Monthly Archives: January 2014

Will You Survive the Imminent Demise of Paper-Based Manufacturing?

Still reluctant to explore paperless manufacturing on your shop floor?  Change is happening, and the decisions you make now will shape your future.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Sometimes you can see global change happening from miles away.  The first time I logged onto the Internet I knew there was so much more to this new world than text-based games and discussion forums.

tombstone-black-whiteAnd sometimes global change can surprise you.  I’ll admit, the tablet-craze was a shock.  It couldn’t fit in my pocket, and it didn’t have nearly the functionality of a laptop, yet it’s a craze that doesn’t seem to be fading.  Reality TV was another surprise.  Honestly, how can we explain the Kardashians?

That said, are you ready for the demise of paper-based manufacturing?  Are you surprised that paper travelers and paper build books are gasping for breath and struggling to survive?  How will you respond when the market demands you move to paperless manufacturing?

Still in denial (which, in this case, is not the river in Egypt), then consider this:

  • Customers are demanding more custom manufacturing and small runs.  Their business needs more control over the manufacturing you provide.  The market is moving away from traditional manufacturing.  It doesn’t provide the control and visibility custom manufacturing requires.  Sure, paper works, but it provides diminishing returns that cut into your bottom line.
  • Big data is here.  You’re going to see more tools to convert that data into responses that benefit your business.  Process improvement, for example.  You need data and process control to implement Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing.  Paper-based manufacturing is a glaring hole in big data.  It doesn’t provide adequate support for analytics.
  • Manufacturing needs stronger information tools than paper can provide.  For example, visual information and multi-lingual work instructions aren’t easily supported on paper.  Complex manufacturing drives paper toward bigger and bigger build books, creating more errors and more problems, while a paperless solution provides scalable tools for the work.
  • Quality is improved with paperless manufacturing, and quality was recently cited in studies as more important to profitability in manufacturing than productivity.  Paper is the source of many quality escapes in manufacturing (lost information, and lack of revision control, for example), while paperless manufacturing directly addresses many of these problems.
  • Technology has eliminated many of the concerns potential customers have with paperless manufacturing and MES.  For example, with Quantum, CIMx can install a paperless manufacturing system in a few weeks.  Training for the system can be completed days.  With a phased implementation, the customer is in complete control of the installation and gains production benefits quickly.
Prepare for the future and improve production with paperless manufacturing. Image by

Prepare for the future and improve production with paperless manufacturing. Image by

I will admit, even with the clear benefits of paperless manufacturing there will be shop floors that cling to paper, fearing change.  They may be profitable, in spite of themselves, but it is hard to deny the market is moving (rapidly) toward paperless manufacturing.  In 2013, manufacturers spent $5 billion on paperless manufacturing systems.  That’s a LOT of money to be spent without a clear ROI and benefit.

The world is changing, are you ready?  Will the market drive change on your shop floor, or will you control the change, ensuring maximum benefit for your business?  Or will you be stuck carrying a giant phone book tethered to the wall by a rotary phone while your competitors are using a smart phone?

Want to learn more, or are you ready to make a change.  Contact CIMx today to learn how we can help, or sign up for our free webinar.

What Can We Learn About Paperless Manufacturing from a Cup of Coffee?

The best software tools work seamlessly with your existing process, making the experience better, much like the ubiquitous coffee cup we use every morning

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Every morning, I have a cup of coffee on my desk.  It’s the darkest roast possible and I sip it throughout the entire morning.  When I pick it up at the coffee shop, I put a coffee sleeve on it to hold the cup comfortably without burning my hands.  The sleeve is a common tool for coffee drinkers, an improvement over the days of annoying Styrofoam cups.

