Monthly Archives: March 2016

6 Reasons to Invest in Paperless Manufacturing in 2016

For companies waiting to invest in manufacturing software, now is the perfect time to stop waiting and start benefiting in a shop floor system.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

In more than 20 years of providing manufacturing software solutions, we have heard plenty of excuses why companies hold off on an improvement project.

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Never before has MES and paperless manufacturing been so accessible. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Some companies would rather focus on another project, or IT wants to look at a few more options, or management wants to see if the market will turn before adding another capital project. In the meantime, they throw money away and hope to get by rather than address the root cause of their production problems.

I can respect their decision, but I don’t understand it. Companies are reacting to an outdated vision of manufacturing software. “MES” is no longer the scary monster it once was. Data collection won’t destroy production. Successful MES project no longer require millions of dollars and years of work.

In fact, today may be the best time to invest in a shop floor system. Consider this:

  • Lower Cost. In the past, only the largest and most profitable companies could afford a shop floor system. Today, technology has eliminated many factors that increased cost in the past. Granted, there are companies still offering expensive systems, and there are factors that will increase price, but it is much easier to manage costs for a system that will dramatically improve production.
  • Ease of Implementation. Companies fear purchasing software requiring a significant investment in time and resources. Today, with modern, web-based software and behavior-based systems, you can literally install the software in a day, train in a few hours, and begin using it the next day. Systems are much easier to install and use, ensuring a greater return on required resources.
  • Increased Functionality. At one time, there was a wide gap between what a software system promised and what it actually delivered. Today, MES and paperless manufacturing are mature systems. The product delivered by established vendors with a history in the market delivers the capability the modern shop floor needs.
  • Customer Demand. Customer expectations have changed, and manufacturers must embrace technology. Old excuses about missed deadlines and shifting schedules are no longer accepted. Customers expect manufacturers to be agile, with visibility and control of production.
  • Workforce Expectations. There is a skills gap in manufacturing. Many shop floor positions aren’t being filled, and new workers aren’t embracing manufacturing as a profession. A shop floor system helps mitigate these challenges. New workers are more comfortable working with a modern software system, rather than a massive build book. In addition, the system increases collaboration passing critical knowledge from experienced workers to new employees.
  • Foundational Technology. Manufacturing is changing. New disruptive technology like Additive Manufacturing and the Internet of Things (IoT) are influencing manufacturing. MES provides a foundation for these disruptive technologies, helping ensure they benefit, rather than disrupt, business operations.

With every year, the capability and power of software increases, while, overall, the costs will decrease. It’s not surprising. Paperless manufacturing has become a cost-effective solution available to most, if not all, manufacturers. The problem is the perception of the software hasn’t caught up to the current functionality or price. Many are still dismissing the effectiveness of the solution.

If you haven’t taken a look at a modern MES or manufacturing system, then contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis and see what the software can do for you.

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Can You Navigate Your Manufacturing Software?

In this virtual and connected world we live in, a website should represent who you are and what you do. You can learn a lot from a manufacturing company’s website. 

By Lisa Kessler, Customer Relations with CIMx Software

Like many people in this day and age I’m often perusing the web. Sometimes it is work related; other times I’m purchasing things, sometimes I’m just trying to find an interesting article to read.  I don’t always know what I’m looking for, but I do know, if I land on your homepage and it looks disorganized and chaotic…I’m moving on without a second glance.

Things move fast. I don’t have time to decipher your website to find what I need.  I need answers now – clear, concise answers.  What do you do?  How do you do it?  Can you help me?  Your website should be designed with the end user in mind – me.  If it’s not, and I can’t find a compelling reason to stay, then I have better things to do.

In manufacturing, time and speed are also critical.  Manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve production, reduce errors, save time and save money.  Manufacturing software, like paperless manufacturing, are a crucial tool for modern production.  These systems aid in best practices, eliminate errors, and manage information.

Software to Optimize Production

digital solution

Is your software offering a solution, or creating more confusion? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

To optimize production, you need software that not only manages workflow and processes, helping eliminate out-of-control processes, but does so in a way that ensures you and your team focuses on manufacturing, not managing the software.

If your first impression of a software system is a website, do you really think a site that is a confusing mess that is almost impossible to navigate – and is so incomprehensible you aren’t even sure what the software does– is going to improve your workflow or manage your shop floor?

CIMx has been in business for nearly 20 years, in fact we developed one of the very first Computer-Aided Process Planning systems. We’ve helped many manufacturers as they begin researching software tools. Some know what they need, others may be uncertain; they just know they need to do something.

This drives home the importance of a well laid out website.  If you have to keep a shop floor running, you don’t have time to browse 20+ pages of  messaging to see if they can help.  You need clear communication, precise outcomes, and defined benefits.  You need software that will not only improve processes, but is also easy to use, easy to implement, and won’t take years to deliver an ROI.

