Category Archives: Cloud

What to Consider When Selecting a Manufacturing Software Vendor

Liz Hamedi | CIMx Software

In this day and age, customer service and reputable businesses are getting harder to find. There is more to the sustainability of a software system than just the promised functionality. In fact, a system is only as good as the support and the reputation of the company that maintains it. This means it is critical to find a vendor that proves they are trustworthy, knowledgeable and collaborative.

Avoid the Vendor that does it all.

If you’ve ever started down the software implementation path, you’ve likely been blindsided by costs that you hadn’t planned for.

Maybe you had to add a module or two to meet your core requirements. Maybe you needed to pay extra for support or additional training. Or maybe your vendor required you to purchase an additional service to upgrade or integrate?

Unfortunately, the list goes on and on. To combat this, look for a vendor that will not say “yes” to everything. A trustworthy vendor will ask the right questions to ensure you get what you need, without adding additional cost for little to no benefit towards solving your long term goal.

Find a Vendor that supports your buying process.

Your primary goal is to find a system that is reliable with minimum support needs. However, it is important to know that if something does go wrong, or if you have a question, you won’t need to waste time hunting down a response. Although you can never truly understand the future support structure until you become a customer, there are red flags throughout the sales process that you should look out for.

When you ask your sales rep a question or request a demonstration, how long does it take for them to respond back? If you find your buying process to be slowed or hindered because your vendor is unable to deliver, this will be a strong indication of their ongoing customer service.

Find a vendor that can see the big picture.

Most businesses have more than one system to support their production. For you, if all the different parts do not move in harmony, you will be left with more headache than efficiency. Find a vendor that is willing to partner with other software systems to ensure the end result is a positive one.

A good vendor will ask questions to understand the important systems you are currently using and how they impact production so that you have everything you need. It is important that they keep you focused on the primary goals and help you identify future opportunities for additional functionality or system integrations.

By focusing on a vendor that will care enough to ask questions about your most costly production issues and your long-term goals, you will be sure to succeed. You don’t need someone that will tell you they can do everything, because you don’t need everything. You need a vendor that has the expertise and the experience to guide you through a successful project, while also taking into account what is best for you and your shop, not just their bottom line.


Manufacturing Software Experience | CIMx Software

For more than 20 years, CIMx has developed complete solutions for manufacturers. The experience and innovation behind CIMx systems have delivered decades of increased production and cost savings. Quantum® is designed to deliver the production control your team needs to build it right™, ahead of schedule and under budget.

Schedule your live Quantum demo with a CIMx Application Expert today!

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Production Control from Coast to Coast

Quantum connects and controls production for US manufacturers.

Contracting more orders than you have the resources to complete seems like a great problem to have to most manufacturers. However, it’s the consequences of success that have forced many unprepared manufacturers to close shop. Overtime hours chip away at profit margins, over-worked employees become more likely to commit errors and late delivery frustrates longtime customers.

The irony is that the same processes that elevate a company to success can ultimately become that company’s downfall. To succeed in manufacturing, your shop must automate data-capture, enforce build conformance and direct production with real-time WIP dashboards. Keep your delivery promises to every customer and continue your business on the path to success with a production control system designed for every stage of manufacturing.

One CIMx customer was growing at a rapid rate. Business had taken such a positive turn that the company needed to expand operations to the West Coast. To guarantee the level of Quality was consistent at their new facility the company selected Quantum to connect and control production from coast-to-coast.


Case Study: Production Control from Coast to Coast

The Problem
An East Coast electronics manufacturer was growing. Overtime hours skyrocketed and rushed shipping costs began impacting their already narrow margins. This increase in work was welcomed, but resources were thin. To accommodate the increased demand, a secondary shop was scheduled to open on the West coast.

“We were getting by,” explained one production supervisor, “but there were problems we didn’t have solutions for… no records and no good way to track work. We had people just standing around the shop because they were missing information or materials.”

The Solution
Quantum was implemented at both facilities to connect and control the entire enterprise under one sustainable platform. By utilizing Quantum’s advanced planning center and end-to-end production controls, the manufacturer was able to enforce best practices on every build, increase quality standards and track operator/order data from both locations.

