Monthly Archives: November 2013

Making Technology Work for Manufacturing

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Manufacturing and technology have always had a… curious relationship.  At CIMx Software, we work at the intersection of technology and manufacturing, and it’s interesting to see how the relationship has developed.

Simple tips to help ensure technology works for your shop floor.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Simple tips to help ensure technology works for your shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Technology needs manufacturing.  Without the support of a strong manufacturing base, and manufacturers willing to innovate, the latest technology won’t be available for the masses.  For example, most of us would still be riding horses if it weren’t for the manufacturing innovation of Henry Ford.

Manufacturing needs technology.  Manufacturing innovation is based on technology.  3D printing and additive manufacturing, mobile technology, paperless manufacturing and robotics are driving the latest advances in manufacturing.  To stay competitive and to lead the industry, manufacturers must embrace technology.

But, that’s not always what happens.  Some manufacturers are skeptical of technology.  Many times, that skepticism isn’t far from outright fear or loathing, and with good reason.   Even when the new technology is understood, its effect on the shop floor (after all… production must continue) may not be understood.  The cost of implementing the technology may lead to an ROI that will never be achieved.  It’s become a truth in the manufacturing industry – new technology holds both tremendous promise and tremendous risk.  A wrong decision can be ruinous.

We’ve seen technology implementations work in manufacturing, and we’ve seen them fail.  Here’s a few questions we’ve learned you should ask as you consider how your business will innovate:

  • Does the technology fit your current processes?

Unless the innovation will improve your current processes, you shouldn’t consider new technology that requires a major change in your shop floor processes.  The benefit you gain won’t outweigh the loss in productivity you will accrue as you implement the technology or struggle to make it fit.

  • Is the technology adaptable and flexible?

The one truth we’ve found in manufacturing is: change happens.  Many times, a new technology will address a single issue at a single point in time, and then will lose relevance over time as the industry changes.  Make sure the technology you implement will adapt as your shop floor and business adapts.  Make sure an update or adaptation process has been put in place in the technology.

  • Is it a custom solution?

Many manufacturers feel better when they have a technology solution built just for them, but this is a very costly and dangerous prospect.  The cost of maintenance, updates, and the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is significantly increased in a custom solution.  An out-of-the-box solution that has been configured for your needs will be able to meet your shop floor needs, and the maintenance and update costs will be significantly less.

  • Is it easy to use?

Technology only works when it is adopted and used by the people on your shop floor.  Many technologies we’ve come across are overly complex for no reason, or not designed with the end user in mind.  This is a sign of technology that’s still being developed.

  • Do you trust the provider?

When you purchase a new technology for the shop floor, you aren’t just buying the technology, but the provider.  Make sure you find a provider you can trust, and you know will be there when you need help.  A quality provider will offer fixed price proposals, and avoid expensive extra services.  They should be a company you are comfortable contacting, and you know you can get an answer quickly when you need it.

 

Manufacturing needs technology as much as technology needs manufacturing.  By following a few simple lessons, you can make technology work for your shop floor and continue to innovate.  As always, don’t hesitate to contact us with questions, we’re happy to help!

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Simple Tips for Adding Shop Floor Visual Work Instruction

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Many times, a solution is much closer than you might think.

Are you stuck wondering what next step to take in implementing visual work instructions? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Are you stuck wondering what next step to take in implementing visual work instructions? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Face it, in an era when shop floors and manufacturers struggle to break information silos, ensure new employees are poised to find success and processes aren’t employee-dependent, and break down the information gap between engineering and operations – visual work instruction is an important piece of the solution.  For many, the thought of creating videos and pictures for the shop floor seems daunting.  I’ve listened to engineers complain about the cost of hiring a production company for machine set-up instructions.  They aren’t sure where to begin, so they don’t do anything.  They wait to implement the visual work instructions, and their shop floor problems grow.  But, the truth is, the solution is much closer than they think.  Here’s how:

Take a look at Paperless Manufacturing.  Did you know you can implement a simple, out-of-the-box paperless manufacturing solution for 1/10th of the cost of past manufacturing solutions?  License cost is often less than $1 a day per user.  With paperless manufacturing, you’ll be able to not only easily add visual work instructions, shop floor visibility and process control, but collect shop floor data and create as-built reports as well.

