Category Archives: Manufacturing Solutions

5 Critical Benefits of Shop Floor Visibility

Do these common complaints sound familiar?

“I’m accountable to our customers. I need to know when an order is going to ship.”

“If I need to know what’s happening on the shop floor, no one can give me a straight answer.”

“When a problem happens, I’m the last one to know.”

A lack of production visibility underlies each of these problems. The profit-driver and central focus of a manufacturing business is production, but few companies have any idea what’s happening on the shop floor from one moment to the next.

The Blind Spot in Manufacturing

As we discussed in our last blog, How Much Does the Lack of Production Visibility Cost Manufacturers? companies utilize flawed systems, like their ERP, or error-prone processes, like paper records, to track and monitor production. Critical data and warning signs slip through the cracks, and their business struggles to retroactively fix problems rather than proactively grow the business, even as money and efficiency drain away. Without a dedicated workflow system like Smart Manufacturing to monitor and manage production, these companies will never have real-time production visibility.

Managing and Monitoring Production

A solution based on Smart Manufacturing provides real-time visibility and delivers benefits beyond a dashboard or a morning report. Data collected becomes the foundation of proactive production management, providing a positive impact across the business. For example:

  • Identify and track ship dates with pinpoint precision.

Quit paying overtime or fees for late shipments, and know with a single glance when an order will ship. With real-time production data, manufacturers can release an order and know with confidence when work will be complete. Scheduling bottlenecks aren’t a surprise, and adjustments to the schedule or routing can be made to eliminate problems before they occur. Get an update with a click of a button and stay on top of production to ensure orders ship on-time, every time.

  • Lower production costs.

On any shop floor, hidden inefficiencies will drain profit from every order. With real-time visibility, you can identify inefficiencies – operations that generate additional scrap, wasteful processes or employees that may need additional training – and implement solutions. With accurate, real-time visibility you lower costs across the production lifecycle, drastically reducing expenses.

  • Speedy, error-free New Product Introduction (NPI).

When complications and errors occur during NPI, frustrations and costs mount. As the company attempts to solve problems they may not fully understand, profit and production is lost. When an NPI is successful and the shop floor delivers at a lower bid, without defects and ahead of schedule, the manufacturer becomes a hero. With production visibility, manufacturers quickly identify, in real-time, where and when a problem occurs. Alternate work paths can be implemented and the result seen immediately – efficient and seamless NPI.

  • Sustainable process improvement.

For many manufacturers, process improvement is a waste of time and resources. After the initiative, the shop floor quickly reverts back to the comforts of less-efficient but more familiar processes. Real-time visibility not only supports process improvement by providing critical data for measuring success, but also provides the feedback loops shop floor employees need to utilize the improvements. Companies with real-time production visibility see sustainable, improved results with almost every improvement initiative.

  • Increased quality and lower scrap and waste.

Quality escapes, scrap and waste put a manufacturer at risk. With real-time production visibility, the shop floor receives immediate feedback on quality, and products that don’t meet engineering specifications are quickly identified for rework. With immediate feedback, operators can see the processes that work and the processes that result in escapes. Manufacturers with real-time visibility quickly achieve higher output, increased quality and the elimination of scrap and waste.

Turning Visibility into Increased Margins and Output

If you’re ready to quit making mistakes and errors, and optimize your profit, production and efficiency, then contact CIMx Software to see how quickly a Smart Manufacturing system can give you real-time production visibility while eliminating errors and manufacturing problems.

For most manufacturers, it’s a few simple steps to move to a Smart Manufacturing system. Processes currently draining resources and effort can be automated while error-prone paper methods can be shifted to a digital system. Collect and organize the data in real-time, rather than after work is complete and start manufacturing smarter today.

Take the first step toward Smart Manufacturing by contacting CIMx today at www.cimx.com.

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What Can Turnkey Manufacturing Software Do for You?

A manufacturing software solution is only as good as the data that fuels it.

