Category Archives: Agile Manufacturing

Accelerate and Achieve your Production Goals with Analytics

Companies often set aggressive business goals at the beginning of each year, only to find those targets unachievable or untraceable by Q4. The initial excitement slowly fades as the day-to-day business needs take priority. This is especially true for manufacturers.

With Q2 only a few days away, are you on track to meet your 2018 goals?Manufacturers need a way to make goals achievable and sustainable. That’s what a Production Control System (PCS) provides. Real-time production data, analytics, tracking systems and process control all work to make the goal not only possible, but easily achievable.

  • Production Visibility:

The key to setting realistic goals is understanding your production capacity, velocity and bottlenecks. ERP data points alone can only imply slowdowns on your shop and it may take weeks for them to come to light. Production control systems however deliver the operator monitoring and WIP dashboards to pinpoint obstacles and opportunities. Having confidence in your data is the best way to begin and the only way to achieve KPIs.

  • Select KPIs to track and measure progress:

Now that you have numbers you can trust you need to introduce a bit of creativity. Projecting opportunities and then strategizing an optimal path to success is all about your metrics. Establish a baseline by reviewing existing trends and immediately put in place the means for tracking success. Failure to do so leads to moving targets and a lack of urgency for meeting deadlines.

  • Make the goal visible to the company:

Visualizing and tracking progress builds collaboration and a sense of accomplishment for your business. Presenting the challenge to your team lets them know your company is forward thinking and trusts in their abilities to succeed. Set and celebrate milestones along the way and take pride in your team’s accomplishments.

  • Sustainability:

Don’t let success or failure be the end of the journey. Carry forward the momentum into the next project, quarter, year, etc. Now that you have set a culture of excellence in your organization it’s up to you to define how far you can go. Sustainable production control systems stay on your shop for years assuring your data collection is consistent and accurate. Granular insight into production lets you see what works and what doesn’t. Turn success into a standard, repeatable process.

 

Next Steps

There’s still time to get the right systems in place to achieve your 2018 goals. April is the final month of the CIMx Software 18 Free in 2018 promotion so now is your last chance to connect with the CIMx team about free installation. Contact CIMx to let a specialist review your needs and see how a Production Control System can make those goals achievable.

How to Turn Production Data into Actionable Manufacturing Intelligence

There’s a critical difference between raw data and actionable manufacturing intelligence. Data is just information. Actionable manufacturing intelligence adds value. When provided to the right person at the right time, action can be taken and value added – that could mean higher throughput, lower costs, and more productivity.

Companies utilizing actionable intelligence find success in the marketplace. They have the flexibility and production agility modern manufacturers need.

The Morning Reports Sinkhole in your Production Cycle

For companies relying on spreadsheets, paper travelers and their ERP for production data, information is compiled at the end of the day and then shared in a morning report. A morning report is data, and not actionable intelligence.

The data in the morning report is often flawed, if not completely fictional. The ERP was never designed to collect production data, so patchwork and dubious methods are used to gather information. Employees pencil whip information on a traveler before clocking out for the day, or fudge numbers when memory fails. A coffee spill on a spreadsheet can ruin the data and leave you scrambling to decipher a smudge.

Manufacturers using data like this to track and control production are hurting themselves. Decisions are made on speculation using the best data available (data that was never very good in the first place). This leads to a lack of discipline and control in production. Waste and scrap increases, and problems stymie production velocity with no clear solution as management isn’t sure what happening on the shop floor.

Manufacturers need actionable manufacturing intelligence, and actionable manufacturing intelligence requires real-time production data.

The Key to Manufacturing Intelligence

The Quantum Production Control System (PCS) is designed to provide accurate and actionable real-time information on production.

Using Quantum and your current build books and work instructions, you can begin collecting real-time production data from your current processes and standard use of the system. Accurate updates and Work In Progress (WIP) reports are just a mouse click away. Capturing data is done automatically throughout production.

Take Action on Improved Production

Real-time data is actionable, while a morning report is nothing more than a review – a window into the past. With the PCS in place, real-time production data is fed to the right people at the right time to make a positive impact on production. Supervisors can see a problem occur, such as a machine going down or a late material shipment, and then take action to mitigate and solve the problem. Feedback loops at the work station provide rapid resolution to problems, keeping production on schedule.

