With current technology, there's no reason not to embrace low-risk paperless manufacturing.  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Say Goodbye to “MES Fear” in the New Year

Many companies play a waiting game with their shop floor improvements, letting profit and opportunity slip through their fingers.

By Lisa Kessler, Customer Relations with CIMx Software

Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”  As 2016 swiftly approaches many of us are considering the New Year’s resolutions we plan to make (and break) come January.

These resolutions are often personal – lose weight, quit smoking, and spend less time on Facebook and more time with family.  But what if we focused on a resolution to improve our business? What if we resolved to eliminate the fear of change? What if we quit ignoring the fundamental problems holding our shop floor back and invested in optimized production?

Embracing Opportunity with MES and Paperless Manufacturing

Many manufacturers run their core business on outdated software systems. They struggle with outdated paper processes because they fear upsetting the status quo, or are confused about the cost and benefits of a modern software system. Manufacturers fear manufacturing software systems are too complex and aren’t designed for manufacturing. They believe the production floor won’t be able to utilize the tools in the system, and the software will end up as shelfware. These fears force them to rely on old and inefficient processes. They know these processes cost them money and productivity, but they feel helpless to change them.   Scrap, data errors, paper-based operations and out-of-control production processes keep the shop floor from excelling.

3d small people with a checklist

Embrace change and improve production by eliminating software fear in 2016. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

By embracing change and jumping into the future with a modern, easy-to-use MES platform you can quickly eliminate many shop floor headaches and start the New Year off right. Embracing a modern MES costs less money and is less of an investment in time and resources than you might think.  With a little planning and the right MES you will see a return on your investment before the end of 2016. You’ll be prepared for the future of manufacturing with a system that gives you complete shop floor visibility and control.

Consider the benefits of saying goodbye to fear and embracing change with MES and Paperless Manufacturing:

  • Operations scheduling. Work Order scheduling with Quantum eliminates guesswork, giving management confidence in meeting customer demand.
  • Performance analysis. Develop and utilize KPIs with a real-time dashboard you can access anywhere and anytime, helping focus and support data-driven process improvement.
  • End-to-end traceability. Mitigate risk and ensure compliance with automated product serialization and sequential assembly data for better supply chain management.
  • Quality management. Improve quality with minimal effort using real-time quality checks, automatic tolerance checks and a complete custom disposition system.
  • Workflow management. Procedure management, and process sequencing and control, ensures you have the procedural enforcement to optimize operations quickly and easily.
  • Resource management. Labor management and machine maintenance tools provide simplified shop floor administration – dramatically improving efficiency with minimal effort.
  • Document control. Quantum’s library of master planning, derived directly from your existing planning with additional error checks and security, complete digital audit records and product history eliminates inefficiencies based on error-prone paper-based records.

With a modern manufacturing software system that uses existing work instructions and processes, and an efficient phased implementation, your team will be trained and the system up and running in a few short weeks. You’ll have the benefit and tools you need to charge into the New Year with confidence and increased profitability.

Worried about cost?  A new system configured to your shop floor and manufacturing processes shouldn’t cost millions to digitally run your shop floor.  With a modern, Smart MES you don’t need to design an entire new system or add custom functionality that drives up the cost and complexity with limited benefit. With core functionality in place and a modern software platform, you can quickly map the system tools to your processes, getting software customized for your needs at a much lower cost.

Don’t let opportunity continue to pass you by. There has never been a better time to invest in manufacturing software. Going into the New Year plan for improvement and invest in optimized manufacturing.   If you are looking to forge ahead and leave fear behind, we’d love to help you build a case for improvement, ROI, and positive change.

For a free shop floor analysis contact CIMx, we look forward to hearing from you!

Man sitting on a blue chair with a laptop. Rendered at high resolution on a white background with diffuse shadows.

Reasons to be Thankful for a Smart MES

Ever consider why you should be thankful for a modern, smart manufacturing system?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

In the USA, we’re preparing for the holiday season, and pondering the multitude of reasons we should be thankful.

