Category Archives: manufacturing software

Process Improvement graph.

Use Your Data for Accurate Production Costs

For manufacturers, accurate estimates are critical to managing costs and margins. If estimates are based on guesswork: bids can be lost, delivery times missed or costs can spiral out of control. Too often, operators will pencil-whip work times on their way out the door rather than accurately tracking and recording their work. This skews the limited data available causing misinformed directives from the top.  When both the historical data and the analytics at the foundation of estimates are suspect, problems quietly grow costing the company money that has to be made up in additional production.

Turn Production Data into Profit

Accurate estimates require both clean historical data and production visibility, both of which are provided by the Quantum Production Control System (PCS). Let’s look at a few areas a PCS can enhance your estimates:

  • Accurate Labor and Production Data

Know who did what and for how long during production, and then turn that data into more precise estimates. The PCS automatically tracks labor and production through standard use of the system. This includes machine time and labor, so management can see how much time, effort, materials and parts are required to complete work. Over time, as accurate data is accumulated, the company can begin providing more accurate estimates and labor loading.

  • Identify and eliminate scrap

Scrap can turn profitable products into an expense for manufacturers, and yet many companies struggle to understand the cause. The production control system collects production data that reveals where and how scrap is generated. The PCS links the scrap to the work being done at the time it occurs. With this information, the manufacturer can either eliminate the root cause of scrap, or better estimate standard losses in production.

  • Focus on profitable work

Once you are tracking labor and production costs, leverage the data to identify and prioritize the most profitable work. Refine your gross manufacturing margin using production data to identify products and goods with a higher gross margin. With this information, you can make more profit on every sale and shipment. The company makes more and spends less.

Increasing Profit Velocity

Many companies look at a production control system to solve a specific problem such as a failed audit, late shipments, or poor visibility into Work in Progress (WIP). Even with the solution in place, the company finds more value in the critical data the system feeds to the sale and production cycle. With higher gross margins, accurate estimates, and control over scrap and production the company finds expenses go down and profits up.

If you’re ready to take control of production costs and enhance your profit on every product built, contact CIMx Software today to learn more about Quantum. Discover what a PCS can do for you.


The Problem with Managing Tools, Parts, and Materials in your ERP – and What You Can Do About It

Not long ago, we worked with a manufacturer struggling with a serious scrap problem.

They were a make-to-order composite manufacturer building an expensive product with several critical components. The problem was – operators often used the wrong component. Components were similar and the specifics precise, so every mistake generated scrap, delayed the shipment, and left the sales team scrambling for new excuses.

It didn’t take long for the CIMx Application Specialist to discover the problem… the shop floor was trying to manage production with a bill of material in their ERP.

The ERP Doesn’t Understand Your Bill of Materials

The bill of materials is a critical part of the production process, but if it’s being managed in an enterprise system like an ERP, the system and the shop floor sees it more like a shopping list than a specification, and that’s a problem costing your business productivity and profit.

For manufacturing, especially discrete manufacturing, assets are more than just a list – they are critical specifications required in accurate and error-free manufacturing. But if a shopping list is all the shop floor gets from the ERP, you have lost production conformance. There’s no validation or control in how parts and materials are used in production – just a list that may or may not be referenced later in the production process.

The Struggle Is Real on the Shop Floor

We’ve seen it happen before – operators find costly workarounds for the gaps and problems the ERP is causing. For example:

  • The shop floor hides tools they know they will need because the ERP isn’t tracking production or the assets used. It’s better for them to hide tools now than search for them later.
  • Operators grab materials during kitting without even consulting the bill of materials. They’ve done it before and know what they’re doing.
  • Tools and machines on the shop floor are out of calibration because the static bill of materials doesn’t track the shop floor or assets.
  • Experienced operators work from memory anyway, and never even look at the plans or bill of materials because there’s no validation, no process conformance, and no control of work.
  • There’s no way to specify tools and materials anyway, so mistakes aren’t caught till the end, and then it’s a problem for somebody else.

Many shop floors operate like this. Work is done and products ship, but it’s often in spite of production processes and planning. The ERP can’t support the conformance and control required for make-to-order manufacturing.

