Monthly Archives: July 2015

Easy Solutions to Legacy Software for Manufacturing

Many companies cling to dusty, inefficient software, hindering production and holding back shop floor growth. In a few simple steps, you can move your shop floor to a sustainable, modern software solution.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Confidence Button Showing Assurance Belief And Boldness

Confidence Button Showing Assurance Belief And Boldness

Legacy software.

We’ve seen companies struggle with old, dusty, inefficient and unproductive software systems written years ago in an outdated software language, and kept on hardware that can’t even be replaced. IT resources are tasked with keeping the system working, but the best they can do is minimize outages. Many times, the system may be used for a single function – to create a single critical report or capture critical manufacturing data, and then all of production becomes beholden to the single, fragile and temperamental piece of software.

Still, the company believes they have no choice but to cling to the glitchy software program, keeping that critical function on software that could fail at any time. They’ve reasoned themselves into a corner.

This may have been true a few years ago, but today there are modern software tools that can not only quickly and easily replace the legacy software, but deliver measurable benefits. You can overcome the limitations of legacy software with confidence and move to a better, more cost-effective solution. The steps to the solution aren’t difficult, or expensive. Start with…

  • Retrieving the Data.

The first step is retrieving the data from the old system. This requires accessing the database, converting the data to a neutral file, then organizing and tagging the data. CIMx has database retrieval experts on staff, and we have the experience to not only complete the work, but finish it faster and with fewer errors or problems. The team will scan the data for errors and problems, ensuring it can safely be used on the new system.  Preparing the system can be done concurrently with retrieving the data, and it starts by…

  • Mapping the Processes.

Using a modern and adaptable MES or paperless manufacturing system, you can map the processes and functionality of the legacy system to the new software system. Many times, this will only require building a script or adding a function or operation to the MES. You should also prepare the database to accept the data you’ve retrieved and copied from the old software system, ensuring the data is correctly stored so it can be used in future operations. In most (if not all) cases this won’t require customization, but a simple configuration or use of an already existing process in the system, and then you’re ready to…

  • Move the Data.

Once you have the new MES or paperless manufacturing system prepared, move the data from the old software to the new. Please note, you shouldn’t remove the data from the old system, just copy it over. You’ll load the data, and then review it to ensure no mistakes or problems occurred in the transfer. Repairing the data will correct most problems, but you still want to…

  • Test the New Software.

Now that you have the data moved and the operations and functionality in place in the new software, it’s time to test. Run a series of test cases on the new system to ensure the processes and functionality are running correctly. Make adjustments if necessary. Once testing is done, you’re ready to…

  • Run the New Software.

It’s time to test the new software system in production. In the beginning, you will run the new software simultaneously with the old Legacy system. Each will perform the same operations in parallel. This will give you the assurance you have the functionality of the old software while you are running the new software live in production. During this time, you can see how effective the MES is in replacing the old Legacy system, and make adjustments as needed because eventually you will…

  • Replace the Legacy Software with New System.

After testing the new software and making any necessary adjustments, you can begin rolling over all the functionality of the legacy software to the new system. This may be as simple as having the team use the new software instead of the old. While having the two systems run parallel, you can easily move over to the new system in phases, starting with one production line or area before moving to another. The final goal should be having the entire plant running on the new software system. Then you can celebrate and shut the old software down completely.  While much of the schedule will be dependent on the data being retrieved, normally the process can be completed in weeks or, in a difficult case, two months if the MES has built-in integration and migration tools.

Is your old and dusty MES a disaster waiting to happen? Illustration by

Is your old and dusty MES a disaster waiting to happen? Illustration by

There are a number of advantages to this process, and to moving away from an old system to a new one. In addition to more uptime and stability, your data is now in a more secure database. Many times, this means it is easier to use in analytics. By putting it in an MES, you can also more easily link the functionality of the legacy software to the integrated production records. In addition, you have an integrated and complete manufacturing software solution with the MES. Production goes to a single system for all the information they need for operations.

When you consider how easy it is to deliver all the necessary digital functionality you need for the software in a single system, it’s an easy choice to phase out old software that can’t provide the functionality and efficiency you need. Want to learn more, or discuss how CIMx can help you replace your antiquated software? Leave us a message today for a free shop floor review of you software. We’re happy to help.

