Process Improvement graph.

Use Your Data for Accurate Production Costs

For manufacturers, accurate estimates are critical to managing costs and margins. If estimates are based on guesswork: bids can be lost, delivery times missed or costs can spiral out of control. Too often, operators will pencil-whip work times on their way out the door rather than accurately tracking and recording their work. This skews the limited data available causing misinformed directives from the top.  When both the historical data and the analytics at the foundation of estimates are suspect, problems quietly grow costing the company money that has to be made up in additional production.

Turn Production Data into Profit

Accurate estimates require both clean historical data and production visibility, both of which are provided by the Quantum Production Control System (PCS). Let’s look at a few areas a PCS can enhance your estimates:

  • Accurate Labor and Production Data

Know who did what and for how long during production, and then turn that data into more precise estimates. The PCS automatically tracks labor and production through standard use of the system. This includes machine time and labor, so management can see how much time, effort, materials and parts are required to complete work. Over time, as accurate data is accumulated, the company can begin providing more accurate estimates and labor loading.

  • Identify and eliminate scrap

Scrap can turn profitable products into an expense for manufacturers, and yet many companies struggle to understand the cause. The production control system collects production data that reveals where and how scrap is generated. The PCS links the scrap to the work being done at the time it occurs. With this information, the manufacturer can either eliminate the root cause of scrap, or better estimate standard losses in production.

  • Focus on profitable work

Once you are tracking labor and production costs, leverage the data to identify and prioritize the most profitable work. Refine your gross manufacturing margin using production data to identify products and goods with a higher gross margin. With this information, you can make more profit on every sale and shipment. The company makes more and spends less.

Increasing Profit Velocity

Many companies look at a production control system to solve a specific problem such as a failed audit, late shipments, or poor visibility into Work in Progress (WIP). Even with the solution in place, the company finds more value in the critical data the system feeds to the sale and production cycle. With higher gross margins, accurate estimates, and control over scrap and production the company finds expenses go down and profits up.

If you’re ready to take control of production costs and enhance your profit on every product built, contact CIMx Software today to learn more about Quantum. Discover what a PCS can do for you.


How to Turn your KPIs into Profit and Production

There’s an old saying, “If you can measure it, you can manage it.”

Manufacturers with Production Control Systems (PCS) know the truth of that saying. With the PCS providing the real-time data and process control, these companies supercharge their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with real-time data to accurately track and measure shop floor progress. That real-time data turns KPIs from an instrument of observation to a tool for radically accelerating and sustaining production while generating profit.

Turn Raw Production Data into Efficient Operations

Here are four ways real-time data and KPIs deliver powerful benefits for manufacturers:

  • Accelerate and sustain continuous improvement programs.

Continuous improvement is critical, but many companies have difficulty maintaining progress once the program is over. New behaviors are difficult to maintain, and old habits die hard. KPIs allow the company and team members to monitor the progress. Your team can use that real-time data to support improvements long after the program is over. With everyone sharing the KPI and monitoring progress, collaboration increases and success is shared.

  • Benchmark performance to identify areas for improvement.

Use KPIs to benchmark and compare areas of the business. Identify underperforming areas and discover what works in areas of high-performance. With that insight, you’ll discover those slight adjustments that pay big dividends. For example, higher scrap and non-conformance rates at certain operations may indicate machines or tools that require maintenance, or a problem with a supplier. Target and eliminate the problems for a positive net effect across the production value chain.

  • Identify higher profit work

KPIs are an excellent way to evaluate production data in real-time, revealing the inefficiencies that cripple profit margins if left unchecked. For example, Estimated versus Actual production times, a common KPI, identify products that consume more resources than expected, delivering a lower profit. By focusing on higher-profit work, the company generates more revenue for less effort.

  • Evaluate planned workarounds

When an issue occurs in production, supervisors will implement planned workarounds that often result in more problems than they solve. KPIs monitor progress as the workaround is implemented. Evaluate the solution in real-time and implement additional changes as needed to maintain progress. With KPIs, the orders stay on schedule and ship dates aren’t missed.

Turn Real-time Data into Production and Profit

Most, if not all, manufacturers utilize Key Performance Indicators to monitor production. The difference for manufacturers with a Production Control System in place is the real-time data that fuels the KPI. Supervisors and management track and monitor production, accessing critical KPIs from anywhere. The PCS makes the company more agile, able to control production and manage work. The shop floor reacts to issues and opportunities as they happen, rather than studying events in a report a day later.

Contact CIMx today to see how Quantum can supercharge your KPIs and reports with real-time data to accelerate production and profit for your business.