This got me thinking about Smart MES. Recently, we looked at Smart MES, and discussed data-driven manufacturing. In doing so, we studied the benefits of both. While capabilities and benefits of software are important, neither highlights the true value of the system.

So, in honor of the season of thankfulness, we take a closer look one very important reason why you’ll be thankful you invested in new Smart MES and digital manufacturing.

Integrated Operations with the Smart Factory

A major goal of the Smart factory and digital shop floor is eliminating the silos of information that develop in a manufacturing company (or any organization). Consider this – engineering designs a product, but operations may build from entirely different plans (if they don’t ignore the instructions and just build from memory and experience). It’s a familiar problem for many companies. How can you optimize production if you can’t even get employees working from the same page?

Efficient Manufacturing

Are you creating more work and inefficiency by not embracing Smart Manufacturing? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

All this data is being produced, but not connected. There are opportunities for errors, and no comprehensive method of managing data.

The Smart factory and data-driven manufacturing puts data to use, driving efficiency and improving results. By giving the organization a single resource for managing production information, you eliminate silos. You automate many of the tasks associated with creating, storing and reporting information. A necessary component of this goal is integrating your data and people so everyone works from a single source of (correct) information, and has access to data when and where they need it.

An integrated team, streamlined to operate efficiently, is a key benefit of Smart Manufacturing. According to the Manufacturing Innovation Blog produced by NISTMEP (National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership), Dan Green, Director of Joint Advanced Manufacturing Region (JAMR) within the Navy, identified Smart Manufacturing as, “… the convergence of operating technologies (OT) and Information Technologies (IT) working together in a real time integrated fashion.”

Currently, many companies report a disconnect between IT and operations. Rather than collaborating, organizations within a company will defend their priorities. Without cohesion, any proposed solutions to operational inefficiencies will favor one segment of the company over another, delivering a less than optimal result.

The Smart Factory changes this dynamic. Most companies who have embraced Smart Manufacturing report decreased stress and workload for both IT and Operations. For operations, a solid digital foundation for manufacturing eliminates many of the inefficiencies (including paper-based ones) that hinder production, and directly address the source of problems and errors in manufacturing, reducing scrap and improving production. For IT, with Smart Manufacturing it is easier to write reports and data mine the raw data accessible in a single location to produce critical production analytics. With the system automating many time-consuming tasks, IT can focus on higher priority items.

By integrating data and eliminating silos, you can bridge the gap between IT and Operations, helping everyone in the organization work as a cohesive team. The result is more focus and effort toward goals that deliver real benefit.

This, if you open your mind, is really what Thanksgiving is all about – a cohesive team delivering tremendous results in a time of need.

Enjoy the holiday! Want to learn more, or see how a Smart MES or MOM system can make your company work more efficiently, then contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis.

How to Calculate Whether your Manufacturing Software is Technology-Ready

Now more than ever, manufacturers need software solutions designed to accommodate change. Learn how to determine the technology-readiness of a potential solution.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

3d man in trouble

Is your software ready for the future? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Last week, we discussed the importance of flexibility in manufacturing software. When a software system forces a shop floor or production team to adapt to new processes, or puts arbitrary limits on production, then users will struggle to optimize production or realize the expected benefit of the MES.

Change happens too quickly in modern manufacturing for systems that lack flexibility. How do you manage an update in government regulations? What happens when a customer calls with a new priority and a rush order? Do you have an efficient process for implementing redline edits on the floor? Without software that adapts to and accommodates change, manufacturers are exposed to additional risk and cost.

New technology is having a disruptive effect on the industry, and potentially exposing manufacturers to risk and cost. Many companies are struggling to understand how data-driven, smart manufacturing will affect them. Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, will change the way the supply chain works, so what do we do now? IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) is a potential revolution, but what can we do to prepare for it?

Identifying Flexible, Technology-Ready Software

Manufacturers need to be ready to not just manage change, but thrive with it. Promises are easy to make for software suppliers, so how can a savvy consumer recognize a flexible, technology-ready software solution? Recognizing technology-readiness ensures a modern solution that supports your needs, rather than forcing you to support the software.