How You Can Get Real Value for Your MES

Time and technology have changed, but many software companies are still selling dated manufacturing solutions. Get more value from your MES with a few simple tips.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

More money doesn't always mean a better solution. Illustration by

More money doesn’t always mean a better solution. Illustration by

We’ve gotten a lot of comments on our Two-Comma MES blog. Some agree the benefit of some MES may never justify an (extreme) two-comma cost. Others are quick to defend the high-cost, arguing a world-class manufacturing software system will have a world-class price. If you cut corners on your MES, and install a “cheap” software solution, you cut corners on productivity – the profit-driver for manufacturers.

There’s truth in both positions, and there isn’t an “optimal” price for manufacturing software. That said, times have changed, and the MES of the past no longer offer the value (even if slick marketing is hiding the creaking old code of some systems) they once did. We need to change how we approach the MES purchasing process.

Breaking Down the MES Budget

Assessing value starts with your budget. How much benefit can you buy for your budget? The IT budget is normally 1% to 3% of a company’s annual revenue.  For a $50,000,000 company, that would leave a budget of $500,000 to $1,500,000. From that budget, you need to pay for support, licenses, hardware, software, license fees and infrastructure costs. How much of that will be left for an MES? With the budget left, is there any way to financially justify the extreme cost some companies demand for their software?

In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven marketplace, it just doesn’t make sense to install a high-cost, system if you’re not getting flexibility. Systems like that are normally difficult to upgrade or adapt. Overly complex and over-engineered systems can’t handle the demands of modern manufacturing, even if the system looks modern, is it flexible and can it manage change? Will the effort and cost to maintain system efficiency represent a sunk cost that will quickly bury any initial benefit?

Tips for Finding Paperless Manufacturing Value

A powerful, effective and incredibly efficient MES doesn’t have to cost two-commas. It can be easy-to-use, easy-to-install, adaptable and flexible without a high cost. Here are a few tips for finding value in your search for an MES:

  • Don't get buried by the cost of your two comma MES. Illustration by

    Don’t get buried by the cost of your two comma MES. Illustration by

    Avoid the modules: Modules sound like a great option. Presented like a giant MES vending machine, you pick your feature, nothing more and nothing less, then it comes together magically. It doesn’t work that way. A “module” is often a separate app built by an entirely different company, which means configuration and integration costs. The more modules you add, the higher the cost. Companies offer a lower base cost, then drive profit on the “modules.” An integrated MES platform, with all features and functions built natively for the system, will deliver more functionality for a much LOWER cost.

  • Beware of forms-based systems: Companies that promise to “configure” a system for you specifically are likely using forms. They “make” it for you by mirroring your current processes through a form in their MES. They add to the initial cost of the MES a configuration “charge,” and know that any time you want to change the form, due to a process change or manufacturing need, you’ll go back to them. A forms-based system seems perfect at first, and then loses efficiency over time. A truly flexible, and lower-cost, option will use your current work instructions on a framework within the MES. Any work instruction or plan can be used in the software, delivering all the tools and functionality you want or need, in the format you want.
  • Flexible support options: Some companies, especially companies using an older software system, will hide the true cost with a confusing array of support options. There may be tiers of support, an entire configuration team you pay for, a base cost with an array of additional costs. It may seem like “comprehensive” support, but add it all up and the “support” will have destroyed your budget. Look for a solution provider who can offer a set cost for support expenses, or who is willing to offer a cost-not-to-exceed contract for work.
  • Utilize a phased implementation: With a phased implementation, you have greater control over the pace, focus and cost of a project. You select the features and functionality that offer the greatest return and put them in place first. Other systems, especially ones that require extensive configuration or messy integration of modules, will limit how you use and roll out the software. You’ll have a much higher initial cost, longer training, and often an open-ended implementation phase where expenses pile up. With a phased implementation and an integrated software system, the software is installed once and you turn on and use whatever you want whenever you are ready.

In the past, a 6 – 18 month installation and implementation period for an MES was standard. A multi-million, two-comma cost was to be expected. MES has grown up since then. The technology and market have changed, and manufacturers are benefiting with lower-cost systems that are adaptable, flexible, easy-to-use and –learn.

Don’t be suckered by flashy promises of a high-cost software company. Look for value in your manufacturing software solution, not two-commas.