The key to successful manufacturing collaboration if putting the right pieces in place.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

The Critical Role of IT and Operations in Digital Manufacturing

Implementing digital manufacturing requires both IT and operations resources.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Disruptive technology is having an impact on manufacturing as companies grapple with implementing and using new tools without hurting their core business. The struggle leads many companies to wait and do nothing, while opportunities for improvement pass them by.

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New technology holds tremendous promise for the shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) promises to integrate the manufacturing value chain to eliminate errors and problems before they happen. Smart Factories and Smart MES utilize integration and connectivity to automate the transfer of information, improving processes through the use of data and business intelligence. Companies that embrace technology have a competitive advantage, and those that don’t, or delay improvement projects, will slowly lose money and market share to better prepared competition.

Digital manufacturing, the smart combination of data and technology with operation processes, is the foundation of these disruptive technologies. Data and technology sitting on the shop floor does little unless it’s integrated with workflow processes. Likewise, an operations team will struggle to optimize operations unless the right technology and data tools are in place to support improvements. Operations and IT working together is the foundation of digital manufacturing.

Without operations and IT synchronized, companies will struggle to implement the technology and processes necessar will wait on improvement projects, continuing to use error-prone paper-based processes and old technology and falling further behind their competition.

Aligning IT and Operations for Digital Manufacturing

The solution is to clearly map out the roles for IT and Operations before the project starts. The key is logically defining the roles and building collaboration focused on corporate goals, rather than individual organizations within the company.  Organizations that approach decisions seeking collaboration will find success, while those that see the process as a battle will struggle. Consider these roles:

  • Operations should be focused on the functionality of the software system. They will use the system every day, and their work will deliver the ROI. Any system that doesn’t directly benefit shop floor operations will struggle to even be adopted by users.
  • IT should focus on the technology, installation, security and management of the system. They will support the system and work with the production process and databases. More than just the day to day maintenance of the software, they ensure the solution remains relevant over time, either through standard updates, continuing to work with the vendor and collaborating with operations to adjust to changes as needed.

You may utilize a different approach, which is fine. Mapping out the roles for an improvement project will not only help build collaboration, it will eliminate the confusion that can lead a company to delay an investment in new technology. Building a joint requirement list between operations and IT is easier, and you’ll have more confidence in the final software selection.

There has never been a better time to invest in digital manufacturing and a Smart manufacturing system. Contact CIMx today to see how quickly and easily you can improve production with a software solution.

What can MES and Paperless Manufacturing do for you? Image by www.colourbox.com

What Our Software Does

Sometimes, the simplest questions can be the most difficult to answer.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Not long ago, a prospect asked what we do.

He was looking for a standard MES and paperless manufacturing system. He had been to the website, and read over the material posted there. As he explained, it seemed to be what he was looking for, but he wanted a simple list that spelled out what, exactly, the software was going to do for him.

There is No Easy Answer for MES or MOM Functionality

Answering that question isn’t as easy as you might think. We have customers all over the world, and our software is used by thousands (many thousands) of users each day, and each one needs the software to do something different.

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What can MES and Paperless Manufacturing do for you? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Consider this – for a normal implementation of our software in a single factory, one person might use Quantum to pull up visual work instructions. The plant manager might use it to track production and identify potential bottlenecks. A sales rep uses it to answer questions for a customer and prepare orders. Quality is tracking non-conformances. Engineering is streamlining production on a new product line and working with the shop floor on engineering changes. In another office, an analyst is running reports on past production cycle working on ways to reduce costs and improve cycle time.

Our standard software, a Smart MES or MOM system, will do all that. It provides a digital foundation for manufacturing processes, which means for Medical device manufacturers it might manage labels, electronic validation and compliance with FDA 21 CFR Part 11, and automatically generate Batch Processing Records (BPR) – for a start. Carbon composite manufacturers need to control and synchronize specifications, recipes and process documentation. For an MRO it will coordinate all activities in the maintenance and repair process, while optimizing scheduling and improving communication and collaboration with the customer.

Every industry has slightly different needs, which is why we designed our software to configure so easily between industries. The open, flexible software design makes it easy for manufacturers to implement and use the features they need.

The shop floor technician knows it is where he gets his work instructions and tracks his work for the day. The crib manager uses it for asset management, and IT sees it as an app for operations. Each one answers the question of what the software does slightly different.

