Category Archives: Information Technology

6 Reasons to Invest in Paperless Manufacturing in 2016

For companies waiting to invest in manufacturing software, now is the perfect time to stop waiting and start benefiting in a shop floor system.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

In more than 20 years of providing manufacturing software solutions, we have heard plenty of excuses why companies hold off on an improvement project.

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Never before has MES and paperless manufacturing been so accessible. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Some companies would rather focus on another project, or IT wants to look at a few more options, or management wants to see if the market will turn before adding another capital project. In the meantime, they throw money away and hope to get by rather than address the root cause of their production problems.

I can respect their decision, but I don’t understand it. Companies are reacting to an outdated vision of manufacturing software. “MES” is no longer the scary monster it once was. Data collection won’t destroy production. Successful MES project no longer require millions of dollars and years of work.

In fact, today may be the best time to invest in a shop floor system. Consider this:

  • Lower Cost. In the past, only the largest and most profitable companies could afford a shop floor system. Today, technology has eliminated many factors that increased cost in the past. Granted, there are companies still offering expensive systems, and there are factors that will increase price, but it is much easier to manage costs for a system that will dramatically improve production.
  • Ease of Implementation. Companies fear purchasing software requiring a significant investment in time and resources. Today, with modern, web-based software and behavior-based systems, you can literally install the software in a day, train in a few hours, and begin using it the next day. Systems are much easier to install and use, ensuring a greater return on required resources.
  • Increased Functionality. At one time, there was a wide gap between what a software system promised and what it actually delivered. Today, MES and paperless manufacturing are mature systems. The product delivered by established vendors with a history in the market delivers the capability the modern shop floor needs.
  • Customer Demand. Customer expectations have changed, and manufacturers must embrace technology. Old excuses about missed deadlines and shifting schedules are no longer accepted. Customers expect manufacturers to be agile, with visibility and control of production.
  • Workforce Expectations. There is a skills gap in manufacturing. Many shop floor positions aren’t being filled, and new workers aren’t embracing manufacturing as a profession. A shop floor system helps mitigate these challenges. New workers are more comfortable working with a modern software system, rather than a massive build book. In addition, the system increases collaboration passing critical knowledge from experienced workers to new employees.
  • Foundational Technology. Manufacturing is changing. New disruptive technology like Additive Manufacturing and the Internet of Things (IoT) are influencing manufacturing. MES provides a foundation for these disruptive technologies, helping ensure they benefit, rather than disrupt, business operations.

With every year, the capability and power of software increases, while, overall, the costs will decrease. It’s not surprising. Paperless manufacturing has become a cost-effective solution available to most, if not all, manufacturers. The problem is the perception of the software hasn’t caught up to the current functionality or price. Many are still dismissing the effectiveness of the solution.

If you haven’t taken a look at a modern MES or manufacturing system, then contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis and see what the software can do for you.

Aligning IT and Operations for Successful Smart Manufacturing

Finding success with Smart Manufacturing requires more than software. Six questions will help position your team for improved production with Smart Manufacturing.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

The key to Smart Manufacturing is “alignment” between IT and operations. In a perfect production system, IT-driven tools collect, analyze, archive and deliver critical data to operations, fueling production. Tasks are automated when appropriate and possible, letting users focus on value-added work. IT delivers the appropriate tools, collects the right data, and synchronizes with operations, while operations adapt processes and workflow to make effective use of the data and tools.

3d render of time concept roadsign board isolated on white background

Manufacturing is changing. Are you ready? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

The Key to Success with Smart Manufacturing

Success with Smart Manufacturing isn’t a measure of the amount of data or processing power, or the number of integrations or drop-down menus you inflict on a production line. IT-driven tools don’t necessarily mean more software, functionality and systems. Unnecessary complexity will hurt production. Alignment, and success with Smart Manufacturing, requires the right tools and right processes.

