Monthly Archives: September 2016

Managing the Speed of Change in Manufacturing

Manufacturers are continually looking for ways to improve, but are reluctant to actually embrace change, leading many businesses to become stuck in a vicious planning cycle.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Not long ago, I spoke to a Quality Manager at a job shop about paperless manufacturing. He loved our software, and recognized it could solve his problems and improve production, but he wasn’t sure if they would implement. “We know we have to do something,” he said. “But, I don’t know if we’re ready to change.”

It’s a line I’ve heard too many time.

Breaking the Planning Cycle in Manufacturing

Manufacturers are quick to recognize the need for change and process improvement, but they see change as risk – more risk than managing their current errors and problems. It leads manufacturers to an endless cycle of planning and discussion, throwing resources at what they could do creates a comforting illusion of action. Rather than solving problems, they cling to waiting a little longer.

Now, as manufacturing teeters on the brink of another industrial revolution, with low-cost and low-risk manufacturing software systems such as MES and paperless manufacturing readily available, there is no reason not to embrace change and process improvement. Here are five easy steps to consider as you plan for change:

  • Set a timeline for a solution. Once you identify an issue that must be solved, set a timeline for getting the solution in place. Take action and improve, rather than waiting. Eventually, inaction will result in a critical production problem – one you may not recover from.
  • Involve the appropriate stakeholders. If you are implementing a shop floor system, you need input from the users. Trying to cram a little more functionality from an ERP because it’s the solution the decision-makers know is not really a solution.
  • Consider the future. Technology, production processes, and customers are always changing.  Implementing a solution that can’t adapt as your shop floor adapts is setting yourself up for future problems.
  • Run a test case. Select a single area on the shop floor to run a pilot program. Reduce risk for this initial phase, and after the program, you should have a good idea of the scope of the change, and the benefits.
  • Evaluate and plan the next steps. Improvement doesn’t stop with a single project. Embrace continuous improvement and evaluation. If you are always looking ahead to the next step, you create a culture of continual improvement.

Analyze Your Shop Floor Needs

Many companies have a dated vision of how manufacturing software works. They believe any solution will result in massive costs and risk. That may have been true 10 years ago, but today modern manufacturing software has eliminated many of the risks that drive up costs and production problems. We are in the digital age, and users are ready for a digital manufacturing solution.

Want to learn more, or see how paperless manufacturing can help you? Contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis – a critical first step toward embracing change on your shop floor.

Advertisements

Sustainable Products, Consultants and Paperless Manufacturing

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Manufacturers have options when selecting a software solution, but often they lose sight of the most important requirement during the selection process.

On a recent flight, I sat next to a fuel transportation consultant with a background in software implementation.  As he talked about himself (incessantly), he explained he was a legend and master in his chosen industry. I instantly identified his sales pitch.

That’s really what it was – a sales pitch. Consultants are interesting that way.  The consulting industry – both corporate and independent – doesn’t make money unless you hire them. They don’t usually have a product to show or sell, only themselves, so they have this shiny, made-to-be-hired aura that promotes their skill and expertise.

Consultants need you to keep paying for their services; the end of one project may mean a lapse before another paying project comes.    Hiring them to install software, a job with a definitive end, seems counterproductive to their business model.  What is the impetus to complete a software installation in a timely manner?  Why should they make it sustainable or teach you how to adapt the software?

There may be very honest and skilled consultants out there, but the entire sales model seems designed to undercut the customer and minimize sustainability.

The Hard Facts of Building an MES

man under money on white background. Isolated 3D image

Custom built software solutions will quickly bury manufacturers in unforeseen costs. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Many companies hire a consultant to select, modify or build a software system.  Short of trying to build a custom system internally, using a consultant is the most expensive option.  Here are some sobering data points to consider:

  • If you choose to build an MES, you’ll need at least 3 to 4 full-time staff and 18 months or more to get an initial beta offering launched. The cost, at minimum, will be $500,000 to $750,000.
  • The team will spend the first 6 months getting the requirements and design nailed down. It will be another 12 months of coding and development work.
  • The beta is not a full system. There will be missing features and no depth. Plus, the beta won’t fully support production. The next 2 to 3 years will be spent finishing work on the software.
  • This complete system will (hopefully) meet your specifications. But, if someone on the team leaves, the project will be delayed as a new employee gets up-to-speed or the rest of the team fills in and this may impact the software in the future.

