Monthly Archives: April 2013

What do we know about the future of manufacturing?

There is one important factor you should consider when pondering the future of manufacturing, and it may not be what you think…

I once worked for a company that offered quarterly education classes for all employees to help “prepare for the future.”  It made for powerful marketing and employee recruitment pieces, but most classes were seen as a burden.  It was a wasted day of surveys, icebreakers, and guest speakers, with free pizza as a consolation prize.

Shop floor instruction is better than classroom, and paperless manufacturing offers seamless, integrated shop floor instruction. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Shop floor instruction is better than classroom, and paperless manufacturing offers seamless, integrated shop floor instruction. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

In retrospect, I see the advantages.  Process improvement initiatives found greater success, there was greater coordination between departments, and a company culture flourished (nothing builds rapport more than pizza and complaining).  The business was agile and adaptable, able to make enterprise level changes quickly through the training sessions and follow-up.   The point of the training sessions had less to do with classes and speakers, and more to do with preparing employees to think agile and learn new skills.

Manufacturing isn’t like other businesses.  It’s difficult to shut down operations every few months for pizza and classes.  But we can’t ignore the benefits of an agile, educated work force.

A recent survey highlights how important education has become to manufacturing.  An article from Manufacturing Business Technology and written by Prime Advantage states, “Nearly half of U.S. manufacturers (46 percent) have engaged with local educational providers in order to train workers (up from just 19 percent in 2012).”  The article goes on to cite difficulty finding skilled labor as a hurdle for continued growth. 63 percent of the CFO’s who responded are providing training for new employees, with 58 percent preparing re-training for existing employees.  As technology rapidly changes, manufacturers could be left with an inefficient work force that cannot handle the new technology and machines.

How can you prepare for the future?   Photo by www.colourbox.com

How can you prepare for the future? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Providing education for employees and preparing your business for the future may not be as difficult as you think.  Imagine training delivered daily without taking anyone from production work.  The technology driving change, such as paperless manufacturing, not only provides effective process control for shop floor operations, information management, and improved efficiency; it also provides an effective tool for employee training.  Here’s how:

  • A shop floor viewer will not only provide paperless work instructions, but best-in-class systems such as CIMx Software will seamlessly provide multi-media files, including training videos, machine set-up instructions, and safety information;
  • The system will connect the shop floor to the rest of your enterprise, promoting collaborative manufacturing. This could also include mobile manufacturing, ensuring everyone has the information they need, when and where they need it.
  • Recent studies have shown process improvement is most successful when Lean techniques work in conjunction with paperless manufacturing and MES.  The process control, data collection, and efficiency improvements make employee education initiatives and Lean programs even more effective.
  • You control the system, and select the information and media available to your shop floor.  They see and learn the skills you need them to have as a part of each job.
  • Practical in-system training and hands-on lessons make a shop floor viewer device a superior employee training option.

So what do we know about the future?  We know it will be different.  New skills will be necessary, and an educated, focused work force will be a key to success.  As new manufacturing methodologies are developed, and customer needs change, employee training is even more important.  Agile organizations find success, while organizations who struggle to adapt will bleed customers.  Employee education is a key factor to preparing for the future.

Manufacturers see employee education as a vital business resource.  The traditional methods of employee education won’t work for manufacturing.  Paperless manufacturing offers an integrated solution to the challenge of educating shop floor employees, while minimizing disruption to normal production flow.

So what employee education programs do you have in place? Are you confident you’ve built an agile organization?  How much is a well-educated work force worth to you?  Contact CIMx Software to learn more today.

Learn the Secrets to Achieving Paperless Manufacturing on your Shop Floor

New technology and new methodologies make it easier than ever to achieve paperless manufacturing.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications at CIMx Software

Face it, our world is going digital.  This is the electronic age.  Today, you could literally live your life on a cell phone.  There are apps for waking up, exercising, eating right, finding recipes, finding friends, finding dates, praying and more.  QR codes link reward programs and bank accounts in one simple step.  Don’t believe me?  YouTube has more than 4 billion videos viewed each day, and more than 60 hours of video are downloaded every minute.  In 2012, 87% of American adults owned a cell phone, 2.27 trillion text messages were sent worldwide.  With so many people and businesses being connected electronically, our infrastructure is adapting to serve a new world order.

The world is going digital, and this is the electronic age. Where does your business fit? Photo by www.colourbox.com

The world is going digital, and this is the electronic age. Where does your business fit? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

There are advantages to going digital and adopting paperless manufacturing for your shop floor.  According to a recent study of document-driven business owners by IDC (International Data Corporation), 75.9% of the respondents faced serious business risks and compliance issues due to ineffective document processes, including paper-based documents.  Another report by Oracle and the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) found companies, “… spend $20 in labor to file a document, $120 in labor to find a misfiled document, and $220 in labor to reproduce a lost document,” (www.aiim.org).

