Monthly Archives: April 2016

Identifying Customer-centric MES Customization

Your company may need a viable custom MES solution, but not all software companies will offer it to you.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Not long ago I read a Business Insight by Shep Hyken, author of The Amazement Revolution. Hyken and CIMx share a core passion: creating a Customer Service culture.  Generally, I agree with Shep’s philosophy, and love him as a speaker.  Putting the customer first is the basis for a true win-win in business.

3d small people - angry

If you’re not careful, a simple configuration can eliminate your ROI over the life of an installation. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

In the Business Insight article, Shep talked about Flexibility as a key to great service (his example focuses on dining at a restaurant).  He said (and I agree), “The best companies are flexible ones.  They understand their customers’ different needs and adapt to them.  Not everyone is the same.”  He goes on to discuss how some customers need a lot of customization in the sales process and product offerings while others don’t.

It’s true.  Some prospects allow us to guide them through our standard discovery-based, consultative sales process.  In Shep’s article, these are the restaurant patron that allows the server to offer them choices (what side, how it’s cooked, etc).  Other prospects want to forge their own path.  At the same table, these are diners that have very specific requirements for how their meal is delivered, with something extra or on the side.  Just as both diners think the meals was customized for them and are happy, our prospects also need to be completely satisfied, whether they use our process or their own.  They need a project delivered on-time, on-budget and to their specification (we feel this is so important, we guarantee it.)

In both cases, the customer is the focus.  They’ve received exactly what they wanted.  In his final paragraph, Shep states, “You may have to pay for customization.  But, if you get what you want, it is worth it.”

Dangers of MES Customization

Here’s where Shep and I part ways.

In the software industry, customization is a dirty word with good reason.  Customized software can be expensive, and it’s often not sustainable.  Customers want customized solutions, and most companies are more than happy to deliver at a premium cost. The difference between software providers is some will deliver a viable custom solution that minimizes the cost over time, while others will set you up with an expensive solution to increase the service costs over the life of the installation. It all depends on how their business model is set up.

Some software companies use marketing to hide the expense of customization (even as they secretly forecast ludicrous expense charges every time their customer needs something done).  Whether they call it Business Rules, Configuration or Modularization, the process is the same – the customer gets the specific additions and changes they need.  In adding customization, however, some providers are setting you up for future failure.

In our industry, companies know you will be a repeat purchaser.  Once you invest in the original purchase, you will invest again – whether in annual support or in upgrading.  So how a company builds the software, how they support the tool and how they provide the customization will impact the customer over and over again.  Not all companies will implement customization with the customer’s needs in mind.

They will build a “personalized” system with all the customization you want, building in complexity that requires you to engage with the supplier repeatedly in order to maintain your business processes.  Other suppliers deliver the same level of personalization and allow you to maintain your own processes over time; as internal departments have changes, the system supports them inherently.  It’s critical to understand how this works prior to purchasing a system, because eventually you will need to update, upgrade or make changes to the system.

Can You Support the Custom Solution?

Question Art WEB 081513

Do you know what configuration will mean for your business? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

If the software provider designs solutions that require product changes to support your installation, your TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) will be much higher. It will be much more difficult to find an ROI. In fact, you may never find the expected return on the investment, and in the future, you may elect to hold off on updates and upgrades with the solution slowly devolving into obsolescence. All this is the result of the tools that the supplier used to deliver your specific needs.  Core product aside, you will have specific requirements during installation and you need to know how these will be delivered to know your true TCO.

Before purchasing, it pays to understand how the customization will be implemented, and utilize a supplier that doesn’t rely on high service charges. Here are some questions that you can ask to get to the heart of the issue:

  • How will the changes that I’ve asked for be implemented?
  • When I implement the next release of your software, what happens to these changes? Please be specific.
  • What costs are there for me at upgrade?
  • If I asked you to demonstrate how to make a change to the software on my own, what could you show me?

It goes back to our core Customer Service Culture. We know that overtly complex customization and expensive service charges are great for short-term business gains, but are never the basis for a long-term business relationship. If you treat a customer fairly and with respect, delivering viable solutions, they will turn to you again and again. This is the foundation of our business.

We’ve got a list of helpful questions for you to ask during the software process, built around understanding the lifecycle cost of the products that we (and others) are offering.  Ask us about it.  We’ve made it part of our standard sales process, helping you identify the right product (and company) for your manufacturing needs.

