Looking Under the Hood: Micro Motion Integrates Solartron Product LIne #EMRex #pauto #automation #product management

Jan. 1, 2000

It took seven years and significant skull sweat but Micro Motion has managed a very difficult integration project, rationalizing the Solartron Mowbray vibrating tube density and viscosity meters and integrating them into the Micro Motion production and sales program.

This morning at the press breakfast at Emerson Exchange, Micro Motion executives revealed that they had finally completed the rationalization of the Solartron Mowbray vibrating density and viscosity products that Emerson acquired almost a decade ago, and gave to Micro Motion to sell and support. You can read more about that, and the introduction of the replacement for the venerable "delta body" Elite Coriolis Mass Flow Meter, in the Exchange Reporter, either online or on paper.

I've done some product integrations before, so I know what is involved. It is just not the slapping of a new logo on the product. It is, sadly, far more difficult than that.

For example, products are built up from BOMs (for the uninitiated, that's Bills of Material), which are used, first, to point to assembly drawings and instructions, and second, to point to purchasing documents. Even if you use the same production planning and ERP software (that means you, SAP) everybody's BOMs are different. When you change the BOM, you have to do a Management of Change excercise on every part in the Bill. This goes as far as changing the exploded parts diagrams in the instruction manuals, on the assembly instructions and in the inventory bins in the warehouse. It means making sure that every service tech has new part numbers for the old parts, and cross reference tables. It means that purchasing agents have to have the same things. It means making sure that new parts are ordered under new part numbers, and that none of the new part numbers get lost in the commotion. It is really hard to make a product if you don't have, for example, circuit board standoffs and screws.

And that's just the BOMs. You have to edit all the literature and all the Instruction, Maintenance and Repair manuals, online and in print.

Once you have the product line re-done in your BOM format, then you get to do integration and see how many parts your existing systems (in this case, Micro Motion flow meters) have in common with the other stuff (in this case the Solartron products).  It can take a year or so just to make sure you aren't double-buying resistors, for example, or relays.

After you do all the real low level rationalization stuff, you can proceed to figure out which products to keep and which products to slough off. You need to do real comparisons between the published specifications and what the products actually CAN do. Yes, Virginia, companies can and do lie on their spec sheets. 

Then you can make decisions like retiring the straight tube vibrating density meter Solartron built for the far better Micro Motion Elite density gauge. And then you deal with the unintended consequences of that, like customers who didn't leave enough room in their existing piping design for the very different form factor of the Micro Motion device and other unforeseen issues that don't come up until you're well into the finishing stretch of the rationalization.

Micro Motion had a real revelation when they figured out that the transmitters all needed to look like each other, but that the inputs could be very different. Some devices need Porsches under the hood, others can get buy with Volkswagens. The look and feel and the User Interface needed to be the same, or similar, and designed to User Centered Design principles.

It is far easier to just say to heck with it and abandon a complicated and difficult product line but Micro Motion stuck to their guns and were able to take a really very good product line and make it better and make it so that everyone at Micro Motion owns it.

Nice job.

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