Category Archives: Manufacturing solution

Where’d the money go? – How to turn Manufacturing Assets into Profit

If you don’t know where your materials are and how many you have, you don’t know where your money is. The purchase and storing of assets (materials, tools, parts) for manufacturing is one of your largest expenses, so why don’t you have complete control of it?

We see many cases where manufacturers simply don’t know what they have. One shop in particular comes to mind. In walking through a manufacturing shop floor for carbon components in the aerospace industry, we passed the Material Review Board (MRB) area. It was enclosed by a cage to protect the parts from walking off. Inventory in this area was scrap but too valuable to just throw out.

There were shelves upon shelves, and stacks upon stacks, of carbon parts rejected by Quality. Oven times may have fallen short of required minimums or temperatures may not have registered high enough.  Without a fast process for review, these parts were being housed and shelved (literally). They were useless. The manufacturer had an enormous, labor-intensive future job to go through all these parts and create a disposition for each.

The Connection Between Process Control and Manufacturing Scrap

What the team was ignoring was the money that was tied up in these parts. It seems obvious from the outside, yes, but they were focused more on the disposition process and what they were going to do with all those quality rejects. Not to mention how sloppy it looked when upper management came through.  But what they were really missing was the key, hidden issue that this prospect had yet to uncover.

When I see that many pieces of contained scrap [and yes, it happens all the time] I begin looking for the scrap that hasn’t even made it to the cage. The amount of scrap in the screened area signals to me that there is a process problem. Solving process problems are what we are really good at. Control the manufacturing process and you control the scrap. Control scrap and you have a really tight handle on costs, too. That’s where you really start making up lost margin.

When a team is unable to control what is happening on the manufacturing shop floor, especially within the tolerances that their own engineering teams have thought possible, it signals a lack of control in parts and tools. Have you asked for an inventory count of your tools recently? Are you over-ordering or over-stocking in order to make up for “lost” tools [which are inevitably found on the shop floor]?

Ultimately, that same prospect closed manufacturing for a few days to complete a tool inventory. Yikes.

Know where your stuff is, know how much what you build costs you and control the processes that you use to build your parts. These three key concepts are completely linked and fundamental to successful manufacturing, and completely controllable with the right tools. Just ask us how.


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.

What it Takes to Succeed with Machine Maintenance

Manufacturers invest millions in machines and equipment. These high dollar assets provide the foundation of successful and efficient manufacturing, and yet many companies rely on a spreadsheet, a plastic binder hanging from a hook, and the memory and experience of employees to maintain that critical investment.

If a machine goes down, production stops. Work has to be re-routed, putting ship dates and orders at risk. If work has to be done by a partner company, production costs will skyrocket. Scrap, higher production costs and late shipments are common consequences of machine problems.

Modern shop floors can’t rely on spreadsheets, plastic sleeves, and memory for machine maintenance. Machine upkeep is a critical production process requiring a production control system like Quantum. Successful upkeep and maintenance incorporates process control and conformance, just like every shop floor operation, and should be linked to operations and scheduling to eliminate downtime and increase production velocity.

Control and Conformance for Machine Maintenance

When evaluating your current processes, consider the following critical elements of a successful machine maintenance program managed by a production control system:

  • Schedules and Alerts for Required Maintenance

Machine maintenance is a critical production activity. If you aren’t following maintenance protocol, you risk machine downtime, failed audits, and unsafe work conditions. A scheduled maintenance program eliminates these risks. Support the shop floor with alerts and a system that removes the risk of using a machine due for maintenance – a common occurrence when the shop floor is under pressure to move product and meet deadlines when maintenance is scheduled.

  • Revision-controlled Maintenance Instructions and Records

Machine failure is a risk when you rely on paper-based records or worse, memory, for maintenance instructions. Over time, maintenance requirements can change and employees retire or leave. You need accessible, revision-controlled maintenance and repair instructions that can be accessed when needed. Records, beyond initials on a spreadsheet, should be kept on maintenance activities. A robust maintenance program will protect your investment and significantly reduce machine downtime and production costs.

  • Integrated Maintenance and Production Schedules

When you are investing millions in production machines, maintenance must be a priority. It should be done regularly to optimize machine output and eliminate unscheduled downtime. A successful maintenance schedule that won’t negatively impact production must be integrated with the production schedule. The production supervisor should know when there is work scheduled on a machine to route orders accurately, and ensure shipping and production deadlines are met. With a digital schedule and a production control system, maintenance can be scheduled ahead of time and work optimized to maintain production velocity.

A Program for Optimizing Machine-use

Even though industrial machinery is a critical component of manufacturing, especially make-to-order manufacturing, many companies consider machine maintenance an afterthought until a machine goes down or the shop floor fails an audit. Spreadsheets and plastic sleeves on the machine aren’t an adequate maintenance program, especially when the shop floor comes under pressure to increase output.

Quantum production control system provides seamless support for your machine maintenance program as part of your standard production process, eliminating unscheduled machine downtime, the risk of failed audits, and the stress of upkeep while optimizing scheduling for machines and production. All the benefits are part of the standard product.

Contact CIMx to learn more about Quantum’s integrated machine maintenance in a production control system, and discover how you can optimize machine use while increasing production velocity.

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.

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.

A Rapid ROI for MES and Manufacturing Software

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications for CIMx Software

Today, with improvements in software technology and lower hardware costs, Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and software platforms such as Quantum are viable solutions for manufacturers of any size and industry.