Contact CIMx Software today and connect with our team to see how quickly Quantum can empower your production team with actionable manufacturing intelligence to accelerate productivity and eliminate waste for you. Ditch the spreadsheet and embrace efficiency in your processes with Quantum.

Manufacturing Innovation Waits For No One

Additive Manufacturing, Paperless Manufacturing, Cloud Computing, Mobile Manufacturing… the future of manufacturing is here, but many of us are letting it pass us by.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

How will manufacturing innovation help your business?

How will manufacturing innovation help your business? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

A few days ago, I came across an article on Yahoo News – 3D-Printed Rocket Engine Part Passes Key NASA Test.  I was eating a sandwich and waiting for a phone call, so I didn’t read it.  I planned to look it up later.  I thought if it was REALLY important, it would be on the news or the magic social media fairies would flood my Facebook page with the hundreds of ways I should feel about it.

In retrospect, that’s not the way the world or innovation works.  Here was innovation… a swift kick from the future of manufacturing!  And I decided to eat a sandwich… It wasn’t even a good sandwich.

We are all searching for innovation, and we all know that success in manufacturing is dependent on smart decisions, empowered employees, and delivering higher quality for lower cost.  We know success is dependent on working smarter, faster, and more cheaply.  Innovation is the key!

But how many of us are actually taking the steps to innovate?

How many of us are so focused on the next crisis, we don’t innovate?  No one has time to innovate, we are too busy working reactively to put out emergencies to think proactively.  Someone else will do it, or tell us to do it.  Until “innovation” becomes a critical emergency (such as a process no longer works, or a customer demands it, or something is broken and needs fixing), innovation isn’t a priority.

Take control of your business, and don't fall victim to the crisis of the moment. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Take control of your business, and don’t fall victim to the crisis of the moment. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

But the future isn’t waiting.  Its passing us by, and even Yahoo News can see it.  Innovation works.  Innovation created our industry… just ask Henry Ford and his assembly line.  So I decided to do something about it.  When a friend mentioned the, “Printed rocket thing that NASA did,” I realized I didn’t have anything intelligent to add.  I wasn’t innovating, only spinning my wheels making excuses.

Now, I get my coffee in the morning and take a look at industry news.  I think about how I work and where I spend too much time because the current tools aren’t working, and look for a solution.  I come up with plans and make innovation a priority.  I make sure I’m spending at least 10 minutes on innovation each day.  I even set a clock

After two weeks, I’m already seeing results… I’d like to congratulate Aerospace Rocketdyne on a successful test, and told my friend about it.  I’m going paperless and using the OneNote Web App to take notes and keep my calendar.  Integrating OneNote with the voice record on my smart phone was genius.  I also set up a filing system for my computer desktop, and can find a file in less than a minute.

Maybe I’m an idealist, but the results speak for themselves.  Innovation should never be the child of an emergency.  Once you make the promise to yourself to be proactive in your innovation, even if it’s 10 minutes every morning, you’ll find fewer emergencies that require your undivided attention.  Solve problems before they become an emergency.

Manufacturing thrives with innovation, a fact I believe many of us have forgotten.  So what steps have you taken to innovate?  How do you plan for the future in your business?  Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

Paperless Manufacturing Is Changing Our Industry, Are You Ready?

Our world is going paperless, the question is who will drive the change when it reaches your shop floor?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I recently got an eye-opening wake-up call to the paperless future.

It was finally time to retire my 16-year old air conditioner and upgrade to a high-efficiency system.  I did my research and price-checked estimates before choosing a company.  I called up the sales rep to select a system, schedule the installation and sign the paperwork… then things got interesting.

“Paperwork?” the rep said. “No need… we can do everything online.”