Consider the following questions as you plan your own Smart Manufacturing program:

  • Are you putting good data into your system? Many companies moving from a paper-based or legacy system will load bad or incomplete data into a new MES or paperless manufacturing system. Inefficient processes are required to cope with bad data, and continue because no one bothers to correct it. Take time to correct errors before the project begins or adopt a solution that has built in error identification and correction.
  • Are you collecting the right production data? With the IoT (Internet of Things) and modern MES, there is no limit to the data you can collect. Don’t overwhelm operations with data that adds little practical value. Consider the ROI of the data you collect, and set up appropriate data collection.
  • Do you have the shop floor control to make use of the data? You need to synchronize the effort of IT and operations. The tools implemented by IT should match production needs. Operations should adapt to optimize the benefits of the new system, and not cling to old and inefficient processes. Both teams need to communicate and work towards a common goal.
  • Can you analyze trends to track overall efficiency? Process improvement is a core benefit of an MES or paperless manufacturing system. With a software system robust enough to analyze trends, you can identify process weaknesses and help make shop floor management a science rather than guesswork. Move from reacting to problems to proactively avoiding those problems.
  • Can you avoid operator fatigue once the software is in place? Software shouldn’t require operators service the system rather than focus on production. More than overly complex interfaces, it may also lead to operators refusing to use the system or creatively finding ways to avoid it. Consider if the system is truly easy-to-use for both operations and IT.
  • Can the system manage change efficiently? Once installed, many software systems will reflect the operational needs at a certain point in time. As the system ages, those needs will change. Determine how effectively the system can accommodate change, as this will affect the long-term value and TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of the software.
3d small people - rolls gear

Companies that successfully use the strength of both IT and Operations resources are ready for digital manufacturing. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Optimize Production with Digital Manufacturing

Smart Manufacturing brings IT and Operations into alignment. IT-driven tools improve operations and the shop floor, increase operational efficiency, and deliver better production results. Operations need processes in place to optimize usage of these tools.

Companies that take the time to explore digital manufacturing and design a Smart Manufacturing program that meets the needs of both IT and operations find significantly more success once the system is in place.

Want to learn more, or see how an implementation program can help prepare your company for Smart Manufacturing, then contact CIMx today for a free initial shop floor evaluation with an application engineer. We’re always happy to help harmonize your people, processes and technology.

4 Tips for Evaluating New Technology for Manufacturing

Use these insider tips to cut through the hype and evaluate new tech and tools with a critical eye to deliver benefits rather than bloatware for your shop floor.

Written by David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Use this handy tool to evaluate new shop floor technology to reduce risk and ensure an ROI. Image by www.colourbox.com

Use this handy tool to evaluate new shop floor technology to reduce risk and ensure an ROI. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Today, new technology and applications for manufacturing are flooding the market. Companies are trying to capture Smart Manufacturing lightning in a bottle for quick profits, or discover how, exactly, the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to work. Every one of these products promises they can make everything better with their application, or system, or plug-on (or –in), or tool, or some other magic widget that will add instant Industry 4.0 deliciousness to your existing MES or paperless manufacturing system.

There is so much noise out there; it’s difficult to separate hype from truth, or fact from fiction. Products can promise the world, but in manufacturing if it’s not improving workflow and processes, it’s not worth it. A new manufacturing tool or system must be implemented with operational need in mind, and not just for the flashy “new-ness” of it.

Even so, manufacturing leaders must work to maintain a competitive edge, and be prepared to seize the opportunity offered by new technology. In a tight market, even a small improvement can lead to increased profit. You need a tool to evaluate new technology for potential benefit. With that in mind, we’ve prepared 4 critical questions you can use to more accurately evaluate new technology. As you ponder the promises made by a tech company, consider the following:

  1. Does it solve a problem or improve operations?

From our experience, most companies install new software or technology to solve a specific problem. It might be a failed audit, or out of control paper on the shop floor or inscrutable production documents stored in boxes. Before installing a new tool, evaluate the benefit. Will it solve a specific problem? How will it improve operations? Don’t add functionality without a clear benefit.

  1. Do you have an accurate estimate of the ROI for the investment?

You will need an objective way to evaluate the new software or tool. The ROI (Return on Investment) is a comparison of the cost of the tool against the benefit of the functionality. Before installing anything, make sure you have an accurate estimate of the ROI. Many of the flashy, shiny new tools will offer “Wow” factor with little return. A system that offers a low cost solution that improves production in a number of ways will have a much greater ROI.

