Monthly Archives: July 2016

How to Increase Efficiency with New Employees Using MES

An MES or Paperless Manufacturing system offers the most effective resource in onboarding new manufacturing production employees.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

We recently spoke to a manufacturer about implementing an MES. Business was booming, new orders were coming in and a system would solve many of their problems. They needed to increase production, decrease scrap, and track orders with better scheduling and production records.

Even so, they were reluctant to implement the software because they weren’t sure how to train their employees, new and old, on the system. “It’s going to be complex,” they told us. “I don’t know if we can manage everything.”

MES and Complexity

I won’t lie… some MES are complex.

There are systems with multiple pull down menus, floating windows, disconnected data, and a bazillion fields to fill out for the simplest function in the system.

But, if you have a modern system focused on supporting productivity and offering automated functions, you have an MES that reduces complexity in the manufacturing process.  In fact, with some systems (like Quantum) users can be trained in an afternoon.

There is no better way to onboard new employees than with an MES, especially one designed to minimize complexity like Quantum.  Consider this:

  • Improved planning.

With a strong MES, planning can be improved with additional, contextualized information such as visual work instructions, safety instructions, and best practices. You can ensure workers are using only the most relevant information. Rather than teaching new employees how to navigate paper packets that may (or may not) have all the information they need, they automatically receive the information they need, when they need it.

  • Procedural Enforcement.

With procedural enforcement, you can be sure the shop floor is doing the correct work at each step in the process.  Procedural enforcement creates a behavioral system that makes best practices second nature.  The system walks new workers through process steps accurately and correctly.

  • Automated tolerance checks.

Automated tolerance checks identify quality escapes immediately, mitigating quality problems with new employees and offering on-the-job quality training. New employees learn immediately what causes a quality problem and can adjust the behavior before it becomes a habit. Real-time analytics build collaboration and process improvement for new employees.

  • Contextualized data collection

Data collection is a critical step in production visibility and quality standards, but it’s often an afterthought. Notes are scribbled on the traveler after the work is done, and is more guesswork than precision. An MES makes it easy for employees to easily collect critical data at the precise moment in the production process, often automating data collection.  This eliminates the guesswork and lets new employees focus on their work.

  • System familiarity.

Today, many young people, the largest source of new employees, grew up using software systems like Quantum and MES.  They are comfortable accessing information in the software, completing work in conjunction with the system. The training with an MES, a modern MES, will be significantly less than trying to teach paper-based manufacturing that is more tribal knowledge than process.

Increasing Productivity with Paperless Manufacturing

Rather than fighting against technology, it’s time to embrace the advantages offered by manufacturing software and a modern, user-friendly MES.

You shouldn’t see new employees as a reason to avoid change, but a time to implement, especially as the younger generations have become more and more comfortable with using software and technology in their work. Not only is paper less efficient, but training is guesswork with no standard or platform to provide a foundation for production.

Want to learn more, or see how easily you can implement a paperless manufacturing system? Contact CIMx today for a personalized shop floor analysis. We’re always happy to help.

Are There “Gentlemen’s Rules” in MES Sales?

Many software suppliers are more focused on the sale than the solution when working with customers.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Twenty-something years ago, software demos gave potential customers a good idea of the system they were buying.

Today, as software functionality continues to expand and teams of consultants scramble for profit (read our blog on Tesla for more on that), it’s difficult for manufacturers to know what they are purchasing.  The skill in selling software has grown faster than the market’s ability to discern fact and fiction.  The rules in the software market have gotten skewed, and without rules, how do we play (or purchase a system)?

Gentlemen’s Rules in Cycling

I was an avid cyclist.  After competing for 18 years on the cycling circuit in the US, I’m content now to watch the Tour de France in a comfortable armchair.

