Merck's McCaul on IT Implementation: Learn. Adapt. Then Go Forward.

Also at the SAP World Tour (see previous post), Merck’s IT Account Manager for Vaccine Manufacturing, Dermot McCaul, spoke about his company’s ongoing implementation of SAP’s Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence (SAP MII) application.

MII at Merck is intended to integrate and provide a dashboard onto data from various levels of operations, from manufacturing on up. At Merck, this means a single interface interconnecting plant-floor batch control, continuous control, and discrete control systems, with its Werum MES system, as well as with the enterprise level SAP system.

A few of the quotable items from McCaul’s presentation follow. A familiar refrain is that a major IT project like this is not so much about the tool as it is the people implementing it:

“Our PhDs spend too much time collecting and analyzing data. We don’t want them to be doing that. MII can do that instead . . ."

"A lot of shop floors in different [Merck] plants evolved on their own. We need data connectivity to various shop floor systems . . . some of it is not available in real time . . . legacy technologies were designed to support that plant, that site . . . they were not designed to put data in a larger context.”

McCaul cited several areas where the new system had made an impact in the facility in which it was piloted, and some lessons learned as Merck implements MII at a second site:

“This is not an IT project. It’s a great enabler but the process knowledge is the key to the benefits. The project leader must come from the process owner; it can’t come from IT . . . Do not attempt this unless you have commitment in the business portfolio to get that content expertise.”

“[Data] source systems can present huge challenges in installation. Inconsistent data systems have to be dealt with .  . . it can be incredibly painful to translate that data from various systems. You’ve got to make the [MII] system smart to begin with, and finding those relationships takes a lot of time and effort. The initial investment is very high.”

“I would not recommend doing a big bang on everything up front. Learn. Adapt. Then go forward.”

"Our current [second] project is leveraging lessons learned from Project 1. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. That first pilot was incredibly important for us. . . "

“A unified strategy for process monitoring is required. You have to have near real-time access to the data, but you have to shield the system appropriately as well. The business process of how you use this data is critical as a compliance issue. You have to make sure IT, bus and engineering are all on the same page . . . “


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