Monthly Archives: November 2014

5 Reasons to be Thankful for Paperless Manufacturing

Paperless Manufacturing and MES are some of the best investments manufacturers can make.  We take a look at a few of the reasons companies are thankful for their software system.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Paperless manufacturing and MES is the best investment you can make for your shop floor.  Image by

Paperless manufacturing and MES is the best investment you can make for your shop floor. Image by

It’s the time of year where those of us in the United States begin considering everything we have to be thankful for. Turkey dinners, pumpkin pies, and the inevitable turkey leftovers are on tables everywhere.

The past year, we’ve worked with a number of manufacturers implementing paperless manufacturing and MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) on their shop floor.  Most have already reached an ROI, so we asked a few what the top benefits were.  Below are the top 5 in no particular order. To be honest, every company found different benefits, but these are the ones we heard over and over. Here we go….

  • No More Paper!

Okay, we all know paper on the shop floor is error-prone and annoying.  You print up paper-based travelers and work instructions, then spend countless hours shuffling the paper around and around, back and forth, flipping pages, then rushing like crazy when change occurs your highly-complex and mission-critical production process.  Then we spend even more time storing and organizing the paper.

With paperless manufacturing and MES, the system handles all that – securely managing your data and making sure each person gets the correct information when and where you need it.

  • Real-time, honest shop floor visibility.

We all want to know what’s going on in production.  For many, the shop floor is this dark hole of machines, noise and confusion where orders go in and we pray a product comes out.

But, once you have a secure software system offering tools that manage production, real-time visibility isn’t just possible – it’s a natural by-product of your standard process.  Once you start using the dashboard, you’ll wonder how you ever operated without one.

  • Visual work instructions are easier to understand.

Want to increase production and eliminate scrap?  Why not give your engineers better planning tools.  Why not improve your work plans with video, visual work instructions, and information that is easy to reference and use.

Adding visual work instructions or a simple video (shot on a cell phone) will improve shop floor retention by as much as 80%, and reduce errors by as much as 70%.  That sounds good to me…

  • Changes are easier and faster.

Change management is more than just getting new instructions to the right person on the shop floor, but for some companies, change management is a jogger with a red pen.  Effective change management requires revision control, accurately tracking changes to the work instructions and ensuring the shop floor has the most recent and accurate version of the work instructions.

You shouldn’t need a planner with running shoes and a bigger pen.  Change management requires a structured process and the tools to accurately record and implement change.

  • Process steps are enforced, eliminating errors.

Many companies assemble Lean Teams and implement Six Sigma initiatives.  They come up with catchy names and meet over lunch to develop new processes.  These teams will get results, for awhile, but over time the improvements fade as everyone goes back to always doing what they have in the past.

Process enforcement isn’t a new punishment for workers that use the wrong process.  It’s giving your team the tools to do their work correctly, better, faster, and with fewer errors.  Process improvement happens when you have the tools for process enforcement in place.


This all sounds good, but I know many still aren’t convinced paperless manufacturing will work for them.  That may have been true a few years ago, but with new software it’s easy to install and train while re-using your existing work instructions to have the system up and running in less than 2 months.

Still nervous about taking the next step?  Contact us today and ask about a low-cost pilot to see how your production will benefit from going paperless.

5 MES Misconceptions That Are Hurting Your Business

Don’t get suckered in by MES and Paperless Manufacturing misconceptions, especially when reality can deliver so much shop floor benefit.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

You misconceptions regarding manufacturing software solutions may be holding your company back. Illustration by

You misconceptions regarding manufacturing software solutions may be holding your company back. Illustration by

Perception versus reality…

CIMx has been serving manufacturers for more than 18 years, and we’ve seen, heard and learned a lot.  Occasionally we come across industry perceptions that are totally, completely, and utterly detached from reality.  It’s the perception versus reality conundrum… many cling to a false perception so much it becomes a reality.  Problem is, their perception is hurting their business and costing them money.

Let’s take a look at our top perception issues in paperless manufacturing, and see what a little “reality” medicine can do for you…

  • Perception: An MES has to be a massive, risky project that will take years to implement.

Reality: Nope.  If you use a modern system built using the latest software tools, you can implement in less than two months.  With a flexible system, you reuse your existing work instructions.  Migrate the files into the system, map your current shop floor processes to the software, and with a few hours of training you can be using an MES.

There are monolithic software systems out there built on code written 15 to 20 years ago.  They will require teams of developers working for years to get it to fit your processes.  I’m sure it will have features piled on features… but, in the end, the reward is never worth the cost and risk.  If someone tells you the project will take more than a year to implement, it’s time to look for another vendor.

  • Perception: The Shop Floor will never accept an MES or a different way to do work.

Reality: This is just silly.  One of the major benefits of an MES is improving production and driving shop floor consistency.  If the system you install doesn’t improve production and make it easier for the shop floor to complete work, then you don’t have a good solution.

In our experience, if you install the software at a single station and let the shop floor see how much it makes their job easier, everyone will be excited to get their hands on the system.

  • Perception: Using an MES means I can’t use my current processes, and they’re working just fine now.
Understanding the truth about manufacturing software solutions will help you unlock the potential of your shop floor. Illustration by

Understanding the truth about manufacturing software solutions will help you unlock the potential of your shop floor. Illustration by

Reality: First off, as long as you aren’t using an older, template-based system, you should be able to map your current processes to the new system.  Next, every paperless manufacturing installation should be based on a clear ROI.  If you find an ROI, then you’ve identified potential improvements.