There are MES Lessons to be learned from a simple cup of coffee.  Photo by

There are MES Lessons to be learned from a simple cup of coffee. Photo by

Cup sleeves make it easier to enjoy the coffee, keep your fingers from being burned, and are useful no matter the size of your cup.  They slide up only as far as necessary – simple, flexible and incredibly useful.  You don’t spend a second thinking about selecting one or how improved the coffee experience is with one.  You use it because it’s easy-to-use and it works.  Now, you’ve trained yourself to pick one up because a cup of coffee is too hot and the sleeve is the solution.

In the world of software packages for your business processes, a tool like a coffee sleeve is very useful.  If that tool could manage your shop floor, improve quality and increase production, it would dramatically increase your profits.  Many tools on the MES market sell themselves this way.  If you Google “paperless manufacturing,” you will find close to a million records (at last count).  Some of these tools will run various parts of your shop floor.  Some will improve quality.  Some will increase production.  A few manage the shop floor.  But the thing about the simple cup sleeve that works so well is that it dramatically improves the coffee experience, it works so well with the cup, and it’s so simple to use it doesn’t require a change in behavior.

Your paperless manufacturing system should work seamlessly with your existing processes, not dictate unnecessary change. Photo by

Your paperless manufacturing system should work seamlessly with your existing processes, not dictate unnecessary change. Photo by

That is the flaw in most shop floor tools.  When you explore the universe of paperless shop floor software packages, it’s difficult to discern the difference between the highly effective “sleeves” versus the complex software packages that demand you purchase and consume coffee in an entirely different way (or even make you drink tea or water down the coffee – the villains).  These systems halt shop floor progress as your team works to integrate an invasive tool.  You struggle with a solution that is too costly or too time-consuming, and as you struggle, all progress you might make from the solution is swallowed in the process.

As you research paperless manufacturing solutions, don’t forget the long-term costs such systems might require.  Consider our cup sleeve analogy.  It’s as if you found a tool that protected your hand from the heat, but only if you get a new size cup.  If the market begins offering new cups, you’ll find that sleeve no longer works.  This happens all the time in software – we call it obsolescence.

CIMx Software guarantees customers will never struggle with a solution that is obsolete.  Our carefully architected system protects your investment.  The CIMx system provides a continuous upgrade path without the expensive services bills other software vendors charge.  It’s a benefit we’ve designed and built into our system.

People go for coffee every day because coffee offers them a benefit that makes their day better.  For some, it’s the heat of freshly brewed java.  For others, it’s the flavorful aroma, or the caffeine pick-me-up.  Maybe a cup of coffee is just a habit or instinct.  In manufacturing, you have the problems to solve.  For example, your production might be slowing or your quality decreasing.  Perhaps you’ve not been able to increase throughput as the economy turns.  As you search for a solution, consider the cup of coffee for your desk – discover a manufacturing program that injects heat and caffeine into your organization with a tool that won’t require a new cup size or a change in your drinking habits.  Look for a solution that’s ready to help you right away.

Four Paperless Manufacturing Predictions for 2014

We take a look at the manufacturing topics and trends you’ll be talking about in 2014, and offer hints and tips to help you get a leg up in the New Year.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

This year, I began thinking as 2013 rumbled to a close and 2014 burst on the scene in a polar vortex, considering what to expect in the New Year.

Manufacturing is in a pretty good place right now, with six straight months of growth according to ISM, and reports predicting continued growth and confidence in manufacturing for 2014, but there are still concerns and risks.  This week, we’ll highlight for manufacturing a few 2014 trends, and look at ways your business can turn a challenge into a competitive advantage.

Is your manufacturing business ready for 2014?  Photo by

Is your manufacturing business ready for 2014? Photo by

1. Cloud Computing and Cybersecurity

As more and more servers become virtual, and businesses continue to search for ways to drive down IT costs, maintenance, and total cost of ownership, consolidation through the cloud is becoming an appealing option (or reality) for many companies.