What is Paperless Manufacturing?

To be honest, no one is wrong. All see the system as a tool for them to do their job better, faster and with fewer errors. There is nothing wrong with that, but we still want to answer the question. We’re not hiding anything, so here is our answer to that (not so simple) question: Our software will:

  • Author and manage process plans for product models and quantities to meet customer orders.
  • Automatically, or manually through a production control person, attach correct product plans to orders. An ERP integration is used for automatic work flow.
  • Distribute all order work to the correct work center with priority, estimated times, and all specific information such as specifications, measures, tooling, materials and special instructions.
  • Review and manage shop floor order schedules and routings.
  • Collect data on work processes (how the work was done and by whom).
  • Collect data on labor (how long it took to do the work).
  • Collect all quality data on the order (how accurate was the work done).
  • Collect data on scrap and rework. (what problems occurred).
  • Observe trending reports on selected data.
  • Observe Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on selected data.
  • Track all orders on the shop floor on a dashboard showing progress to the minute.
  • Create automatic reports of product events and order data.
  • Create real time report of all quality issues (a real time dashboard).
  • Create automatic report of the complete, accurate as-built record for all orders.
  • Create report of all serialized parts for accurate traceability in the future.
  • Manage and oversee shop floor machine maintenance schedules and processes.
  • Manage inventory of tooling, materials and parts.
  • Manage a secure data warehouse of all historical, orders, plans and data.
Efficient Manufacturing

Paperless Manufacturing and MES provide digital support to your manufacturing operations. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

So, this is our answer, bereft of the marketing and sales copy.

You can go to MESA for their model of MES. In a few years, I’m sure the model will change yet again, and with good reason. Other software vendors can pick at this list and find holes they can fill with their own glorious functionality. We aren’t trying to challenge the industry with this list, just answer the question of what we do. The needs of manufacturing are constantly changing. New tools, technologies, and market demands are a disruptive influence on our industry, and we need to adjust with them or we fall behind.

In a few months we can go back to our list and see if it has changed, because we are a dynamic company. Our customers need and expect us to continue to innovate. That’s the value we bring to them.

Have a question, or want to see how we can benefit your operation, then contact us today. We’re always happy to help.

Are you setting Smart goals for your shop floor in 2016? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

5 Steps to Assessing Your Digital Manufacturing Strategy for 2016

Experts agree a digital manufacturing strategy is a critical component to success moving forward. We offer tips on crafting a successful strategy for your shop floor in 2016.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Experts agree 2016 will be a year of change for manufacturers. The actions companies take now will have a dramatic impact on the success, or failure, of their business in the future.

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Do you have a plan for success in 2016? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Manufacturing thrives on data and information. Digital Manufacturing uses data and technology to empower and improve production outcomes through seamless communication across the organization, and workflows supported by timely and accurate digital information. IDC (International Data Corporation), an intelligence and analysis firm for the IT and consumer technology market, predicts 20% of manufacturing companies will import IT resources in 2016 for a digital manufacturing strategy. Other experts see a digital manufacturing strategy as a key to growth. According to Damian Hennessey, Commercial Director for Proto Labs, an advanced manufacturing company based in the United Kingdom, in manufacturing, “… there is a potential for a strong resurgence as it (the industry) embraces a digital revolution. New business models are being built around customer demand, production speed, and enhanced software programming.”

Creating a Digital Manufacturing Strategy

To manage change, mitigate risk and position themselves for success, companies must craft a digital manufacturing strategy for 2016. These 5 simple steps form the core of a personalized strategy for your company:

  1. Review your current environment and digital manufacturing strategy.

Before crafting a strategy for the future, you need to assess your current environment. How is work completed? How are you currently managing manufacturing operations? Are you collecting data during production? Where have you automated processes to eliminate errors and ensure employees are focused on value-added work? What KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) do you collect? Do you have access to real-time KPI’s? How much work is required to collect this data? Finally, how does critical information move through the enterprise?

Your goal in this stage should be an honest assessment of how you are currently utilizing data. Many times, the results can be shocking. Tracking data in a single area is relatively simple, but as you add pieces or areas to your analysis, the complexity increases dramatically.

