Unlock Smart Manufacturing and Production Visibility with an MES

Once you cut through the hype-cycle surrounding Smart Manufacturing you will find that, if implemented properly, going Smart grants manufacturers the ability to identify the true sources of their woes at the click of a mouse.

What the hype misses, but more and more manufacturers are discovering, is the critical role MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) platforms like Quantum play in solution-focused Smart Manufacturing. Collecting data isn’t enough. Solving problems and optimizing production requires the production control and visibility available only with dedicated manufacturing software.

Adding Production Value with an MES

With an MES supported by Smart production data, manufacturers will:

  • Make intelligent connections using critical production data

Many companies struggle to decide where to store and use the Smart Manufacturing data. While their ERP can generate reports, it’s too far upstream in the manufacturing workflow to add value to production. A production-focused MES provides the workflow connections necessary to capitalize on the data, quickly identifying problems and implementing solutions. For example, if a machine goes down an MES will jump into action, rerouting work to maintain the shipping schedule.

  • Turn raw data into profit

Data alone won’t accelerate production or increase profit. You need to connect the data to the production insight provided by an MES to make a rapid, positive impact on production. In the previous example, if the machine goes down your MES will allow you to see the operation and actions taken that resulted in the problem. Supervisors can adjust processes to eliminate the problem in the future. When a line goes down, you can see the impact on production and evaluate the cost and benefit of solution options. Raw data is just information. An MES turns data into profit.

  • Create feedback loops to increase production

The goal of Smart Manufacturing isn’t better reports. You need to increase production and efficiency, and eliminate errors and waste. Smart Manufacturing solutions rely on getting critical information to the people who need the data to positively impact production; this is the primary role of any MES. With an MES, you can create feedback loops in the production value chain to shorten the time between the identification of a problem and the resolution. When a problem happens, an alert in the software is immediately sent so action can be taken quickly. There’s no need to search for information or wait for answers.

Unlock Smart Manufacturing

The foundation of Smart Manufacturing is turning production visibility and manufacturing insight into increased profit and efficiency.

Simply collecting data and running reports isn’t enough. Smart manufacturers turn insight into action that solves problems, generates revenue, eliminates errors, and accelerates throughput. An MES and dedicated manufacturing software includes the tools manufacturers need to take action on Smart Manufacturing data.

If you would like to learn more, or see how your company can quickly implement manufacturing software and Smart Manufacturing for a rapid ROI, contact CIMx Software to speak with an Application Specialist. We’re always happy to help.

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5 Critical Benefits of Shop Floor Visibility

Do these common complaints sound familiar?

“I’m accountable to our customers. I need to know when an order is going to ship.”

“If I need to know what’s happening on the shop floor, no one can give me a straight answer.”

“When a problem happens, I’m the last one to know.”

A lack of production visibility underlies each of these problems. The profit-driver and central focus of a manufacturing business is production, but few companies have any idea what’s happening on the shop floor from one moment to the next.

The Blind Spot in Manufacturing

As we discussed in our last blog, How Much Does the Lack of Production Visibility Cost Manufacturers? companies utilize flawed systems, like their ERP, or error-prone processes, like paper records, to track and monitor production. Critical data and warning signs slip through the cracks, and their business struggles to retroactively fix problems rather than proactively grow the business, even as money and efficiency drain away. Without a dedicated workflow system like Smart Manufacturing to monitor and manage production, these companies will never have real-time production visibility.

Managing and Monitoring Production

A solution based on Smart Manufacturing provides real-time visibility and delivers benefits beyond a dashboard or a morning report. Data collected becomes the foundation of proactive production management, providing a positive impact across the business. For example:

  • Identify and track ship dates with pinpoint precision.

Quit paying overtime or fees for late shipments, and know with a single glance when an order will ship. With real-time production data, manufacturers can release an order and know with confidence when work will be complete. Scheduling bottlenecks aren’t a surprise, and adjustments to the schedule or routing can be made to eliminate problems before they occur. Get an update with a click of a button and stay on top of production to ensure orders ship on-time, every time.

  • Lower production costs.

On any shop floor, hidden inefficiencies will drain profit from every order. With real-time visibility, you can identify inefficiencies – operations that generate additional scrap, wasteful processes or employees that may need additional training – and implement solutions. With accurate, real-time visibility you lower costs across the production lifecycle, drastically reducing expenses.

  • Speedy, error-free New Product Introduction (NPI).

When complications and errors occur during NPI, frustrations and costs mount. As the company attempts to solve problems they may not fully understand, profit and production is lost. When an NPI is successful and the shop floor delivers at a lower bid, without defects and ahead of schedule, the manufacturer becomes a hero. With production visibility, manufacturers quickly identify, in real-time, where and when a problem occurs. Alternate work paths can be implemented and the result seen immediately – efficient and seamless NPI.

