Monthly Archives: September 2014

Insider Tips for Avoiding High-Cost Service Charges

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Software companies know upgrades are necessary for your manufacturing solution.  They may even be budgeting for your high-cost service fees. Don’t get fooled – learn the truth here.

Face it, manufacturing is a constantly changing industry.  New processes, new technology, and new products mean the shop floor is adapting and adjusting.  A work flow that succeeds one week may be in need of an update the next.

So, as you plan the installation of a new MES or paperless manufacturing solution, consider how you will adjust and adapt as your manufacturing needs change.  Ask yourself – is your software vendor planning to upgrade?  How they will ensure the solution continues to stay relevant?  Is an upgrade an additional fee or a standard offering?

Do they even have an upgrade plan?  If not, what will it mean to you?

Understanding the Upgrade Plan

Any OTS (Off-The-Shelf) solution will offer core functionality.  This is the foundation of the software system.  No matter how innovative or powerful the core functionality might be, it will begin to lose usefulness and relevance.

Selecting software that can be easily and inexpensively upgraded can be a strategic advantage for production.  Illustration by

Selecting software that can be easily and inexpensively upgraded can be a strategic advantage for production. Illustration by

10 years ago, few were considering “mobile manufacturing” solutions.  Now, mobility is a core function for most MES systems, either through an app or built-in functionality.  10 years ago, shop floor data collection was a simpler task, and now business analytics demands more information at a quicker pace.  Government and international regulations are constantly changing, and older systems struggle to keep pace.

An upgrade from a software vendor keeps the core functionality relevant.  It keeps the software up-to-date on industry needs.  Often, it addresses issues in the industry before they have an impact on your shop floor.  An upgrade is an important tool for avoiding software obsolescence.

Simply put, an upgrade plan may have a minimal impact on your initial ROI or decision to implement one system over another, but it could be significant factor in the overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).  Companies that don’t upgrade risk software that becomes dusty, fading into a legacy system that impedes growth and production.

Finding the Best Upgrade Plan for You

Don’t fool yourself – software vendors know there is the opportunity for additional revenue in basic upgrades.  In fact, many vendors calculate the revenue of upgrades into their planning.  Save yourself surprise service charges as your software ages by asking the vendor a few simple questions:

  1. Do you currently have an upgrade plan for your software? If so, how often do you offer new releases?  If they don’t have a plan for software upgrades, then you are likely purchasing custom software, or software from a company that won’t support the solution.  Regular software releases show the vendor keeps the software relevant.
  2. What is the cost of an upgrade or patch for your software? Can the upgrade be completed with internal IT resources, or will it require a service charge?  What is the cost for vendor services?  Ask these questions to get a better idea of what the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the software will be.  Many vendors plan on reaping the benefits of expensive service charges by offering software for a lower initial cost.  Don’t be fooled.  Look for vendors that offer free upgrades as part of the license fee.  Ask how they will charge for any services you might need.
  3. How do you plan for software upgrades? There are vendors out there that install software and then leave, letting the initial product age and decay into obsolescence.  It takes resources and effort to keep software relevant.  Ask the vendor what they are doing to keep their solution relevant.  Look for vendors that partner with their customers on planning upgrades.

Consider the Future

Many companies select a shop floor software solution, such as an MES or paperless manufacturing, with a specific goal in mind such as increased quality, paperless shop floor plans, or real-time production tracking.  Focusing on a single problem will ensure an early ROI, but without considering the future of the solution, you may be left with software that loses relevance over time.

Before making a final selection, step back and consider the future of the shop floor.  Look at other areas you can improve production with the system, and how future costs may impact your business and the solution.  Make sure you have a solution that will grow and adapt with your business, and not hold you back in the future.

Want to learn more, or see how you might benefit with manufacturing software, then give us a call or leave us a message for a no-cost evaluation of your manufacturing operations.