Here are 6 characteristics of a flexible manufacturing software solution:

  1. The software is built on an easy-to-install, modern platform.
Internet on the world map

Prepare for change with technology-ready software solutions. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Not all software platforms are created, or operate, equally. A system that requires an entire team to configure and install is not flexible. Sure, the supplier may market the advantages of their platform, but most systems have the same (or similar) advantages, just in a platform that manages change and technology more effectively.

  1. The system provides a foundation for other technology.

With new technology in manufacturing, it’s not enough to turn it on. You need to incorporate the technology to optimize production without disrupting current operations. An MES or MOM system can become the foundation of manufacturing operations, managing the information and data that feeds and enables manufacturing. With the right system, integrating new technology is done through the MES. Is the system prepared to support data-driven, smart manufacturing? Can it connect to and support a digital network?

  1. The system can reuse and accommodate your existing work instructions and processes.

It shouldn’t take long for you to load a work order and begin using the system.  What does it mean for the long-term viability of the solution if you need to revise or reformat your existing work plans before you get started? Consider how the system will respond to future changes if it can’t even adequately handle your needs before the project has started.

  1. The system reduces complexity and is easy-to-use.

Complexity does not make a manufacturing software system better.  In fact, complex software solutions suffer from low adoption rates and hinder production, rather than supporting it. Manufacturing is already complex. If the software requires more than a day to learn, it probably hasn’t been designed to adapt under pressure, and it will have a difficult time managing anything more.

  1. There is an easy method for improving orders and operations and automatically tracking production.

Some systems call themselves an MES, but are just a modified spreadsheet, or utilize email to send planning to the floor. Software like this lacks the functional depth to adapt to change and overcome challenges. Your software solution should accommodate visual work instructions, offer built-in procedural enforcement, and enable shop floor data collection. It should track production, and automatically generate a production record. Without a complete solution and features like these, you aren’t technology-ready.

  1. There are open, built-in integration options.

Many manufacturers look for the all-inclusive, one-size fits all master software solution. It works as the ERP, the MES, the PLM and the QMS (or more) in one neat, tidy package. Stacking functionality creates unnecessary complexity and limits efficiency.  A modern manufacturing software system should be built with connectivity in mind. The system should efficiently connect with other software systems, ensuring the manufacturer manages data and information effectively, eliminating duplicate or faulty data in the system, even when change occurs.

Ensuring Success with Modern Manufacturing

3d small people with a checklist

Make flexibility and future-readiness a priority when evaluating potential solutions. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

To succeed, modern manufacturers must adapt to change quickly and efficiently. Many software suppliers are more concerned with making promises than building an effective, technology-ready solution.

Manufacturers should review potential paperless manufacturing and MES solutions with flexibility and the future  as a priority. With a little foresight and planning, you can find and implement a solution that meets your needs even as those needs change. Want to learn more, or see how software can accommodate your changing needs? Then contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis.

How Your Choice in Manufacturing Software Might be Holding You Back

Manufacturing software companies, like MES, shouldn’t put limits on how you use their product, but many companies do and it’s hurting your productivity and profit.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Is your manufacturing software holding back production?  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Is your manufacturing software holding back production? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

I love coffee.

I’m not a fancy coffee drinker. I don’t need flavorings, whip or soy – just give me a simple dark roast or latte. I used to go to Starbucks (the gold standard in coffee) and pick up 3 or 4 drinks for the office. When I used their rewards program, I once got one “star” for each drink. The stars quickly added up. It made picking up coffee in the afternoon worthwhile.

Then Starbucks changed the program. No longer would I get a star for each drink, but for each transaction. So, to get 3 or 4 stars, I would need to pay for each drink separately. On top of that, the rewards program required I use and “load-up” a gift card to be in the program. I was being rewarded for standing in line, and not for what I purchased or my loyalty to Starbucks.

Today, they’ve limited the “reward” program even more. I earn no more than 2 stars a day, no matter how much coffee I purchase. They are no longer rewarding loyalty, but limiting options and forcing conformity.