  1. Will the solution grow with you?

Static, custom-built software systems are no longer a viable investment. Technology and operational needs change so quickly, the moment you install a system it will begin to lose value. Before you install or implement anything, have an upgrade path in place. What is the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of the solution, once you consider the cost of updates? You need a software system that adapts and grows as your needs change.

  1. Are there gaps in how you will utilize the system?

You need to think beyond the data collected by a new system to determine the benefit. Do you have a way to act on and implement real-time data, or are you still relying on error-prone paper-based work instructions? Do you have machines with an output that can’t be used by the monitoring system? Want to use dynamic scheduling? Make sure you are collecting the data you need to adequately feed the system.


New technology promises to reshape manufacturing in ways that were unheard of a few short years ago. But, you need to approach the marketing promises with a critical eye to ensure you can adequately benefit from the investment, or you aren’t putting your faith in a piece of flashy tech that will be outdated in a few short months.

Got more questions? Contact us for a free evaluation to identify technology gaps that may be holding your shop floor back. We love manufacturing, and we love technology, and we’re happy to help any way we can.

Making Sense of the MES Module Conundrum

If you buy a manufacturing software solution as “modules,” how much benefit and potential is lost with only a partial solution? What are you missing?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

How many modules will it take to get the functionality you need? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

How many modules will it take to get the functionality you need? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

In 1997, MESA (Manufacturing Execution Systems Association) defined the scope of MES with 11 different functions. These functions include areas such as Quality Management, Labor Management, Data Collection & Acquisition, and Performance Analysis. Over the years, the scope and models used by MESA have changed, but the goal has remained the same – to provide a view of what can and should be accomplished with an enterprise system (MES) to increase performance.

Here is my problem – many suppliers offer piecemeal “module-based” systems as MES or Paperless Manufacturing. With a clearly defined scope for an enterprise system, how can you offer only a partial solution to a shop floor and expect them to operate at maximum efficiency? It’s like giving someone a few pieces of the puzzle and telling them to make it work.

For example, some companies offer Shop Floor Data Collection as a “module” to the main software system. It is an additional cost, and additional work to install. Sure, it may be marketed to the manufacturer as a bonus that can be “added” when they are ready, but without shop floor data collection you don’t have a complete solution. Other companies may offer Performance Analytics in a “Service Pack” with an additional cost, Maintenance Management in a Tooling Module, and Product Tracking and Genealogy as yet another installation because it’s not part of their core “Manufacturing Management or Paperless Management” solution.

It makes no sense! How can you offer a partial system and call it a “Manufacturing Solution?”  Why aren’t these pieces fully integrated into a cohesive solution? Why does the product have to be doled out piece by piece? Is this really a better way to manage information on the shop floor and control the elements of production?

The Foundation of a Total Solution

An MES should provide the foundation for production. Information enters the system and is managed and controlled throughout the production process before it is moved to another enterprise system. The problem with the flawed “module” approach to MES implementation is it leaves holes in the foundation – holes that create errors and inefficiencies. Production just disappears in those gaping holes as your team scrambles to fill the hole with non-productive effort.

A complete shop floor software solution should provide the foundation of information management for production. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

A complete shop floor software solution should provide the foundation of information management for production. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Consider this – if your “manufacturing management system” is just pushing orders to the shop floor and not collecting data, you don’t have a complete view of manufacturing or any way to effectively introduce process improvement. Quality control will be hindered and process enforcement incomplete. By removing an important function of a complete system just because it’s in a different module, you hurt the effectiveness of the entire system.

It would be like buying a car with the steering wheel missing, and the dealer asking you if you want the “4 Tires Upgrade.” Having only a few pieces of the puzzle offers only part of the solution. You might be happy with those parts, but the overall solution, and maximized system effectiveness, is still out of reach.

A Better Shop Floor Solution

So, why do companies offer modules if they are so problematic and ineffective? Many times it is because the system they offer was once focused on a single MES function. It might have started its life as Inventory system or a simple ERP, and the MES functionality was added later. It might even have been a whole different system that was purchased and smashed together to make a “new” product.

When looking for a manufacturing solution, position your shop floor for growth and improvement by making sure you have a true MES or Paperless Manufacturing solution. Don’t focus on a list of functions or individual requirements, but look at process and make sure there are no “holes” in the solution. The system needs to provide a complete foundation for production management.

