Monthly Archives: November 2015

Reasons to be Thankful for a Smart MES

Ever consider why you should be thankful for a modern, smart manufacturing system?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

In the USA, we’re preparing for the holiday season, and pondering the multitude of reasons we should be thankful.

This got me thinking about Smart MES. Recently, we looked at Smart MES, and discussed data-driven manufacturing. In doing so, we studied the benefits of both. While capabilities and benefits of software are important, neither highlights the true value of the system.

So, in honor of the season of thankfulness, we take a closer look one very important reason why you’ll be thankful you invested in new Smart MES and digital manufacturing.

Integrated Operations with the Smart Factory

A major goal of the Smart factory and digital shop floor is eliminating the silos of information that develop in a manufacturing company (or any organization). Consider this – engineering designs a product, but operations may build from entirely different plans (if they don’t ignore the instructions and just build from memory and experience). It’s a familiar problem for many companies. How can you optimize production if you can’t even get employees working from the same page?

Efficient Manufacturing

Are you creating more work and inefficiency by not embracing Smart Manufacturing? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

All this data is being produced, but not connected. There are opportunities for errors, and no comprehensive method of managing data.

The Smart factory and data-driven manufacturing puts data to use, driving efficiency and improving results. By giving the organization a single resource for managing production information, you eliminate silos. You automate many of the tasks associated with creating, storing and reporting information. A necessary component of this goal is integrating your data and people so everyone works from a single source of (correct) information, and has access to data when and where they need it.

An integrated team, streamlined to operate efficiently, is a key benefit of Smart Manufacturing. According to the Manufacturing Innovation Blog produced by NISTMEP (National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership), Dan Green, Director of Joint Advanced Manufacturing Region (JAMR) within the Navy, identified Smart Manufacturing as, “… the convergence of operating technologies (OT) and Information Technologies (IT) working together in a real time integrated fashion.”

Currently, many companies report a disconnect between IT and operations. Rather than collaborating, organizations within a company will defend their priorities. Without cohesion, any proposed solutions to operational inefficiencies will favor one segment of the company over another, delivering a less than optimal result.

The Smart Factory changes this dynamic. Most companies who have embraced Smart Manufacturing report decreased stress and workload for both IT and Operations. For operations, a solid digital foundation for manufacturing eliminates many of the inefficiencies (including paper-based ones) that hinder production, and directly address the source of problems and errors in manufacturing, reducing scrap and improving production. For IT, with Smart Manufacturing it is easier to write reports and data mine the raw data accessible in a single location to produce critical production analytics. With the system automating many time-consuming tasks, IT can focus on higher priority items.

By integrating data and eliminating silos, you can bridge the gap between IT and Operations, helping everyone in the organization work as a cohesive team. The result is more focus and effort toward goals that deliver real benefit.

This, if you open your mind, is really what Thanksgiving is all about – a cohesive team delivering tremendous results in a time of need.

Enjoy the holiday! Want to learn more, or see how a Smart MES or MOM system can make your company work more efficiently, then contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis.

How to Calculate Whether your Manufacturing Software is Technology-Ready

Now more than ever, manufacturers need software solutions designed to accommodate change. Learn how to determine the technology-readiness of a potential solution.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

3d man in trouble

Is your software ready for the future? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Last week, we discussed the importance of flexibility in manufacturing software. When a software system forces a shop floor or production team to adapt to new processes, or puts arbitrary limits on production, then users will struggle to optimize production or realize the expected benefit of the MES.

Change happens too quickly in modern manufacturing for systems that lack flexibility. How do you manage an update in government regulations? What happens when a customer calls with a new priority and a rush order? Do you have an efficient process for implementing redline edits on the floor? Without software that adapts to and accommodates change, manufacturers are exposed to additional risk and cost.

New technology is having a disruptive effect on the industry, and potentially exposing manufacturers to risk and cost. Many companies are struggling to understand how data-driven, smart manufacturing will affect them. Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, will change the way the supply chain works, so what do we do now? IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) is a potential revolution, but what can we do to prepare for it?

Identifying Flexible, Technology-Ready Software

Manufacturers need to be ready to not just manage change, but thrive with it. Promises are easy to make for software suppliers, so how can a savvy consumer recognize a flexible, technology-ready software solution? Recognizing technology-readiness ensures a modern solution that supports your needs, rather than forcing you to support the software.

Here are 6 characteristics of a flexible manufacturing software solution:

  1. The software is built on an easy-to-install, modern platform.
Internet on the world map

Prepare for change with technology-ready software solutions. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Not all software platforms are created, or operate, equally. A system that requires an entire team to configure and install is not flexible. Sure, the supplier may market the advantages of their platform, but most systems have the same (or similar) advantages, just in a platform that manages change and technology more effectively.