Process Control for Make-to-Order Manufacturing

The problem is the reliance on their ERP. The ERP can store information, but it’s not driving the conformance and control this manufacturer needs. The hands-off manufacturing approach of the system is fertile ground for mistakes and increased production costs. The shop floor tries to eliminate the errors, but they’re getting no support from the ERP.

The first step to solving the scrap problem for this customer is moving the bill of materials out of the ERP during production and into a production control system – Quantum.

During kitting, Quantum validates critical materials against the specifications on the bill of material. If the shop floor picks or tries to use the wrong materials, a simple barcode scan will flag the mistake and corrective action can be taken immediately. The problem ends there, minimizing the cost and impact on the schedule.

If necessary, conformance can be driven throughout the production process using pass/fail data collection and automated validation checks against the parts and materials specifications on the bill of material. The manufacturer can control the process and add necessary safeguards.

Problems are eliminated. The shop floor gets the support they need at every phase of production. The bill of material becomes a tool for error-free manufacturing and the foundation of conformance rather than a shopping list.

Contact CIMx today to learn more about Quantum and how you can turn a bill of material into a production tool that drives profit, and eliminates errors and scrap.

Increase Production Velocity and Profit in 2018

To kick off the New Year, we launched an exclusive 18-in-18 promotion. CIMx will completely cover the install cost for the first 18 companies to purchase our Quantum production control system in 2018.

If you’ve ever considered upgrading your shop floor with a production control system, now is the time to act.

Quantum delivers a problem-free implementation without the excuses and expense you find with other systems. Get your team up and running with a software system that quickly delivers an ROI without the hassles that bog down other projects.

Project Results Based on Manufacturing Expertise

This is an offer no other company can make. Here’s why we’re so confident in our ability to deliver for you:

  • Experience. Having worked with make-to-order manufacturers for more than 20 years, we know how technology can increase production and profit while eliminating problems and inefficiencies. We provide not only exceptional software solutions for manufacturers, but also hands-on expertise based on shop floor experience. We’ve worked with companies like yours, and know how to quickly get the results you are looking for.
  • Product. Many software systems on the market are outdated, difficult and expensive to use. The supplier passes these costs on to you during their time-consuming implementation. Quantum was designed to work with your existing material and processes, providing true off-the-shelf functionality with rapid installation and lower costs.
  • System Requirements. Quantum’s web-based solution reduces technology requirements. Use your existing IT infrastructure and access the system from almost any device. Eliminate the expensive security and uptime problems found in cloud-based solutions. Quantum’s technology requirements accelerate implementation, rather than holding you back.
  • Ease-of-use. With a solution based on your existing production plans and processes, operators can begin working in Quantum with minimal training. User roles and permissions customize information and access for each user to optimize productivity. System Administration provides configuration options so companies quickly make the solution their own. Begin using Quantum the day it’s installed, providing the fastest path to higher productivity.

An Easier Software Implementation

Quantum is not an ERP. It won’t take years to configure and install like other systems on the market. An ERP can’t adequately manage the shop floor, and trying to get a transaction-based ERP to work for production processes is a losing and expensive proposition. With the low-cost and rapid installation options in Quantum, you can quickly address the manufacturing inefficiencies in your ERP with a production control system developed specifically for discrete manufacturers. Give your shop floor the tools they need to succeed with Quantum.

Quantum configures to your requirements in less than a month. The system installs and users are trained in less than a day. Soon after purchasing the system, you are controlling and tracking manufacturing while increasing production velocity, providing a rapid and sustainable ROI.

We’re so confident in our system that 18 lucky manufacturers will receive a production control solution with free installation in 2018. Contact CIMx today to learn more about our 18-in-18 promotion. Seize the opportunity to eliminate production problems and increase business profit in 2018.

Manufacturing Trends to Watch For in 2018

As 2017 winds to a close it’s time to start setting goals and preparing for success in the New Year.

Each year, we forecast market threats and opportunities for our manufacturing customers. What will your customers and competitors talk about in the New Year? What pressures and technologies will influence manufacturers in 2018? What can you do to protect yourself and position your business for success as the market changes? The insight can be the strategic edge you need all year long.

Look Ahead to Manufacturing in 2018

As industry experts, here’s what we see influencing manufacturers in 2018:

  • Increased Customer Demands.

