Category Archives: Manufacturing Industry

The 9 Most Common Manufacturing Symptoms, and How to Cure Them

The 9 Most Common Manufacturing Symptoms, and How to Cure Them
When looking for a solution to manufacturing problems, it’s important that you find the cure rather than just treating the symptoms.


Common Manufacturing Symptoms

Every manufacturer faces daily frustrations. Problems crop up that slow production, increase paperwork and waste resources. It isn’t until these issues start impacting the bottom line that solving the problem becomes a priority. Unfortunately, by that time, the damage has been done.

Think of your day-to-day production issues as symptoms and your manufacturing software as the doctor. You may schedule a check-up for a minor pain, but you expect your doctor to address the underlying issues. If your doctor only focuses on curing the symptoms, you’ll be back in their office with a similar problem the next week.

Manufacturers share a lot of their symptoms with our team when discussing potential production solutions. Here are some of the most common.

The Most Common Manufacturing Symptoms:

  • Decreases in Quality
  • Increases in customer turnbacks
  • Generating too much scrap
  • Missing ships dates
  • Increases in overtime
  • Frequently failing audits
  • Unreliable production records
  • Misplacing orders
  • Losing customers

You can put a band-aid on any of these problems by installing sidecar modular systems, but inevitably, that symptom will find a way to manifest in another area of your shop. Modular systems rely on this “finger in the dam” approach to keep you coming back for more. Your shop doesn’t need another short-term solution. It needs the cure.


The Cure is Production Control

In every manufacturing symptom listed above, the underlying issue connects back to a single problem: a lack of end-to-end production control.

The right MES enforces Quality and provides your supervisors real-time visibility on every order. Process control equates to less operator errors, which increases Quality and eliminates customer turnbacks.

Higher Quality eliminates scrap, cuts wasted resources, keeps production on schedule and brings your project in under budget. If you’re ahead of schedule you aren’t paying for overtime or rushed shipping costs. Your business is charging the same amount with less overhead while building trust with your customers.

In addition to end-to-end production control, a true MES collects data on every order in a permanent as-built record. This eliminates the tremendous amount of time and manual data entry errors that plague production. With production under control and your order data all automatically logged in a single, complete as-built record, audits are a breeze.


Next Steps

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. Cure your shop floor problems, with Quantum.

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

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.

 

 

 

How to Turn your KPIs into Profit and Production

There’s an old saying, “If you can measure it, you can manage it.”

Manufacturers with Production Control Systems (PCS) know the truth of that saying. With the PCS providing the real-time data and process control, these companies supercharge their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with real-time data to accurately track and measure shop floor progress. That real-time data turns KPIs from an instrument of observation to a tool for radically accelerating and sustaining production while generating profit.

Turn Raw Production Data into Efficient Operations

Here are four ways real-time data and KPIs deliver powerful benefits for manufacturers:

  • Accelerate and sustain continuous improvement programs.

Continuous improvement is critical, but many companies have difficulty maintaining progress once the program is over. New behaviors are difficult to maintain, and old habits die hard. KPIs allow the company and team members to monitor the progress. Your team can use that real-time data to support improvements long after the program is over. With everyone sharing the KPI and monitoring progress, collaboration increases and success is shared.

  • Benchmark performance to identify areas for improvement.

Use KPIs to benchmark and compare areas of the business. Identify underperforming areas and discover what works in areas of high-performance. With that insight, you’ll discover those slight adjustments that pay big dividends. For example, higher scrap and non-conformance rates at certain operations may indicate machines or tools that require maintenance, or a problem with a supplier. Target and eliminate the problems for a positive net effect across the production value chain.

  • Identify higher profit work

KPIs are an excellent way to evaluate production data in real-time, revealing the inefficiencies that cripple profit margins if left unchecked. For example, Estimated versus Actual production times, a common KPI, identify products that consume more resources than expected, delivering a lower profit. By focusing on higher-profit work, the company generates more revenue for less effort.