This is why CIMx doesn’t offer modules. We offer the complete solution to every customer. Once installed, customers turn on and use the functions they need, and can add new features and functions at their own pace because the entire solution is in place and waiting.

Don’t be fooled by the Module conundrum, and end up purchasing a partial solution that leaves your shop floor searching for the missing piece of MES puzzle. Want to learn more, or talk about what a Paperless Manufacturing solution could do for you? Give us a call, we’re happy to help.

What Can You Do to Keep Your Company from Drowning in Technology Debt?

Many companies today are drowning in tech debt, and they don’t even know it. A few simple tips will help you manage your tech debt and determine your next steps in enterprise upkeep.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Technology debt is a term that originated in programming. Originally, it explained the programming debt developers would incur while writing code. A quick and easy solution in programming might incur a future “tech debt” – when that quick solution would require significant modification or hinder future progress. Another solution might require more development resources to implement, but will drastically reduce or eliminate the need for modification and better support future development.

Modern manufacturing relies on solid support from IT. Is your IT doing everything it can to increase production? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Modern manufacturing relies on solid support from IT. Is your IT doing everything it can to increase production? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

In manufacturing, the Technology Debt is the total cost of replacing outdated technologies or systems as they begin to degrade the overall functionality of the company. In general, manufacturing is reluctant to add new technology, and so as systems age the overall effectiveness of the operation degrades. Companies struggle to determine when they finally have to pay their technology debt.  When is it the right time to make a change or add a new system? What risk will they take with a technology purchase or implementation? In the end, many manufacturing companies fool themselves into continually delaying a project – their technology debt becoming a massive expense. This will hinder production, increase errors and decrease efficiency, but as long as production limps along, these companies continue to wait.

Evaluate Your Manufacturing Technology Debt

Are you curious to know how large your tech debts might be? Use the following questions to analyze your current systems and better understand the benefits of your software and technology systems:

  • What is the cost of the current software or system?

Most enterprise software and systems have a licensing cost, which is only one part of the cost of the system, but it is a good place to start. You also need to study the hidden costs of the system.  Look at the amount of time and resources necessary to maintain the system. If IT spends an average of 20 – 30 hours a week maintaining, or repairing, the system, this is a significant expense that must be added to the analysis. Lost production during times when the system is down will also add to the cost. Finally, look at the expense you may be incurring by using a less than optimal system. For example, if you can’t integrate a legacy system with your current ERP, then there will be a cost for manually moving data from one system to another.

  • Is the current system upgradeable?

Look at the current system, and determine if it can be upgraded.  What is the cost of the upgrade? If you have a custom software system, the cost of any upgrade will be significant. Over time, this cost will only grow as you continue to upgrade to pay off that tech debt, increasing the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of the software. In addition, systems that are difficult to upgrade, or don’t have a clear upgrade path, will degrade your overall productivity exponentially. The system you have isn’t going to get any better, and you risk the eventual cost of the tech debt becoming prohibitive. Keep this in mind as you consider a new system versus an upgrade of your current system.

  • How much will the new system increase shop floor productivity?

Too often, as companies begin to evaluate their systems, they don’t consider manufacturing and operations. They will look at the front office and IT compatibility, but not the potential dramatic benefit the new system will have to shop floor productivity. For example, eliminating paper from the shop floor with a paperless manufacturing system will save on the cost of paper and ink travelers and build books. Scrap and errors can be eliminated. The need to input the same data multiple times is removed. Redline edits and change orders are improved. Even so, some companies are satisfied meeting the need with a lesser, forms-based system that leaves paper on the shop floor. Understand your current processes and evaluate the benefits to the process with the new system. Many times, the benefit to productivity will more than pay for the entire new system.

  • What is the overall cost of the replacement or new system?

Many companies today still believe a new manufacturing software system will cost millions of dollars, and require several years to full develop and implement. With new software technology, that’s no longer the case. A new system can be implemented in as little as a few months, and may cost much less than the licensing costs of your current, outdated system. As you evaluate your tech debt, work with a vendor you trust to understand your current shop floor and find a solution that meets your needs, then determine the true cost. As you study the cost, look at the licensing fees, the cost of product support, and the internal resources necessary to maintain the system. Before selecting a course of action, make sure you are comparing the true costs of both your current system and a potential replacement system.