  • Sustainable process improvement.

For many manufacturers, process improvement is a waste of time and resources. After the initiative, the shop floor quickly reverts back to the comforts of less-efficient but more familiar processes. Real-time visibility not only supports process improvement by providing critical data for measuring success, but also provides the feedback loops shop floor employees need to utilize the improvements. Companies with real-time production visibility see sustainable, improved results with almost every improvement initiative.

  • Increased quality and lower scrap and waste.

Quality escapes, scrap and waste put a manufacturer at risk. With real-time production visibility, the shop floor receives immediate feedback on quality, and products that don’t meet engineering specifications are quickly identified for rework. With immediate feedback, operators can see the processes that work and the processes that result in escapes. Manufacturers with real-time visibility quickly achieve higher output, increased quality and the elimination of scrap and waste.

Turning Visibility into Increased Margins and Output

If you’re ready to quit making mistakes and errors, and optimize your profit, production and efficiency, then contact CIMx Software to see how quickly a Smart Manufacturing system can give you real-time production visibility while eliminating errors and manufacturing problems.

For most manufacturers, it’s a few simple steps to move to a Smart Manufacturing system. Processes currently draining resources and effort can be automated while error-prone paper methods can be shifted to a digital system. Collect and organize the data in real-time, rather than after work is complete and start manufacturing smarter today.

Take the first step toward Smart Manufacturing by contacting CIMx today at www.cimx.com.

How much Does the Lack of Production Visibility Cost Manufacturers?

When mistakes occur on the shop floor – a part doesn’t meet specifications or a piece is out of tolerance – manufacturers pay in lost profit and slowed production. The longer it takes to identify the error and implement a solution, the more damage is done to your business by excessive waste and angry customers.

If you miss the problem and ship a faulty product, customers will find a different manufacturer. How many mistakes are going unnoticed on your shop floor right now? At what point in production does a non-compliance occur? Can you assure a customer it was the last time they’ll see this issue?

The underlying problem is a lack of production visibility – a problem for many manufacturers. This leads to a lack of conformance and control, and costs the business money. Efficient production operations require production visibility. When your ERP’s blind spot is the shop floor, companies throw away resources and effort every day and on every order.

Capturing Critical Production Data

The problem isn’t effort on the shop floor; it’s the tools being used to provide production visibility.

Paper is a black hole for visibility with data collected by paper almost unusable. The data provides a false sense of security – companies believe the data collection solves problems when in reality it is masking them. Even when the data finds its way to a report the data must be viewed with skepticism – data on paper is ripe for mistakes. The work and effort necessary to collect and collate paper-based data is wasted, especially when you consider the high potential for inaccuracy.

Many companies prioritize the collection of machine data. Machine data provides a limited view of production processes, often after mistakes and errors have been made. You need data on your labor force for the complete story on production.

Many companies mistakenly rely on their ERP for production reporting. ERP systems struggle to adequately track and manage work. As a transactional system, the ERP works upstream in the production value chain. It manages orders and financial transactions, but it can’t capture the nuance or cause-and-effect links required in a workflow. Companies relying on their ERP for production have a dangerously flawed view of production, resulting in squandered opportunities and wasted resources.

Manufacturing Software as a Window to the Shop Floor

For real-time production visibility, you need a workflow-based system that represents the interaction between the materials, people and processes that fuel production. These Smart Manufacturing systems predict when and what proactive effort will improve output and efficiency. Forward looking, rather than reactive, it gives manufacturers the power to deliver just-in-time response to issues. It’s more than a simple snapshot of production, but rather a comprehensive view of operations. Smart Manufacturing systems deliver less downtime and scrap, and higher output, efficiency and quality.

By linking your ERP to Smart software supporting and managing shop floor operations, the ERP has the real-time production data it needs to operate efficiently without clogging the smooth upstream operation of the business. The sales and customer-service team can consult scheduled ship dates from the MES data to accurately assess when an order will be completed. Production supervisors and the shop floor team utilize software designed to support their unique workflow needs without navigating the transactional processes required in an ERP.

Get back control of the shop floor and know, with certainty, when and where mistakes happen. Manage the shop floor through a workflow system, and not notes on a traveler or bits of data coaxed out of an ERP.

Learn more about the real-time production visibility and workflow-based software in Quantum by contact CIMx at www.cimx.com.

The Broken Promises of Manufacturing Innovation

We received a lot of feedback, positive and negative, regarding our blog on market consolidation and manufacturing software.

It obviously struck a nerve, with strong feelings on both sides of the market consolidation and mergers issue.

The Truth about Market Consolidation

Market consolidation, with independent suppliers merging either through acquisition, partnerships or takeovers, is a business tool. Some mergers work – look at the success of the Disney and Pixar merger.

