CoE: The Key to Data-Driven Manufacturing
What is a CoE, and why is it important to manufacturing operations? 

A Center of Excellence (CoE) is a group within an organization that is responsible for defining the goals an initiative will accomplish, how the initiative will be implemented, and who is responsible for the outcome of the initiative. The structure of a CoE will be different for various industries (as covered within the book), but for manufacturing in particular, the CoE takes on a very large scope for the company. The CoE is responsible for defining best practices for system use (ERP, PLM, MES, SCADA, and others), manufacturing processes (process standardization), and business processes related to the manufacturing floor. Without implementing a CoE, for manufacturing operations in particular, companies significantly risk chaotic process management, large fluctuations in product quality, and underperforming results for many of their quality management initiatives. An example I have found in many companies is an underperformance (some would say downright failure) of quality initiatives such as Lean, Six Sigma, or MES implementations. As I discuss in the book, there are many ways to coordinate these initiatives to get the most out of them.

Is CoE a new concept being adopted by the industry?

The concept of a CoE is not new, most companies set up teams to implement initiatives, and each team is the equivalent of a CoE for each of its initiatives. But after the initiative “goes live,” most of these teams are dropped, the members go back to “their day jobs,” and there is a lack of continuity for the initiative from plant to plant (sometimes even from production line to production line). My book describes an overarching initiative for manufacturing operations to tie these initiatives together and take advantage of synergies between the initiatives. I explain how these initiatives can be tied together and the strengths and weaknesses of many common initiatives. In other words, a company should not look at Lean, for example, to be the exclusive quality management initiative. Each initiative I talk about has its place in manufacturing management. With my book, I’m trying to break through the attitude of “one initiative solves all problems.” 

You mention taking digital transformation beyond the manufacturing floor; can you elaborate more on this?

Within the book, I describe many of the concepts of data-driven manufacturing management (what is referred to in industry as a “digital transformation”). I discuss making data available from more and more sources on the manufacturing floor, implementing real-time analysis of that data (analyzing much greater volumes of data, and I provide some simple examples of these types of analysis), and using the insights created from analysis for manufacturing operations. Another management tool that is minimally used (many do not understand the full scope of benefits that can be gained) is the ISA-95 Series of Standards. In the book, I provided many examples of how manufacturing companies can use these standards to help in their process and quality management.

The one scope of digital transformation that needs to be better understood is the relationship between the roles and activities of the CoE and those of company executives in strategic planning. I have dedicated a chapter to describing using the CoE in corporate strategic planning and providing examples of two of the more significant planning methodologies, how these methodologies can use a CoE, and how these methodologies may play out in a manufacturing context.

Who is this book best suited for?

This book has been written for operations and IT personnel working in a manufacturing company.

With the guidance of this book, manufacturing engineers can better understand management methodology tools (initiatives, systems, and process management) and see IT and controls engineering counterparts as collaborative members of the manufacturing team.

It would also help manufacturing executives understand the benefits of implementing a CoE.

What inspired you to write this book? 

This book was originally conceived to be a companion for the book I co-authored with Thomas Seubert, MES: An Operations Management Approach. The more I got into writing the book and researching the approaches many companies have to digital transformation, the more I recognized the gaps in understanding how the many initiatives manufacturing companies could (and should) take can be tied together. I have also spent time consulting for companies in MES implementations, only to find the companies placing the success or failure of the implementation onto the IT group (and hence the failure to deliver with MES). In this book, I propose a more rounded approach to implementing MES as well as Lean, Six Sigma, PCMM (Process Capability Maturity Model), ISA-95, and quality initiatives in general.

About Grant Vokey

Grant Vokey
Grant Vokey is the principal consultant for Vokey Consulting. With 20 years of diverse manufacturing operations experience and an additional 15 years of integrating information technology (IT) systems into the manufacturing floor, he has developed a strong understanding of how manufacturing companies work and the information needed to operate at world-class levels.

Grant’s experience, coupled with continuous training and 10 years as a Certified Operations Manager, has also provided him with an excellent understanding of industry best practices and best-in-class utilization of manufacturing execution systems (MES). Using this knowledge, he has been a subject matter expert for developing industry-leading MES applications/solutions, a program manager for multiple MES programs, and a lead consultant on implementations of MES in various verticals (electronics, industrial equipment, automotive manufacturing, and metal fabrication).

Grant has developed a reputation for providing sound, practical advice and direction that make a difference to his clients and the MES industry as a whole.