  • What does an “integrated” system really mean?

Often, and with good reason, IT resources in manufacturing will be reluctant to add a “new” system to their enterprise. They are reluctant to tackle new software without an idea of potential benefit and an understanding of the internal resources necessary to maintain the software. Anything new is immediately seen as “system bloat” no matter the manufacturing benefit. Because of this, many companies look at “modules” or extensions of a currently implemented system, and end up creating the problem they hoped to avoid. The truth is, many companies offer “modules” they purchased from another software vendor. The module isn’t really linked to their product, and may not even be compatible to past versions of their software. Integration, implementation and installation becomes a massive project more complex than adding an entirely new system. For an honest analysis, study the benefit of competing systems, and identify the support needs of each individually. Don’t be fooled by a system having the same name.

The Enterprise Cost of Increased Tech Debt

As companies delay paying off their tech debt or upgrading their current systems, the problems faced by their operations team will only grow. The problems – shop floor errors, scrap, the inability to meet customer needs and lost production – will explode. Technology and modern manufacturing has reached the point when companies that haven’t upgraded, and haven’t addressed their tech debt, will no longer be able to compete or operate in the global marketplace.

Are you letting your company drown in technology debt? What is it costing you? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Are you letting your company drown in technology debt? What is it costing you? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Many times, tech debt grows because of the separation between operations and IT. Both operate in enterprise silos, and overcoming challenges without understanding the perspective of other departments create problems.  It’s in these cracks the tech debt grows. Operations have a growing production need which IT doesn’t understand, so the company waits to fill that need because operations can’t adequately communicate the value of the system. IT is only added to the implementation team late in the process, and their needs are never factored into the decision. Miscommunication leads to projects being shelved and the tech debt growing – the problem being put off for another year.

That old paradigm will no longer work in the new world. New technology and processes, increased customer demands, government regulations and the need to operate on a global scale are pushing many companies to finally eliminate enterprise silos and pay their tech debt. Companies can no longer wait – they have to adapt, update and embrace technology and new systems and software.

What are your greatest technology challenges? How are you managing your tech debt? Let us help you eliminate your tech debt and overcome operational challenges. Contact CIMx for a free evaluation of your shop floor today.

Insider Secrets to System Integration for MES and Paperless Manufacturing

There’s confusion out there in the MES and paperless manufacturing market about what “system integration” means and what it can do for your company.  We cut through the confusion and offer tips for ensuring integration leads to benefits for you and your shop floor.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

How can you navigate the myths and legends of manufacturing system integration? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

How can you navigate the myths and legends of manufacturing system integration? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

System integration.

For many manufacturers, the term has taken on mythical, magical, properties.  Like some IT or software unicorn, many companies are questing for the holy grail of total “SYSTEM INTEGRATION.”  They call it the “digital enterprise,” “enterprise integration,” or “operation integration.”  Companies feed into the myth, believing they cannot achieve operational Nirvana without system integration.  Current IT trends and tools lend support to these beliefs, especially big data and advanced analytics – both require integrated systems.

There are benefits to system integration for savvy manufacturers.  It’s worth the investment, but many companies fail to fully realize the benefits in their single-minded focus on complete system integration.  They may even be hurting production.  The goal shouldn’t be a monolithic digital enterprise, but improved productivity and better business processes.

We want to take a brief look at system integration, focusing on the benefits and dangers rather than the technology (which can change quickly as new products and techniques are released), and offer tips on how you can design a more successful integration project.

What is system integration?

System integration is a computer technique where individual software components are combined into an integrated whole.  With interconnected systems, electronic data is shared and exchanged across the network, ensuring accurate information is available anywhere and at any time.  Integration improves communication and coordination.  By linking computer systems or software applications together, either physically or functionally, the entire computer network acts as a coordinated whole, eliminating information “silos” that occur when data is input in different locations.

There are several methods of system integration.  Most utilize a variety of techniques, not just new software or hardware.  Cultural adaptation and coordination, as well as an evaluation of business processes, are also required for a successful integration.