Manufacturing isn’t ready to fully embrace the cloud.  There are still challenges to working in the cloud that make the option a non-starter for many companies.  Cybersecurity is one.  If there is one thing we’ve learned from the recent data breach at Target, and the continuing saga of NSA snooping, it’s that the cloud isn’t nearly as secure and safe as we would like it to be.  For manufacturing, where security and secure accessibility is paramount, the cloud is an unnecessary risk.

In 2014, vendors continue to adapt their offering and messaging regarding the cloud to manufacturers.  Keep an eye out for new innovations to target security and accessibility.  For your own business, be wary of fully embracing the latest trends.  Look for ways to utilize the strength of the cloud while minimizing the risk. 

2. Mobile Manufacturing

More and more of us are embracing mobile computing (tablets and cell phones) over the traditional PC.  Businesses are making the move as well, as employees find advantages in mobility.

What can you you do to make future trends work for you?  Illustration by

What can you you do to make future trends work for you? Illustration by

In 2014, look for manufacturing to continue slowly embracing mobility.  There are apps and software focused on mobile manufacturing, but they don’t yet offer a practical shop floor solution.  For example, have you ever tried to view a complex CAD drawing on a cell phone screen?  In addition, cost and security is a limiting factor.  Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) will work for many businesses, but not for the secure shop floor.  Many shop floors are a dangerous place for an expensive mobile device.

We see manufacturers taking practical first steps to embracing mobile manufacturing.  Quality Control with a tablet and a strong MES can walk the floor and proactively increase quality, rather than waiting for a problem to happen.  For your own shop floor, look at ways you can benefit from the mobility – implementing it where it makes sense.

 3. The Qualified Worker Crunch

This is an issue we’ve seen in the past, but it’s also one that the industry continues to grapple with in 2014.

The skilled labor shortage continues to impact manufacturing in America.  According to statistics, more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled.  A study by reveals more than 80% of the current manufacturing workforce is between 45 and 65.  Studies have identified the shortage as not just a manpower issue, but an education issue.  Colleges are taking steps to address the issue with new programs and training opportunities, but manufacturers have also begun looking at ways they can ensure new workers can be effectively trained, and the knowledge and skills of the older workers can be passed on to a new generation before critical skills are lost to worker turnover.

In 2014, look for more attention to be spent identifying critical shop floor skills and for process enforcement and training to be a focus of manufacturing.  Take a close look at the processes and training programs you have in place to minimize the impact of the qualified worker crunch on your business.

Is your enterprise security up to date?  Photo by

Is your enterprise security up to date? Photo by

 4. The Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data

In recent years, we’ve been riding the wave of Big Data and the Internet of Things due to advances in our ability to collect and store data.  It’s an issue we’ve seen manufacturing grapple with in the past.

The challenge we see for manufacturing in 2014 is collecting the “right” data and having the shop floor and process visibility and control to act on it.  We’re seeing the customer, supplier chain and the shop floor connected by information.  Big data holds the promise of improved quality and production, and an optimized and efficient enterprise, but only if your company has the tools and ability to act on the data – shaping manufacturing of the future through technology, real-time data and analytics.  Customers expect data and information at their fingerprints.  Are you ready?

As I wrap this blog up, I already see issues I’d love to explore further (3D PrintingGreen ManufacturingRobots on the shop floor?), but the issues and trends presented here offer opportunities for the New Year.  The strategic steps you take now can have a positive impact on your business in 2014.

What do you think?  What issues do you see impacting the industry in 2014?  Leave us a comment and let us know.  Our friends at the manufacturing software reviews site Software advice are also conducting a survey on the most popular manufacturing products, and if you’d like to contribute, take the survey here and see what other industry leaders are using and planning for 2014.  And as always, if you have a question don’t hesitate to ask.  We’re happy to help.