Where’d the money go? – How to turn Manufacturing Assets into Profit

If you don’t know where your materials are and how many you have, you don’t know where your money is. The purchase and storing of assets (materials, tools, parts) for manufacturing is one of your largest expenses, so why don’t you have complete control of it?

We see many cases where manufacturers simply don’t know what they have. One shop in particular comes to mind. In walking through a manufacturing shop floor for carbon components in the aerospace industry, we passed the Material Review Board (MRB) area. It was enclosed by a cage to protect the parts from walking off. Inventory in this area was scrap but too valuable to just throw out.

There were shelves upon shelves, and stacks upon stacks, of carbon parts rejected by Quality. Oven times may have fallen short of required minimums or temperatures may not have registered high enough.  Without a fast process for review, these parts were being housed and shelved (literally). They were useless. The manufacturer had an enormous, labor-intensive future job to go through all these parts and create a disposition for each.

The Connection Between Process Control and Manufacturing Scrap

What the team was ignoring was the money that was tied up in these parts. It seems obvious from the outside, yes, but they were focused more on the disposition process and what they were going to do with all those quality rejects. Not to mention how sloppy it looked when upper management came through.  But what they were really missing was the key, hidden issue that this prospect had yet to uncover.

When I see that many pieces of contained scrap [and yes, it happens all the time] I begin looking for the scrap that hasn’t even made it to the cage. The amount of scrap in the screened area signals to me that there is a process problem. Solving process problems are what we are really good at. Control the manufacturing process and you control the scrap. Control scrap and you have a really tight handle on costs, too. That’s where you really start making up lost margin.

When a team is unable to control what is happening on the manufacturing shop floor, especially within the tolerances that their own engineering teams have thought possible, it signals a lack of control in parts and tools. Have you asked for an inventory count of your tools recently? Are you over-ordering or over-stocking in order to make up for “lost” tools [which are inevitably found on the shop floor]?

Ultimately, that same prospect closed manufacturing for a few days to complete a tool inventory. Yikes.

Know where your stuff is, know how much what you build costs you and control the processes that you use to build your parts. These three key concepts are completely linked and fundamental to successful manufacturing, and completely controllable with the right tools. Just ask us how.

The Problem with Managing Tools, Parts, and Materials in your ERP – and What You Can Do About It

Not long ago, we worked with a manufacturer struggling with a serious scrap problem.

They were a make-to-order composite manufacturer building an expensive product with several critical components. The problem was – operators often used the wrong component. Components were similar and the specifics precise, so every mistake generated scrap, delayed the shipment, and left the sales team scrambling for new excuses.

It didn’t take long for the CIMx Application Specialist to discover the problem… the shop floor was trying to manage production with a bill of material in their ERP.

The ERP Doesn’t Understand Your Bill of Materials

The bill of materials is a critical part of the production process, but if it’s being managed in an enterprise system like an ERP, the system and the shop floor sees it more like a shopping list than a specification, and that’s a problem costing your business productivity and profit.

For manufacturing, especially discrete manufacturing, assets are more than just a list – they are critical specifications required in accurate and error-free manufacturing. But if a shopping list is all the shop floor gets from the ERP, you have lost production conformance. There’s no validation or control in how parts and materials are used in production – just a list that may or may not be referenced later in the production process.

The Struggle Is Real on the Shop Floor

We’ve seen it happen before – operators find costly workarounds for the gaps and problems the ERP is causing. For example:

  • The shop floor hides tools they know they will need because the ERP isn’t tracking production or the assets used. It’s better for them to hide tools now than search for them later.
  • Operators grab materials during kitting without even consulting the bill of materials. They’ve done it before and know what they’re doing.
  • Tools and machines on the shop floor are out of calibration because the static bill of materials doesn’t track the shop floor or assets.
  • Experienced operators work from memory anyway, and never even look at the plans or bill of materials because there’s no validation, no process conformance, and no control of work.
  • There’s no way to specify tools and materials anyway, so mistakes aren’t caught till the end, and then it’s a problem for somebody else.

Many shop floors operate like this. Work is done and products ship, but it’s often in spite of production processes and planning. The ERP can’t support the conformance and control required for make-to-order manufacturing.

Process Control for Make-to-Order Manufacturing

The problem is the reliance on their ERP. The ERP can store information, but it’s not driving the conformance and control this manufacturer needs. The hands-off manufacturing approach of the system is fertile ground for mistakes and increased production costs. The shop floor tries to eliminate the errors, but they’re getting no support from the ERP.