Use Readily Available Video Tools. Are you wondering how to make videos?  You don’t need a camera and Hollywood film crew, a smart phone is all you need.  Most phones can take videos with enough quality to teach a shop floor task.  A short 2 minute video in an easily shared format is all you need to accurately show someone how to do something they may not easily understand from word instructions.  Pull out your phone, take a video and attach it to the work instructions.

Recruit In-House Experts.  Many manufacturers struggle to pass along information and best practices from an older generation to new workers.  Why not recruit the older generation and in-house experts to star in the videos?  Have them work through an operation while someone films them.  10 minutes of filming is all you need to do to tear down an information silo and ensure best practices won’t be lost.  The small time away from the workbench will pay for itself many times over.

Position Visual Work Instruction as an Achievement.  You have options as you roll out visual work instructions.  Rather than simply filming and adding them to existing instructions, why not hold a contest with shop floor workers to select who films the work instruction.  The task becomes an achievement, and your team begins searching for new best practices.  Select top workers to direct and star in the video.  Give them recognition for their achievements and they’ll be more excited to help, and everyone will be more likely to use the videos (and learn from them).

Build a Library of Best Practices.  Don’t see the process of creating visual work instructions as a campaign, but a process.  Slowly build the library of best practices videos as the need and opportunity arises.  This will take the pressure off your team, and sooner than you realize, you’ll have a complete library of videos to choose from when you need it.  What’s it worth to have a visual library of best practices on-line and available to all your shop floor people whenever they need them?

Visual work instructions will improve shop floor productivity and benefit your entire team, not just the shop floor.  Manufacturing is the center of your business, and manufacturing depends on work instructions and processes that are easily lost in information silos.  Too often, those silos hinder productivity and drain creativity.  Take a simple step to ensure you have the best possible work instructions, and your shop floor best practices aren’t lost, by implementing with visual work instructions.

Make Your Shop Floor Data Work for You

Smart businesses have discovered data is a valuable asset, but struggle to deliver shop floor visibility, letting manufacturing data slip away.

 By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Don't let shop floor data, one of your most valuable commodities, slip away.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Don’t let shop floor data, one of your most valuable commodities, slip away. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Last week I went to the grocery store and bought dog food and lunchmeat.  The next day I received e-coupons for new dog food brands, sandwich bread, and condiments.  You know what… I ended up buying that sandwich bread.  It looked good, the coupon had value, and the bread was healthier than what I had.  The grocery store turned my shopping data into another sale.

The fact is – data is a valuable asset!  Businesses realize this, and are putting in place new systems to capture, store and use data.  Amazon.com is a MASTER of using data to tailor the online shopping experience.  Using data (the user’s online searches, previous purchases, and online habits), Amazon can customize the shopping experience for each user, and that drives sales and profit for Amazon.  None of that would be possible without quality data.

Even with the obvious benefits of business data, many manufacturers haven’t made an effort to capture shop floor manufacturing data.  They build a robust CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system or put in an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), but haven’t implemented the shop floor visibility offered by an MES (Manufacturing Execution System) or Paperless Manufacturing.  They still see manufacturing as a place where orders go in and products come out.  Manufacturing data is valuable in a number of areas, such as:

  • Process Improvement.  Quality data collection is necessary for shop floor process improvement plans such as Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma.  Quality data will allow the shop floor to make the smart process adjustments necessary for improvement.  As for benefit, manufacturers with real time quality data have shown a reduction in cycle time of 60% or more, and a reduction in rework as much as 90%.
  • Accurate Estimates and better sales.   Without accurate production data – understanding who did what and for how long – it is difficult to build an accurate estimate for sales.  How can you accurately price a product for a customer if you don’t have visibility into your shop floor processes?
  • Successful regulatory audits.  Audits are a way of life in regulated industries.  Many manufacturers spend time and energy responding to audits, when successful data collection and storage would ease audit preparation and provide many of the records needed during an audit.
  • Customer responsiveness.  Customers have come to expect instant customer service.  They want access to their data, and they want a vendor to be responsive.  Access to quality data helps build a relationship with your customers and shows responsiveness.

61% of businesses in a recent Forbes survey reported, “… suffering from flawed information.”  Are you suffering from flawed data?  Do you have complete visibility of your manufacturing processes?  Manufacturing is the heart of your business, and manufacturing data is one of the most important assets you own.  Make sure you’re not letting the data slip away with an inefficient shop floor system.