Isn't it time to free yourself from paper by looking at the benefits of paperless manufacturing?   Photo by www.colourbox.com

Isn’t it time to free yourself from paper by looking at the benefits of paperless manufacturing? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

And he was right.  He worked in his office while I sat on my couch with a laptop.  We spoke via the Web.  I filled out an online questionnaire while he pulled up data on my house.  It took him 45 seconds to send over three choices for my new system, incorporating the questionnaire and data.  I looked over the options while the rep finished credit approval.  A choice was made and he emailed a contract. I e-signed and he chose an installation team.  The entire process took 15 minutes.  I never left the couch, and even ate a sandwich while we worked.  The secure computer system efficiently managed the details, integrating all the pieces.

Honestly, why did I feel the need to “sign” paperwork?  I assumed that’s the way it was done, and inefficient travel and paper-based errors were the cost of business.  In retrospect, my misgivings could have torpedoed the process.

The Future Is Here, and It’s Paperless

Face it… the world is going paperless, and we are all better for it.  Digital systems connect people and businesses with machines and processes like never before, adding value and improving productivity.  Many industries and companies have made the move, including:

  • Paperless house closings through Ellie Mae;
  • Paperless shopping through Amazon and online retailers;
  • Paperless medical records;
  • Paperless accounting and recordkeeping;
  • Paperless service industries, including HVAC and Mechanic shops;
  • Paperless college education through University of Phoenix.

The digital revolution is impacting manufacturing in ways we are only now beginning to understand.  Paperless manufacturing, the process of adopting paperless work instructions to manage information and work flow on the shop floor, is changing the industry.  For example, 3D Printing, or Additive Manufacturing, requires a digital design and work instruction, not a paper-driven one.  A new Standard Interchange File Format, developed by ASTM International, will allow a seamless transition from design to physical printed object, but only if the shop floor has made the conversion to digital.

Paperless Manufacturing Solutions

As an industry, manufacturing is moving toward paperless processes.  Look at the latest trends in manufacturing such as mobile manufacturing, 3D printing, on-demand manufacturing, and customer-centric manufacturing.  Utilizing real-time information on the shop floor will require paperless systems.  Even contemporary process improvement initiatives in manufacturing, such as Lean, Six-Sigma and agile manufacturing all rely on the functionality offered by paperless manufacturing.

The future of manufacturing isn't paper build books. Photo credit www.colourbox.com

The future of manufacturing isn’t paper build books. Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

Many manufacturers believe moving to paperless manufacturing requires a significant investment of time, energy and resources.  This may have been true in the past, but new technology and processes have made it possible for more companies to make the transition to paperless manufacturing, reducing the cost and minimizing the risk.  No longer is paperless manufacturing and MES solutions reserved for the largest corporations or complex discrete manufacturing.  Manufacturers of all sizes and in all industries will find workflow process control benefits with paperless manufacturing.

As more industries adopt paperless systems, manufacturers that cling to paper will discover their business isolated as they find it increasingly difficult to integrate with paperless systems.  The cost of duplicate work will increase, and processes will continue to grow more inefficient.  These companies will have fewer options and less opportunity.

To be honest, I installed my new AC less than two months ago, and I can’t imagine going back to a paper-based system.  Change is coming, so ask yourself, who will drive the change to paperless manufacturing on your shop floor?  New paperless manufacturing and manufacturing solution systems are lowering risk, reducing cost, and minimizing the pain of installation, implementation and training.  CIMx offers a system that incorporates your current processes and work instructions, making implementation even more efficient.  Want to look over options or learn more about paperless manufacturing, contact CIMx Software today.

3D Printing Could Kill You (Or Your Business), Here’s Why…

3D Printing is going to have a dramatic affect on manufacturing, but we can learn from other industries how to succeed when change comes.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications for CIMx Software

Choices and options.

3D printing will change manufacturing. How will you handle the change? Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com.

I came across an article on a Yahoo News about a University of Texas law student who is posting online a blueprint for a 3D printed handgun called “The Liberator.”  Download the blueprint/design, load it into your 3D printer- yes, you can purchase a home 3D printer, such as the Replicator 2 or the Cube– and you’re moments from producing your own plastic handgun; weaponry in no time at all!

Reading the article was scary and exciting, because I love technology!  The future is exciting, and I believe technology represents the best of humanity- using our ingenuity to solve problems together.  Others argue it is dangerous technology- not only physically harmful, this is….

