Monthly Archives: November 2016

How to Successfully Replace Manufacturing Software

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

There are manufacturers out there struggling with outdated and inefficient legacy software systems supporting production.

Shop floor managers call us for help with these outdated systems – an Access database created long ago by a retired employee, or a piece of manufacturing software so old, it’s impossible to update and sits on a dilapidated server held together by rubber bands and prayers.

A Source of Manufacturing Inefficiency

3d small people - angry

How much money is wasted due to inefficient software? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Manufacturing is the foundation of the company and the engine that fuels profit, and if the company doesn’t support production with the right tools, they are holding the business back. No amount of Kanban sessions or process improvements can make up for a digital tool trying to do something it was never designed for, or should have been shelved and retired years ago.

These older systems not only impact production and create inefficiency; they are a source of errors and hide a potential production disaster if the systems ever fail.

These shop floor managers know something has to be done, but struggle to get a clear answer from the IT department or a potential solution provider. Everyone promises their solution is the one they need, often completely ignoring current production processes in their excitement to implement their solution.

Identifying and Mitigating Software Risks

The shop floor can manage the problem and solution process by identifying risks early to determine the viability of a potential solution. Here are a few items to consider as you review next steps for your shop floor.

  • Data Migration.

If you have critical production data stored on a failing, outdated system, you need to consider how to move the data to the new system. Consider not only copying the data over, but using an Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) tool. Some ETL will safely transform data to a modern format so it can be used in the new software and better support production.  Without utilizing an ETL tool, you may be stuck with unusable data in your new software.

  • Process Changes.

While you hope the new software tool improves processes, there are times the system will hinder, rather than help, production. Consider change orders and redline edits. If the new system offers a wealth of functionality that adds complexity to change orders, you may trap the shop floor with an unmanageable process.  Look at purchasing a workflow-based, rather than a forms-based, system when replacing outdated software. An initial pilot would also determine how the system will be used.

  • Increased Cost of Ownership.

It is worthwhile estimating not only the initial cost, but overall cost of ownership of manufacturing software. Often, the cost of software isn’t reflective of the benefit. The most expensive system may not offer the best solution.  Break down the cost of a potential solution, look at how it will be used, and estimate the potential ROI before making a purchase.

  • Gaps in Coverage.

Often, a software solution, especially cloud-based apps targeting manufacturing, will focus on a single challenge, rather than addressing the underlying problems facing production.  For example, purchasing a simple email app to manage production planning may seem like a quick fix to outdated software, but the gaps in coverage left by the solution expose you to other risks that may impact production.

Some manufacturers mistakenly value complexity over benefit in software. You don’t need all the complexity and functionality offered by many solution providers. Get input from the users and estimate how often and extensive their interaction will be with the software. If users spend more time serving the software than engaged in production, you don’t have an optimal solution.

Getting Started with Paperless Manufacturing

One way to overcome hesitation with a new software system is to look at change as an opportunity to eliminate the problems and frustrations the production team faces using outdated software. When we work with shop floor managers struggling with inefficient software, we start by looking at their current workflow.  The team often uncovers other process impediments that can be easily solved.

With an eye on the potential risks we’ve outlined above and the right solution provider, the new system can have a positive impact across the organization and unlock production potential you may not have known you had.  Want to know more, or talk to an application engineer about your outdated software systems? Contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis. We’re always happy to help.

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How a Workflow System Helps Manufacturers Improve Production

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I’m beginning to understand why so many manufacturing companies are frustrated when they work with software suppliers, and how we can make the process easier.

3d man in trouble

A digital solution to shop floor challenges is easier to find than you might thinnk. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

I spoke to a shop floor manager, let’s call him Joe, struggling with several production databases kept in an old version of Microsoft Access.  Joe was worried the databases would fail. Rightfully so. The servers were old, and it was impractical to move the data to a new server. There was little benefit to upgrading to a new version of Microsoft Office. There were few on Joe’s team who even knew how to properly access the data.

Joe and his IT team researched other possible solutions with little success.  Some suppliers offered an expensive custom solution to match current processes, others required the current processes adapt to match the proposed solution.

Neither option was appealing, and Joe was close to giving up when he spoke with CIMx.

Paperless Manufacturing for the Modern Shop Floor

Given enough time, money and resources, developers can twist and cajole any manufacturing functionality you want out of software code.  Many software companies call this functionality a “module.”  The module is based on a perceived manufacturing need, and the features are focused on solving that need. Manufacturing is not a series of needs, but a workflow. A workflow is a series of linked and sequential events that leads to a state of completion.  The module product approach may work for a single “event,” but leaves serious gaps in the workflow a company will struggle to fill.

This is why the other solution providers required a change in processes (to make connecting those tools easier) or more expensive service charges (so they could fill the gaps).

Quantum is based on manufacturing workflow rather than modules.  The software quickly maps to shop floor processes, supporting existing workflow and providing a quick and less complex solution to manufacturing challenges.

In the case of Joe, the shop floor manager struggling with dated Microsoft Access databases, CIMx was able to provide a new data warehouse for the old files. By mapping Quantum to their current processes, users could easily access the data they needed throughout the workflow. The only real change was the use of Quantum, rather than print outs from Access.

At CIMx, we love connecting manufacturers with technology.  Seeing the software roll out at Joe’s facility, and teaching users how Quantum can make their job easier, was exciting.  It’s why we love our job.  Granted, there were a few reluctant to give up their paper work instructions.  The first time they accessed their planning with the push of a button, rather than a lengthy search across a crowded work station before thumbing through a paper traveler, many asked the CIMx team what else Quantum could do.

We call Quantum a Paperless Manufacturing system because it empowers users to eliminate paper and improve their existing processes, rather than eliminate and replace processes with new tools that may be more complex and less efficient.

If you have inefficiencies or challenges on your shop floor, including old systems or databases, and want to see how a modern software system based on workflow, rather than modules, can help you, then give us a call or contact us today.

Keep an eye on our blog, because over the next few weeks we’ll be making a major announcement, further helping manufacturers like Joe struggling with inefficiencies. We’re excited, and can’t wait to share more!