Simple Tips for New Year’s Manufacturing Resolutions that Make a Difference

Each year, many of us in manufacturing make resolutions focused on improvement.  Too often those resolutions fail to deliver.  This year, make a resolution to fundamentally improve your business.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

As one year ends, people begin crafting personal resolutions focused on improvement.  We promise to exercise more, eat better, write more letters, read more, slow down, or lose weight.  Businesses build strategic plans much the same way, perhaps using a SWOT analysis to start the process – before resolving to sell more, retain more customers, keep employees engaged, or grow the business.

There is a fundamental flaw to both of these approaches.  It’s a flaw that many times leads to resolutions that fade away as Spring rolls around.  Think of it as Kryptonite for your best intentions.

Choices and options.

Choose to make a positive difference in your business by making fundamental change, or resign yourself to making the mistakes of the past. Illustration by

Many times, our resolutions don’t fundamentally change the trajectory of our current path.  Albert Einstein quoted insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”  Yet, each year we collectively seem stricken by a New Year’s case of insanity.  We examine the steps we have taken to reach our current status, and use it as the basis for the future plans.  We make resolutions to, “do better,” “increase sales,” “improve quality,” or “reduce production time,” without making the fundamental change necessary to position ourselves for success.  It’s as if the act of making the resolution has imbued us with the magical powers necessary to improve on the results of the previous year by doing nothing different.

Then, a few months later we all wonder why we couldn’t meet our goals for the New Year.

The secret to a successful resolution isn’t making a smaller resolution, it’s making a bigger one and having the courage to make the fundamental change necessary to make it happen.  I had lunch this week with Mary Miller of Jancoa.  Mary was instrumental in the founding of the Dream Manager program, linking people with what they want to do by asking them to stretch far beyond where they currently are to see where they want to be.  These questions the program asks are independent of the individual’s current position or success in life.  By helping employees to think big and by tapping into their passion and dreams, the Dream Manager program delivers tremendous success by helping people make fundamental improvements to help them reach their goal.

There's no better time to make a real change in your business prospects than now, so make it happen!  Illustration by

There’s no better time to make a real change in your business prospects than now, so make it happen! Illustration by

Many businesses would be scared to ask people their dreams.  It’s a “touchy-feely” exercise, and business is more comfortable focusing on hard reality or problems, which is too bad, because employees are much more determined and successful when you tap into their passion to reach a goal.  The Dream Manager program supports goals that “stretch” beyond the current situation to explore what is possible.

The reluctance to “stretch” is not only holding you back from your goals, it is also holding back shop floor improvement.  With paperless manufacturing, electronic shop floor tools transform the way production works.  They provide a new structure, a vector off the current path, and support targeted improvement.  By introducing a simple tool, paperless manufacturing, you benefit from instant access to all orders on the shop floor – fundamentally increasing your efficiency, improving your accuracy and driving profitability.  Complexity and customization isn’t necessary to reach the goals.  You can use your current work instructions, and you control the pace of change through phased implementation.  Time and again, we have seen paperless manufacturing as a catalyst for growth.

Your strategic plan may have increased sales or volume goals, but the growth may be already threatened by the current culture and external pressures.  You may have built your goals on a SWOT or on input from the prior year’s results.  A plan built on historic information will most likely deliver similar results.  Dramatic growth requires external stimulus and a new approach.  Paperless manufacturing provides the stimulus to inspire dramatic growth.

Make 2014 different.  Enable catalytic change and fundamentally improve your manufacturing shop floor.  As always, send us a message if you have a question.  We’re happy to help.

A Look Back at Paperless Manufacturing in 2013

At the beginning of 2013, we made a few predictions.  Looking back, the results were surprising, and enlightening.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Each year there is an inevitable flurry of predictions and lists – speculation on the New Year and analysis of the old.  I’ll admit, it’s fun – the predictions and lists have become an annual tradition much like holiday cards and champagne toasts.

But this year, we decided to break the tradition, step back and take a look at our predictions for the previous year before offering our predictions for 2014.

What can you learn about the future of paperless manufacturing by looking at the past year?  Illustration by

What can you learn about the future of paperless manufacturing by looking at the past year? Illustration by

Manufacturing Growth and Capital Expenditures?