More than just larger orders, manufacturing customers are looking for more value from suppliers – value they are receiving in other industries. There’s customer pressure on manufacturers to improve, adapt, and deliver greater value and additional services. If they can’t, the customer will find a supplier that can. This is pushing manufacturers to embrace technology solutions, find additional ways to cut costs, and reduce the lead time on shipments even more than they have in the past to stay a step ahead of customer and consumer demands.

  • Alternatives to the Skilled Labor Shortage.

According to a recent article in Forbes magazine, a shortage of skilled labor could potentially limit business growth for manufacturers even as demand increases. Experts predict there will be a shortage of more than 2 million manufacturing workers in the coming years. In 2018, companies must find ways to overcome this problem, through training programs, technology solutions, or partnerships, to fuel future growth. The companies that implement programs now to overcome the skilled labor shortage will be positioned for success in the future.

  • First Steps toward Digital Transformation.

Many in the media have discussed the imminent “digital transformation” they see sweeping across manufacturing and modern business. As technology is applied to business and production processes, innovation and creativity will accelerate success and “transform” the business. While the media continues speculating and some supplier offer expensive products to “push” the transformation, many manufacturers are taking common-sense first steps toward the digital enterprise by replacing error-prone and dated manual processes with digital solutions that deliver production efficiencies and a rapid ROI. It may not be a “transformation,” but it is changing the manufacturing landscape.

  • Solution Divergence.

Some technology providers predict a single technology solution is on the horizon, and are happy to offer their version of this solution – expensive and overly complex enterprise software that makes no one happy. Despite predictions, many manufacturers are looking at best-in-class solutions to lower costs and improve efficiency rather than piling functionality on the ERP. In the past, adding modules to an ERP has exacerbated the situation rather than solving problems. Manufacturing solutions can’t be found in a system that doesn’t support production workflow or processes. More companies will embrace production control software connected to the ERP, rather than force more functionality out of their existing system.

 Accelerating Success in the New Year

There is no magic formula for finding success in a New Year, but there are proven strategies for capitalizing on opportunity and minimizing risk.

Set achievable strategic goals and take steps to ensure you can meet those goals. Make sure you have the right people, processes, systems and support in place. Continue to track progress against the goals, and when progress is lacking adjust the strategy as needed. Identify problems and inefficiencies in the business, and implement solutions that offer a positive ROI.

While every year brings new, and unexpected, challenges, it also brings opportunities. We look forward to working with manufacturers in 2018 to turn inefficiency and problems into problems and success. If you’d like to learn more about CIMx Software and how we work with manufacturers to eliminate problems and increase production profits, then contact us today and discover what Quantum can do for you.

Does Your ERP Speak MFG?

Manufacturers come to CIMx Software with critical manufacturing issues and need solutions to the problems holding back their business. After digging into their issues we often discover a common cause…

Their ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) doesn’t speak MFG (Manufacturing).

Problems Hiding in Your Production Lifecycle

Most discrete manufacturing problems derive from the blind spot in the company’s ERP to manufacturing. An ERP has limited control over the core of their business – production. Unable to identify the root cause of problems, or know how much money is lost with every transaction, quality, velocity and revenue decline. Work is done and production continues, but the management team is constantly fixing problems as they happen. The ERP working alone limits growth and negatively impacts profit.

The ERP, while it manages financials and may store work instructions, fails to provide the control make-to-order production requires. Without rigorous control to eliminate variability, the shop floor is victim to inconsistency. Quality decreases, mistakes are made and money lost. With the shop floor relying solely on an ERP, managing complex production requirements becomes a daily struggle.

Here are 3 ways a process control system can help your ERP:

  • Bringing Workflow Control to the ERP

An ERP is a transaction-based system; dividing work into individual, self-contained transactions. However, discrete manufacturing processes are workflow-based, not transactional. Discrete manufacturing workflow is a series of interconnected if/then steps, not self-contained transactions. An ERP will struggle to support change and process control on the shop floor because both are characteristics of workflow systems. The ERP architecture isn’t designed for workflow, and can’t provide the control make-to-order manufacturers require.