  • Evaluate planned workarounds

When an issue occurs in production, supervisors will implement planned workarounds that often result in more problems than they solve. KPIs monitor progress as the workaround is implemented. Evaluate the solution in real-time and implement additional changes as needed to maintain progress. With KPIs, the orders stay on schedule and ship dates aren’t missed.

Turn Real-time Data into Production and Profit

Most, if not all, manufacturers utilize Key Performance Indicators to monitor production. The difference for manufacturers with a Production Control System in place is the real-time data that fuels the KPI. Supervisors and management track and monitor production, accessing critical KPIs from anywhere. The PCS makes the company more agile, able to control production and manage work. The shop floor reacts to issues and opportunities as they happen, rather than studying events in a report a day later.

Contact CIMx today to see how Quantum can supercharge your KPIs and reports with real-time data to accelerate production and profit for your business.

The Broken Promises of Manufacturing Innovation

We received a lot of feedback, positive and negative, regarding our blog on market consolidation and manufacturing software.

It obviously struck a nerve, with strong feelings on both sides of the market consolidation and mergers issue.

The Truth about Market Consolidation

Market consolidation, with independent suppliers merging either through acquisition, partnerships or takeovers, is a business tool. Some mergers work – look at the success of the Disney and Pixar merger.

Others see a dark side to market consolidation, especially in the software and technology industry. Technology doesn’t blend easily – consider the failure of the AOL and Time Warner merger. Customer service, price point, and functionality are often sacrificed when two companies become one.

Manufacturing software mergers aren’t benefiting the industry. The results of these partnerships are often more toxic than “transformative.” Keep in mind the following as you consider a potential solution born out of a technology merger or partnership:

  • The high cost of an acquisition or merger. There is a cost to any merger – development costs for combining software systems, additional training and support expenses. Customers pay that cost with an increase in the product price or higher service charges. Suppliers spin the higher price as a “benefit” of access to additional functionality the customer didn’t want and will never use.
  • The death of innovation. Innovation fuels the manufacturing software and technology industry. Software suppliers should partner with customers to keep technology relevant. Companies that purchase new functionality, rather than innovating, put their customers at risk. Purchased capability will never be as successful or integrated as functionality built directly for the software. It’s a high-cost shortcut in product development.
  • The struggle for product support. The first victim in an acquisition or merger is product support. With the companies focused on integrating products and building a new revenue line, previous customers struggle to get the attention they need from the supplier. Even after the acquisition, there will be support questions as the new company determines how to support both older offerings and new products.

Fighting Back Against Market Consolidation

According to a recent article in the New York Times, those who bought into the promise of greater efficiency and customer benefit after business consolidation and mergers are now struggling with buyer’s remorse.

With consolidation, it is easier for companies to raise prices without risking the loss of customers and suppliers can collude on price without raising the ire of regulators. Entrepreneurs and start-up companies, the engine of innovation, find it increasingly difficult to enter a market dominated by a few businesses. When they do succeed in bringing a shot of innovation to a static product line, the company is gobbled up as an acquisition.

Business works best when there is competition. Companies should focus on developing their product to benefit customers rather than building out functionality through competitor acquisition.

If you want a manufacturing software solution fueled by innovation and internal development, rather than mergers and acquisition, look for an independent vendor with a product developed and supported in-house. They will work with you as a partner in ways larger corporations can’t. Massive software companies, stretched thin by an acquisition culture and focused on growing the revenue stream rather than a product, lack the dynamism and customer focus to work as a partner with manufacturers. They leave many of their customers burdened with high-costs, software complexity and innovation atrophy.

Want to know more, or see how a partnership culture in a manufacturing software supplier can solve problems and grow your business? Contact an Application Specialist at CIMx Software for more information.

Solutions to Manufacturing Skilled Labor Shortage

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Modern manufacturing requires skilled workers – a fact many companies aren’t prepared to address.

CIMx recently attended a manufacturing trade show and had the opportunity to speak with manufacturers about their industry concerns.

One topic kept coming up again and again – the workforce. Manufacturers are worried they won’t have enough skilled workers to meet production demand.