… scary.  Worried about gun control laws?  Why worry, when you can print your own gun.  A world where a gun for a terrorist is only a website and 3D printer away is scary. But, it’s also…

.. exciting. Someday you will log onto a website, select a design, and print it on your desktop.  It sounds like pure science fiction, a scene from Star Trek, pulled straight out of Neal Stephenson’s book Diamond Age. Maybe, but soon the Defense Distributed website will offer the handgun design. Once the first design comes out, designs for more products will follow.  Household custom manufacturing is science fiction no longer, and that is…

What will manufacturing in the future look like? Photo credit www.colourbox.com

What will manufacturing in the future look like? Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

… scary, especially for manufacturers.  The University of Texas law student behind the handgun design describes himself as a “free-market anarchist,” and 3D Printing is a “free-market anarchist’s” dream. The entire manufacturing dynamic is changing. Consumers no longer rely on manufacturers, they have their own manufacturing control. Which means manufacturers need to offer more than a product, but also a service or a value-add to convince consumers to purchase, and I don’t think manufacturing is ready to make that transition.  It’s a radical change, and change can be…

… exciting, because for a long time, our industry (manufacturing) has been reluctant to embrace change.  Other industries have adjusted to the modern market.  Newspapers and magazines have moved to meet the consumer online and in social media.  Restaurants are providing an “experience,” and grocery stores are utilizing technology to connect to shoppers.  But manufacturers are reluctant to tackle custom orders, still embrace paper-bound build books, and rely on outdated Legacy systems.  We might know how to improve efficiency, but fear and risk hold us back. Change is coming, and that’s…

… scary, because for many in our industry, there seems to be little plan to adjust to a world where the consumer has access to a relatively inexpensive  manufacturing technology.  What will 3D printing mean for you?  What will desktop manufacturing mean to your shop floor?  Can we embrace the changes other industries have made; this includes a focus on customer service? Can we continue to ignore the need for change?

Take action now that will pay dividends in the future! Photo credit www.colourbox.com

Take action now that will pay dividends in the future! Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

This article on an idealistic law student brings up a number of questions.  There will be questions about gun control, regulation, empowering criminals versus free market enterprise, but we also need to think about what 3D printing and open information mean for manufacturing.  Sure, 3D printing can be an exceptional new tool for manufacturing, but we need to step back and look at how else it will affect the industry. Other changes are coming- including cloud computing, mobile manufacturing, paperless manufacturing, robotics, MES, agile processes, and more. Change is already here, and more is coming.

I’m not arguing that 3D printing is going to completely replace manufacturing.  The technology isn’t there yet.  It’s slow.  Products made with 3D printing aren’t high quality and are prone to defects, and 3D printers aren’t capable of discrete manufacturing, but it’s only a matter of time.  We continually refine and perfect technology.  At one time, televisions were large and heavy, with only black and white pictures.  Now, we can wear a television like a watch- so imagine what 3D printing will be like in 20 years. Or 10 years. Or even next year.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your business from the 3D printing revolution?  What manufacturing solutions are available? How can you increase quality, increase production, and offer customers a better manufacturing experience? How agile is your operation? Now is the time to take action. When change comes for your business, make sure it’s exciting, not scary.

What do we know about the future of manufacturing?

There is one important factor you should consider when pondering the future of manufacturing, and it may not be what you think…

I once worked for a company that offered quarterly education classes for all employees to help “prepare for the future.”  It made for powerful marketing and employee recruitment pieces, but most classes were seen as a burden.  It was a wasted day of surveys, icebreakers, and guest speakers, with free pizza as a consolation prize.

Shop floor instruction is better than classroom, and paperless manufacturing offers seamless, integrated shop floor instruction. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Shop floor instruction is better than classroom, and paperless manufacturing offers seamless, integrated shop floor instruction. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

In retrospect, I see the advantages.  Process improvement initiatives found greater success, there was greater coordination between departments, and a company culture flourished (nothing builds rapport more than pizza and complaining).  The business was agile and adaptable, able to make enterprise level changes quickly through the training sessions and follow-up.   The point of the training sessions had less to do with classes and speakers, and more to do with preparing employees to think agile and learn new skills.

