There is a discussion going on over at LinkedIn about whether or not a single MES system can be used across multiple plants. The topic of standardization is a hot one. Individual plants (and individuals) believe that they are ‘different’, that one size does not fit all. We all believe that we are unique, that no one does exactly what we do. In the case of manufacturing, there is some truth to that. Efforts to ‘standardize’ manufacturing have the tendency to stifle creativity. They also tend toward creeping bureaucracy.
Uniqueness is not always a good thing. As someone once told me “Do it once, it might be a mistake, do it twice it’s a habit, three times it’s a tradition”. There are a lot of traditions out there in manufacturing that would lend themselves to retirement. If the rationale for a process is “But we’ve always done it this way”, then maybe you have to dig a bit deeper.
So what is the software vendor’s job in all of this? Standardization? Uniqueness?
In a timeless blog from 2009, David Meerman Scott provided the “Top Gobbledygook phrases used in 2008 and how to avoid them”. Our friend ‘Unique’ checks in at #3 on the list of most overused phrases in B2B press releases, right after #2 “Pleased To” and #1 “Innovate”….
… but we have all bases covered with #14 Flexible and #18 Scalability!
So, now that we are all pleased to uniquely innovate, what are we really saying here?
The point of my title is that how a software product is designed and implemented goes a long way in balancing the business need for standardization in the face of the users desire for ”uniqueness’. Hey, if it was easy, ANYONE could do it!
The key for software vendors is standardization that fosters uniqueness. What does that mean? If you’re too unique, you may miss your target. If you’re approach is ‘forced’ standardization, you aren’t allowing your customers to use their uniqueness to their advantage.
Being unique is a good thing, otherwise we wouldn’t make such a big deal about it in our B2B press releases! A BETTER thing is to foster the uniqueness that the end-user requires in a structured framework that the business requires. Give them what they want, make it simple, hide the rules and complexity. Now THAT’S innovation! (Sorry, couldn’t resist…)