  1. The system provides a foundation for other technology.

With new technology in manufacturing, it’s not enough to turn it on. You need to incorporate the technology to optimize production without disrupting current operations. An MES or MOM system can become the foundation of manufacturing operations, managing the information and data that feeds and enables manufacturing. With the right system, integrating new technology is done through the MES. Is the system prepared to support data-driven, smart manufacturing? Can it connect to and support a digital network?

  1. The system can reuse and accommodate your existing work instructions and processes.

It shouldn’t take long for you to load a work order and begin using the system.  What does it mean for the long-term viability of the solution if you need to revise or reformat your existing work plans before you get started? Consider how the system will respond to future changes if it can’t even adequately handle your needs before the project has started.

  1. The system reduces complexity and is easy-to-use.

Complexity does not make a manufacturing software system better.  In fact, complex software solutions suffer from low adoption rates and hinder production, rather than supporting it. Manufacturing is already complex. If the software requires more than a day to learn, it probably hasn’t been designed to adapt under pressure, and it will have a difficult time managing anything more.

  1. There is an easy method for improving orders and operations and automatically tracking production.

Some systems call themselves an MES, but are just a modified spreadsheet, or utilize email to send planning to the floor. Software like this lacks the functional depth to adapt to change and overcome challenges. Your software solution should accommodate visual work instructions, offer built-in procedural enforcement, and enable shop floor data collection. It should track production, and automatically generate a production record. Without a complete solution and features like these, you aren’t technology-ready.

  1. There are open, built-in integration options.

Many manufacturers look for the all-inclusive, one-size fits all master software solution. It works as the ERP, the MES, the PLM and the QMS (or more) in one neat, tidy package. Stacking functionality creates unnecessary complexity and limits efficiency.  A modern manufacturing software system should be built with connectivity in mind. The system should efficiently connect with other software systems, ensuring the manufacturer manages data and information effectively, eliminating duplicate or faulty data in the system, even when change occurs.

Ensuring Success with Modern Manufacturing

3d small people with a checklist

Make flexibility and future-readiness a priority when evaluating potential solutions. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

To succeed, modern manufacturers must adapt to change quickly and efficiently. Many software suppliers are more concerned with making promises than building an effective, technology-ready solution.

Manufacturers should review potential paperless manufacturing and MES solutions with flexibility and the future  as a priority. With a little foresight and planning, you can find and implement a solution that meets your needs even as those needs change. Want to learn more, or see how software can accommodate your changing needs? Then contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis.

How Your Choice in Manufacturing Software Might be Holding You Back

Manufacturing software companies, like MES, shouldn’t put limits on how you use their product, but many companies do and it’s hurting your productivity and profit.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Is your manufacturing software holding back production?  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Is your manufacturing software holding back production? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

I love coffee.

I’m not a fancy coffee drinker. I don’t need flavorings, whip or soy – just give me a simple dark roast or latte. I used to go to Starbucks (the gold standard in coffee) and pick up 3 or 4 drinks for the office. When I used their rewards program, I once got one “star” for each drink. The stars quickly added up. It made picking up coffee in the afternoon worthwhile.

Then Starbucks changed the program. No longer would I get a star for each drink, but for each transaction. So, to get 3 or 4 stars, I would need to pay for each drink separately. On top of that, the rewards program required I use and “load-up” a gift card to be in the program. I was being rewarded for standing in line, and not for what I purchased or my loyalty to Starbucks.

Today, they’ve limited the “reward” program even more. I earn no more than 2 stars a day, no matter how much coffee I purchase. They are no longer rewarding loyalty, but limiting options and forcing conformity.

Limiting the Options in Shop Floor Software

Software companies, especially manufacturing software suppliers, often impose limits on their product. Just like Starbucks, they present the system as “configurable” and comprehensive, with a wealth of functionality and options. As users dig deeper into the software they slam into arbitrary limits. The vendor isn’t putting the user’s needs first by imposing limits. They are squeezing more profit or future work from the people who use their product.

Here are a few ways suppliers limit your options with their software:

  • Modules: Modules often increase the overall cost of a product and, once installed, limit how you use the software. Consider this – some companies sell data collection as a separate module. How can the company say they sell an MES and NOT offer data collection in the base package? Many of the benefits of MES are dependent on data collection.
  • Form and Templates: Some MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) use elaborate forms and templates to organize production data. Once a form is built (which is easy) users plug in the data. But, any change to your processes will require a change to the forms, which can be costly, if not impossible, making it difficult to adapt to change on the shop floor.
  • High Cost of Installation: Some systems will require millions to design and years to install. By the time the software is in place, the user’s needs and requirements have changed. Rather than call the project a failure, or sign up for another long development period, the users “make it work” by adapting to the software, rather than having a solution that adapts to them.
  • Complexity: The more functionality you cram into a software system, the more complexity you’ll have to navigate to make it work. Adding PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) or an ERP (Enterprise Resource Management) to an MES will make the overall system more difficult to operate, and limit how it can be used in your processes. New MES solutions use a built-in integration tool to connect with an ERP or PLM without adding complexity.
  • Upgrades and Services: Some companies sell software for a lower initial price, planning to make up the difference in upgrades and services. In this model, users will need to balance the high cost of services with limited functionality. In the end, many companies struggle with less-than-optimal software to save money.

