, the plant vs. corporate roles are analogous to the sprint vs. marathon comparison. Both approaches are necessary for the "think big - start small - scale fast" model used to guide a multi-site, multi-phase transformation journey.

Lesson learned: A "cut-and-paste" approach to multi-site standards is not sustainable.

Multi-site projects often "start small" as quick-win pilots at a single site that is willing to be an early adopter. Given the site's priority to minimize disruption to ongoing production activities, deployment timelines are aggressive and tend to encourage short-cuts. While the sprint mindset of pilots are appealing to plant stakeholders, the program encounters challenges when scaling to other sites due to limited reusability, inadequate documentation, differences in automation infrastructure, resistance from lack of buy-in, lack of governance to keep the software updated across sites, etc. Eventually, the rollout stalls because the program failed to "think big" upfront, or rather, "think through" the multi-site rollout to anticipate, plan and overcome these hurdles.

Lesson learned: An ongoing center of excellence (COE) is a necessity for a program that is both sustainable and delivers lowest total cost of ownership (TCO).

Much like preparing for a marathon, the typical hurdles of a standardization program is about preparing for the "discomforts" that come with putting multiple sites through a series of changes to achieve a level of digital harmonization that enables improving safety, efficiency, agility, reliability, sustainability, etc. In other words, improve performance - at scale.  Examples of alleviating discomfort from successful programs via a center of excellence (COE) organizing model include:

  • WHO is involved: Ideally, the COE members represent a cross-functional team with all relevant stakeholders (functional, technical, economic) across the lifecycle of the system (work process template) being deployed.
  • HOW they stay aligned: From providing vision, strategy and planning to addressing issues as they arise during execution, there needs to be a formalized, multi-level (project, program, executive) structure for communications, escalation and governance.
  • WHEN & WHAT they are responsible for: As part of AVEVA's delivery model, there are three parallel workstreams that delineate roles, responsibilities and timelines: (1)  the value and change management workstream that helps guide the business case to determine what capability is prioritized and how value gets realized; (2) the software lifecycle management workstream which helps design, deploy and govern the software template and upgrades across sites; (3) the project and execution management workstream that guides how the site-by-site deployment is managed (as there may be different partners involved by site or region.)

When the COE gets it right (i.e., the marathon at the corporate level) and does the upfront work for the long haul, that gives each plant the freedom to invest its full energy and run the sprint successfully. In this manner, these two parallel lanes of a multi-site standardization program help accelerate the digital transformation journey.

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