In a matter of months, both shops were on schedule and operating at a level of quality and efficiency never before thought possible. By utilizing digital work packets, automatic tolerance checks and real-time WIP quality alerts, the manufacturer was able to prevent common operator errors, stay on schedule and enforce engineering changes from 3,000 miles away.

This customer has continued to grow and is once again expanding their facilities. Record, report and react to errors on your shop floor before they become bottlenecks. Support compliance certification and become the supplier your customers go to first when a job has to be completed on schedule. Build it right™, with Quantum.


If you’re interested in shop floor control, ahead-of-schedule production and complete order visibility, connect with CIMx Application Expert Liz Hamedi at 513-248-7700 x416, or email the CIMx team directly at info@CIMx.com.

CIMx Software celebrates 22 years of US manufacturing software innovation!

After two decades of advanced planning and production control, CIMx announces Quantum 6.0 release for spring of 2018

They say you can learn a lot about a company by understanding where they got their start.

CIMx began its journey in 1996 by developing Process Planning and Engineering systems for Fortune 500 US manufacturers. That foundation in advanced planning, highly regulated compliance reporting and agile engineering change management has fueled more than 20 years of manufacturing software innovation.

“From day one, the goal was to develop our systems in a way that even the shops just starting out could have access to the same tools leveraged by our Fortune 500 customers…” said veteran of the manufacturing tech industry and CEO, Anthony Cuilwik, PhD. “Our Quantum platform achieved that goal. It really is the next generation of manufacturing.”

From aerospace and government defense contractors to medical device, carbon composites and beyond, CIMx has delivered the same care for detail and process demanded by their customers for more than 20 years.

“US manufacturing is going through a renaissance. Shops are growing and their old manual processes just can’t keep up with customer demand.” explained Director of Messaging, Ed Deaton, “Quantum delivers the tools both engineers and operators need to drive velocity, eliminate scrap and ship ahead of schedule, all from one sustainable platform.”

CIMx’s mission of delivering production control to manufacturers of all sizes, regardless of revenue stream, is alive in Quantum. The latest system release is scheduled to deploy spring 2018 as a free upgrade to all licensed users.

If you’re interested in shop floor control, ahead-of-schedule production and complete order visibility, connect with CIMx Application Expert Liz Hamedi at 513-248-7700 x416, or email the CIMx team directly at info@CIMx.com.

 

 

 

Unravelling the Truth of Manufacturing Software Implementations

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Software companies are quick to make claims about their implementation process, but the answers often lead to more confusion than actionable information.

What’s a reasonable schedule for an MES or Paperless Manufacturing system implementation?

When I started in this business (years ago), two years was average. Anyone who claimed to implement a full system, configured for the customer, in less than a year was either fudging the truth or delusional.

I remember reading a press release from a company that claimed they installed a system in 8 months, but, reading between the lines, you could tell there were problems. For one thing, they called it an “installation.” Anyone could throw a program on a server and claim the system was installed. For another, and most telling, there were no quotes from the customer.  So either they forgot to tell the customer they were done, or there was a very unhappy shop floor.

Times and technology have changed, and so have our expectations, so what is a reasonable schedule? Where is the golden balance between speed, functionality and user compatibility?

We turn to children’s tales for help in our answer….

Goldilocks and Three Software Implementations

  • My Software Implementation was too short!

I will admit – there is something appealing about cloud implementations. There are companies now offering apps that let you use a credit card. Within an hour you could have an MES!!

… well, not really. There are MANY problems with this “quick-fix” software solution. For one thing, they use smoke and mirrors to mask the real backbone of their solution – email. For another, you are locking yourself out of key features. For example, revision control eliminates many shop floor errors and problems, but the email planning system doesn’t have the tight revision control modern production needs.  Customizable data collection and reporting are benefits you won’t find in an “app.”

There’s also the question of configuration. Every shop floor has different processes, so how will canned functionality in a cloud app work on your shop floor?  The app is going to dictate how you work.  Will it make your processes, stronger? Probably not…

Finally, have you considered who will own your data? All that planning in the cloud is no longer under your control.  If the cloud server goes down or is confiscated as evidence, where is you data? Back-ups are nice, but actually controlling your data is better.