  • Connecting the Shop Floor and Front-office

Regardless of what some software suppliers’ claim, an ERP is focused on the front office and not the shop floor. An ERP uses the tables and forms that make running a business easy. You shouldn’t have engineers, quality control and the shop floor navigating screens and drop down menus designed for order processing and accountants. Many systems do offer a friendlier “shop floor” screen for production, but underneath the new screen is a system designed around tables and forms that limit the flexibility and control make-to-order manufacturer’s need when a customer calls with a change order.

  • Deliver Company-wide Production Visibility

Many ERPs provide storage for form-based planning. The system attaches planning to an order and sequences it before sending it to the shop floor. After that point, an ERP offers no visibility into the production process. The system waits for the order to complete so it can bill the customer. The ERP is not a production control system. Make-to-order manufacturers need control and visibility to identify problems before they happen and ensure error-free manufacturing to the highest quality.

Bringing Production to Your ERP

Companies, especially make-to-order manufacturers, need to address the problems caused by the ERP on the shop floor, especially as they plan growth. A homegrown spreadsheet isn’t a solution and doesn’t help the ERP speak MFG. Using a spreadsheet is putting a band-aid on your production problems. With a production control system like Quantum, you link production directly to your ERP. Your software works seamlessly across the company.

Let the ERP focus on the front office. Give the production team a production control system. Optimize every phase of your business, and don’t force your production supervisor to work with a financial system.

Want to learn more, or see how software that speaks MFG can benefit you? Contact CIMx today to discuss your production needs. Set up a pilot program to test a production control system that eliminates the problems holding back your business today!

Four Tips for Delivering Manufacturing Success in 2018

As 2017 draws to a close, businesses are planning for success in 2018. For make-to-order manufacturers, this means setting realistic sales and production goals. Success may require new products lines, attacking a new market vertical, or delivering new services to an existing customer base.

Setting goals is easy – successfully delivering on those goals can be difficult.

New product lines require agility, workflow flexibility and production control. Execution quality is critical, or you run the risk of losing customers before you ever really had them. Best practices for new workflows require process enforcement. Quick and accurate responses to variability are absolutely essential. Efficiency is the difference between success and failure.

Evaluate Your Current Processes

Meeting goals requires preparation. The planning you do now will result in 2018 success. Here are four questions you should ask as you prepare for the New Year:

  • Do you have a reliable source of production data?

The key to overcoming process variability is data. The granular process data that currently eludes manufacturers using dated, paper-based processes is critical to diagnosing problems during production and implementing rapid solutions. With real-time accurate data, companies can implement feedback loops, shortening the response to variability, adjusting processes with speed and accuracy so the business can roll out new products faster.

  • Do you have a firm grasp of profitable and non-profitable work?

Simply selling a new product or serving a new market isn’t a guarantee of success. True success is measured by the bottom line. Accurately calculating profit requires a precise view of production costs. You need to not only know your spend, but also costs and savings in the manufacturing lifecycle. The data and events surrounding expenditures will unlock potential additional savings that ensure profitable work and more accurate estimates.

  • How much control do you have over production?

When implementing a new process or rolling out a new product, best practices are critical. Any deficiency in workflow or processes will result in recurring costs, late shipments and quality escapes. Procedural enforcement, production visibility, real-time operator buy-offs and automated tolerance checks deliver shop floor control. Revision-controlled engineering documentation and digital work instructions eliminate errors on the front-end, providing the complete manufacturing lifecycle control manufacturers need.

  • How quickly can you adjust to changing production conditions?

Business moves fast. Increasing production yield or attacking a new vertical will only increase the pace of change. If you can’t manage change, and still rely on a red pen for every Engineering Change Order (ECO), you are increasing risk at an unsustainable rate. Experience has shown a single change can have an explosive effect on the manufacturing lifecycle, exponentially increasing the time and cost of production across the shop floor.

Prepare Now for Manufacturing in 2018

Answering these questions will identify the gaps in your current processes. These gaps are magnified as production is pushed to increase output and meet the requirements of a new market.

Address these gaps before you invest time and effort in a new product line or pursue a new market. Digital manufacturing software will transition your company from outdated methods to true production control that aligns current capability with aggressive business goals.

Contact CIMx software today to speak with an experienced Application Engineer about low-cost technology tools available now that can deliver shop floor and production control for the competitive edge your company needs in 2018.

