Monthly Archives: January 2015

5 Easy Shop Floor Quality Improvements You Can Make with Paperless Manufacturing

Sustainable Quality Improvements aren’t made with a committee or additional processes, but by giving your team the tools they need to succeed.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software
Give your shop floor the tools they need to improve quality. Illustration by

Give your shop floor the tools they need to improve quality. Illustration by

Quality is a critical component in manufacturing success. Poor quality leads to lost customers, rework, scrap, and vanished production – its wasted money and opportunity, and a clear sign of a shop floor with serious problems.  According to a study by Gerald Lee of ABB, poor quality can lead to significant losses, known as COPQ (Cost of Poor Quality). Even the “hidden” costs of poor quality – additional paperwork, large lot sizes, and excessive auditing – lead to losses as large of 15% of total revenue

Improving quality is a critical goal for manufacturing. Many see improved quality as the metric that has the greatest impact on profitability, even more than productivity – which is why companies contort themselves, their shop floor, and the workflow to eke out every last bit of quality improvement. Many times, this leads to improvements, but only temporary improvement.  Truth is, no initiative will have the immediate or profound impact on quality improvement that an MES or paperless manufacturing system does because the system offers the shop floor tools to improve quality, and provides a sustainable foundation for process improvement.

Consider these benefits you’ll have almost immediately with a shop floor system:

  • Process enforcement

Quality is dependent on sustainable processes. With an MES you can build best practices and quality processes directly into the planning, and utilize sign-off and shop floor data collection to ensure these processes are used throughout production.

  • Automatic tolerance checks

Many times, poor quality is discovered late in the process when corrective action is costly. With shop floor data collection and automatic tolerance checks, the QA team is aware of a problem the moment it happens, and can limit the expense of quality escapes.

  • Revision control

Change is a way of life on the modern shop floor. With a paperless manufacturing system, you can build a library of revision-controlled work instructions. This ensures the plans your shop floor works from are correct and include best practices, data collection and quality checks.

  • Visual work instructions

One of the best tools you have for improved quality is the shop floor worker, so help them build to specification. Highlight critical areas of the manufacturing process with graphics such as attachment points or tooling. Visual work instructions improve retention of instructions by as much as 80% over written work instructions.

  • Real-time, mobile access to quality data

QA on the shop floor can monitor only a fraction of production, and forcing them to track down and discover problems can lead to long delays that will shut down production. A modern MES will give Quality anytime and anywhere access to production data, including quality checks. They can then handle the disposition remotely, or even manage the process on-site as they need.

Improve Quality with Paperless Manufacturing

A paperless manufacturing system, when integrated successfully with shop floor processes, will have an immediate and beneficial impact on quality. Once you begin to collect production data on the shop floor, and can analyze that data in real-time, you will discover quality escapes before they become major issues that negatively impact your bottom line. Automatic tolerance checks and process enforcement are easy functions to add with manufacturing software.

Next time you consider how to improve quality or reduce manufacturing costs, take a moment to analyze the ways a modern, low-risk software system can benefit you. Want to know more, or see what manufacturing solutions you can find in a system today? Then contact CIMx for a free shop floor review.

Evaluating the Trust Factor in Paperless Manufacturing

Position your project for success by using these criteria for evaluating trust in your manufacturing software supplier.

By Lisa Kessler, Customer Relations with CIMx Software

When evaluating an MES, cut through the clutter and focus on criteria that benefit the long-term viability of the system. Illustration by

When evaluating an MES, cut through the clutter and focus on criteria that benefit the long-term viability of the system. Illustration by

When analyzing a potential MES or paperless manufacturing system, or the software company offering the system, many start by looking at price or functionality. These are important factors, but recently we’ve suggested trust may be even more important in determining project success.

This sparked some conversation. Some agreed, while others thought we were crazy. Many pointed out that trust is hard to measure, and that presents a problem. When evaluating the success of a software system, we consider ROI, study shop floor analytics and review data, and yet for choosing a system we are suggesting you “go with your gut.” It just doesn’t make sense.

Trust is vital. An MES is a major purchase, and the best suppliers should build a partnership focused on increased production with their customers. Once a system is implemented, you are entrusting your shop floor productivity to the software. You better have trust… but, how do you measure trust? What do you use to evaluate the level of trust you have with a supplier? Trust should be a factor in evaluating a potential supplier, and you need more than a gut check when selecting manufacturing software.