The Secret to a Successful Manufacturing Strategy

Manufacturing is changing, as disruptive technology force companies to adapt.  Learn how to manage disruption and build a successful business strategy with a few simple tips.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I was re-reading Garntner Predicts 2014 and found a quote that really brought focus to troubling trends I’d seen in manufacturing recently:

“With digital business, IT leaders must come to terms with what digital really means in the context of their work. It is bigger in scope than the typical company definition of IT, because it includes technology outside a company’s control: smart mobile devices (in the hands of customers, citizens and employees), social media, technology embedded in products (such as cars), the integration of IT and operational technologies (such as telecom networks, factory networks and energy grids), and the Internet of Things (physical objects becoming electronically tractable).”

Note: Bold is my addition.

Information Technology versus Operational Technology

Integrating Information Technology (IT) with Operations and Operational Technology (OT) is a critical task for any company.  It’s also a task that many companies are failing.

Too often, IT and Operations act independently.  Decisions are made and strategies developed in a vacuum, and then companies struggle to make it work.  Recently, I’ve seen companies seek solutions to operational problems, such as new regulations, quality escapes, cost overruns, or inefficient work flow.  With current technology and software tools, these problems are easy to solve.  This is the foundation of the digital business.  But, without an integrated IT and Operations, the solution many companies select isn’t optimized and will never deliver the capability or functionality the business needs.  They end up trading one set of problems for another.

The Solution

Consider this:

  • Are you ready for the age   of digital business?  Illustration by

    Are you ready for the age of digital business? Illustration by

    Operations needs the digital tools provided by IT. With the advent of digital business, paper-based, inefficient manufacturing methods no longer support modern production.  With the right digital tools and IT support, operations will be positioned for success in the future.

  • IT relies on manufacturing. Manufacturing is the revenue generator for a business.  The more manufacturing, the more profit for the company and the more successful everyone is.  In addition, IT must support the digital tools used by Operations.  IT finds success by supporting Operations with tools that won’t place an undue burden on IT resources.

IT and Operations rely on each other.  They share similar goals.  But, too often, they have an adversarial relationship that does no one any good.  Moving forward, Operations and IT must work more closely together.  The digital business of the future demands integration.

No longer can IT sit in their office and focus solely on the computer infrastructure.  They need to understand how manufacturing works so they can provide a solid digital foundation and manufacturing tools.

Operations can’t focus solely on the shop floor, manufacturing in a vacuum.  Operations needs to understand how important the IT infrastructure is to their success, and see it as a critical foundation to production.

Digital business is a disruptive influence that requires all of us to adjust our thinking and the way we operate, but it also offers tools that can catapult a company to success.  Sure, integrating IT and Operations may seem counter-intuitive.  Operations can no longer just demand a solution or answer from IT, and IT can’t demand Operations blindly use their solution.  Collaboration is required.  It may be difficult, even scary, but there is tremendous opportunity there for the businesses that embrace the digital business and begin to see their business not as a collection of entities operating independently, but a cohesive whole operating toward a shared goal.

Moving Forward

The question is, how do you integrate IT and Operations?  One part of the answer is cultural.  We need to eliminate the information and operational silos holding us back.  Teams that bring the expertise of both Operations and IT need to be built, with a focus on developing solutions that work across the business.

Consider how productive your business would be with IT and Operations working collaboratively.  Image by

Consider how productive your business would be with IT and Operations working collaboratively. Image by

Technology solutions must recognize the disruptive property of new technology, and meet the needs of the business, not just individual departments.   Systems designed 15 years ago (even ones cleverly packaged with a new name or in a new module) aren’t going to work under the new paradigm.  The digital business needs Web 2.0 solutions that adapt to the changing needs of the shop floor and IT.  They need to be configurable, to support current work flow, shop floor processes, and work instructions.  Advanced data collection and business analytics are part of the solution, but not the sole focus.  You need solutions equally integrated.

It’s a global change in how we look at shop floor systems, but, in the end, this is the only way to support a modern manufacturing business.  The advent of digital business is disrupting past methodology processes, requiring new methods.  At CIMx Software, we understand that, and we’ve developed solutions that bridge the gap between IT and Operations – delivering advanced software and technology to manufacturing in a way that not only gives the shop floor the tools they need, but offers IT simple installation and minimal support with a lower cost.  The software solutions we offer have been developed not only with the shop floor in mind, but IT as well.