A quick fix solution is just that, a quick fix to what may be a deep seated problem with your manufacturing value chain.  There’s promise in the cloud, but it’s technology that’s still developing.

  • My software implementation is TOOOO LONG!

Many software companies link apps together and market themselves as a “master” solution to all your manufacturing needs. There are reasons why these systems take so long (often years) to implement.

3d small people - angry

How long can your shop floor wait for a solution to be implemented? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

In theory, this sounds like an amazing idea – a single solution linking the entire manufacturing process from end-to-end.  If it worked, you could easily manage the entire production enterprise.  You’d work with a single vendor and a single software system.

We are still years, perhaps decades, from a comprehensive enterprise solution that actually works. Some systems will be strong in one area, such as the PLM, and weaker in others, such as the MES. Enterprise software products are very different, so it’s natural for the overall system to favor one area over others.

Other times the “single” solution is really a series of individual apps the company purchased and stitched together like some software Frankenstein. Purchasing software is a quick way to acquire functionality, but ingesting that functionality into a suite will take years, and may never work. Buying a company isn’t necessarily going to make the overall product better.

On top of that, many of these “master” systems are complex and difficult because they are based on old technology. Rather than upgrading the software, and disturbing all the interconnections between individual apps, the company keeps adding new features and fixing problems with code that is never going to get better or become easier to use. Instead, the supplier just charges more and more money to work with the increasingly and maddeningly complex code, burying the creaky and problematic ancient system under shiny new features and tacked-on apps.

In the end, this is why it takes so long to implement these systems. Depending on the needs of the customer, the systems being integrated together, and the needs of the individual sites, a comprehensive solution is a massive and risky undertaking with suspect value. Problems will occur and the customer is left with “gaps” in their comprehensive solution.

  • My Software Implementation was Just Right!

Today, most suppliers offer Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) systems for implementation. With a COTS product, there is a core system that is configured, ensuring the software can be modified and installed much quicker, and for a lower cost, than a custom solution. There isn’t a perfect schedule for an implementation, but there are signs the savvy consumer can use to cut through the marketing miasma and learn whether it is really a modern COTS product.

Confidence Button Shows Assurance Belief And Boldness

How can you balance speed and functionality in a shop floor implementation? Illustration by www,colourbox.com

Ask the supplier how long each of the custom requests will take before the implementation. If the development time seems extremely long, then the system they are offering may be older or more complex, which can increase the schedule and make the system difficult to maintain.

Depending on the complexity of the requests, most configurations should take no more than a month or two.

Another factor that can significantly increase the schedule of an implementation is preparing the planning. Some manufacturing software uses a form- or template-based system, which can severely limit flexibility. If the supplier has to create new forms, or demands you adapt planning for the software, it is likely they use templates. The software works, but it will increase your reliance on the supplier (for changes) and the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Finally, does the supplier have a software upgrade plan? Are the upgrades free, or is there a cost?  If there is a significant cost for an upgrade, or the company doesn’t offer an upgrade plan, then you may be dealing with a customized software system. Changing or upgrading the software in the future will be very expensive, leading manufacturers to just wait and continue struggling with an obsolete solution.

Benchmarking Manufacturing Software Implementations

With modern software built on an adaptable platform, implementations should not be a complex process. The software should be able to utilize your existing planning (our system does), and it shouldn’t be difficult to train users.

In fact, you would be surprised how quickly a system can be installed and in use on your shop floor without relying on a torturous cloud-based solution.

We recently completed a software configuration and remotely installed a Paperless Manufacturing system for a new customer in less than a month. Training took place over two days with an application specialist working with users on the shop floor.

The customer is currently in the process of updating their planning to utilize new functionality, but once that’s complete they’ll be rolling out the software to all the users. It’s been an easy process, the customer explained.

Years ago, system implementation was a scary, expensive process that caused many manufacturers to wait on purchasing software. Today, implementation shouldn’t be a factor in deciding whether to implement or not.

If it is, then give us a call or contact us today. We’re happy to discuss solutions and see if there is anything we can do to help.

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.