And, let’s be honest, there are savings and benefit everywhere in an MES.  How much will you save on paper and printing, or on non-productive time delivering plans to the work stations?  How important would a real-time WIP dashboard be to you?

  • Perception: I’ll get better customer support from a bigger company.

Reality: Okay, I’ve been seeing this one out there with all the “market consolidation” going on… but let’s be honest, in any other industry do you seek out a massive corporation because of their exceptional customer service?  Big companies need to consider the ROI for service.   All those employees need to be paid, so they will throw any resource at a project they can as long as you can pay.

Truth is, if your software solution needs all those resources, then there is something fundamentally wrong with it, or the company is intent on making money on service charges.  Unless you are planning on an expensive, complicated and risky software installation, then look for dedicated support and a company you can trust.

  • Perception: The only way I can get the MES I want is through customization.

Reality: In the past, manufacturing software tools were much more specialized – using templates and forms to recreate shop floor work instructions and travelers.  The templates created “buckets” to store specific information, and utilized rigid processes to map the work flow on the shop floor.  But, what worked for one company didn’t work for another, and any change required a fundamental change, or customization, of the software.

Today, there are systems that don’t use templates or forms.  These systems offer tools that work with your work instructions, and support your optimal work flow.  You don’t need to customize the software when the core functionality is adaptable and flexible enough to meet your needs.  Any company “customizing” a solution is likely using core software written years ago, and the customization is more likely just to get it to work right than “optimize” it for you.

There you have it… a few of the market misconceptions that may be costing you money.  Before you select a solution or make a decision about your manufacturing software, get the truth.  Want to know more, or see how paperless manufacturing can help you?  Contact us for a free evaluation of your shop floor processes.

How You Can Embrace the Full Potential of Paperless Manufacturing

An MES is more than a list of features.  Maximize the impact of a new system by embracing positive changes it will encourage in your shop floor culture.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Manufacturers often ask how to unlock the full potential of a digital shop floor.  Many think it’s a cool feature, innovative function, or special training session.

My answer, always, is to look at the shop floor culture.  Consider the human element.  No software system, special feature, nifty function, automated process, extraordinary lesson, KPI, or analysis tool will get you where you need to be.  The software provides the foundation for process improvement and will immediately deliver benefits, but to unlock the full potential of the system, you need to develop the human element – study how the people, processes, system, tools and material interact, then focus on how the software will support the human element.

Looking Beyond Features and Functions

Consider the human element as you implement a new shop floor system to ensure maximum value for your investment.  Illustration by

Consider the human element as you implement a new shop floor system to ensure maximum value for your investment. Illustration by

Consider this scenario – accidents happen on the shop floor.  Most will be errors in production builds, scrap in the making, but sometimes an operator or machine will fail to perform a task correctly.  What do you do then?

Most times, we simply solve the issue as quickly as possible.  We fix the machine, seek medical attention for injuries, and red tag the scrap.  After all, product is backing up and customers are waiting.  At that point, information on the error is sent to Quality Engineering or a safety board.  Problem is, once production is flowing again and the issue is no longer critical, no one is in a hurry to find a solution and whatever documentation you have is aging.

Without a permanent solution, the error will likely occur again, continuing to plague production like an itch you just can’t reach.

The Paperless Manufacturing Solution

Military pilots utilize a post-flight debriefing process to eliminate errors.  They will cover, replay, reconstruct, reflect and redirect every action on a flight.  It’s the most effective way to determine everything that went wrong and right during a session of work, and ensures improvement for the next flight.

During cover and replay, the pilot talks through the entire flight.  Through visualization, they will review each step of the flight plan.  Rather than simply listing what went right and wrong, offering a snap judgment of each action, they discuss the work, leaving more room for discussion and reflection.

A paperless manufacturing system provides an immediate “discussion board” for manufacturing.  The shop floor operator can describe the work done prior to the error.  This immediate feedback provides invaluable insight, offering creative solutions an engineer may not be able to deliver in the  weeks after the error occurred.

Evaluative tools like this may not be practical after every shift, but a paperless system can create a feedback loop between the shop floor operators and engineers.  Operators can leave a message attached to an order, which the engineers can retrieve and review as needed.  The paperless system enables the reflection and reconstruction used so effectively by pilots.  Continuous improvement systems such as Lean, also rely heavily on continuous feedback and giving end-users a voice in improvement.

Redirection, the final step in flight analysis, has the pilot leap from the previous flight to the next.  It asks what he or she would do differently.  Through visualization, they work to see the steps in their mind.  Visual learning is a powerful tool, helping bring the lessons learned to life.  A paperless system utilizes visual learning to improve work instructions with videos and multi-media tools, helping eliminate mistakes. The system can even track users who open and watch a video, giving you an idea of how effective each learning tool is.

Paperless Manufacturing and the Human Element

Granted, the shop floor isn’t an airplane, and your operators may not be pilots, but consider the pilot culture, where every mistake can mean death, and how they go about eliminating errors and constantly improving.  Consider what a culture like that would mean for your business.

Paperless manufacturing and MES provides tools that eliminate errors and enable improvement, but to maximize the solution you need more than tools.  You need a culture that embraces the solution and is ready for improvement.  You need to not only implement the software, but integrate it with your culture.  Don’t focus solely on the tools the software provides, but how you use the tools.  Spend time to understand the human element and how it will fit with the software tools.  Look for solutions that are adaptable, supporting your shop floor culture and processes instead of demanding conformity.  The software should grow with your company as you implement changes to the culture.

The best solutions are ones that support your work process, and can adapt when and how you need it.  Look beyond the list of features and functions, because every company can provide those, and consider the human element.