Learning

I’m currently learning a new discipline : Manufacturing Execution Systems. (MES)
MES is an automation layer between the ERP system (planning and business intelligence) and the SCADA (control systems and PLC’s on the shop floor).
It will typically perform detailed scheduling and dispatching tasks, collect and report data on what is being and has been executed.
This data is then used for product tracking and genealogy, performance analysis, data exchange with quality, people and warehouse data management sytems, …
 
As we are in a (renewed) PDCA (Plan – Do –  Check – Act) phase in our company, I will model my learning process in this model.
 
1. PLAN.
 
The first phase in a learning traject is getting started, getting motivated to go through the hard effort of learning something new.
I like the (un)conscious-(in)competence model.

When I was asked to collaborate on this project, I was very quickly aware (= conscious) that I had no idea what MES was about (= incompetence).  Personally, I do not like to be incompetent.
Combined with a fair dose of curiosity, this was a good motivator for me to find out more and to plunge into this (for me) unknown world of plant automation and information systems.
2. DO.
 
The second phase is the actual learning phase, this consists of studying and training.  Getting the cognitive competences to understand what this new discipline is about.
I found some books, white papers and other training material which I studied intensively.  In the SECI-model of knowledge transfert of Nonaka and Takeuchi this is the internalization : from codified knowledge on paper to internal knowledge in my head. 
 
In reality, the sources I found and consulted contained a lot of information about MES; what MES stands for, what it is, what a standard MES system does, what system infrastructure is typically used, …
In my experience, the real knowledge was build in my head, when I started seeing patterns and models, depicted frameworks and started to see and make relationships between the different elements.
Getting the information in my head is like putting furniture in a room.  It became knowledge when the light was turned on and I saw how it all fits together.
 
Another source are subject matter experts.  What I found surprising is how the process of asking questions is related to the process of finding the experts.
Based on the answers I got, I was able to :
 – refine the questions (step by step I learned what I needed to ask)
 – locate the experts (some people really answer your question to the point)
 
 
3. CHECK.
 
In the phase (where I am now), I start to answer questions and I already gave a presentation about MES.  But with a safety cord.  I ask a coach to review the presentation upfront, and the audience was limited to my direct manager (which in my case is a safe environment).
 
I also joined a professional organisation of MES practioners : the MESA (Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association).  This Community of Practice provides a platform for experience exchange in the form of libraries with white papers, webinars on specific subjects, forums and regular meetings for connecting people. 
 
 
4. ACT.
Finally, I will become a professional on this subject, applying what I have learned (In corporate speech : create value). 
 
I hope however to be (one day) a mentor for some one else, new in this field.
 
 
 
 
 
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