Manufacturing companies are receiving new orders and business is growing, but many question whether the current workforce can manage demand. If they can’t, and they need to hire more, can they find a hire with the right skill set? Will the right employee be willing to work in manufacturing? If they do take the job, how quickly can new workers be trained? If an employee leaves, is there someone available to take their place?  What critical skills will be lost when someone retires?

New orders and a growing business is a good sign for manufacturing in America, but only if companies can keep up with demand.

Understanding the Problem

Quality.

There are steps manufacturers can take to solve the skilled labor gap. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

The skilled labor problem shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who observes the industry. We’ve spoken about it before, and the industry warns the problem will continue to grow as older employees retire and manufacturing processes continue to evolve.

Recently, the need for skilled labor, especially with technology and software skills, has accelerated as companies increasingly turn to smart manufacturing, automation, and data-driven production to increase throughput and profit. The industry isn’t attracting workers with the right skills to manage and optimize modern manufacturing.

There isn’t a single core reason for this problem, but a combination of factors. Consider this:

  • Manufacturing has changed, but a college graduate is more likely to imagine a factory worker with a wrench than a tablet. Manufacturing has done little to change this dated perception, but some companies, such as GE, are taking positive steps to recognize the problem.
  • Our industry has been shortsighted in addressing the technology gap on the shop floor. Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article on the struggle of manufacturing to attract software developers. A critical reason is the perceived lack of support technology workers see in the industry. Companies still rely on paper on the shop floor, ensuring graduates turn to tech firms, rather than manufacturers, for employment.
  • Manufacturers don’t offer the training programs skilled tech workers need. Without training, workers can’t keep up with the pace of change in technology, leading to job stress and lower productivity. Only recently have companies begun designing vocational programs for skilled labor.

Solving the Skilled Labor Gap

There is no magic solution to the skilled labor shortage in manufacturing, but there are steps companies can take to mitigate the problems.

  • Eliminate information silos. Consider the critical skills and best practices in your manufacturing workflow as an asset and protect them. Too often, companies take for granted work will “just get done” without considering the process. Manufacturers need to capture critical processes, helping to create internal training programs for new employees.
  • Increase employee productivity. Dated and error-prone paper-based processes hinder production. Employees spend more time managing paper and looking for information than actually building products. Modern tech workers, the ones manufacturing needs to attract, will find work in industries with more job satisfaction when faced with paper build books.
  • Empower current workers. The solution may not be a new hire, but empowering existing employees. Utilizing a software system such as an MES or Paperless Manufacturing will provide an HMI current workers can use. It won’t give you a programmer on the shop floor, but it will allow you to better manage people, processes and machines during production.
  • Manage the workflow. Errors often occur when workers don’t read or even consult the work instructions. Paperless Manufacturing uses process enforcement ensure the shop floor follows steps precisely. In this way, the system becomes a digital instructor; ensuring knowledge and experience aren’t lost when someone retires and the manufacturing engineers instructions are followed precisely.
  • Fill in the technology gaps. Study your processes and identify where there are gaps. Develop a strategy to fill those gaps. Focusing effort and resources on one aspect of the manufacturing value chain will offer minimal benefit if other areas are hindering overall efficiency.
  • Change the culture. As evidenced by the difficulty in attracting skilled labor, manufacturing has an image problem. Slick commercials and an investment in technology will help, but without confronting head-on the culture that created the image, problems will persist. Many manufacturers are reluctant to embrace change, adopting a strategy of waiting when faced with challenges. Tech workers know this, and it drives many to seek employment elsewhere.

Where will Manufacturing Go from Here?

Manufacturing is changing. Whether you call it Industry 4.0, Smart Manufacturing, or another term, manufacturers need new skills and new workers to capitalize on the opportunity.  Waiting another year or doing nothing is not a sustainable solution as skilled workers continue to seek employment in industries where they are appreciated and supported.

The first step to solving the skilled labor gap is to admit there is a problem, and then developing a strategy to overcome it.

Want to learn more, or see how Paperless Manufacturing can be the foundation for improved manufacturing and shop floor modernization? Then contact CIMx today for more information. We’re happy to help.

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.