Aside from that deep down gut feeling, there are several things to look for when picking a supplier to solve your manufacturing problems.  Here are some of what you should expect from a trustworthy software supplier:

  • They Are Reliable

Consistency is important, and you need to know you can count on the software and the supplier.  After all, if you are implementing a system that will virtually run your entire shop floor, knowing it will work and support is available in a time of need is critical.

  • They Are Transparent

Make sure your supplier isn’t just telling you what you want to hear, have them show you.  Some suppliers will sell you on a “demo” system, not the actual product. Have them show you  your work plans in the software. Get references from other customers and ask the hard questions.

  • They Are Clear Communicators

Be sure you are getting clear and concise answers to your questions, you shouldn’t have to solve riddles.   If a supplier is dancing around a certain issue, or isn’t willing to tell you no or give you a difficult answer, you may be setting yourself up for problems in the future.

  • They Do What They Say They Will

There is no such thing as “perfect” software, and any supplier selling you perfection is really promising to build you a very expensive custom system.  You can’t improve production on promises. You need a supplier willing to give you a clear plan of action with a measurable goal, and not more promises.

  • They Speak Respectfully of Competition

When working with a supplier, the goal should be what is best for you and your business, and not just the sale. Speaking disrespectfully about other suppliers or software systems is a sign you may be working with a company more interested in getting your money and not about building a productive relationship for both businesses.

While all of the above are important, you should also just feel comfortable with the supplier you choose.  Your intuition is an excellent tool for selecting the “right” supplier.  If you can say “This feels right, nothing feels forced or pushy, and I feel comfortable,” then chances are you’re picking the right supplier for your business.

At CIMx we pride ourselves on building relationships built on trust with all our customers.  Delivering a product we know customers can rely on, and offering them the support them they need when they need it is our goal.  Our business model isn’t built on making a sale and disappearing – we want to build a long-term, mutually productive relationship with our customers.  That starts by delivering what we promised and taking the time to support users as they learn the system.

When we say we will increase your production times and profits, decrease your shop floor errors, implement quickly, and support you with a dedicated engineer, we mean that.  Want to know more about how paperless manufacturing might benefit your shop floor and working with a trusted supplier? Give us a call and let us see what we can do for you.

The Most Critical Factor in a Successful MES Implementation

After more than 18 years of offering shop floor software solutions to manufacturers, we’ve gained insight into one surprising factor that can lead a project to success or failure.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

When implementing a paperless manufacturing system, selecting the right vendor can be more important than the right system. Illustration by

When implementing a paperless manufacturing system, selecting the right vendor can be more important than the right system. Illustration by

I was once asked to name the one factor that would make a difference in the success or failure of an MES or paperless manufacturing implementation. I pushed to think outside of the box, but first considered many of the standard, and legitimate, factors that contribute to project success such as…

… an honest evaluation of your shop floor processes. This is vitally important. Without input from the users of a system and a vision of how it will support production, you can be left with a system that hinders more than supports operations.

… a focused list of requirements. There are projects doomed from the start by a requirement list numbering in the hundreds, even thousands, and many of those “requirements” offering little ROI. The price ends up ballooning as the project team focuses on items that add little to overall project success.

… product functionality. Functionality will define the software, but let’s be honest; comparing functionality lists isn’t a critical requirement for a project. Given enough time and resources, a software vendor can add any functionality you need. I’d rather have an adaptable system that supports my production than one that has more buttons on each screen, leading me to features I may never use.

… cost. An over-priced product that doesn’t aid production or offer a reasonable ROI will doom a project, and you do need a clear picture of the ROI before implementation begins. But, if you’ve determined your ROI on the project, and the schedule is acceptable, the project should pay for itself, or you go find another vendor.

There are a number of other factors I considered, but the more I thought about it, the more one factor kept coming up. It’s not one many companies think about, but it ultimately leads to success more than any other factor…


The Trust Factor in your Manufacturing Solution

I know, it sounds silly. Even writing it, I’m reminded of the phrases you might find in an online dating form. “Seeking SO to build trust and for long walks on the beach…” BLAH!

But, consider these factors when evaluating how much priority to give “trust” when selecting a vendor:

  • Cost.