The first step to solving the scrap problem for this customer is moving the bill of materials out of the ERP during production and into a production control system – Quantum.

During kitting, Quantum validates critical materials against the specifications on the bill of material. If the shop floor picks or tries to use the wrong materials, a simple barcode scan will flag the mistake and corrective action can be taken immediately. The problem ends there, minimizing the cost and impact on the schedule.

If necessary, conformance can be driven throughout the production process using pass/fail data collection and automated validation checks against the parts and materials specifications on the bill of material. The manufacturer can control the process and add necessary safeguards.

Problems are eliminated. The shop floor gets the support they need at every phase of production. The bill of material becomes a tool for error-free manufacturing and the foundation of conformance rather than a shopping list.

Contact CIMx today to learn more about Quantum and how you can turn a bill of material into a production tool that drives profit, and eliminates errors and scrap.

What it Takes to Succeed with Machine Maintenance

Manufacturers invest millions in machines and equipment. These high dollar assets provide the foundation of successful and efficient manufacturing, and yet many companies rely on a spreadsheet, a plastic binder hanging from a hook, and the memory and experience of employees to maintain that critical investment.

If a machine goes down, production stops. Work has to be re-routed, putting ship dates and orders at risk. If work has to be done by a partner company, production costs will skyrocket. Scrap, higher production costs and late shipments are common consequences of machine problems.

Modern shop floors can’t rely on spreadsheets, plastic sleeves, and memory for machine maintenance. Machine upkeep is a critical production process requiring a production control system like Quantum. Successful upkeep and maintenance incorporates process control and conformance, just like every shop floor operation, and should be linked to operations and scheduling to eliminate downtime and increase production velocity.

Control and Conformance for Machine Maintenance

When evaluating your current processes, consider the following critical elements of a successful machine maintenance program managed by a production control system:

  • Schedules and Alerts for Required Maintenance

Machine maintenance is a critical production activity. If you aren’t following maintenance protocol, you risk machine downtime, failed audits, and unsafe work conditions. A scheduled maintenance program eliminates these risks. Support the shop floor with alerts and a system that removes the risk of using a machine due for maintenance – a common occurrence when the shop floor is under pressure to move product and meet deadlines when maintenance is scheduled.

  • Revision-controlled Maintenance Instructions and Records

Machine failure is a risk when you rely on paper-based records or worse, memory, for maintenance instructions. Over time, maintenance requirements can change and employees retire or leave. You need accessible, revision-controlled maintenance and repair instructions that can be accessed when needed. Records, beyond initials on a spreadsheet, should be kept on maintenance activities. A robust maintenance program will protect your investment and significantly reduce machine downtime and production costs.

  • Integrated Maintenance and Production Schedules

When you are investing millions in production machines, maintenance must be a priority. It should be done regularly to optimize machine output and eliminate unscheduled downtime. A successful maintenance schedule that won’t negatively impact production must be integrated with the production schedule. The production supervisor should know when there is work scheduled on a machine to route orders accurately, and ensure shipping and production deadlines are met. With a digital schedule and a production control system, maintenance can be scheduled ahead of time and work optimized to maintain production velocity.

A Program for Optimizing Machine-use

Even though industrial machinery is a critical component of manufacturing, especially make-to-order manufacturing, many companies consider machine maintenance an afterthought until a machine goes down or the shop floor fails an audit. Spreadsheets and plastic sleeves on the machine aren’t an adequate maintenance program, especially when the shop floor comes under pressure to increase output.

Quantum production control system provides seamless support for your machine maintenance program as part of your standard production process, eliminating unscheduled machine downtime, the risk of failed audits, and the stress of upkeep while optimizing scheduling for machines and production. All the benefits are part of the standard product.

Contact CIMx to learn more about Quantum’s integrated machine maintenance in a production control system, and discover how you can optimize machine use while increasing production velocity.

Do You Know Where Your Production Assets Are?

While production requires tools, materials, parts and equipment, many manufacturers don’t track or properly manage these assets. This oversight adds “hidden” production costs like scrap, inefficiency and waste – costs that can quickly overwhelm profit.

How much scrap and waste is generated by one of your operators using the wrong part or searching for a missing tool? How many of your late shipments are symptoms of orders sitting on the shop floor waiting for missing parts or materials? Problems like these are common when companies aren’t tracking and controlling assets in production.

Without granular data to optimize and control asset usage, mistakes are made and costs increase. The Quantum production control system manages parts, materials and tools during production, eliminating these mistakes and reducing costs.