For manufacturing, a paperless shop floor will improve speed (instantaneous communication and collaboration), provide revision control, deliver cost savings, and improve quality and accuracy.  Paperless manufacturing is the basis of mobile manufacturing, and delivers a higher degree of process control, which many manufacturers seek.

As appealing as the prospect of paperless manufacturing may be, many companies are reluctant to consider moving to a paperless shop floor.  They perceive the project as high-risk, high-cost, impacting production for a long time with very little benefit.  They may have other concerns, such as loss of production control, or putting critical data at risk.

Advances in technology have rendered many of these concerns obsolete.  Software tools are used to convert existing paper documents into a digital, object-oriented format very quickly and for a fraction of the cost it once took.   Documents converted to an object-oriented format, consisting of a collection of “objects” with individual characteristics rather than a simple pdf or text document, are searchable when archived and the data is compatible with simulations used in design and operational analysis.  Once, converting documents to this format was a challenge, but technology has grown to better meet this challenge.

In our experience, a simple algorithm for converting the documents can be written and installed in less than two days.  Once the process is finalized, each document can be completed in less than three minutes.  With the algorithm and the program running automatically, no labor is needed and the project can be complete in little time and with no interruption to manufacturing operations.

Paperless manufacturing will help you improve productivity and quality, remove errors, and save money. Photo by www.colourbox.com.

Paperless manufacturing will help you improve productivity and quality, remove errors, and save money. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com.

Another fear manufacturers have regarding the transition to paperless manufacturing is the cost and risk associated with the project.  A phased implementation of paperless operations will help minimize the risk and cost.  Focusing on a single stage of the transition at one time, rather than the whole project, allows a gradual, controlled transition.  This removes the trauma of eliminating existing processes and creating new ones, the disruption of production, and the expense of the initial investment.

The phased implementation process starts with reusing existing information.  By integrating existing information into the new digital system, a gradual transition can be made to the new processes.  After each phase is complete, the manufacturer can choose to implement the next phase when they are ready, never taking on more risk, cost and change than they are prepared to manage.  When the organization is ready, they can enhance their digital solution and add additional capabilities, benefiting from higher quality and efficiency.

It is easier now than ever before to remove paper-based documents and inefficient processes from your operations using the latest software tools and an innovative phased implementation plan.  Your shop floor will almost immediately begin saving money and improving operations. With you in control of the implementation plan, you never have to take on more risk, cost, or change than you or your shop floor can handle.

Chances are, you are one of the 2 billion cell phone user inhabiting planet Earth.  You probably received a few of the 2.27 trillion text messages last year, and you may have even watched a couple of the 28 billion videos on YouTube, so the relentless allure of the digital age isn’t a surprise to you.  If so, then you may understand why it is so important for your shop floor to put aside inefficient and outdated paper-based processes for the innovative and effective digital shop floor.

Interested in learning more?  Contact CIMx Software today.

As Seen On TV® on Your Shop Floor

Here’s how you can cut through the false promises and empty guarantees to find a software provider you can trust.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

It’s amazing the things you can discover on late night TV or on the Web.  Have you ever heard of the Pocket Hose, Foamazing or Wraptastic?  As Seen on TV is a cornucopia of the latest “inventions” – items you just can’t live without.  Where else can you find “Call Now!” favorites like the Wax Vac, the Perfect Pancake Pan or Miracle Socks?

The future is shaped by current innovation, including As Seen on TV innovation. Photo by www.colourbox.com

The future is shaped by current innovation, including As Seen on TV innovation. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

I’m not an As Seen on TV expert.  I’ve never been interested in Bluetooth Sunglasses, and since I can cut a hotdog into pieces without help, you won’t find a Dog Dicer in my drawer.  I am interested, and suspicious, about their claims.  Spend a few minutes with As Seen on TV, and you’ll be promised a solution to every ailment, a brighter future, Utopia and more.  But, somehow I don’t think Wraptastic will help my abhorrence of cling wrap (can YOU get it to work?)  Even though it “makes food wrapping super easy,” and “cuts perfectly every time so there’s no waste,” I don’t believe it’s the solution for me.

So what do Wax Vacs, Foamazing, and As Seen on TV have to do with your shop floor?

Recently, CIMx Software turned 17 years old.  In 17 years, we’ve seen software businesses come and go.  Competitors have dropped like flies, either through lack of leadership during lean times, or getting swallowed by large PLM or ERP vendors.  (On a side note – these mergers, historically, have not gone well.  Companies rarely merge seamlessly, and it’s the customers who pay.)

How do you build trust in your customers? Can you trust the vendors you work with? Photo credit www.colourbox.com

How do you build trust in your customers? Can you trust the vendors you work with? Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

Our customers are the key to our success.  A lot of people put their faith in us over the years.  They trusted us enough to invest.  Our products have become integral to their operations.  We respect their trust and work hard to earn it.  While we provide a guarantee for scope, time and dollars for a project, I know guarantees in the software business are much like guarantees on As Seen on TV.  Building trust with customers isn’t done through guarantees, ads, or promises.