Solving Problems and Improving Production with Behavior Science

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

While many make-to-order manufacturers are highly successful at guiding the economic side of their businesses, most have yet to discover the secret to managing production. Errors, inefficiency, and waste still plague the shop floor. Orders ship late, scrap and waste drain profit, and non-productive time is a constant drag on output. These fundamental flaws and missed opportunities hold back the business.

While known problems in production hold the business back, many companies remain reluctant to face their obstacles head on. However, studies have found that there may be a very human reason for this reluctance according to economic theory and decision science.

Prospect Theory and Manufacturing

In 1992, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky wrote a paper on the science of decision making called, “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk.” In it, they describe the method people use to choose between alternatives that involve risk – a process called prospect theory.

According to prospect theory, people organize the potential outcomes of a decision. Each outcome will be sorted as a gain (positive outcome) or a loss (negative outcome). A value, determined by the favorability and likelihood of the result, is placed on the prospective outcomes. The outcome with the highest value, according to this mental algorithm, is selected.

In studying and evaluating prospect theory, Kahneman and Tversky noted humans don’t always act rationally during decision-making. Fallacies and irrationality, especially when determining the value of outcomes, have a profound effect on the decision. For example, we weigh the avoidance of negative outcomes over the acquisition of positive outcomes. Even when there is a significant benefit to a selecting a gain, we still choose to avoid loss rather than pursue gain.

Some companies see any cost factor or potential process change as a potential risk (or loss). For these companies, the option to avoid loss by doing nothing is inherently more appealing than actually solving the problem and improving the business. This is why many businesses wait until the last possible moment to embrace a manufacturing solution to a critical issue – when the cost of scrap is too high to ignore or a failed audit is about to shutter operations – despite growing need and an ROI.

For many manufacturers, scrap, late shipments, inefficiency, and waste are the cost of doing business. They accept problems rather than embracing change to increase profit and success. Even though these problems have the business in a stranglehold, and affordable software solutions with a low-risk and high ROI are readily available, some companies still prefer to wait. It may not be logical, but as Kahneman and Tversky explain, we don’t always let logic guide our decision-making processes.

Embracing a Shop Floor Solution

According to prospect theory, this is simply human nature. We fear loss more than we crave the benefit from a solution.

The problem is amplified for manufacturers because the decision maker is rarely directly impacted by the problems the solution will address. As the decision maker groups the possible outcomes, they are obscured from the complete picture. They may see the scrap on an expense report, or initiate customer contact to explain a late shipment, but they don’t feel the struggle against inefficiency. They aren’t the one wandering the shop floor looking for a critical specification that’s missing or waiting in line at a machine because of a scheduling bottleneck.

This results in the company focusing on other initiatives, which puts production on hold. Continuing to wait puts the entire business at risk. Waiting to address these critical problems leaves money and profit on the table, and hurts the long-term health of the company.

Fortunately, once a problem is identified, there are simple, manageable steps that can be taken to overcome human nature, reduce risk and embrace a shop floor solution:

  • Build a Team: Look at involving both the front office and production in the decision-making. There needs to be open, honest communication early in the process so the impact of production problems can be properly understood.
  • Identify Core Requirements: Project scope can quickly balloon and become unmanageable as input is collected for the project. Costs can escalate and the project collapse without a list of core requirements providing the project basis and ROI focus.
  • Utilize a Pilot Program: Build excitement for the project and test the deployment using a low-cost pilot program. Many companies see so much benefit and savings from the pilot; they will rapidly roll out a full deployment.
  • Partner with a Provider: Find a manufacturing software company you can trust, and partner with them on the project. See if they can offer timeline and cost guarantees, and learn how they work with your team to deliver the project.

Taking Production and Business to the Next Level

There is a high price for manufacturers who ignore shop floor problems. Companies that wait, doing nothing as scrap, inefficiency and waste negatively impact their business, put success at risk, especially as competitors continue to improve and modernize. Ignoring problems and hoping a solution magically appears is a decision based on a logical fallacy, and no company should let a fallacy guide their business. Learn from prospect theory.

Recognize the problem and take strategic actions toward a solution. Build a team, set goals and find a software partner you can work with to implement a strong solution.

If you’d like to know more, or see a demo of what modern manufacturing software can do for you, contact CIMx Software today and see how you can eliminate scrap while accelerating production.