  1. Identify weaknesses in your current workflows and digital manufacturing strategy.
Process Improvement graph.

The strategy you create now can bring you future success, or future failure. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Every company will operate differently, but once you understand your current environment there are questions you can ask to start the analysis – how do you get information to the shop floor? Are you still printing paper build-books and travelers? How do you collect information from operations? Are you manually updating the ERP once work is complete? Look at the process you use to collect information and transfer it to the people who need it, including your customers. What about your supply chain? How quickly and efficiently can you manage change in operations? Often times you will find gaps and inefficiencies, and the potential solutions become the core of your future digital manufacturing strategy.

Even so, you shouldn’t set goals or requirements at this point. Stay focused on your current processes.

  1. How are you collecting, storing, and transferring information?

After reviewing your current strategy, look for “silos” where data can’t be easily accessed. You want an efficient flow of information through the organization. Difficulty accessing vital information at the right time and place is a key source of error and inefficiency for many manufacturers. Consider quality control – reactive quality checks conducted after work is complete result in additional errors and scrap. Does customer service have real-time information on production? Do you use information from the supply chain? Is vital data sitting unused on disconnected machines across the company? Do you have a single-source of manufacturing truth for your company, or does everyone collect their own “nuggets” of data they need?

A comprehensive digital manufacturing strategy should eliminate the barriers between employees and the information they need to do their work better, faster, and with fewer errors.

  1. How do you want your company to operate in the future?

At this point, you should have an understanding of your current processes, and there are likely problems you want to fix, but this isn’t a strategy. A strategy operates proactively, so calculate how your company could operate in the future.

Consider the opportunities offered by digital manufacturing. Is increasing production speed or managing change a priority for you? Will you be focused on eliminating errors and waste, or moving employees to value-added work by automating processes? Another digital manufacturing strategy might focus on process improvement by driving consistency across the enterprise. Each goal is attainable, and all have tremendous value. Prioritizing goals help you shape and refine your strategy, so you have a place to start and a direction to move, and allow you to implement change in phases. Once you have a goal, you know what problems you should solve first, and what can wait for future phases.

Remember, the digital strategy should align with the business strategy, and the changes you make will have effects far beyond the shop floor. Consider this as you prioritize your initiatives.

  1. What early, easy success can you find to jumpstart your digital strategy?
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Plan with confidence and enjoy a more productive and successful business. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Start your project off on the right foot by identifying the low-hanging, easy-to-reach fruit in your digital strategy. You will discover relatively simple items in your strategy that deliver an early ROI to help pay for and enable later phases.

For example, paper is a source of errors and costs for many manufacturers. A paperless manufacturing system can be completed relatively quickly, depending on your current processes. The system adds value almost immediately and will become the foundation for your overall strategy, including collecting machine data via the industrial internet (IIOT) or adding visual work instructions. Automating quality and tolerance checks through a digital system is another relatively easy success once you begin collecting shop floor data.

Each phase of the overall digital strategy should build toward the goals you identified in the previous step, so selecting an easy success first should help build excitement in the organization for future phases.

Kick Off 2016

For most of us, the most difficult step is the first one. By tackling a larger project like crafting a digital manufacturing strategy into manageable steps you can deliver impressive results with less work and less risk.

Want to learn more, or see how a free shop floor analysis with a manufacturing expert can identify manageable strategies for your shop floor to enable digital manufacturing, then contact CIMx today at info@cimx.com. We’re always happy to help.

Are you setting Smart goals for your shop floor in 2016? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Setting Smart Manufacturing Goals for 2016

In 2016, technology opportunities abound for savvy manufacturers looking to grow their business. What are your manufacturing goals for the New Year?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Two Thousand And Sixteen Character Laptop Shows Year 2016

Are you setting Smart goals for your shop floor in 2016? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

2015 has been a year of changes and conjecture for manufacturing.  New technology and new ideas are having a disruptive influence on manufacturing, and many are wondering what comes next.

Embracing the Smart MES and Digital Manufacturing

Disruptive isn’t necessarily bad for the savvy manufacturer – it can also lead to opportunity. We’re at a moment in history when you can see the future taking shape. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), the Smart Factory, and digital manufacturing is becoming less conjecture, and more a reality that must be addressed.

This is a paradigm shift driven by the benefits of the technology on the shop floor. Even now, in the nascent stages of the tech development, we see the benefit. Suppliers and innovators continually develop new products and services utilizing the technology for manufacturing.