Many implementations fail to connect existing production data to the new software. Once the system is installed, users are forced to fill the vast empty software space with data – planning, work instructions and production documents. There’s little forethought given to the migration process. This leaves gaps and errors the shop floor will continue to struggle with.

Missing Data Hurts Production

Without a strategy to migrate existing data, production will suffer even after implementation. Avoidable production errors and inefficiency will persist. Missing data forces the shop floor to rely on conjecture during production. Engineers must recreate files or leave holes in the planning if they can’t access critical data – creating production waste and mistakes.

Data silos are born in the gaps you leave in the new software. Users create disconnected and inefficient data sources to get the information they need and fill the information gaps. Rather than helping users work more efficiently, the new software has forced users to develop homegrown solutions to access critical data that didn’t fit the rigid requirements of their new system.

The Advantages of a Turnkey Manufacturing Solution

A turnkey manufacturing solution like the Quantum platform eliminates problems by intelligently migrating and linking all of the required production data to create a comprehensive source of workflow information. This process solves problems and provides proven production advantages:

  • Accelerate production, process improvement and user-acceptance with your critical production data pre-loaded into the system.
  • Retire expensive and disconnected databases, and eliminate production errors through Smart Manufacturing by transforming passive flat files into intelligently-linked active data.
  • Increase production output by accessing data through a comprehensive source of manufacturing information.

Quantum utilizes a Data Migration Engine (DME) with powerful ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) capability to extract data from any source system or file. Quantum applies correction algorithms to the data removing common errors before transforming the data and linking it to active objects. When complete, engineers and users have the data they need in a format ready for use in production or predictive analytics.

Since it’s the data they are already using, users immediately begin work without the errors and frustration that often accompany a new implementation. The company can focus on rapid process improvement rather than struggling to overcome problems.

Contact CIMx today to learn how the Data Migration Engine and Quantum will accelerate system implementation and provide a rapid ROI for businesses seeking a solution to their manufacturing problems.

Five Steps and 12 Weeks to a Manufacturing Solution

If you’re struggling with manufacturing problems – failed audits, late shipments, scrap, waste and worse, a sustainable solution is closer than you may think.

Manufacturing software has come a long way from the days of command prompts and MS DOS. With advances in software technology and the lower cost of hardware, it’s possible to quickly install a targeted software solution. You’ll eliminate the problems holding you back, and increase production output and profit.

Best of all, the right solution uses your existing work instructions and processes, and doesn’t require a risky cloud-based system.

A Better Solution for Manufacturers

Quantum can deliver a Smart Manufacturing system on a modern platform in 12 weeks or less. Here’s how we do it:

Step 1: Identify Your Primary Requirements and ROI

The project starts by developing a requirement list with a CIMx Application Engineer who will partner with you on the project. Target the source of errors and problems and identify solutions to build your list. For example, you may find paper-based work instructions often result in past revisions of planning being used for production, causing quality escapes, scrap and missed production deadlines.

Using this list, calculate the cost savings for each solution. In the previous example, how much would be saved if operators worked from only the most accurate plans? As you work, you may find a requirement doesn’t deliver enough savings. Those requirements can be tabled for a future phase of the project.

Step 2: Map-out Your Production Workflow

Now that you have a good idea of your project goals, you can begin mapping your production workflow into Quantum to identify how the software will support and manage production.

As a workflow system, Quantum is extremely effective in supporting existing workflow and modern manufacturing, unlike ERP or other non-manufacturing solutions. Once your processes are mapped in Quantum, the Application Engineer can demonstrate the workflow using your planning so you see the solution in action.

Step 3: Configure Quantum

Once you agree to the solution and how it is mapped in Quantum, the system will be configured.

You can set up specific work centers, dashboards, reports and alerts. Special workflow requirements and processes can be added for a smooth transition to Quantum. With regular progress reports and demonstrations you can track progress of the work.