Limiting the Options in Shop Floor Software

Software companies, especially manufacturing software suppliers, often impose limits on their product. Just like Starbucks, they present the system as “configurable” and comprehensive, with a wealth of functionality and options. As users dig deeper into the software they slam into arbitrary limits. The vendor isn’t putting the user’s needs first by imposing limits. They are squeezing more profit or future work from the people who use their product.

Here are a few ways suppliers limit your options with their software:

  • Modules: Modules often increase the overall cost of a product and, once installed, limit how you use the software. Consider this – some companies sell data collection as a separate module. How can the company say they sell an MES and NOT offer data collection in the base package? Many of the benefits of MES are dependent on data collection.
  • Form and Templates: Some MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) use elaborate forms and templates to organize production data. Once a form is built (which is easy) users plug in the data. But, any change to your processes will require a change to the forms, which can be costly, if not impossible, making it difficult to adapt to change on the shop floor.
  • High Cost of Installation: Some systems will require millions to design and years to install. By the time the software is in place, the user’s needs and requirements have changed. Rather than call the project a failure, or sign up for another long development period, the users “make it work” by adapting to the software, rather than having a solution that adapts to them.
  • Complexity: The more functionality you cram into a software system, the more complexity you’ll have to navigate to make it work. Adding PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) or an ERP (Enterprise Resource Management) to an MES will make the overall system more difficult to operate, and limit how it can be used in your processes. New MES solutions use a built-in integration tool to connect with an ERP or PLM without adding complexity.
  • Upgrades and Services: Some companies sell software for a lower initial price, planning to make up the difference in upgrades and services. In this model, users will need to balance the high cost of services with limited functionality. In the end, many companies struggle with less-than-optimal software to save money.

The Coffee and MES Connection

Don't let limits in your software hold you back from optimizing the shop floor. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Don’t let limits in your software hold you back from optimizing the shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Like the Starbucks Rewards program, some MES and manufacturing software vendors place limits on how their product is used. In software, these limits may make it impossible to optimize usage, and hinder productivity and limit profit. If you can’t upgrade the solution because the cost is prohibitive, the system is too complex, or you can’t access necessary functionality because it’s in a different module, you’ll never have a solution that operates at maximum efficiency.

Software should support your processes, and it shouldn’t dictate how the shop floor operates. You should have access to the latest software and tools with a clear upgrade path. Training shouldn’t pull users from the shop floor for more than an hour or two.

Just like you should be able to purchase a PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) for friends and know you are being rewarded for your loyalty, you should have a manufacturing software system that works for you.

Want to learn more, or see how an adaptable, scalable solution might work with your shop floor processes? Leave a message or give us a call for a free shop floor analysis. We’re always happy to help.

5 Ways You Find Real Value with a Smart MES

Not all manufacturing software is the same. Critically evaluate your current software or a new solution to understand its potential value. 

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Critically look at the value a system will add before installing manufacturing software. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Critically look at the value a system will add before installing manufacturing software. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

There are a lot of MES and manufacturing software systems out there for companies to choose from, but not all are created equal. They all offer similar functionality. They manage manufacturing information, sending work instructions to the shop floor and collecting data on production.

While some MES offer just the standard core functionality, other systems, especially older software, struggle with functionality-creep, attempting to handle everything from your product lifecycle to financials. We believe ERP (Enterprise Resource Management) and MES are different. Tools that pile functionality in the system force users to work the software rather than manufacturing.

Smart MES are different. An MES that focuses on delivering value to the manufacturing process is a Smart MES. It enables users (and the business) to work better, faster and with fewer errors. Forward-thinking, modern Smart MES become the foundation of the Smart Factory and a critical tool for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT).