Want to learn more, or see how you can become a digital business?  Give us a call or leave a message.  We’re happy to answer questions or take a look at your shop floor or IT needs, and suggest a solution for you.

4 Reasons Manufacturers Are Investing in Technology

With manufacturing on the rise in North America, and investment up, many companies are turning to new software and computer systems.

By Anthony Cuilwik, CEO of CIMx Software

In a recent Wall Street Journal article on recent trends in small business spending, the author wrote, “There is a point in every recovery when small businesses move from slashing costs to spending more on new plants and industrial machinery, trucks, computers, office equipment and furniture.”  According to the authors, we are just entering that period, when business owners start believing that purchases and expansions will be rewarded with new business and expanded profits.

We’re seeing evidence of this investment – 51% of all companies surveyed plan to increase capital spending in the next 12 months.   In another survey, 55% of the companies reported capital investment in the previous six months.  It’s exciting news, and another sign the economy has improved.

But, I couldn’t help but wonder what those companies were investing in…

Benefits of Software Technology to Manufacturing

The article mentioned new plants, industrial machinery, trucks, and furniture and office equipment.  These are all, potentially, good manufacturing investments, but none have the immediate impact a software investment such as paperless manufacturing has.  Consider this:

  1. Paperless manufacturing supports improved production.

Adding another machine or even another plant won’t deliver maximum benefit if you haven’t optimized your current production.  Paperless manufacturing improves production by removing errors and offering increased shop floor visibility and control, adding to the benefit of other manufacturing investments.

  1. Software provides a foundation for future improvements and growth.

Look to the future when investing.  As new processes, new technology, and new tools hit the market, paperless manufacturing provides a solid foundation for a digital factory that integrates new products into your workflow.  When change comes, will your shop floor be ready?

  1. Paperless manufacturing provides a rapid ROI that is easy to track.

Most companies identify an ROI before making a capital investment.  With paperless manufacturing you can directly benefit a number of areas in the plant, helping to increase the ROI.  A software system   offers not only a solution to production challenges, but an ROI that can be invested in other areas.

  1. The right software solution accumulates value.

Unlike an investment in a truck or machine, behavior-based, rather than template-based, paperless manufacturing software will become more valuable over time, rather than depreciating.  To further add value to your investment, look at software that offers free upgrades and easy-configuration.

Putting It All Together

Process Improvement graph.

The right investment can position you for success. Illustration by

The truth is, many manufacturing companies are investing in software and technology, and for more reasons than the ones listed above.  Technology, including paperless manufacturing, has never been as affordable as it is right now.  Customers are demanding service and shorter production runs that cannot be supported by an inefficient paper-based system.  Regulations are driving other companies to seek paperless manufacturing solutions.

As demand for manufacturing continues to increase and the economy picks up even more, those companies that have invested in a solid Information Technology foundation such as paperless manufacturing will find themselves with an advantage over competitors still struggling with error-prone, costly and inefficient paper-based processes.

Want to learn more, or discover how quickly and easily you can benefit from paperless manufacturing?  We’re happy to work with you to identify the areas on your shop floor and production that will benefit the most with a new system, and then select the system that will deliver the greatest benefit (even if it isn’t ours).  Using a phased implementation, we can generate a rapid ROI that will help pay for future phases, ensuring maximum benefit for you.  Give us a call and leave a message.  We’re happy to help.

4 Ways Paperless Manufacturing Can Benefit Composite Manufacturing

Composite manufacturing can often be more art than science, making consistent production a struggle.  Learn how MES can overcome many of those difficulties to improve production.

 By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Composites are made from two or more physically different materials that are combined to act as one, yet remain distinct.  Manufacturing composites is complex, and can be difficult, but it’s a vital industry, producing some of the strongest, lightest and most versatile materials in the world.  Composites are used in almost every industry – from Aerospace and Defense, to simple household items, to electrical equipment, and consumer products.  Companies rely on exacting specifications, rigorous recipes for each machine processes, exceedingly stringent quality control, and, in the end, on art as much as science to produce quality composites.