We’re not selling the Groutinator or Magic Mesh (yes, these are real products offering fabulous promises).  We know Lean and Paperless manufacturing.  We know process control, mobile manufacturing, and software.  We’ve rescued customers from the broken promises of others, where months later they were still trying to get the paperless manufacturing or MES functionality they were promised.  (Here’s a tip from an industry veteran – look at the relative size of an implementation staff to determine if a company is software- or services-related.  A services company will have a larger staff and require more services. The work they do will be costly to support.)

While we deliver on our promises of budget, time and scope, it’s hard to make these claims in today’s skeptical world trained to sniff out falsehood.  So how do we build trust with our customers?

Take time with the vendors you work with.  It will be time well spent.  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Taking the time to build trust will be time well spent. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

In today’s ad-weary world, building trust is about understanding the culture of a company, meeting people and giving and receiving honest answers.  Exclamation marks and a flashy website are irrelevant to your project’s success.  17 years is a long time in the software business.  We thrived where many of our competitors failed because we truly love what we’re doing.  We enjoy solving manufacturing problems.  Technology, innovation, and mobile manufacturing are thrilling.  When you call us, you reach someone who works for CIMx, not an answering service, and we’re excited to answer your questions! (… and that is the ONLY exclamation point you’ll see from me in this blog…).  The guarantees we offer aren’t hard to make because we won’t make promises we can’t keep.  We offer a product that works, and we’re proud of what we do.

Maybe that’s a little old fashioned, and it may not have the panache of a Dog Dicer, Groutinator, or Wraptastic, but it’s the truth.  This is the edge we offer over our competitors, and it is what separates CIMx from the competition.  Want to know more?  Give us a call.  I can’t guarantee a solution to all your problems, but I can promise an honest answer from someone who’s happy to help.

Process Control Isn’t a Myth… Here’s What You Need to Know

The Cincinnati Reds Opening Day Parade offered the perfect opportunity to see a manufacturing truth in action.

By David Oeters, CIMx Software Corporate Communications

I recently had the opportunity to walk in the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day Parade.  It was an experience (to say the least!)

The Cincinnati Reds Opening Day parade. Photo with permission of David Oeters.

The Cincinnati Reds Opening Day parade. Photo with permission of David Oeters.

If you haven’t been in Cincinnati for the Opening Day of the baseball season, it is simply astounding.  Cincinnati is the home of the first professional baseball team, with their first game being played in 1869.  Since then, Opening Day has become a city holiday, with work cancelled (and when it’s not cancelled, Spring illnesses abound), streets closed, events planned and festivities scheduled.

But the highlight has to be the parade.  There are thousands (and thousands…) of guests lining the streets.  More than 250 organizations and more than 180 floats.  It is a riot of color, sound, motion, emotion and festivity.

Despite the chaos, the incredible number of moving parts and pieces that need to be in place at a certain place and a certain time, the parade runs smoothly.  It starts at a certain time, the floats and people walk a certain route, and it ends.  Watching it from inside, it is barely contained chaos suddenly taking shape and finding direction, and then it is over.  If you see the parade as a process – from preparation, to set-up, to the parade, and finishing with tear-down – it is a much like the manufacturing process.  And this parade/process was well controlled and ran smooth

WP_000791

Preparations for the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day parade. Photo with permission of David Oeters

Needless to say I was amazed.  I spoke to one of the organizers as I waited for the parade to start, and asked him how he keeps everything on track and under control.  His answer didn’t surprise me… “It’s all about making sure everyone has the right information at the right time, and people can get answers when they need them.”

Process control isn’t a mystery to the parade organizers.  They know what they are doing.  They all work from a shared database with revision controlled master documents (no one is going to change their line number so they can be closer to the front of the parade).  The master database is the one, central location where all information and updates are funneled, ensuring consistent answers and available information.  The parade marshals all carry cell phones, tablets, and a packet of information to answer questions quickly and efficiently, ensuring everyone knows where they have to be and what they need to do.  Parade organizers are posted around the staging area and parade route, so they can quickly respond the problems and have the information at hand to make informed decisions.

WP_000781

Preparations for the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day parade. Photo with permission of David Oeters.

Here is the truth… we often talk about “information” as the key to process control in manufacturing.  It is easy to say, and it sounds right, but until you stand in the middle of controlled chaos and see how getting the right information to the right people when and where they need it, it can be hard to believe.  But seeing how efficiently the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day parade was managed really drove the point home to me.  You might not make the connection between a parade and your production line, but it is all about getting a number of moving parts to efficiently connect to create an end product.  Information and communication is the key.

Parades, and process control, can be exhausting if you're not working efficiently! Photo by David Oeters.

Parades, and process control, can be exhausting if you’re not working efficiently! Photo by David Oeters.

Process control, the key to manufacturing efficiency and collaborative manufacturing, is all about information management.  So how are you managing information on your shop floor?  Are you working with real-time information?  Do you have efficient shop floor data collection?  Do you have revision control?  How does your shop floor get the information they need?  What do you currently have in place to manage information?