Improving Quality with Paperless Manufacturing

Manual and paper-based production records are a critical source of errors, and hinder the efforts of quality control.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Production moves fast.

Assembly lines must keep moving. Machines need to run. Downtime is lost money.

Even in the most exacting complex, discrete manufacturing industry, speed is vital.

With an eye on OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) spending resources and time on anything other than production represents failure.

This might be why some see shop floor data collection as non-value added time – there is no immediate benefit to tracking numbers on a spreadsheet or filling out a paper-based traveler. If your focus is on completing quality work and meeting or exceeding quotas, then data isn’t important.

Be honest – are the minutes saved by “guesstimating” and fudging a few data points worth it?

Confidence Button Shows Assurance Belief And Boldness

Are you confident in your shop floor data and quality control? Illustration by www,colourbox.com

Quality and Paperless Manufacturing

Automated production records and tolerance checks are critically important for shop floor improvement.

An initiative and a few more moments in the morning huddle aren’t going to deliver the benefits of real-time shop floor data. You’ll never see real, sustainable improvement in your records and quality using paper-based records. Asking a Quality professional to do their job with dated records is like asking a dentist to do their work with a hammer.

Manual records have too much margin for error. Trying to design foolproof processes that meet the requirements for audits, give you the data you want and need, and fit your shop floor, is never going to work.

Papers get wrinkled. Notes get smudged. Travelers get misplaced. Humans are fallible.

With even a sliver of doubt, records become suspect and quality suffers.

A modern MES, which automates data collection and production records, ensures the shop floor fulfills requirements through process enforcement.

Then the shop floor can focus on what they do best – production. Quality Control has the tools they need to be effective in their job.

Focus on Manufacturing

Rather than adding complexity and cost to production, paperless manufacturing allows everyone to work better. Improvements become not only possible, but sustainable.

Today, with modern software architecture and the advancement of technology, software is less expensive than ever before.  A system can be up and running and users trained very quickly so you can begin building your ROI within a month.

In addition to automated records and improved quality, you have revision-controlled planning, paperless operations, enhanced planning, and real-time shop floor visibility and control.

Want to learn more, or see how paperless manufacturing can improve your shop floor? The CIMx free shop floor analysis is an excellent way to kick off a new project.

Improving Quality with Paperless Manufacturing

As manufacturers struggle to reduce costs and improve production, more and more companies are turning to paperless manufacturing to improve quality.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

As production grows increasingly more complex the Cost of Quality (COQ) is also increasing, with some companies reporting costs as high as 10% of revenue. The indirect and soft COQ may be even higher as you consider the non-value added time necessary to evaluate and address quality escapes.

When manufacturers consider initiatives to lower costs, quality is an emphasis. Modern MES and paperless manufacturing systems are delivering tremendous value to companies focused on improving quality.

MES and Quality Improvement

Quality.

A robust MES provides a solid foundation for improving quality. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

According to a white paper by Renaissance Services, the foundation of all quality escapes is the inability of the manufacturer to manage the details of production. The primary focus of paperless manufacturing and an MES is managing details through automation or providing the correct information at the right time and place in the production. Consider how paperless manufacturing addresses common sources of production errors:

  • Planning errors.

This could be the wrong plans or the wrong technical specifications. Many of these are paper-based errors, and occur when the wrong plans are used, or critical information is missing from the work packet. An MES will ensure the proper planning and revision control, and make accessible all the information the shop floor needs at any time.

  • Errors in approvals.

The approval process relies on communication and collaboration. Without a single source of manufacturing truth or a structure for communication and collaboration in the production process, errors occur during approval. Shortcuts are taken during approval, as the effort to coordinate the process increases. Improved quality relies on a disciplined approval process.

  • Missing documentation from the Technical Data Package (TDP).

Many times with paper-based planning, documentation is left out because it isn’t considered necessary. This is especially true of the TDP. Critical documentation from the first article inspections is ignored or buried to reduce complexity or to speed up production and get a product to market – leading to errors.

  • Ambiguity in the technical requirements.

Without automated quality checks during the production process, any ambiguity in specifications can lead to a critical quality error. For example, when a shop floor uses a paper spreadsheet to record production data, there’s no real time feedback loop on quality checks, and errors will occur. Quality assurance will find the error too late for corrective action.

  • Requirements that are overlooked in production.