A New Vision of Mobile Manufacturing

Don’t be fooled, mobile manufacturing requires more than just an app.  It requires an integrated mobile solution delivering shop floor functionality on the go.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I love music.  A few years ago I wanted a new stereo system.  I had a single requirement – I wanted to use my MP3 player with the sound system.  I wanted to throw parties, fill the house with music that fuels the fun.  Problem was – I didn’t do my research.  I bought a system with the words “MP3 Compatible” in big, bold letters on the box.

Unfortunately, “MP3 Compatible” meant a single USB port.  The stupid thing never worked, and was about as functional as fins on a kangaroo.  I couldn’t plug my player directly into the port.  Instead, I had to download my music onto an empty zip drive.  Then I had to plug the zip drive into the USB port.  After a few minutes, a song MIGHT start playing.  Maybe.  I couldn’t control the music, and between songs there was a LONG delay.  If I ever downloaded something other than music, an error would flash and the whole system shut down.

Honestly, the system and my music player were as compatible as fire and ice, and as functional as those fins.  I felt cheated, used and angry.  My excitement crumbled as the truth of my purchase became apparent.

What can mobile manufacturing do for you?

Using a tablet, smart phone, or other mobile device to access a true paperless manufacturing system will boost productivity, help eliminate errors, and increase work flow visibility.  Imagine giving your shop floor anytime and anywhere connection to production documents, including work orders, safety documents, training videos and more.  How much more productive will your team be if QA conducts real-time quality checks from anywhere?  How would shop management like anywhere access to real-time production data?

Can your manufacturing software support mobility on your shop floor? Image  by www.colourbox.com

Can your manufacturing software support mobility on your shop floor? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Unfortunately, many MES or paperless manufacturing vendors make promises regarding “mobile manufacturing compatibility” that fool many companies into accepting awkward functionality and systems that never work as promised.  Compatibility between a shop floor system and mobile devices is neither important nor useful, compatibility between the application software and the work flow processes is how you achieve true mobility.  You need a scalable, adaptable solution that supports your work flow processes.

For some vendors, “mobile manufacturing” is a simple app that provides a view of some production data from a mobile device.  Turn on the app and you can see shop floor trends, and maybe identify potential shop floor problems, but that’s about it.   These apps might allow you to open a document from your web device, see the production schedule, and maybe move an item on the screen, but that’s the limit of their app-functionality.

Other vendors promise mobile manufacturing as an add-on project once the initial project is complete. They can do it, if you want, but it leads to additional service fees, project schedule bloat, and complicated and risky implementation.  Like me and my “MP3 Compatible” sound system, manufacturers buy a system, only to see the limits of “compatibility” once they have the system on the shop floor.

True Mobile Manufacturing

True mobile manufacturing offers an integrated mobile solution within the core system, not an app.  The power of the complete manufacturing system should be available from most mobile devices, and offer interactive functionality, not just read-only screenshots of data.  Mobile manufacturing should ensure quick and easy access to your MES or paperless manufacturing system from almost any device.

How much more could you do with an integrated mobile solution on the shop floor?

How much more could you do with an integrated mobile solution on the shop floor?

Don’t be fooled.  Look for browser-based systems (though, be careful you aren’t diving head first into the dangerous world of the Cloud).  Look for systems that are fully compatible with the web, and offer complete mobile functionality, not an app or two.

The future of modern manufacturing is embracing mobility.  Even if you aren’t ready to give your shop floor a tablet now, in a few years (or less) you may need shop floor software that offers mobile manufacturing.  Take the time, do your research and find a solution with integrated mobile manufacturing, not just an app or hastily slapped-on “mobile compatibility.”

… unless you want to watch your dreams of an efficient, mobile shop floor crumble like my dream of music-fueled parties…

Let us know if you want to learn more or see how integrated mobile manufacturing can transform and benefit your shop floor.

Four Paperless Manufacturing Predictions for 2014

We take a look at the manufacturing topics and trends you’ll be talking about in 2014, and offer hints and tips to help you get a leg up in the New Year.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

This year, I began thinking as 2013 rumbled to a close and 2014 burst on the scene in a polar vortex, considering what to expect in the New Year.

Manufacturing is in a pretty good place right now, with six straight months of growth according to ISM, and reports predicting continued growth and confidence in manufacturing for 2014, but there are still concerns and risks.  This week, we’ll highlight for manufacturing a few 2014 trends, and look at ways your business can turn a challenge into a competitive advantage.