If it takes you hours of effort to navigate a website, how long will it take an operator to find a work plan in the system, or for an engineer to roll a revision? How much effort will be wasted operating the software? How much more benefit would you have if the software was easier to use?

This is something to consider as you plan your digital manufacturing strategy. Just as in production, complexity does not mean improvement – results do.

Want to learn more, or see how paperless manufacturing might help improve your shop floor, then contact CIMx today for a free shop floor evaluation. We’re always happy to help.

Digital Manufacturing Strategies and MES

We offer simple tips for success for companies looking to improve manufacturing with a digital strategy.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

There are a lot of options out there for a company looking to update their manufacturing or improve production.

student with the laptop sitting on globe. 3D image.

Formulate a successful digital manufacturing strategy for your shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Do you buy new machines? Maybe you look at process improvement through Lean manufacturing or Six-Sigma? Then there are a dizzying array of software products – QMS (Quality Management System), PLM (Project Lifecycle Management), the standard MES (Manufacturing Execution System) or MOM (Manufacturing Operations Management), and then the more esoteric or arcane choices like process and performance analytic engines with IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and colorful dashboards you can endlessly format.

What about a good CMMS (Computerize Maintenance Management System) or a Dynamic Scheduling (which just sounds like it needs a cape)? What about upgrading the ERP/MRP (Enterprise/Manufacturing Resource Planning), or purchasing a solid WMS (Warehouse Management System)?

With so many choices, it’s hard to see a strategy. Is there a “right” choice, or are you doomed to keep buying more and more products with diminishing returns? Worse yet, is it too complex and you end up buying nothing?

A Digital Manufacturing Strategy that Makes Sense

In this case, there is a “right” choice.

Consider this – production is a specialized business activity. It also directly generates revenue and profit for manufacturers. This means, you can have amazing IT staff, a fantastic marketing team, and some of the top front office staff in the world, but without optimized production and the proper support for operations, you are holding your company back.

You can’t expect production to use the same tools as the marketing team. You need more than an ERP (or even an MRP). You wouldn’t give an accountant a drill press, or have HR use a lathe, so why are you asking the shop floor to collect data on a spreadsheet and manage documents downloaded from the ERP. Sure, they can make it work, but do they have revision control? Can they track production? How much time is spent on non-value added time?  What does labor cost on each order?

If you want to improve production, you need to give operations the right tools.

MES – The Foundation of Manufacturing Operations

Better than any other product on the market, MES and paperless manufacturing provides the foundation for manufacturing operations.

Managing information and workflow is the primary goal of an MES. Your shop floor operates on workflow and is fueled by information. Other software systems support workflow and manage some information, but only the MES directly addresses these core needs of manufacturing.

Optimized Production Needs Optimized Solutions

Consider a QMS. It may support your production workflow by automating some tasks and structuring processes to address quality, but it leaves gaps in the manufacturing value chain which operations needs to fill.

Paperless Manufacturing Connects Your Operation

A simple integration ensure you have best-of-breed solutions like MES for your shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

But, once you have an MES in place, providing the foundation of overall workflow and managing production information, the QMS adds value by supporting quality when appropriate. The MES increases the value of both systems.

With dynamic scheduling you’ll improve OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), and, with some work, improve production, but there will be gaps. Do you have revision control of planning? Have you optimized production if the shop floor is working with the wrong revision of work plans?

These “gaps” are also why many companies struggle with Manufacturing ERP and MRP solutions. Software that offers some MES functionality is limited and, inevitably, leaves the shop floor with coverage gaps. Production uses “workarounds” to fill the shop floor needs. They may need to use an old legacy system to store documents or collect data on spreadsheets because their ERP is still an ERP, no matter how the product is marketed.

A robust MES is designed to support the entire manufacturing value chain with a single software system, eliminating coverage gaps. Additional software solutions, like QMS and dynamic scheduling, should support the MES. The MES will work with other systems like the PLM and ERP. Simple integrations ensure the software works together.

Trying to get these software systems to do the job of the MES with creative problem-solving and wishful thinking isn’t giving the shop floor the support they need, and will leave you at a competitive disadvantage.

Simple Steps to Digital Manufacturing

Many companies won’t consider MES. They fear the changes on the shop floor or project failure more than they crave digital manufacturing and optimized production. They’d rather manage the problems they know than potentially invite new problems.

But with a modern software solution and a phased implementation, you can manage change and ensure a project stays on track. Implement and use the features and functions you want when you want them.

Still worried about MES, or struggling with coverage gaps on your shop floor? Give CIMx a call today and we can look at the options and potential benefits for your shop floor. We’re always happy to help.