MES and the Human Element

Does your implementation team really know the software and your processes? Illustration from http://www.colourbox.com

The Grand Tour is an amazing spectacle.  If you live in France, the month of July is dedicated to the sporting event.  It is called one of the most grueling sporting events in the world.  For 21 days straight, almost 200 cyclists (usually 22 teams of 9 riders) compete in road stages that make Death Valley seem leisurely.

In cycling, there’s always been an unwritten gentlemen’s code of conduct. If you are a rider, a competitive one, you know it.  And you live by it…

Cycling is, at its heart, a team sport.  Inevitably, the entire group (the peloton) doesn’t ride together – the group will split as the race speeds up or the hills get steep.  In these situations, the gentlemen’s code ensures:

  • you never attack the leader if he or she is down;
  • you work together and everyone takes a turn, and;
  • if you’re not able to work with the group, you may sit on the back (where there’s less wind and it takes less effort) but you won’t participate in the sprint or receive points on the day.

The code subtly manages the race.  You don’t win if you can’t do the work.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the software industry has a similar rule…

As a customer, you want to get the best product for your business.  The purpose of the demo(s), the Request for Proposals (RFPs), and the other stages of the software purchase process is to determine how well the system will serve your manufacturing needs.  The process should let you “try out the team,” who will be providing your new system, ensuring only a company that can do the work will earn the job.

But, that’s not how it works today.  Many suppliers use resellers so they never work with an end user. Other suppliers are so big, there are layers and layers of bureaucracy between you and the people who really know the software.  Most customers only meet the sales team, and are introduced to a few people on the installation project leads – a team focused on sales and collecting commission or service charges, and not meeting the goals of the implementation.

How are those implementations working out?  How many companies suffered with a poor software installation when the salesperson (who was well-liked liked) made promises the solution couldn’t keep?

Implementing a Code of Conduct for Software Sales

Confidence Button Shows Assurance Belief And Boldness

Are you confident your team is focused on shop floor improvement? Illustration by www,colourbox.com

Let’s go back to my gentlemen’s code theory.  If the sales team tells is focused on closing the sale, are they really worried about what your needs will be in the future?  When you have an issue, are they there to help you, or are they counting on your service charges each time a problem comes up?  Are the sales or implementation team best positioned to answer your questions?  You never even meet the real software experts (if there are some).  In fact, it’s not in the interest of some companies to review every option or potential problem before an implementation, because their sales model is based on the additional service charges they’ll be getting from you.

I’m not suggesting you find a better salesperson.  It certainly helps the process, but I think you need to look deeper.  With the increase in consultants, and the constant attrition in the marketplace as smaller companies are eaten by the monolithic software enterprises, the “team” concept in software sales has disappeared.  As software companies absorb functionality from other systems, finding someone, anyone, who understands the software enough to provide adequate, or useful, support, is almost impossible. This leads to higher cost, additional complexity, and a software product that never works the way it was sold.

A gentlemen’s code of conduct would help eliminate many of these problems.  Consider this:

  • The software supplier should walk a customer through the entire implementation process (eliminating those “surprise” service charges that creep into many projects).
  • No system should be installed without an upgrade path. Systems shouldn’t fade into obsolescence.  (Read more about it here.  It’s critical.)
  • The software supplier should offer a guarantee and benchmarks for the system and implementation. They should take some risk in the project, and not expect the customer to carry the burden.
  • No product should require a manufacturer to completely change their processes and work instructions. Too often the shop floor ends up serving the software, rather than the software supporting production.

I’m sure every person who has ever worked with a software supplier could add to this list, but it’s a start, and we need to start somewhere.

Will Your Supplier Go the Distance?

We should all work for our customers like members of a cycling team.

This year’s Tour has been one for the books.  Last week’s stage to Mont Ventoux reminded me of a software installation gone awry.  With winds topping 60 to 100 kms/hr, race officials cancelled the last 6 kilometers of the race.  None of the teams complained, even though the decision hindered the advantage of the top climbers.  Unfortunately, many people had camped on the side of the road for those final 6 kilometers, and as word spread, those people waiting at the top started to make their way down the mountain.  The crowded roads caused the leader to crash badly.