Others see a dark side to market consolidation, especially in the software and technology industry. Technology doesn’t blend easily – consider the failure of the AOL and Time Warner merger. Customer service, price point, and functionality are often sacrificed when two companies become one.

Manufacturing software mergers aren’t benefiting the industry. The results of these partnerships are often more toxic than “transformative.” Keep in mind the following as you consider a potential solution born out of a technology merger or partnership:

  • The high cost of an acquisition or merger. There is a cost to any merger – development costs for combining software systems, additional training and support expenses. Customers pay that cost with an increase in the product price or higher service charges. Suppliers spin the higher price as a “benefit” of access to additional functionality the customer didn’t want and will never use.
  • The death of innovation. Innovation fuels the manufacturing software and technology industry. Software suppliers should partner with customers to keep technology relevant. Companies that purchase new functionality, rather than innovating, put their customers at risk. Purchased capability will never be as successful or integrated as functionality built directly for the software. It’s a high-cost shortcut in product development.
  • The struggle for product support. The first victim in an acquisition or merger is product support. With the companies focused on integrating products and building a new revenue line, previous customers struggle to get the attention they need from the supplier. Even after the acquisition, there will be support questions as the new company determines how to support both older offerings and new products.

Fighting Back Against Market Consolidation

According to a recent article in the New York Times, those who bought into the promise of greater efficiency and customer benefit after business consolidation and mergers are now struggling with buyer’s remorse.

With consolidation, it is easier for companies to raise prices without risking the loss of customers and suppliers can collude on price without raising the ire of regulators. Entrepreneurs and start-up companies, the engine of innovation, find it increasingly difficult to enter a market dominated by a few businesses. When they do succeed in bringing a shot of innovation to a static product line, the company is gobbled up as an acquisition.

Business works best when there is competition. Companies should focus on developing their product to benefit customers rather than building out functionality through competitor acquisition.

If you want a manufacturing software solution fueled by innovation and internal development, rather than mergers and acquisition, look for an independent vendor with a product developed and supported in-house. They will work with you as a partner in ways larger corporations can’t. Massive software companies, stretched thin by an acquisition culture and focused on growing the revenue stream rather than a product, lack the dynamism and customer focus to work as a partner with manufacturers. They leave many of their customers burdened with high-costs, software complexity and innovation atrophy.

Want to know more, or see how a partnership culture in a manufacturing software supplier can solve problems and grow your business? Contact an Application Specialist at CIMx Software for more information.

How to Find the Best Partner for Manufacturing Software

Last week I read a press release announcing a merger between two manufacturing software companies. The goal of the new product – a combination of the offerings from both companies – was to deliver functionality neither company had previously been capable of offering.

Dangers of Software Mergers

Joint offerings like this rarely deliver the expected benefits. With no real focus on customer needs, these business mergers lead to expensive, inefficient and ineffective product offerings propped up by the promise of innovation.  Too often, the real goals are either opening another revenue stream or fixing existing flaws in each developer’s software. Purchasing a competitor’s technology and marketing it under a unified brand isn’t innovation. For companies looking at a patchwork software solution, here are a few thoughts to consider:

  • Lack of Product Support

Ask how support for the “collaborative product” will be managed. Who will be responsible for support? Many times, the merger will completely change the support dynamics leaving users in customer support limbo. There will be lengthy and frustrating growing pains as the merger develops. Over time, the companies move on to other initiatives, with customers left struggling with unsupported software.

  • Functionality and Complexity You Don’t Need

Software acquisitions add functionality without thought to workflow. Continually cramming functionality into a software product creates complexity and inefficiency. The shop floor will ignore these systems. Additionally, consider the cost increase as users pay for functionality they don’t need and won’t use.

  • Expensive and Flawed Product Integration

Many product collaborations result in a lowest-common denominator solution for users. Software products developed independently, with different architecture and design, can’t be easily combined. There will be significant costs passed on to the customers to tightly link and connect the products. Some features can’t be linked, resulting in product flaws your shop floor will have to overcome.

The Power of Partnerships

Manufacturing software is critical for modern manufacturing. For companies struggling to support production with paper-based word documents, spreadsheets or modules tacked onto their existing ERP, the answer is not in the latest software partnership.

You’re not going to find a long-term, sustainable manufacturing solution with the “flavor-of-the-month” products developed in these partnerships. Unnecessary complexity, higher costs, support issues and flawed design elements eliminate any user benefit from the partnership.

Look for a software supplier ready to partner with you and your production team for a solution, and willing to focus on your unique business needs. The focus of any partnership should be your production needs and the growth of your business; not just the business of the software partners. CIMx Software has never purchased another product to increase our functionality footprint. Quantum was developed completely in-house, with a focus on empowering manufacturers to eliminate problems and increase output. Companies using Quantum know the focus is their production needs and supporting their business goals.