The Coffee and MES Connection

Don't let limits in your software hold you back from optimizing the shop floor. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Don’t let limits in your software hold you back from optimizing the shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Like the Starbucks Rewards program, some MES and manufacturing software vendors place limits on how their product is used. In software, these limits may make it impossible to optimize usage, and hinder productivity and limit profit. If you can’t upgrade the solution because the cost is prohibitive, the system is too complex, or you can’t access necessary functionality because it’s in a different module, you’ll never have a solution that operates at maximum efficiency.

Software should support your processes, and it shouldn’t dictate how the shop floor operates. You should have access to the latest software and tools with a clear upgrade path. Training shouldn’t pull users from the shop floor for more than an hour or two.

Just like you should be able to purchase a PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) for friends and know you are being rewarded for your loyalty, you should have a manufacturing software system that works for you.

Want to learn more, or see how an adaptable, scalable solution might work with your shop floor processes? Leave a message or give us a call for a free shop floor analysis. We’re always happy to help.

5 Ways You Find Real Value with a Smart MES

Not all manufacturing software is the same. Critically evaluate your current software or a new solution to understand its potential value. 

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Critically look at the value a system will add before installing manufacturing software. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Critically look at the value a system will add before installing manufacturing software. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

There are a lot of MES and manufacturing software systems out there for companies to choose from, but not all are created equal. They all offer similar functionality. They manage manufacturing information, sending work instructions to the shop floor and collecting data on production.

While some MES offer just the standard core functionality, other systems, especially older software, struggle with functionality-creep, attempting to handle everything from your product lifecycle to financials. We believe ERP (Enterprise Resource Management) and MES are different. Tools that pile functionality in the system force users to work the software rather than manufacturing.

Smart MES are different. An MES that focuses on delivering value to the manufacturing process is a Smart MES. It enables users (and the business) to work better, faster and with fewer errors. Forward-thinking, modern Smart MES become the foundation of the Smart Factory and a critical tool for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT).

Characteristics of a Smart MES

Don’t get fooled by empty MES promises. Here are 5 critical characteristics of a Smart MES you can use to evaluate software systems:

  • It’s more than work instructions on glass. Some systems offer bare minimum functionality – work instructions are emailed to the floor where data is collected on a spreadsheet. A Smart MES provides dynamic, visual work instructions, system connectivity, asset management, and more. You need a system that supports modern manufacturing. Older, less dynamic systems can’t do that.
  • The software adapts to changing conditions on the shop floor. With enough money, you can build your own MES that meets every need you have right now. Whether you build it yourself or implement a module-based MES system, delivery of today’s requirements in a few years’ time is not good enough. By the time the system is delivered, your needs have changed. With a change in regulations or a new piece of technology, the system you designed will be outdated. A Smart MES adapts and grows with you, allowing you to work in the system to meet the changing needs of your shop floor.
  • The system allows users to focus on manufacturing, and not on using the software system. Some MES are so complex users spend more time navigating screens and pull-down menus than actually doing their job. Smart MES eliminate unnecessary complexity and directly support production improvements. Necessary training for the software should be measured in hours, not days. Complexity never increases benefit in manufacturing software.
  • Smart MES use shop floor data to improve production. Using a modern, data-driven manufacturing software system with real-time production data, you should see potential problems. The Smart MES will have integrated tools like scheduling, change orders, and procedural enforcement to implement a solution for any potential issues.
  • The software minimizes disruption and cost. Some MES require you convert your processes and work instructions to a new format. The result of this conversion is costly shop floor disruption and a struggle to adopt the software. Other systems offer a plethora of modules and add-ons, delivering a complete solution only to users willing to pay for it. With a Smart MES, it should be easy to adopt the tools to your current processes, and the functionality you need should come fully-loaded out of the box.

An MES is more than Functionality

Benefit is found beyond the functionality list. Look at the value a system will add to your shop floor. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Benefit is found beyond the functionality list. Look at the value a system will add to your shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Modern manufacturing software shouldn’t be measured by functionality. Most systems can deliver the minimally viable prouct (MVP) that you require; look past that for a few big wins that help your production, like scheduling or asset management.  True benefit is found in the value it adds to your production and manufacturing environment. This is the difference between a basic MES and a Smart MES. A Smart MES enables data-driven, digital manufacturing and becomes the core of the Smart Factory.

Contact CIMx today to learn more about the Smart MES and what it can do for you.