Empower Production with Asset Control

A production control system actively links the management of tools, parts and materials to manufacturing activities.

Serialized assets, or assets given a unique identifier, are not only be used to track parts and materials for regulatory compliance, but also eliminate the scrap and waste caused when the wrong parts and tools are used. Engineering specifies a tool to be used in an operation, the operator then validates the correct tool with a simple bar scan before work begins. The validation adds invaluable conformance and control to the shop floor.

By collecting and analyzing production data on tool usage, you can track when an asset requires calibration, further reducing mistakes and scrap. If a tool is due for calibration, an alert is sent and the tool is put on hold until the proper calibration can be performed.

Data from the production control system can further improve asset efficiency. Over time, as you begin collecting production data and matching it to the serialized assets used, tools that aren’t operating efficiently are identified. Corrective action, such as more frequent calibration or part replacement, can be taken before the issue becomes a serious problem.

By managing tools, parts and materials in a production control system and validating on-hand quantities, you eliminate a root cause of late shipments.

Before an order is released, Quantum validates parts and materials are available. The system automatically lists where they are stored, reducing the time and effort necessary for kitting. If materials or parts are missing, the floor supervisor can put a hold on the order until the assets are available. Inventory can be moved to fill the order, ensuring the shop floor stays focused on critical and available work. You can identify an asset issue at the earliest stages, allowing corrective steps to be taken. Linking asset availability eliminates wasted time and helps ensure orders ship on-time, every time.

Lower the Cost of Production

Assets are a critical component of a successful and efficient production process. Production costs and shop floor errors increase when there isn’t a link between production and asset management, especially for make-to-order manufacturers that work under strict conformance and control requirements.

Once the link is in place and the production team is synchronizing work and asset usage, you’ll start identifying and correcting additional sources of errors and inefficiencies, further fueling production cost savings.

Contact CIMx today to learn more about part and material management in Quantum, and discover how production control software can lower costs and increase productivity for your business.

Increase Production Velocity and Profit in 2018

To kick off the New Year, we launched an exclusive 18-in-18 promotion. CIMx will completely cover the install cost for the first 18 companies to purchase our Quantum production control system in 2018.

If you’ve ever considered upgrading your shop floor with a production control system, now is the time to act.

Quantum delivers a problem-free implementation without the excuses and expense you find with other systems. Get your team up and running with a software system that quickly delivers an ROI without the hassles that bog down other projects.

Project Results Based on Manufacturing Expertise

This is an offer no other company can make. Here’s why we’re so confident in our ability to deliver for you:

  • Experience. Having worked with make-to-order manufacturers for more than 20 years, we know how technology can increase production and profit while eliminating problems and inefficiencies. We provide not only exceptional software solutions for manufacturers, but also hands-on expertise based on shop floor experience. We’ve worked with companies like yours, and know how to quickly get the results you are looking for.
  • Product. Many software systems on the market are outdated, difficult and expensive to use. The supplier passes these costs on to you during their time-consuming implementation. Quantum was designed to work with your existing material and processes, providing true off-the-shelf functionality with rapid installation and lower costs.
  • System Requirements. Quantum’s web-based solution reduces technology requirements. Use your existing IT infrastructure and access the system from almost any device. Eliminate the expensive security and uptime problems found in cloud-based solutions. Quantum’s technology requirements accelerate implementation, rather than holding you back.
  • Ease-of-use. With a solution based on your existing production plans and processes, operators can begin working in Quantum with minimal training. User roles and permissions customize information and access for each user to optimize productivity. System Administration provides configuration options so companies quickly make the solution their own. Begin using Quantum the day it’s installed, providing the fastest path to higher productivity.

An Easier Software Implementation

Quantum is not an ERP. It won’t take years to configure and install like other systems on the market. An ERP can’t adequately manage the shop floor, and trying to get a transaction-based ERP to work for production processes is a losing and expensive proposition. With the low-cost and rapid installation options in Quantum, you can quickly address the manufacturing inefficiencies in your ERP with a production control system developed specifically for discrete manufacturers. Give your shop floor the tools they need to succeed with Quantum.

Quantum configures to your requirements in less than a month. The system installs and users are trained in less than a day. Soon after purchasing the system, you are controlling and tracking manufacturing while increasing production velocity, providing a rapid and sustainable ROI.

We’re so confident in our system that 18 lucky manufacturers will receive a production control solution with free installation in 2018. Contact CIMx today to learn more about our 18-in-18 promotion. Seize the opportunity to eliminate production problems and increase business profit in 2018.