However, companies are still reluctant to embrace software mostly founded on a mistaken perception of the cost. Even as companies struggle with the critical problems, bleeding revenue and creating inefficiencies that hinder business growth, there’s reluctance to implement, or even investigate, software as a solution. They don’t see an easy ROI, or believe a different software solution will drown their processes in complexity, so they turn to their ERP for an expensive module or create a homegrown spreadsheet solution.

These temporary, flawed solutions add business costs without fixing anything. A spreadsheet or an add-on for your accounting software isn’t going to solve a critical production issue, eliminate scrap or stop production errors. Implementing a solution that doesn’t solve the problem adds cost with no return.

Solving Production Problems with Manufacturing Software

Solving manufacturing problems requires a solution focused on the specialized needs of modern production.

The foundation of modern production is workflow. The workflow-based solution found on Quantum solves problems and supports modern production. The software attacks the root cause of problems using the natural rhythm of manufacturing workflow, reducing complexity rather than adding it. With a manufacturing-focused workflow solution, companies using Quantum enjoy a rapid ROI that generates revenue for the business, adding profit rather than expense. Consider a few ways the solution fuels your rapid ROI:

  • Eliminate errors. Paper-based processes cause errors. The Quantum digital solution eliminates those errors. Every problem prevented during production, or rapid solution implemented, accelerates manufacturing output. Keep the shop floor focused on revenue-generating activity for a rapid ROI.
  • Production accuracy. Guesswork creates waste and increases cost. If your production team doesn’t have access to accurate (and timely) production data, they rely on guesswork for estimates, scheduling, and disposition plans. Production visibility in Quantum increases accuracy and output.
  • Embrace efficiency. Inefficiency is costly. Paper build books and travelers, manual production reports, and missing or faulty information are constant expenses. Anything that pulls a worker away from production has a negative impact on the bottom line. Companies need to see homegrown solutions and ERP add-ons for what they are – centers of workflow inefficiency.
  • Increase output. As Quantum eliminates problems, the business runs better. The company increases output without adding new workers or machines. Over time, as additional waste and unnecessary costs are identified and eliminated, output will further increase adding to the ROI of the solution.

Analyze Your Savings

To better grasp the expense of problems, you need to analyze both the current cost and the savings that accrue once the solution is in place.

For example, analyzing the true cost of quality blindness requires the manufacturer not only consider the cost of scrap and late shipments, but also the time and resources required to solve each quality escape. How long does it take the shop floor to report a problem?

For most manufacturers, problems result in a double-hit for the company – added costs and lost profits.

Once Quantum is in place, the company benefits not only from lower scrap and on-time shipments, but also increased output as the shop floor focuses on production rather than fixing problems. This accelerates the ROI, constantly generating revenue and adding to the bottom line.

Want to learn more, or see how quickly you can benefit from manufacturing software and Quantum in your business? Contact CIMx today about the Quantum manufacturing platform for manufacturers.

How to Lower Costs and Eliminate the High-Price of Doing Nothing

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Profitable revenue growth and increasing the bottom line is the goal of every business. Any company, especially a manufacturer, not focused on growth is dying (even if they don’t know it yet).

Many manufacturing companies ignore the problems and inefficiencies hindering revenue growth. By embracing a “wait-till-next-year” solution-strategy the company ends up doing nothing, losing money and sacrificing revenue.

Ignoring problems is not a business strategy.

Analyzing the Cost of Doing Nothing

Let’s take a look at the cost of “doing nothing” for manufacturers.

Many companies struggle to ship on-time. Problems with production control and management leave the business vulnerable to late shipments. Without shop floor visibility or accurate production data, shipping estimates are guesswork. Without production control, a single problem can leave the shop floor behind schedule.

The result is late shipments. Companies might rush ship the order or discount to “fix” the late shipment, but the real cost is much deeper and more painful.

For example, paying operator overtime can double labor costs. As the exhausted shop floor rushes to complete work, errors and scrap increases. Pushing machines increases repair and maintenance costs. Without production control, accommodating a rush shipment leaves a tight production schedule in tatters, further adding production costs.

If you can’t guarantee a ship date to a customer, then the customer will find a manufacturer who can, further eating away at the bottom line.

The cost of doing nothing, measured by the impact of late shipments and a lack of production management and control, is lost revenue, fading profitability and a tarnished reputation. Doing nothing isn’t a viable option.

The Benefit of a Solution

Eliminating late shipments through manufacturing software like Quantum will not only capture the lost revenue and increase profitability, but deliver additional benefits.

For example, providing accurate shipping estimates makes it easier to secure additional business. The shop floor can better handle this increased business by maximizing shop floor uptime and OEE with schedule accuracy. Accuracy leads to better bids and lower costs as you identify opportunities for sustainable process improvements. By maximizing your workforce and labor, the company can minimize the need for skilled labor, solving a problem many companies struggle with today.

The True ROI of a Manufacturing Solution

The ROI for Quantum is the elimination of obvious costs, like late shipments, and the hidden costs of problems and inefficiencies in production. With the solution in place, companies realize a rapid ROI for the production software solution.

Over time, benefits continue to increase; allowing the company to further invest in the business. The shop floor can better handle the change and increased output that comes with a growing business.

Companies need to stop seeing problems as a cost center, but a potential source of revenue. Solving problems will not only cut expenses but will add to the bottom line. Quit accepting errors, scrap and inefficiency as the cost of doing business.

Want to learn more, or see how manufacturing software can help your business, then contact CIMx Software today to talk to an Application Specialist about Quantum.