This comes down to inadequate documentation and processes during production. Requirements are inadequately communicated to the shop floor, or aren’t accounted for in the planning. Without real time quality checks or a method of managing production, critical requirements are ignored until problems occur.

  • Changes in standard processes, especially special processes, in the production cycle.
Confidence Button Shows Assurance Belief And Boldness

Are you confident in your quality control plans? Illustration by www,colourbox.com

Process enforcement in an MES or paperless manufacturing system ensures the shortcuts that often creep into manufacturing process are eliminated by ensuring documentation is reviewed and work signed off before planning is released. Without process enforcement, the shop floor will rely on processes they know, not the correct processes.

  • Quality escapes that slip through inadequate first article inspections.

Often in paper-based or unstructured first article inspections, critical details can be lost, or there is an assumption on how work will be completed. This is especially true as the number of first article inspections increase at a site. Without adequate time, corners will be cut. With the automated records and audit reports created in an MES, critical details aren’t lost and are automatically recorded for future use, and the shop floor has more time to properly conduct a first article inspection.

 Smart Manufacturing and the Future of Production

As complexity has increased in production, and the tolerance for errors has decreased, manufacturers can no longer adequately manage the information and detail necessary using error-prone paper planning and inefficient processes. Manufacturers need a comprehensive system to manage production.

Manufacturing needs aren’t slowing down. The complexity and technical requirements of manufacturing are increasing. Consider Smart Manufacturing – the integrated technology and systems essential for advanced Smart Manufacturing require an MES to manage production. Excel spreadsheets and Word documents simply can’t manage complex manufacturing processes.

Want to learn more, or see how a shop floor software system can improve your shop floor? Contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis to learn more.

Data Migration

Delivering Solutions with a Data Migration Engine

The data migration engine gives companies a reliable and safe tool to transfer their critical data and content from one system to another.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Our goal with the CIMx Data Migration Engine is to give companies a reliable, safe, and cost-effective way to move their data and content. Data migration shouldn’t be a reason why a business clings to outdated, unreliable and inefficient software systems.

Unfortunately, data migration is a burden for many companies updating their internal software systems – a very expensive burden that can lead to future problems if it’s not done right.

The Value of Professional Data Migration

3d man in trouble

Do you have the right solution for your data migration? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Data migration is a critical task when replacing older software with a newer system, consolidating information, or archiving and better utilizing content.

Companies limping by on old, error-prone legacy systems (you know the ones – ancient MS Access databases or software cobbled-together by a long-since retired co-worker) need a better solution if they want to grow. Outdated software will limit productivity and growth.

Data migration is a critical step in upgrade projects, but we’ve seen many companies roll out a new software system, with a foolproof implementation plan, only to have the project go off the rails when it comes time to move the content.

There are a lot of ways a migration project can go wrong:

  • The old data doesn’t work with the new system.
  • The content doesn’t transfer correctly, and you’re left with massive gaps in your database.
  • Lingering errors in the data, which past processes compensated for, render the new system useless.
  • The cost of the migration is so expensive; the decision is made to re-input everything and to keep the old system running for archive purposes.
  • Critical pieces of data have nowhere to go in the new system, and are either deleted or left in an old file that can’t be used.

The CIMx Data Migration Engine directly addresses these issues, delivering solutions rather than problems when it is time to move data.

Solutions for Data Migration

CIMx Software started more than 20 years ago as experts in managing manufacturing data. Many of the world’s largest manufacturers rely on CIMx database expertise through our CAPP (Computer-Aided Process Planning), advanced MES, and digital manufacturing solutions.

That expertise provided the foundation for the Data Migration Engine. Using the Engine, CIMx preserves the schema, organization and structure of a database throughout the transfer. Before beginning the actual migration, CIMx maps the data and structure to the new database or system, ensuring the schema is intact.

More advanced features of the Engine allow CIMx to work with end users to analyze and inspect the content and repair errors. Common errors, such as substitutions, are made automatically. Individual errors such as missing data and incorrect data values can be identified and then corrected. Flat files can also be converted to an accessible, object-oriented format ready for further use or even reporting.

The CIMx Data Migration Engine eliminates many of the risks and problems associated with standard data migration. In addition to ensuring a safe and reliable transfer, the Engine adds value by repairing many of the errors that limit the efficiency of older data – providing a solid foundation for modern, smart manufacturing solutions.

Want to learn more, or get an estimate on how the CIMx Data Migration Engine might help you? Then contact us today for a free shop floor analysis. We’re always happy to help.