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.

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