Step 4: Migrate Data and Work Instructions

Using Quantum’s Data Migration Engine, CIMx moves your existing planning, documents and data into the system applying the workflow identified in step 2 – a true turnkey manufacturing software solution.

When users log into Quantum for the first time they will see only their plans, making an easy transition to Smart Manufacturing. Keep in mind, as you use Quantum further improvements can be made such as adding data collections and visual elements to work instructions.

Step 5: Final Installation and Training

When you’re ready, Quantum can be loaded at your site in less than an hour. Since the system has been configured and loaded with your planning, very little additional work is required.

All users are trained in Quantum – a process that takes less than an hour – and will begin using the software that day. The Application Engineer will be on-site to answer questions. Most companies find implementation quick and easy after requirements are identified and the workflow mapped.

Getting Started Today

MES are no longer the complex and expensive software projects companies feared in the past. Anyone with a basic understanding of a cell phone will feel at home using Quantum. In fact, most companies that eliminate paper by moving to Quantum regret not taking the plunge to digital manufacturing earlier.

Quantum eliminates the root causes of production errors and inefficiencies. A real-time view of production and access to production data will improve your production output and profit.

If you’re interested in learning more about Quantum, Smart Manufacturing or how you can eliminate paper and embrace digital manufacturing, contact CIMx today for a shop floor analysis.

How to Start an MES Project without a Budget

Companies without a specific budget for paperless manufacturing end up living with shop floor inefficiencies for no reason. There are steps you can take even without a budget for a project.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

There are shop floors still resisting digital manufacturing. They struggle with massive, inefficient bundles of confusing paper work instructions that no one ever reads and may not even be correct.  They labor under shop floor blindness – never knowing when or if a project will be completed.  Quality escapes are commonplace, and without strong analytics or real time quality checks, coming up with a solution is like throwing darts blindfolded.

In every case, some know things have to change. As the pace of manufacturing increases and customers demand more, the problems will only be magnified. At some point the profit eating problems must be solved or the company may disappear.

Problem is – these shop floors don’t have a budget, and so they wait and hope things get better.

Waiting Until Next Year Isn’t a Solution

Just because you don’t have a budget (yet), doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start work on a project. There are steps you can take that don’t require a budget, and some important tasks you can (and should) start before looking at budget. It may be a project can succeed even without a formal budget; just the dedication of a few individuals.

Process Improvement graph.

A successful MES project doesn’t start with a budget. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

For example:

  • Start building your team.

No one person can manage an MES or paperless manufacturing project alone. If there are problems with production hurting the bottom line, there will be others interested in finding a solution. Begin building a team. Bringing others into the project will not only help in finding a better solution, it will also help build consensus and support for the project. You and everyone else may be busy so how do you find the time to squeeze in a “skunkworks” project? Talk about it during breaks or during lunch. Develop a group of passionate believers in improving your company; it may save their jobs someday.

  • Evaluate your internal processes.

Before you buy a solution, any solution, you need to have a strong idea what shape the project will take. That starts with a thorough evaluation of your internal processes. What IT infrastructure do you have? How does an order go from sales to the shop floor? How are you currently tracking orders? What is the change order process? Are you proactively or reactively managing quality on the shop floor? How fast is the company growing? How fast can it grow? What production processes, if improved, will add to growth?  Consider this setting the baseline for your solution search, and it should uncover opportunities for a digital solution to add to your bottom line.

  • Identify your key requirements.

It’s time to turn those opportunities into requirements.  What are the key problems holding back the shop floor? Is it paper work instructions, a lack of quality, or no shop floor visibility? What annoyances does the shop floor dread facing?  What are the expensive phases in your current processes?  Determine the critical items a successful software solution must address to reduce expenses or time.