Manufacturing isn’t like other businesses.  It’s difficult to shut down operations every few months for pizza and classes.  But we can’t ignore the benefits of an agile, educated work force.

A recent survey highlights how important education has become to manufacturing.  An article from Manufacturing Business Technology and written by Prime Advantage states, “Nearly half of U.S. manufacturers (46 percent) have engaged with local educational providers in order to train workers (up from just 19 percent in 2012).”  The article goes on to cite difficulty finding skilled labor as a hurdle for continued growth. 63 percent of the CFO’s who responded are providing training for new employees, with 58 percent preparing re-training for existing employees.  As technology rapidly changes, manufacturers could be left with an inefficient work force that cannot handle the new technology and machines.

How can you prepare for the future?   Photo by www.colourbox.com

How can you prepare for the future? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Providing education for employees and preparing your business for the future may not be as difficult as you think.  Imagine training delivered daily without taking anyone from production work.  The technology driving change, such as paperless manufacturing, not only provides effective process control for shop floor operations, information management, and improved efficiency; it also provides an effective tool for employee training.  Here’s how:

  • A shop floor viewer will not only provide paperless work instructions, but best-in-class systems such as CIMx Software will seamlessly provide multi-media files, including training videos, machine set-up instructions, and safety information;
  • The system will connect the shop floor to the rest of your enterprise, promoting collaborative manufacturing. This could also include mobile manufacturing, ensuring everyone has the information they need, when and where they need it.
  • Recent studies have shown process improvement is most successful when Lean techniques work in conjunction with paperless manufacturing and MES.  The process control, data collection, and efficiency improvements make employee education initiatives and Lean programs even more effective.
  • You control the system, and select the information and media available to your shop floor.  They see and learn the skills you need them to have as a part of each job.
  • Practical in-system training and hands-on lessons make a shop floor viewer device a superior employee training option.

So what do we know about the future?  We know it will be different.  New skills will be necessary, and an educated, focused work force will be a key to success.  As new manufacturing methodologies are developed, and customer needs change, employee training is even more important.  Agile organizations find success, while organizations who struggle to adapt will bleed customers.  Employee education is a key factor to preparing for the future.

Manufacturers see employee education as a vital business resource.  The traditional methods of employee education won’t work for manufacturing.  Paperless manufacturing offers an integrated solution to the challenge of educating shop floor employees, while minimizing disruption to normal production flow.

So what employee education programs do you have in place? Are you confident you’ve built an agile organization?  How much is a well-educated work force worth to you?  Contact CIMx Software to learn more today.

5 Hazards of Paperless Manufacturing in the Cloud

The cloud is changing the way software and IT service is delivered, but is it ready for the shop floor? 

I have a friend who is the epitome of “early adopter.”  His home is filled with the coolest gadgets, including a robot vacuum cleaner and a 3D TV, purchased before the first review even hit the market.  However, his back bedroom hides evidence of the dangers of early adopting.  There’s a HD DVD sitting on one shelf.  A dusty Palm Pilot hides in a drawer on top of a Blackberry Playbook.  Sometimes the “coolest” gadgets hide fatal flaws, or just don’t work as promised.

Unfortunately, manufacturers don’t have the luxury of fatal flaws, and can’t hide mistakes in a back room.  No matter how tempting the latest innovation might be, it’s important to honestly assess the business impact before implementing, especially on the shop floor.

Accessing the cloud brings information to the people when and where they need it, but will it benefit manufacturing?

Will the cloud benefit your shop floor? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Cloud computing, computing services hosted over the Internet, offers a number of advantages.  For example, the service is often fully managed by the provider, eliminating many upkeep costs.  Users pay for only the services they use.  Updates and maintenance are handled remotely.  The service can be quickly scaled when need arises.  Changes and updates are made globally, not individually, ensuring speedy implementation.  But, there are hazards hiding in the promise of cloud computing.

Data Loss

A recent survey by Symantec found that 43% of the respondents using Cloud services admitted to data loss.  Some data loss could be attributed to user error, including misplaced or misfiled information.  For a shop floor, secure information and data management is necessary, especially in heavily regulated industries facing potential audits.  Effective paperless manufacturing relies on secure data management.