Characteristics of a Smart MES

Don’t get fooled by empty MES promises. Here are 5 critical characteristics of a Smart MES you can use to evaluate software systems:

  • It’s more than work instructions on glass. Some systems offer bare minimum functionality – work instructions are emailed to the floor where data is collected on a spreadsheet. A Smart MES provides dynamic, visual work instructions, system connectivity, asset management, and more. You need a system that supports modern manufacturing. Older, less dynamic systems can’t do that.
  • The software adapts to changing conditions on the shop floor. With enough money, you can build your own MES that meets every need you have right now. Whether you build it yourself or implement a module-based MES system, delivery of today’s requirements in a few years’ time is not good enough. By the time the system is delivered, your needs have changed. With a change in regulations or a new piece of technology, the system you designed will be outdated. A Smart MES adapts and grows with you, allowing you to work in the system to meet the changing needs of your shop floor.
  • The system allows users to focus on manufacturing, and not on using the software system. Some MES are so complex users spend more time navigating screens and pull-down menus than actually doing their job. Smart MES eliminate unnecessary complexity and directly support production improvements. Necessary training for the software should be measured in hours, not days. Complexity never increases benefit in manufacturing software.
  • Smart MES use shop floor data to improve production. Using a modern, data-driven manufacturing software system with real-time production data, you should see potential problems. The Smart MES will have integrated tools like scheduling, change orders, and procedural enforcement to implement a solution for any potential issues.
  • The software minimizes disruption and cost. Some MES require you convert your processes and work instructions to a new format. The result of this conversion is costly shop floor disruption and a struggle to adopt the software. Other systems offer a plethora of modules and add-ons, delivering a complete solution only to users willing to pay for it. With a Smart MES, it should be easy to adopt the tools to your current processes, and the functionality you need should come fully-loaded out of the box.

An MES is more than Functionality

Benefit is found beyond the functionality list. Look at the value a system will add to your shop floor. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Benefit is found beyond the functionality list. Look at the value a system will add to your shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Modern manufacturing software shouldn’t be measured by functionality. Most systems can deliver the minimally viable prouct (MVP) that you require; look past that for a few big wins that help your production, like scheduling or asset management.  True benefit is found in the value it adds to your production and manufacturing environment. This is the difference between a basic MES and a Smart MES. A Smart MES enables data-driven, digital manufacturing and becomes the core of the Smart Factory.

Contact CIMx today to learn more about the Smart MES and what it can do for you.

4 Tips for Understanding the Cost of an MES

Though it may seem counter-intuitive, cost is rarely reflective of benefit in a manufacturing software system.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

More money doesn't always mean a better solution. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

More money doesn’t always mean a better solution. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Pricing of software can be… confusing. I understand why many customers become perplexed when comparing the price between MES.

With manufacturing, the cost of a product is the combination of materials, labor, production requirements and profit. A product with pricey materials and stringent regulations will cost more than a simple plastic part with no regulations. This makes sense.

Software pricing is different. In the past, companies hired software firms to develop an MES. Labor costs were calculated by the developers working on the project. With the advent of Off-the-Shelf (OTS) solutions, development costs are shared by the companies using the solution. Even sharing the cost, development can be expensive, especially for manufacturing software. Consider this; even building a relatively simple MES could take several years of work by a team of developers. Doubt this estimate? Just ask the companies that decide to build an in-house MES.

What Drives the Price of Manufacturing Software?

This will give you a starting point for price, but there are other factors to consider, including:

  • Service charges.

Almost every system will charge service fees. Configuration of the software might be a service and can vary widely between systems. Some companies have a plethora of modules to configure, increasing the cost. Other companies will tell you they are OTS, but require expensive customization.  When you have a system that is truly OTS, with little required customization or configuration, the price will be lower.

  • The age of the system.

Unlike a car, the cost of manufacturing software doesn’t decrease over time. It seems counter-intuitive, but an MES will get more expensive as it ages. Old code and technology is difficult to use, so a venerable MES built 15 – 20 years ago will give programmers a headache, and the company will pass that cost to you. You may think you are buying a safe, proven solution, but that old software is being asked to do things it was never designed to do.  That “classic” system will require a massive implementation team and exorbitant costs with little benefit to the end users.