Most companies that have built their own system eventually turn to a vendor offering in the future.  Custom software is too expensive, and isn’t adaptable. These systems simply aren’t sustainable.

Struggling Against Software Obsolescence

If you hire a consultant to build a manufacturing system or serve as an implementer (in that case, the consultant can double-dip on charges for selecting, reselling and installing the software), plan on roughly the same schedule as an internally-built custom system.  With a professionally outsourced consultant, the first beta offering may be far more robust than one built by an internal team, especially if they are modifying an existing system.  Unfortunately, to manage any modifications or changes to the system in the future you may need to keep the consultant on staff – resulting in extremely high overhead costs.

Here’s another inside fact – consultants do not like to work on each other’s code base.  Each has their own individual style.  Whether their code is the majority of the work or just a connector, making any change, even minor ones, is difficult.  In our experience, the number-one reason a company will replace a software system is obsolescence – that system installed by a consultant can’t be updated.

Sustainable Paperless Manufacturing Solutions

This is why CIMx offers a thin services model.  We build our products sustainably – so system connections, modifications and configurations (both at the time of install and in the future) are manageable by us and your internal teams.  Once we complete an installation, customers are free to make it their own (although many continue to ask us to do the work for them).  Knowing that we built it and can execute these changes quickly and effectively is comforting and cost-efficient.

Improvement WEB 041415

Increase the value of a solution by ensuring sustainability. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

In the world of MES, CIMx is unique – we offer a product completely built in-house.  We don’t suffer from the web of integrated, separately-purchased toolsets of many competitors.  Software suppliers who purchase other businesses to acquire a new tool for their MES platform (we call it growth by acquisition) and then market it as a synthesized package, end up working like a consultant, struggling to keep the system up and running.  Back end programs don’t talk or work together, so the supplier struggles to maintain the system and the customer continues paying service charges for a product that shouldn’t have been sold as an integrated product in the first place.

I’m sure there are very good consultants out there willing to work with a client to deliver the best solution possible – one that is designed to be adaptable and sustainable.

But there are others like the gentleman I shared a three-hour flight with. After our quick conversation about himself, he proceeded to play Panda Pop for the next 2 ½ hours.  Perhaps someone with enough attention to using a cartoon panda to pop balloons can deliver a project with forethought and sustainability. Perhaps his ability to sermonize about his skills won’t preclude his ability to actually listen to his clients and thoughtfully deliver the solution they need.

He was focused and persistent.  Maybe he’ll have the same degree of focus when he’s building or implementing your system, but is it a risk you really want to take with your shop floor production?

Or you could minimize the risk and find a solution provider focused on sustainability – with an update plan for the software. Give us a call if you want to learn more, or discover how CIMx builds sustainability in our product. We’re happy to help.

Efficient Manufacturing

5 Benefits of Simplicity for Paperless Manufacturing

Technology doesn’t have to be complex, no matter what some manufacturing software suppliers tell you.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

There’s a conundrum in the perception of simplicity in manufacturing software.

Software that is too complex – the kind that requires 12 clicks to complete a simple function, and has a user interface that looks like a science fiction movie vomited on the screen, will not improve production. Most of us can agree on that. The complex system may offer some benefit, but system users spend more time serving the needs of the software than on production.

But many companies still cling to all that unnecessary, vomitus complexity.

Discrete manufacturing and manufacturing in general, is a complex process, and there is a nagging belief that complex manufacturing requires complex software. The belief compels companies to pay for complexity, thinking it is the only way software can support their processes.