In our next CIMx manufacturing blog, we’ll take a look at how market consolidation is hurting manufacturers, and what you can do to find the right manufacturing software partner for you. Let us know if you have any questions, or would like to learn more about what modern manufacturing software can do for you.

What Can Turnkey Manufacturing Software Do for You?

A manufacturing software solution is only as good as the data that fuels it.

Many implementations fail to connect existing production data to the new software. Once the system is installed, users are forced to fill the vast empty software space with data – planning, work instructions and production documents. There’s little forethought given to the migration process. This leaves gaps and errors the shop floor will continue to struggle with.

Missing Data Hurts Production

Without a strategy to migrate existing data, production will suffer even after implementation. Avoidable production errors and inefficiency will persist. Missing data forces the shop floor to rely on conjecture during production. Engineers must recreate files or leave holes in the planning if they can’t access critical data – creating production waste and mistakes.

Data silos are born in the gaps you leave in the new software. Users create disconnected and inefficient data sources to get the information they need and fill the information gaps. Rather than helping users work more efficiently, the new software has forced users to develop homegrown solutions to access critical data that didn’t fit the rigid requirements of their new system.

The Advantages of a Turnkey Manufacturing Solution

A turnkey manufacturing solution like the Quantum platform eliminates problems by intelligently migrating and linking all of the required production data to create a comprehensive source of workflow information. This process solves problems and provides proven production advantages:

  • Accelerate production, process improvement and user-acceptance with your critical production data pre-loaded into the system.
  • Retire expensive and disconnected databases, and eliminate production errors through Smart Manufacturing by transforming passive flat files into intelligently-linked active data.
  • Increase production output by accessing data through a comprehensive source of manufacturing information.

Quantum utilizes a Data Migration Engine (DME) with powerful ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) capability to extract data from any source system or file. Quantum applies correction algorithms to the data removing common errors before transforming the data and linking it to active objects. When complete, engineers and users have the data they need in a format ready for use in production or predictive analytics.

Since it’s the data they are already using, users immediately begin work without the errors and frustration that often accompany a new implementation. The company can focus on rapid process improvement rather than struggling to overcome problems.

Contact CIMx today to learn how the Data Migration Engine and Quantum will accelerate system implementation and provide a rapid ROI for businesses seeking a solution to their manufacturing problems.

5 Powerful Benefits of Production Data Visibility

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Production data fuels the manufacturing industry. Putting this strategic information to work adds profit and production to your business.

As employees collect and use data locally in a wide variety of homegrown formats, data silos are created diminishing the overall value of production information. Over time, competing spreadsheets and shared drives of disconnected production data create inefficiencies and errors. The problem is as much cultural as technological, preventing alignment between sales and operations.

Align Sales and Operations with Data

Unlock the business value of your data by making it accessible across the enterprise. Here are five reasons why data visibility and aligning production databases must be your next improvement project:

  • Work from a single source of production truth

Employees use guesswork and estimates if they can’t find the data they need. This leads to errors and mistakes. With a single source of accurate and accessible production information, there’s no need to guess. Employees work faster with critical information at their fingertips.

  • Eliminate redundant data entry

If sales, operations and dispatch all keep their own spreadsheets tracking related elements you end up with employees doing the same work again and again. Redundant data entry is error-prone and creates waste. Eliminate wasted time and focus on value-added work when you adopt comprehensive, modern data collection standards.

  • Provide revision-controlled, accurate information

Many companies struggle with document and change management. Inaccurate and outdated work instructions and production data create errors and frustration. With documentation under revision control, you can better manage change. Employees work with confidence knowing they have the most accurate and complete production information.

  • Work from a single screen

According to a recent survey, shop floor workers waste 30 minutes to 2 hours every day looking for information. With a single production database and data visibility, employees make data-driven decisions to increase productivity and respond accurately to change.

  • Align the business from shop floor to top floor

Manufacturers identify alignment between sales and operations as a critical business need. Collaboration requires everyone working toward the same goals, with the same vision of the business. Foster collaboration and alignment by linking sales and operations with accurate production data.

Empowered, Data-Driven Manufacturing

Data visibility is the foundation of increased output and business growth. Data collection standards provide the basis of sustainable process improvement and business collaboration.

Start by eliminating the silos and moving your historical data to a manufacturing system. If possible, convert your data to object-oriented files so you can begin running reports on it, providing the trending and analysis that is the foundation of data-driven, Smart Manufacturing.

Want to learn more, or see how a Data Migration Engine can eliminate data silos and empower an MES to do more for manufacturing and production? Contact CIMx today to talk to an Application Engineer about Quantum and learn how to unleash your production data for higher output and profit.