The Benefits of system integration

Follow our tips to ensure maximum benefit for your next system integration project.  Image by www.colourbox.com

Follow our tips to ensure maximum benefit for your next system integration project. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

The primary benefit of integrated systems is improved functionality.  Data within the organization will be fully harmonized, creating a more capable system, improving performance and enhancing existing systems.  Reports will access more data, improving accuracy and decision-making while delivering better operational management.

Manufacturing pioneered the early study and use of system integration as companies sought improved operations through the use of Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM).  In CIM, companies used computers to integrate manufacturing activities.  By integrating computer systems, such as product development, process planning, production, and delivery and after sales, companies could deliver accurate information where and when it was needed, and in the format that was required.

Companies that smartly invested in CIM were rewarded.  The US National Research Council asserts production can be improved through CIM by as much as 40 to 70 percent.  Design costs can be reduced by 15 to 30 percent, and overall lead time can be reduced by 20 to 60 percent.

Navigating the dangers of system integration

Simply pushing computer systems together, or imposing a new workflow process or computer application, is not enough to achieve beneficial system integration.  Many times, the drive (or quest) for system integration begins in the front office, not the shop floor, which can lead to a number of problems for production.  A system that benefits one department may not benefit or even work for another, hindering productivity, reducing benefit, and building resistance to the overall integration plan.

The fact is, the business processes and computer systems that work for finance, IT, or product design aren’t an optimal solution for production.  An ERP is a transaction-based system, and the data, output and processes are different than a behavior- or process-based MES or paperless manufacturing system. A transaction-based system catalogs data, while a process-based system manages workflow with information.  Trying to impose a transaction-based system on shop floor workflow is inefficient.  Any advantage gained from the system integration is lost as more resources are required to complete work.

In an effort to create a common data format or a shared operational system for the integration, many companies will sacrifice operational efficiency.  Manufacturers will lose the operational functionality they need.  A transaction-based system will never offer the tools necessary to optimally manage redline edits or deliver process enforcement, even if it works great for HR or design.

Consider the cultural side of the equation.  Can you imagine imposing engineering workflow or finance workflow on an assembly or production line?  It sounds silly, but many companies do that when the purchase a “suite” of pre-integrated software systems.  It delivers front office benefits by sacrificing operational efficiency.

Tips for successful software integration

Don't forget to consider cultural needs, as well as technological needs, when planning an integration project.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Don’t forget to consider cultural needs, as well as technological needs, when planning an integration project. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Consider these tips as you evaluate the opportunities for system integration:

  • Set specific goals for the integration, and ensure those goals are met with a clear ROI. Many times, companies will continue to add functionality as their costs and project complexity grows exponentially.  Add in the costs a piece of functionality may have to one area, and for some projects an ROI will never be achieved.  Manage your initial expectations to focus on the initial key project drivers.
  • Look at not only a technical solution, but a cultural one as well. Start the process by breaking down the cultural boundaries in your company before rolling out a technical solution.  This will require buy-in and consensus.  Make clear not only the goals, but the expectations.  Give each area a voice in the final solution, and ensure their needs are met.
  • Look at delivering the project in phases, rather than a single, massive installation. Any enterprise-wide system integration is more than just software installation, it requires a cultural shift.  Tackling an enterprise project is not just technically difficult, but culturally difficult as well.  A phased implementation will eliminate many of these problems.
  • Look for added value in the project, and ensure it is real value, and not just functionality. For example, linking design and production on a single system is one tactic, but many times system integration can be as simple as sharing a single database with revision control and an approval process, and doesn’t require an entirely new software package.  The value of the project is achieved without the additional and unnecessary complexity.
  • Beware of vendors promising an “integrated” solution. Many companies are working to build “digital enterprise” software.  Their tactic  is to “purchase” solutions to be integrated into their own system.  The result of these purchases is often problematic.  The integration the vendor makes by smashing the system together may not match your current processes or needs, and will add complexity to the installation at your site.  The benefit the vendor gains by marketing an “integrated” solution does not translate to your shop floor or enterprise.
  • System integration doesn’t require a single “master” system to manage operations. Look at sharing data across relevant systems using an application-independent data format.  This project can easily be done in phases.  For example, send orders from your ERP to your MES, automatically generating orders for production.  Once a product ships, send the product data to the PLM to create a master record.  Strategically link your systems to maximize value and increase functionality, rather than making wholesale changes to your operation or workflow that lead to enterprise disruption and the never-ending project “roll-out” that is outdated by the time it finally launches.