Manufacturing Productivity Doesn’t Require Complexity

They feel safer with all those steps, and sub-menus, and screens within screens within system trees… it’s like a safety blanket – a big digital blanket of complexity… that is totally unnecessary, and likely hurting production profit and efficiency. Consider this:

  • Time spent working in a manufacturing software system is still non-value added time. Clicking buttons and navigating menus is not active production. If an engineer can complete a task in 3 minutes using one software system, and the same task takes 3 hours in another system, you need to carefully consider which system is truly enhancing productivity.
  • Automation requires precision to be successful. Automating tasks is great… when it works. If you automate a process that results in errors and problems, then the complex automation may be adding more problems than solutions.
  • Combining software systems isn’t necessary to improve productivity. Cramming your MES, ERP, PLM and more together isn’t going to make your life easier. The software tools an accountant needs are very different than the tools for a quality engineer. The goal isn’t a single log-in screen, but a single, shared source of data for the company – which can be done with savvy computer connections rather than unnatural interbreeding of functions.
  • The User Interface of the software is just as important as the technology backbone. Software systems built solely by developers may be a technological wonder, and still be almost unusable. Without input from users, a system could leave the shop floor struggling to integrate the needs of the software into their already complex manufacturing processes.
  • Complexity in software should happen behind the scenes, and not on the screen. The best software systems focus on usability, improving productivity not only with the software tools, but also the user interaction. This means the system eliminates unnecessary interaction, simply feeding data when and where the user needs it, and prompting the user for input only when necessary.

Better Results with Paperless Manufacturing

Before purchasing a system, make sure you get input from the users. Consider the tasks necessary to use the software. Is it asking more, or less, from your workers? How difficult will the training be? If it takes multiple training sessions just to add planning to the system, you may have software that will hurt, rather than help, your productivity.

Want to learn more, or get a demonstration of a CIMx Software solution to see how easy our system is to use, then contact us today. We’re always happy to help.

The Waiting Game, MES and Paperless Manufacturing

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

As manufacturers decide to wait to implement a modern manufacturing system, they fall further and further behind their competition.

Not long ago, we started working with a manufacturer still using paper to manage the shop floor.

They printed 80 pages of work instructions for every order. Some days they would have 30 or 40 orders on the shop floor at once – 2,400 to 3,200 pages a day they were managing. They collected data using paper. Afterward a clerk typed the data into a spreadsheet. They tracked orders using email, and as-built records were assembled by hand.

The manufacturer wanted to double their output and improve production records. We worked with them to map their processes to our software – Quantum. Using the system, they could automate production records and increase production. It was a shop floor solution that offered tangible, measurable improvements.

Unfortunately, the manufacturer decided to wait and continue to operate in an inefficient, out of control production process.

The Cost of Waiting

At first, waiting seems like a safe choice, but if your current system is not optimized it’s a decision that leads to increasing risk and cost. Consider this:

  • If a shop floor problem that would be solved by the software is costing your company $1,000/day, then you need to consider every day you wait is a $1000 loss you can never get back – with the cost quickly compounding over time.
  • The data you aren’t collecting, or collecting incorrectly, is data that’s gone forever and will never help improve manufacturing outcomes.
  • Sustainable process improvement requires the process enforcement and accurate analytics provided by manufacturing software. Attempting other methods leads to shop floor frustration.
  • Improved quality is one benefit of an MES. Current scrap reduction is part of the ROI of a system.
  • Manufacturing continues to adapt to and implement modern technology. MES provides the foundation of modern manufacturing, and waiting will only make the transition more difficult in the future.

Waiting is not a solution to production problems. Once a potential solution has been identified and you confirm the long-term viability of the solution, waiting on implementation will drastically increase the risk and cost of production, with the shop floor falling further and further behind.

If you want to learn how MES or paperless manufacturing can help, then contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis.  We work with you to quickly define the best solution for your shop floor challenges. The analysis is yours for no cost or obligation, and it provides an easy first step toward increased production. We’re happy to help.