  • Initial implementation costs.
Don't get buried by the cost of your overly complex MES. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Don’t get buried by the cost of your overly complex MES. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Some companies will charge implementation fees for uploading and preparing your work instructions by converting them to the templates or formats used in their software. This can be very expensive and disruptive. Systems that reuse your existing processes and work instructions, and allow a controlled, phased implementation will be much less expensive and disruptive. This is common in a “Big Bang” implementation when a company tries to do all phases of the project at once, driving up the initial cost with little benefit.  A phased approach, allowing the customer to implement at their own pace, will manage the overall cost of the software.

  • Support and training fees.

Complexity in software will increase cost, often adding both unnecessary functionality and training fees. This often happens in MES when you start combining different functionality, for example an MES and PLM, in a single solution. Additional training will be necessary for users to navigate the system. Other systems, especially older ones, add functionality with limited use with every new release, resulting in what they market as a “robust” product, but those older features have limited use on the modern shop floor. Over time, you’ll pay even more for the complexity in additional support just to keep the system running.

Matching Cost to Benefit in an MES             

When looking at the price of a software system, you need to keep in mind price is not always a reflection of your benefit. Paying millions for an MES does not mean you’ll get more benefit. In fact, many times the factors that lead a company to price their software have nothing to do with how it can help a potential customer.

This is why it is so important to consider the ROI for a software system before you buy. Break down the cost, and look at how you will use the software and your intended return.  Determine if the high-cost software system will deliver an equally large benefit in a short amount of time. Otherwise, you may be stuck with an expensive system that never matches the promises of the company that sold it to you.

Want to learn more, or see how you can seamlessly implement a paperless manufacturing solution in manageable phases? Then contact CIMx today for a free manufacturing analysis.

A Simple Measure of Partnerships and Software Systems

Like your software systems, the success of a partnership is measured by the overall benefit to everyone involved.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

When partnerships, and software systems work in sync, everyone benefits. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

When partnerships, and software systems work in sync, everyone benefits. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

On Monday we announced a partnership with ITS (Information Technology Services), a high-end IT software and consulting company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

We’re excited about this partnership. ITS is a great company with a knowledgeable staff.  Their customer-focus and reputation as a provider of industry-leading software solutions align with our business strategy at CIMx. This is all true, and provides a solid basis for our partnership, but that’s not the real reason for our excitement.

Partnerships remind me of software systems.  The key to a successful partnership, or software connectivity, is allowing each partner, or system, to do what they do best while ensuring those efforts works in synch. Success is measured by the benefits of the combined efforts. If one partner is forced to adapt to compensate for the deficiencies of the other partner, or if the combined efforts of all partners yield less than the efforts of the individual, you have a problem…

ITS knows their market. They are respected and have a tremendous rapport with their customers. CIMx understands manufacturing, technology and software. Our product, Quantum, applies software and technology tools to meet the critical needs of manufacturing. ITS provides a level of service and connection with customers in their market that CIMx can’t match since we are based in the United States. We work with ITS to deliver Quantum, an industry-leading MES (Manufacturing Execution System) and paperless manufacturing system. Quantum is a behavior-based, rather than a forms-based, software system minimizing the cost of implementation and service for ITS customers. ITS then provides the services and training their customers have come to expect

By letting each company focus on what they do best, the combined efforts of ITS and CIMx will produce greater returns for both businesses and their customers…

MES, ERP, and Partnerships

Business software systems should work together like a partnership, each part in sync delivering greater returns for your business. That said, don’t expect your ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system to deliver the functionality and benefits of a PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) or MES. The strength of the ERP is managing business data and automating back office functions of the business. The design of the ERP isn’t suited to collecting data on production, managing engineering design or supervising work and work instructions. Twisting your manufacturing processes or forcing one system to fulfill the functionality of another system is crippling your productivity with no real benefit.

It’s forcing one partner to adapt to compensate for the deficiencies of another partner. No one benefits, and ultimately you hurt the entire organization. When you have systems working with their strengths, everyone works better and more efficiently.

In the end, that’s what we all want with our partnerships (and our computer systems). It’s why we are so excited to be working with ITS.