Data Security

Because so many users are accessing the cloud, a number that significantly increases with public cloud services, data security is a challenge.  More users increase the risk. Unauthorized users can (accidentally or otherwise) access data they shouldn’t.  Adding a cloud-based ERP system to shop floor systems magnifies the risk, because you have even more users potentially accessing the manufacturing system.  Potentially, secure data could be inadvertently moved to a less secure area of the cloud. The truth is, with any new technology it takes time to develop standards, and the operational standards for cloud computing are still a work in progress.

Is your shop floor ready for the cloud? Photo by www.colourbox.com.

Is your shop floor ready for the cloud? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com.

Trust

With cloud services, you are entrusting data to another company, opening yourself to risk.  Theft from your service provider is one potential risk.  Inadvertent mistakes by employees of the service provider, such as unsecured apps on a work device connected to your data, is another potential risk.  Consider the “neighborhood,” or server, where your data is stored.  In a recent example, an FBI raid on a server used by cybercriminals led to several businesses losing data.  They unknowingly shared a server with criminals, and during the investigation their data was lost.  Finally, there is the question of who, ultimately, owns the data – you or the company providing the server the data is stored on?  Assumptions over ownership and responsibility may not be clear at first, and can lead to significant problems in the future.

Service Failure

Growing cloud use leads to another problem – failure of service availability.  Recently, Gartner predicted that as more businesses move to the cloud, there will be an increased risk of “cascade” service failures.  Businesses are connected on shared servers, and problems can quickly spread, leading to widespread service outages that would have been contained if computer services were localized.  As more and more companies rely heavily on the cloud, this risk will grow, and since significant downtime is not an option for most shop floors, failure of service is a risk to operations you can’t control.

Mobile Manufacturing

A recent report from the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) cited a survey of more than 200 enterprise executives concerned with mobile device security and data in the cloud.  More and more industries are using mobile devices in business, including manufacturing.  Mobile manufacturing holds tremendous advantages for the shop floor.  But, as businesses adopt cloud services; unsecured mobile devices create unintentional “back doors” into secure data.  Potentially, any mobile device could access your cloud, including devices you can’t control.

Before implementing any change on your shop floor, assess the benefits and potentials dangers of the change. Photo by www.colourbox.com.

Before implementing any change on your shop floor, assess the benefits and potential dangers. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com.

Cloud computing hold tremendous promise for the future, and will continue to grow as businesses adopt the new technology.  It is a powerful tool.  Data protection and recovery is a strength of cloud computing, significantly decreasing the cost and time for disaster recovery, especially in automating backup and speeding up the restoration process.  Almost all data in the cloud is encrypted, which will significantly improve security.  There are cost savings in the cloud, and the ability to scale resources to meet current needs can significantly improve a businesses ability to overcome challenges

But there are currently hazards to moving your shop floor data management to the cloud.  Service providers and enterprise IT resources have not been able to provide the appropriate level of security, both in the cloud and among users.  The cloud is an emerging technology, still struggling with growing pains, which may impact the ability of a provider to deliver the level of service, speed and accuracy necessary to provide paperless manufacturing for the modern, dynamic and constantly changing shop floor.

But, cloud computing isn’t going the way of the HD DVD, and no one is predicting it will gather dust on a shelf any time soon.  As service providers find better solutions and tools for enterprise cloud services, it will become a viable option for the shop floor.

Have you ever considered preparing for the cloud with an internal cloud-based system to manage production data?  A web-based paperless manufacturing solution hosted on an internal server is a cloud-based process control solution that, when there is an appropriate level of security and reliability, can be uploaded and served on the cloud.  This is a step toward the future without experiencing any of the current risks in cloud computing.

What experience have you had with moving your MES, paperless manufacturing or ERP services to the cloud?  Are there benefits to adopting a “cloud” strategy for your shop floor we haven’t covered here?  Speed and the ability to quickly make global changes to a system is a significant benefit we haven’t touched on.  Are there challenges or hazards we missed?  Let us know what your experience has been with the cloud.