With the right tools, even the best manufacturers can improve results, increase production, reduce errors and scrap, and deliver better quality.  Here are four ways we’ve found a successful paperless manufacturing system can deliver benefits to composite manufacturing:

1. Revision control of all specifications, recipes and process documentation.

Paperless manufacturing delivers measurable improvements to composite manufacturing. Photo by

Paperless manufacturing delivers measurable improvements to composite manufacturing. Photo by

Paper-based recipes, instructions, specifications and quality details add unnecessary complexity for little value.  Think about it – start with the paper-based specifications.  If you have customer specs in addition to internal specs, you are doubling the number of forms and papers.  Add to that the recipes for each of the machine processes.  Then assemble all the process instructions, build books, and other ancillary material – you end up with stacks and stacks of paper.  Can you be sure you are working from the latest, most accurate approved documents?

With paperless manufacturing, you digitize all that paper.  By managing information through a single source, users have access to only the most recent, and accurate, documentation through airtight revision control – even with the tangled web of cross-referenced documentation most composite manufacturers struggle with.  Previous revisions are archived, while only the most recent revisions can be opened and used.

2. Control, management and collection of quality information.

In composite manufacturing, variability must be measured and controlled, and any fixes or defect repairs must be thoroughly documented, matched to the specifications, and then made part of a permanent as-built audit report.  Using a paper-based system to manage quality information leads to errors and scrap.  Paper isn’t the right tool, and is inadequate for the process.

Paperless manufacturing manages and automates much of the process.  The system will automatically check the specification once data is collected, and the quality defect fixes are managed by process enforcement.  Each step is documented and archived in a permanent record.  Automated record-keeping is especially important for companies regulated by the 14 CFR Part 21 Quality Control requirements.

3. Synchronization of specifications, process variables, and actual workflow.

Learn how MES can help your shop floor.  Image by

Learn how MES can help your shop floor. Image by

Precision is necessary for successful composite manufacturing, but many companies struggle to synchronize internal and external specifications, and the necessary process variables.   They’ve recorded best practices and standard operating procedures (SOP), but it doesn’t translate to consistent shop floor execution.

Paperless manufacturing and MES give you the tools to synchronize project work.  That starts by providing a single source of manufacturing truth – one place were project information can be managed and stored.  All documentation, build books, work instruction, and data collection are kept in the system.  Process enforcement allows planners to incorporate the specifications and process variables in the actual workflow used by the shop floor, ensuring specifications are followed.

4. Creation of an as-built audit and data collection to support trend analysis.

With paper-based workflow, the as-built audit (or complete documentation of the manufacturing process) is often more speculative than historical.  The documents and data collection are assembled from handwritten notes or memory of the process.  Work is done outside of the documentation, and then compiled in records that we assume (and hope) are accurate.

Trend analysis and process improvement are even more difficult when predictability is a question.  With paperless manufacturing, each operation and procedure can be scheduled in planning.  Using shop floor data collection, each step, procedure, action, and detail of the process can be recorded and archived, giving as complete a picture of the process as possible.  A complete and largely automated as-built audit is a critical benefit to composite manufacturing, and vitally important to the trend analysis necessary for process improvement.

Determining the variance to specifications is one part of eliminating errors and improving processes.  Studying an accurate as-built report to determine the cause of errors and flaws is equally important.

According to a recent report by accenture, “… modern, mature MES solutions fit into companies helps bring greater efficiency, speed and precision to manufacturing.”  MES helps bridge the gap between IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology) by providing a foundation for the digital factory – delivering shop floor control and visibility.

Understanding the specific benefits a paperless manufacturing or MES system can bring helps in planning targeted shop floor improvements that specifically address the problems faced daily in composite manufacturing.

Want to learn more, or see how we can help you?  Give us a call or leave us a message.  We’re happy to help.