Many software vendors are reluctant to offer a “price not to exceed” guarantee on an estimate, because they rely on service charges to pad the final bill. They plan to add service charges for necessary work not included in the initial estimate. Yes, there are vendors out there giving the rest of us a bad name. Find a software vendor you can trust to give you an honest estimate.

  • Culture.

Shop floor software is as much a cultural solution as a technological one. Consider this – you can have the best software in the world, but if your workers aren’t using it to improve production, it becomes shelfware. Try to cram a solution on someone and they’ll find a way to ignore it. You need a vendor willing to work with your shop floor as well as the front office and management, helping to guide employees to a new way of working. Trust is going to be a vital tool for a successful vendor.

  • Processes.

The functionality of the software is only one piece of a complex puzzle that is a shop floor system. The functions need to manage and support the manufacturing processes. In the past, when MES and paperless manufacturing systems were only available to the largest manufacturing companies, software was built custom so process fit was (hopefully) given. Today, with the availability of modern, off-the-shelf solutions, you need a vendor who will work with you to map the existing functionality of the software to your processes, and partner with you to configure the system to meet your specialized needs. They have to understand your processes to offer the best, most cost effective solution possible. The only way to be sure they are working with your best interests at heart is through trust.

  • Total Cost of Ownership.

The first bill you receive for your shop floor system is only part of the overall cost of the software. Most solutions are designed to be a long-term solution, so there will be recurring costs, adding to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). You want a vendor that isn’t going to sell you software, install it and then leave. You want one that will work as a partner, helping to ensure the software remains an effective and efficient tool for production over the life of the installation. Do they offer an upgrade path? Will upgrading the software be cost effective, or will it be cost prohibitive? Are you going to be relying on a help desk to solve problems, or will you have a knowledgeable resource available when you need them?

As I thought about the critical factors in project success, I kept coming back to trust. Purchasing an MES isn’t like purchasing a vacuum or even an app for your phone. It’s an investment not only in money, but time and company resources. The system should provide a long-term solution, not just short term relief. It should grow with you and your company, providing a foundation for growth and increased production.

You need to evaluate the purchase of a shop floor solution differently. Consider factors other than just cost, or a list of functionality. Done properly, you are purchasing more than just code on a server (somewhere) but a manufacturing partner willing to provide a tool for your shop floor for many years to come. This is why CIMx works so hard to earn the trust of our customers. We understand how critical trust is in an implementation. From the beginning, our goal is to offer a long-term solution to our customers. Building trust guides our every interaction with a customer. We see every implementation as the beginning of a partnership.

If you aren’t sure you can trust your vendor, then you are presenting your project team with a challenge they may never overcome. Want to learn more, or see how CIMx can help you solve manufacturing challenges, then contact us today,

What Can You Do to Keep Your Company from Drowning in Technology Debt?

Many companies today are drowning in tech debt, and they don’t even know it. A few simple tips will help you manage your tech debt and determine your next steps in enterprise upkeep.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Technology debt is a term that originated in programming. Originally, it explained the programming debt developers would incur while writing code. A quick and easy solution in programming might incur a future “tech debt” – when that quick solution would require significant modification or hinder future progress. Another solution might require more development resources to implement, but will drastically reduce or eliminate the need for modification and better support future development.

Modern manufacturing relies on solid support from IT. Is your IT doing everything it can to increase production? Illustration by

Modern manufacturing relies on solid support from IT. Is your IT doing everything it can to increase production? Illustration by

In manufacturing, the Technology Debt is the total cost of replacing outdated technologies or systems as they begin to degrade the overall functionality of the company. In general, manufacturing is reluctant to add new technology, and so as systems age the overall effectiveness of the operation degrades. Companies struggle to determine when they finally have to pay their technology debt.  When is it the right time to make a change or add a new system? What risk will they take with a technology purchase or implementation? In the end, many manufacturing companies fool themselves into continually delaying a project – their technology debt becoming a massive expense. This will hinder production, increase errors and decrease efficiency, but as long as production limps along, these companies continue to wait.

Evaluate Your Manufacturing Technology Debt

Are you curious to know how large your tech debts might be? Use the following questions to analyze your current systems and better understand the benefits of your software and technology systems:

  • What is the cost of the current software or system?