Some (maybe even most) of us face change with a pit in our stomach and reluctance in our heart. Change, any change, is risk. We know, understand and can control a paper build book, and the idea of relying on software, sensors and (even-limited) automation to manage manufacturing is new, untested and scary. But the benefits far outweigh the risk.

What Will You Do in 2016?

As one year ends and another begins, there’s a cycle of goal-setting and planning. Admittedly, this cycle often ends with goal-forgetting, but with so much opportunity out there, this is not the year to ignore setting goals for your manufacturing technology. 2016 has the potential to make a powerful impact on your company if you’re willing embrace new tools and ideas.

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How are you preparing for the future in 2015? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Consider this the year you make a start. Look at a phased implementation for a new MES or MOM system. Start on one production line, move planning to a digital system and start collecting a few key pieces of data. Small steps like this will lower the initial cost, decrease the overall risk, and help prove the ROI. Once the initial phase is complete, evaluate and adjust, and then roll out the system to new areas.

Most companies are shocked with the results, and surprised they hadn’t embraced MES and paperless manufacturing earlier.

For some companies, 2016 will be the year they took a step forward and seized a competitive advantage in the market. Other companies will cling to the status quo; lose market share and the goodwill of customers, falling further and further behind the competition. In 2016, old tools and technology can’t compete. There has never been a better time to invest in technology.

So what will you do in 2016?

The Benefits of MES Expertise

Spend enough time in the manufacturing software industry, and you’ll find software experts, manufacturing experts, and plenty of salespeople, but an MES expert is what you really need.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

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MES Success is much easier with the support of MES Experts. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

For more than 20 years, CIMx Software has developed software solutions for manufacturers. In the beginning, it wasn’t called MES (Manufacturing Execution System) or Paperless Manufacturing. MOM (Manufacturing Operations Management) was still short for Mother, and IoT (Internet of Things) was science fiction and not imminent fact. Our system was known as CAPP (Computer-Aided Process Planning). CAPP was a powerful tool for manufacturing back then.

Today’s systems are built on modern software platforms – easy-to-install, implement and adapt. With the right system you plan production and manage your shop floor, the software becomes the foundation of an IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) and digital manufacturing enterprise. The solution provides the discipline and data to implement a successful continuous improvement program. It eliminates the root cause of errors, reduces scrap and waste, and mitigates many of the risk factors that hold back manufacturing.

Working with manufacturers for more than 20 years to solve their costliest and most vexing problems has made CIMx MES experts. MES expertise is critical for success in an implementation for your shop floor.

Why You Need MES and Paperless Manufacturing Expertise

You have manufacturing expertise. You know how to build products and design workflows to maximize production safely and efficiently. IT experts maintain, implement and update technology. With enough time and money (okay, a lot of time and money) a team of software experts can build a software system.

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A project guided by MES Experts gives you confidence in success. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

MES experts bridge the gap between those disciplines – bringing experience in manufacturing, an understanding of technology, and intimate familiarity of the software. MES expertise enables a solution provider to guide the implementation and cultural fit of the solution. They ensure you have the right solution optimized for your production operation by removing unnecessary complexity, lowering the overall cost and investment, and delivering better results.

Without this expertise, your shop floor may be forced to adapt to the demands of the software, rather than the software working for you. Systems like this will offer you the functionality you need, but at a much higher cost in productivity and effort than you expect to pay. The solution will never be optimized, and you’ll never see the benefit of a system optimized for you.

At CIMx, we know and love manufacturing and technology. We study the latest trends and technology looking for advantages for our customers. We work closely with manufacturers to understand their processes, and then apply the best technology solution for superior results.

Don’t assume a sales person or IT Solution provider has MES expertise. If a company representative doesn’t know discrete manufacturing from an assembly shop or MRO facility, or is just focused on their product and not your processes, then they may not have the MES expertise you need. You may be left with an overly complex, expensive solution that your shop floor doesn’t want to use.

Get to know your solution provider before signing a contract. Evaluate whether they have MES expertise. With the right provider, you shouldn’t have to figure out how you can make all the pieces of the solution work together for you. From the beginning the solution should support you.

Want to learn more, or see what a provider with real MES expertise can do for you? Then give CIMx a call today for a free shop floor evaluation by real MES experts. We’re always happy to help.

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.

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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.