If something like this happened during an MES implementation, many suppliers would sigh and extend the schedule, halt production on the shop floor while they fixed the problem, or call procurement with more service charges.  Installation is a tricky process and things go wrong.  Is your software vendor willing to change the requirements or project plan when problems happen?  How painful will the service charges be?  How will they work with you?

If you have a problem, will your team (if you even have one) do what the leader did on Mont Ventoux?  With a wrecked bike and watching other groups pass him as he waited for a team car, he began to run.  Running in the Tour de France?  In 25 years, I’d never seen it.  He did what it took to keep the winning jersey with Team Sky.  And he delivered.

That’s the difference between working with a team focused on your goals and with people who really care about your success and the product they offer, and working with just another software reseller.

How to Manage the Smart Manufacturing Revolution

For companies still reluctant to change in the face of the next industrial revolution, there are simple strategies you can take to position your company for success.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications at CIMx Software

There’s a famous quote by Albert Einstein that has particular relevance to modern manufacturing – “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

The convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) is having a profound effect on manufacturing. The days when IT resources could get by without ever having stepped on a shop floor are gone. Operations can no longer refuse to put another “damn computer” on a work center.

In fact, more and more companies are actively pursuing IT/OT integration.

The motive for this convergence is simple – if the end goal for a manufacturing organization is improved production and profit, there are a wealth of solutions and benefits to be found in IT.

According to the Wall Street Journal, many manufacturers are beginning to see themselves software firms, hiring software and computer experts rather than mechanical engineers. “… the transformation of the nation’s factories by digital technology is not only remaking the sector’s hiring needs, but altering how it needs to operate.”

IT is shaping how the supply chain operates, how products are designed and produced, and influencing how manufacturers add value in the marketplace. According to ARC, an analyst firm, “…IT-OT integration is a necessary step, and one that will pay dividends. The results… will, ‘increase the value of existing infrastructure, provide both new opportunities and risks for manufacturing, and allow the reinvention of the relationship with the customer.’”

Process Improvement graph.

Managing change is the difference between success and failure. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Managing a Smart Manufacturing Strategy

Unfortunately, many manufacturers decide to manage change by doing the same thing, over and over again. Instead of addressing the root cause of production struggles with a Smart manufacturing solution, they contort existing processes to get by. Their strategy comes down to doing nothing.

The market is moving past paper-based manufacturing and ineffective Legacy MES. Software companies and industries that serve manufacturing no longer offer the inefficient tools these companies are clinging to. Over time, the divergence between companies that embrace change and those waiting will become so profound as to be unsustainable.

For companies still waiting, there are simple steps to managing the Smart Manufacturing revolution:

  • Foster collaboration between IT and OT. Adding an IT resource to your OT team will not only provide an important resource for the shop floor, but also train your IT team in how the shop floor operates. Over time, this collaboration will begin paying dividends as the company better synchronizes internal projects.
  • Remove paper and paper-based processes from production. Paper causes errors, is difficult to manage, and cannot support modern Smart manufacturing. With a phased implementation, you can begin eliminating paper with a flexible MES in as little as 3 months. Start by digitizing your travelers, a simple task for modern MES, and you’ll also increase production visibility.
  • Consolidate your production information. Many companies struggle with production data kept in multiple locations. Engineering will have a database. Operations will keep their data on paper travelers, while Quality stores their own records. With Smart manufacturing, you need to consolidate data in a secure, accessible location – most often a comprehensive production database. A single source of production truth eliminates much inefficiency companies often struggle to contain.

Doing nothing is not a viable strategy for managing change.  Even for manufacturers unsure or reluctant to take action, there are simple steps you can take that will position the company for success in the future.

Want to learn more, or see how an MES, the foundation for a Smart manufacturing, can help you? Contact CIMx for a free shop floor analysis and receive a personalized report that will become the core of your own improvement strategy.