Most enterprise software and systems have a licensing cost, which is only one part of the cost of the system, but it is a good place to start. You also need to study the hidden costs of the system.  Look at the amount of time and resources necessary to maintain the system. If IT spends an average of 20 – 30 hours a week maintaining, or repairing, the system, this is a significant expense that must be added to the analysis. Lost production during times when the system is down will also add to the cost. Finally, look at the expense you may be incurring by using a less than optimal system. For example, if you can’t integrate a legacy system with your current ERP, then there will be a cost for manually moving data from one system to another.

  • Is the current system upgradeable?

Look at the current system, and determine if it can be upgraded.  What is the cost of the upgrade? If you have a custom software system, the cost of any upgrade will be significant. Over time, this cost will only grow as you continue to upgrade to pay off that tech debt, increasing the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of the software. In addition, systems that are difficult to upgrade, or don’t have a clear upgrade path, will degrade your overall productivity exponentially. The system you have isn’t going to get any better, and you risk the eventual cost of the tech debt becoming prohibitive. Keep this in mind as you consider a new system versus an upgrade of your current system.

  • How much will the new system increase shop floor productivity?

Too often, as companies begin to evaluate their systems, they don’t consider manufacturing and operations. They will look at the front office and IT compatibility, but not the potential dramatic benefit the new system will have to shop floor productivity. For example, eliminating paper from the shop floor with a paperless manufacturing system will save on the cost of paper and ink travelers and build books. Scrap and errors can be eliminated. The need to input the same data multiple times is removed. Redline edits and change orders are improved. Even so, some companies are satisfied meeting the need with a lesser, forms-based system that leaves paper on the shop floor. Understand your current processes and evaluate the benefits to the process with the new system. Many times, the benefit to productivity will more than pay for the entire new system.

  • What is the overall cost of the replacement or new system?

Many companies today still believe a new manufacturing software system will cost millions of dollars, and require several years to full develop and implement. With new software technology, that’s no longer the case. A new system can be implemented in as little as a few months, and may cost much less than the licensing costs of your current, outdated system. As you evaluate your tech debt, work with a vendor you trust to understand your current shop floor and find a solution that meets your needs, then determine the true cost. As you study the cost, look at the licensing fees, the cost of product support, and the internal resources necessary to maintain the system. Before selecting a course of action, make sure you are comparing the true costs of both your current system and a potential replacement system.

  • What does an “integrated” system really mean?

Often, and with good reason, IT resources in manufacturing will be reluctant to add a “new” system to their enterprise. They are reluctant to tackle new software without an idea of potential benefit and an understanding of the internal resources necessary to maintain the software. Anything new is immediately seen as “system bloat” no matter the manufacturing benefit. Because of this, many companies look at “modules” or extensions of a currently implemented system, and end up creating the problem they hoped to avoid. The truth is, many companies offer “modules” they purchased from another software vendor. The module isn’t really linked to their product, and may not even be compatible to past versions of their software. Integration, implementation and installation becomes a massive project more complex than adding an entirely new system. For an honest analysis, study the benefit of competing systems, and identify the support needs of each individually. Don’t be fooled by a system having the same name.

The Enterprise Cost of Increased Tech Debt

As companies delay paying off their tech debt or upgrading their current systems, the problems faced by their operations team will only grow. The problems – shop floor errors, scrap, the inability to meet customer needs and lost production – will explode. Technology and modern manufacturing has reached the point when companies that haven’t upgraded, and haven’t addressed their tech debt, will no longer be able to compete or operate in the global marketplace.

Are you letting your company drown in technology debt? What is it costing you? Illustration by

Are you letting your company drown in technology debt? What is it costing you? Illustration by

Many times, tech debt grows because of the separation between operations and IT. Both operate in enterprise silos, and overcoming challenges without understanding the perspective of other departments create problems.  It’s in these cracks the tech debt grows. Operations have a growing production need which IT doesn’t understand, so the company waits to fill that need because operations can’t adequately communicate the value of the system. IT is only added to the implementation team late in the process, and their needs are never factored into the decision. Miscommunication leads to projects being shelved and the tech debt growing – the problem being put off for another year.

That old paradigm will no longer work in the new world. New technology and processes, increased customer demands, government regulations and the need to operate on a global scale are pushing many companies to finally eliminate enterprise silos and pay their tech debt. Companies can no longer wait – they have to adapt, update and embrace technology and new systems and software.

What are your greatest technology challenges? How are you managing your tech debt? Let us help you eliminate your tech debt and overcome operational challenges. Contact CIMx for a free evaluation of your shop floor today.