We predicted moderate growth in 2013, and we’re seeing proof of that growth even now.  In August, the manufacturing sector grew at its fastest pace in more than two years, with continued growth throughout Q4.

Capital expenditures are always a little trickier to predict and track.  But, a number of businesses are already predicting increased capital expenditures for 2014 – including Apple, who increased their spending from $7 billion to $11 billion.

Overall, the global economy benefitted from increased corporate spending and manufacturing growth in 2013.

American Manufacturing in Transition?

In 2012, we predicted a number of factors would pressure American Manufacturing, and we certainly saw that.  We mentioned the need for a skilled labor force, increased productivity and improved quality – but other factors added to the pressure in surprising ways, such as a surge in shale gas drilling that is helping fuel a resurgence in American industry, and an increase in automation driving the need for a skilled labor force.

We also saw a trend in “reshoring” (or bringing their manufacturing to America) from companies such as Ford Motor, GE and NCR.  In a recent survey of manufacturers, 54% said they were planning to or considering a move to reshore, up nearly 20% from a survey earlier in 2013.  American manufacturing is certainly still in a transition, but the future is looking much brighter.

Quality Growing in Importance?

We saw the growing importance of quality as a trend for paperless manufacturing in 2013.  In fact, quality is a driving reason companies are turning back to America for manufacturing.  Companies such as Procter & Gamble use innovations in the manufacturing process to not only improve quality, but drive business growth.

This year, CIMx saw a number of companies turn to MES and paperless manufacturing to not only improve production, but improve quality.  Companies have seen that process improvement programs such as Lean and Six Sigma are not enough.  Sustainable improvement can only be achieved with the real-time data collection and process control made possible with paperless manufacturing.

What will 2014 hold for your business? Photo credit

What will 2014 hold for your business? Photo credit

Is Manufacturing Going Mobile?

We predicted increased interest in mobile manufacturing in 2013.  This year, a number of companies began marketing mobile “apps” for manufacturing.  Manufacturers have a wealth of mobile manufacturing apps options, including role-based apps shown to improve production by 5% to 10% and process improvement apps on the Google Play store.

Manufacturers are still tentatively approaching mobile applications on the shop floor.  More and more, the benefits of mobile manufacturing are making an impact on the manufacturing community, but companies recognize it’s not enough to give a worker a tablet and expect production to improve.  Detailed production plans won’t fit on a smart phone screen, no matter how good the app is.  Companies are discovering the key to benefitting from mobile manufacturing is finding the right app, the right tool, and rolling it out to the shop floor appropriately.

Are there New Solutions?

We also made a (very) safe prediction that new solutions and new options would roll out the industry in 2013, and even we were surprised in how this prediction played out.

Who would have thought GE would turn to 3D Printers for jet engines?  Or that NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne would successfully test fire a rocket engine partially built from 3D Printer technology?  Or that we are no longer looking at robots to replace humans on the shop floor, but to enhance them.

In paperless manufacturing, more and more companies are rejecting the old way of implementing a system (long development, expensive service costs and disruptive implementation) for new, lower-cost solution focused methods such as phased implementation and off-the-shelf Web 2.0 solutions.  The industry and technology is evolving too quickly to expect a 2-3 year development project to deliver an acceptable ROI.  Solutions should begin delivering an ROI a few months after implementation.

This time of year, prognosticators are common, but I would guess most are looking ahead, not behind.  Once you’ve put away the bottle of champagne and the New Year’s parties are over, take a moment to reflect on where you’ve been and where you and your manufacturing business are going.  Many times, you’ll be surprised at what you discover.  Our predictions in 2013 weren’t meant to shock the industry, but it’s interesting and enlightening to see how they played out during the year.

Next week, we’ll look ahead to 2014 and offer our predictions for the New Year.  And, as always, if you have a question let us know… we’re always happy to help.