Category Archives: manufacturing quality

Bridging the Gap between Your PLM and Manufacturing

Manufacturing and engineering are both symbiotic and disjointed. While manufacturing relies on engineering to do their work, engineers are not trained to provide manufacturing exactly what they need at the design phase; that’s further downstream.

These key differences require a bridge between the PLM tools in engineering and production operations on the shop floor.

It All Starts in Design

Engineers create a long list of documents during product design to ensure a product meets the customer’s needs and can be manufactured with the available materials, tools, machinery and people. Different products require different levels of complexity, including drawings, specifications, designs, materials, measurements and other detailed lists of requirements. A Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system keeps all the information organized for the engineer.

This diversity, however, makes it more difficult for manufacturing, where work moves quickly and there’s not a lot of time to read. The PLM that was so useful during design cannot break down the work into operator-sized information packets for the shop floor.

Manufacturing Pushes the Pace

Manufacturing operates at a much faster pace than engineering. The shop floor doesn’t have time to digest complex information before beginning production. Even in the most labor-intensive, discrete production environments, operators work at the fastest possible pace.

Operators don’t have time to search for information on a drawing or spec sheet. If it’s not on the screen when operators need it, productivity and profitability fall drastically. Even a few minutes spent searching can make the difference between a profitable production run and a project overrun.

Manufacturers need to manage the production process with speed and precision; design engineers need details that inherently slow that production down.

Where is the Bridge?

The bridge lies between design and manufacturing. Design and manufacturing get the specific tools they need to do their jobs – tools that are significantly different.

  • PLM design is absolutely required in most modern, complex manufacturing settings. Complete control of engineering design increases competitiveness of the resulting product.
  • Engineering design for complex manufacturing can’t be done by the transactional ERP.
  • Current PLM product offerings meant to work in manufacturing require far too many interactions by the operators to be effective.
  • Companies need bi-directional data transfer between design and manufacturing. Production should provide valuable feedback to design.
  • Traditional MES systems (used on manufacturing shop floors) struggle to get information back to the PLM.

A Solution for Both Manufacturing and Design

Without the proper design, production can’t build correctly and without the detailed instructions, production can’t do its work. There is no sacrifice here that will work. As engineering information flows to the shop floor already, this part of the equation is complete. What’s missing is the critical link for manufacturing back to design and manufacturing engineering (there are holes in both areas traditionally).

What Can Help?

ERP systems can’t. These are transactional systems that will force the design and manufacturing engineers to separate every production step or list them as a single step without the associated, “nested” details that are so critical to the operators.

PLM systems can’t. We’ve already seen how these systems manage documents, but not the associated instructions. Operators can’t build from the documents, as they don’t have the time or experience, typically, to differentiate what specific work needs to be done at each step.

This leaves just the MES and even at that, most MES systems won’t touch the PLM without extensive programming and customization. Manufacturers also need process enforcement, work center or operator-based work instructions, quality control and access to all the PLM documentation that’s required to do the job.

Recently, we introduced a product platform that makes live communication between the PLM and the MES a reality, without the requirement for customization. While we understand many of the problems facing manufacturers, digging into this problem, we’ve found that we have only scratched the surface. Plenty of additional problems exist in connecting systems in the manufacturing environment. What other issues do you have? We’re interested to know.

Our goal is to break down the walls between engineering, design and the shop floor. That is where we see the real power of the Smart Factory or Manufacturing 2.0. Visit us online at www.CIMx.com and let us know what your biggest challenges are.

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Getting to Zero in Manufacturing

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

For production, the goal shouldn’t be minimizing quality escapes, but eliminating them, and that requires the deep understanding of processes you only get with an MES.

A few months ago, I needed my furnace repaired. Winters in Ohio can be brutally cold, and we needed a solution fast. The repair company rushed the replacement part from a warehouse in Arizona (because the best place to keep furnace supplies is in the brutal heat of Arizona), only to have the part arrive broken.

I was furious (and still cold), the repair company apologetic, and the manufacturer defensive. After looking at potential solutions, we ended up going with another part supplier.  This single, broken furnace part led to a lost sale, a potentially lost customer (the repair company didn’t know if they could use the supplier again), additional charges, and a lot of aggravation – all because of a part that didn’t work.

As a manufacturer, how do you let a part out the door that doesn’t work? With so much potential risk, how do you not have processes in place for ensuring problems like this don’t happen?  The repair company tested the part the minute they received it, and quickly realized it wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t broken, there was a problem with the manufacturing – a problem quality control should have caught.

Identifying the Source of Quality Escapes

3d small people with a checklist

What can MES and Paperless Manufacturing do to improve quality? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

The problem in situations like this isn’t really the processes, but the lack of shop floor visibility. They don’t know what happens between the time an order comes in and the moment it ships, so unless EVERY single part is checked, there is going to be errors and problems that slip through.

For these manufacturers, quality control is reactive, rather than proactive. Broken parts are (hopefully) found and removed before they are shipped, preventing the immediate problems but ensuring you deal with the same issues again and again in the future.

The problem is not just broken products, but also parts or materials that don’t meet specs.  Rework will mitigate this loss, but finding it later after the complete production run adds to the cost of the rework.

The real cost of quality defects is much larger than many manufacturers realize. In the end, the cost of defects is significantly higher than the cost of a comprehensive solution to eliminate the defects.

A Comprehensive Solution for Improved Quality

To effectively address quality control, and stop shipping broken parts, you need a solution with the power to address the entire manufacturing value chain. Consider this –a Quality Management System will give you tools for disposition programs and for analyzing data, but it won’t offer the process enforcement and automated feedback loops necessary to eliminate the root cause of errors. Better production planning will help the shop floor to do their work better, and a simple data collection system will give you more data to analyze.  These systems are good at what they do, but none offer a complete solution capable of addressing the factors contributing to quality control problems.

Only an MES or paperless manufacturing system offers the complete manufacturing value chain visibility and control you need to truly address quality control.

With an MES, you have complete production visibility, with accurate and automated production records. With data collection, you can see in real time where the errors are occurring, and can design automated feedback loops to ensure problems are eliminated as they happen. You have control and visibility of the supply chain, ensuring parts and supplies meet exacting standards. By automating processes, monitoring production, and integrating best practices into production, you can begin to automate steps in a comprehensive quality control program that is a foundation of smart manufacturing.

This is what your customers have come to expect from a modern manufacturer, and there is no reason you can’t deliver what they expect.

Want to learn more, or see how you can start a modern quality control program, then contact CIMx for a personalized shop floor analysis with an application engineer – a simple first step to improving manufacturing quality.