Is your manufacturing business ready for 2014?  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Is your manufacturing business ready for 2014? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

1. Cloud Computing and Cybersecurity

As more and more servers become virtual, and businesses continue to search for ways to drive down IT costs, maintenance, and total cost of ownership, consolidation through the cloud is becoming an appealing option (or reality) for many companies.

Manufacturing isn’t ready to fully embrace the cloud.  There are still challenges to working in the cloud that make the option a non-starter for many companies.  Cybersecurity is one.  If there is one thing we’ve learned from the recent data breach at Target, and the continuing saga of NSA snooping, it’s that the cloud isn’t nearly as secure and safe as we would like it to be.  For manufacturing, where security and secure accessibility is paramount, the cloud is an unnecessary risk.

In 2014, vendors continue to adapt their offering and messaging regarding the cloud to manufacturers.  Keep an eye out for new innovations to target security and accessibility.  For your own business, be wary of fully embracing the latest trends.  Look for ways to utilize the strength of the cloud while minimizing the risk. 

2. Mobile Manufacturing

More and more of us are embracing mobile computing (tablets and cell phones) over the traditional PC.  Businesses are making the move as well, as employees find advantages in mobility.

What can you you do to make future trends work for you?  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What can you you do to make future trends work for you? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

In 2014, look for manufacturing to continue slowly embracing mobility.  There are apps and software focused on mobile manufacturing, but they don’t yet offer a practical shop floor solution.  For example, have you ever tried to view a complex CAD drawing on a cell phone screen?  In addition, cost and security is a limiting factor.  Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) will work for many businesses, but not for the secure shop floor.  Many shop floors are a dangerous place for an expensive mobile device.

We see manufacturers taking practical first steps to embracing mobile manufacturing.  Quality Control with a tablet and a strong MES can walk the floor and proactively increase quality, rather than waiting for a problem to happen.  For your own shop floor, look at ways you can benefit from the mobility – implementing it where it makes sense.

 3. The Qualified Worker Crunch

This is an issue we’ve seen in the past, but it’s also one that the industry continues to grapple with in 2014.

The skilled labor shortage continues to impact manufacturing in America.  According to statistics, more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled.  A study by Thomasnet.com reveals more than 80% of the current manufacturing workforce is between 45 and 65.  Studies have identified the shortage as not just a manpower issue, but an education issue.  Colleges are taking steps to address the issue with new programs and training opportunities, but manufacturers have also begun looking at ways they can ensure new workers can be effectively trained, and the knowledge and skills of the older workers can be passed on to a new generation before critical skills are lost to worker turnover.

In 2014, look for more attention to be spent identifying critical shop floor skills and for process enforcement and training to be a focus of manufacturing.  Take a close look at the processes and training programs you have in place to minimize the impact of the qualified worker crunch on your business.

Is your enterprise security up to date?  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Is your enterprise security up to date? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

 4. The Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data

In recent years, we’ve been riding the wave of Big Data and the Internet of Things due to advances in our ability to collect and store data.  It’s an issue we’ve seen manufacturing grapple with in the past.

The challenge we see for manufacturing in 2014 is collecting the “right” data and having the shop floor and process visibility and control to act on it.  We’re seeing the customer, supplier chain and the shop floor connected by information.  Big data holds the promise of improved quality and production, and an optimized and efficient enterprise, but only if your company has the tools and ability to act on the data – shaping manufacturing of the future through technology, real-time data and analytics.  Customers expect data and information at their fingerprints.  Are you ready?

As I wrap this blog up, I already see issues I’d love to explore further (3D PrintingGreen ManufacturingRobots on the shop floor?), but the issues and trends presented here offer opportunities for the New Year.  The strategic steps you take now can have a positive impact on your business in 2014.

What do you think?  What issues do you see impacting the industry in 2014?  Leave us a comment and let us know.  Our friends at the manufacturing software reviews site Software advice are also conducting a survey on the most popular manufacturing products, and if you’d like to contribute, take the survey here and see what other industry leaders are using and planning for 2014.  And as always, if you have a question don’t hesitate to ask.  We’re happy to help.