 

Just like a magic unicorn, more often than not a single “enterprise” system sounds good, but the implementation is problematic.  Forcing change and new processes to ensure a single system isn’t integration.  It leads to unnecessary complexity, project delays, and problems.  When planning a project, consider the needs of each area, and how the system will benefit them.  Conduct the project in phases, with clear goals and expectations.  Want to learn more, or see how you can begin a phased implementation of a system integration project?  Give us a call or leave a message.

Information Management: The Greatest Gift You Can Give Manufacturing

Information management, when implemented on the shop floor, will unlock production potential that’s hindered in a paper-based environment

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Ever notice how much your shop floor relies on information?  Consider this:

  • You get in an order from a customer (information) so you create a work order (information) which contains work instructions (information) and send it on to the shop floor (information).
  • The shop floor follows the instructions (information), then collects data (information) on the work to ensure it meets specifications (information).
  • When complete, the product is packaged and sent as instructed (information) and records of production are stored (information) and the process analyzed (information) for improvement.

Granted this is a very succinct and abbreviated recap of the manufacturing process, but it’s hard to miss how vitally important information is.  And yet, many companies rely on outdated and inefficient information management techniques (including paper) to assemble, deliver, monitor and record manufacturing data.

… and they wonder why they aren’t getting the results they should.

Defining Information Management

So, what is information management?

What challenges can an effective information management system solve for your shop floor?  Image by www.colourbox.com

What challenges can an effective information management system solve for your shop floor? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Information management encompasses the assembly, delivery, and eventual storage of all the data and information used in the production process.  A system that efficiently and effectively manages the transmission of information, which drives production, will have a tremendous positive impact on production.

An effective system gets the correct information precisely when and where it needs to be, with minimal effort from the users.   Now consider your current information management system.  Do users:

search for information through stacks and stacks of paper, bound or paper-clipped, flipping pages to find a key fact and holding up production while they frantically scramble for the data….

struggle with managing change when a customer requests different specifications, wondering how they will find every piece of data that must be revised as they run to the shop floor with the updated plans…

labor to correct the inevitable mistakes that occur when old work instruction or incorrect information is sent to the shop floor…

toil to collect data by scribbling on the margins of the work instructions or traveler, and then hoping mistakes aren’t made when it comes time to input it….

drown under piles and piles (and piles) of paper records, knowing that retrieving data from those boxes will be a nightmare…

An information management solution

Process Improvement graph.

Solve the underlying information management problems on your shop floor with a single, comprehensive solution – paperless manufacturing. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) and paperless manufacturing systems directly address the information management challenges on the manufacturing shop by providing a vehicle for assembling, collecting, delivering, recording and archiving data and information.  The system ensures the right people get the correct information when and where they need it.  It provides a foundation and framework for your information, with each piece of data organized so it can quickly and easily be retrieved when and where you need it.

So, what does this mean for your shop floor?  Consider this, an effective system will:

  • Automate information processes. Companies without a system utilize laborious and error-prone processes to collect and distribute information.  For example, printing work plans, assembling travelers, and carrying them to the shop floor.  A good MES will do all that work for you, ensuring your team can focus on production and other tasks that add value.
  • Increase your information velocity. Ever consider how much time is wasted looking up information and just figuring out what you need to do?  How much improvement would your team realize if there was a single place to get correct information, and it was delivered right to them when they needed it.
  • Eliminate errors. Wouldn’t it be nice to be sure your shop floor was working from the latest, most correct work instructions?  What if you could know each employee was actually looking at the work instructions, doing the work in the correct order and catching quality escapes before they became a problem?

Put simply, an MES or paperless manufacturing system manages production information, providing more benefit than almost any other purchase.  It improves every aspect of the manufacturing operation.

Want to learn more, or see how your shop floor will benefit with information management through paperless manufacturing?  It’s much more than simply putting your work instructions on a computer screen – it’s eliminating errors, streamlining processes, and organizing your production operation.  It gives you control and visibility of your shop floor.

Contact CIMx today to see how paperless manufacturing will benefit you.