  • Forecast the ROI.
Confidence Button Shows Assurance Belief And Boldness

The steps you take before you have a budget will position your team for success. Illustration by www,colourbox.com

Now that you have a good idea of the key factors to be solved, begin considering the ROI. What are paper-based work instructions and travelers costing you? How much scrap is generated by your quality escapes? What would it be worth to management to have a real-time view of production at any time? Before you go to management for a budget, or seek our possible solutions, you should have a good idea of what a solution might be worth. Keep in mind, the ROI you calculate here doesn’t need to be precise. Even a rough sketch of potential savings will help as you evaluate potential solutions and begin building your business case.  In some cases the expense reductions can pay for the solution in the same year to realize a successful project without needing a budget above investing the time to implement.

  • Conduct a shop floor analysis.

Finally, it’s time to see how a solution might work on your shop floor and with your processes. Contact potential solution providers to discuss your requirements and shop floor processes. They should be able to match your requirements with their software, and give you an idea of how software will work on your shop floor.  We call this a shop floor analysis. It is a critical initial step in moving a project from the theoretical to reality. Ask what can be done with a limited, or lack of a, budget.

Putting It All Together with Paperless Manufacturing

Any digital manufacturing project should start with these steps. None of them require a budget, other than time and effort.  Even if you’ve never considered paperless or digital manufacturing before, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at what options are out there. Identifying potential ROI is critical for proving project need and the business case.

Waiting another year or ignoring problems isn’t a solution, but taking a few simple steps to kick-off a project and take control of production is.

Want to learn more, or speak to a CIMx representative for a shop floor analysis, then contact us today. We’re always happy to help.

4 Tips for Evaluating New Technology for Manufacturing

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

Written by David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Does it solve a problem or improve operations?

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

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

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

  1. Will the solution grow with you?

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

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

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


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

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

Is Your Shop Floor Ready for Vacation?

Ever wonder how production will continue if you, or someone else, isn’t there? If so, you have a serious problem, and we have a solution.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

If you have a shop floor where information and expertise are isolated to individuals, a simple vacation can be a prelude to disaster. Image by www.colourbox.com

If you have a shop floor where information and expertise are isolated to individuals, a simple vacation can be a prelude to disaster. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

I have a simple question for you. If you went on vacation tomorrow, or won the lottery, or were hit by a bus and lost your memory, or just decided to take a day off to watch table tennis, could your co-workers manage operations? How efficiently could your responsibilities be transitioned to someone else? What would they miss? What tasks would fall through the cracks?

Even though manufacturing relies on processes and workflow, and we all work to develop best practices for every task, most of us struggle with knowledge gap. It seems like every shop floor is filled with missing information, or information silos. We’re so focused on completing orders that documenting processes is never a priority.

And so, when a particularly wicked game of table tennis comes on, everyone scrambles to “cover.” This is a sign of a much deeper, and more dangerous, problem. You have less control of your production, the center of your business, than you might think.

Eliminating the Information Drain

Information silos develop when processes aren’t fully documented. In those hidden zones inside a workflow, employees develop methods for getting work done. They “make it work.”

It’s not until one piece from the massive production puzzle is missing that we see the gaps.  We call this the “information-drain” on the shop floor.

An MES or paperless manufacturing solution does more than remove paper, or collect shop floor data and set schedules. First and foremost, it manages workflow. Orders and planning are stored in the system, which are then organized as operations in a work plan. With modern MES, data collection, asset management, and more can be added to individual plans. The entire workflow should be mapped to the digital system, and can be easily retrieved and reviewed.

Done correctly, the system will expose “information silos” and eliminate them. The information needed to complete each task is loaded to the system. Even a quality check to collect measurements and remove non-conformances, often handled separate from production, can be set up as an operation in the system. Information from other systems used in production can be integrated if data from a PLM or the ERP is used in an operation. The system organizes everything you need to know to complete work.

Once you start mapping processes to the system and using procedural enforcement on the shop floor, the “make-it-work” methodology is quickly eliminated.

The Paperless Manufacturing Solution

Many people approach an MES or paperless manufacturing to solve a specific problem such as quality escapes, out-of-control paper on the shop floor, better data collection, production visibility or to manage regulatory audits, but a key benefit of the system is managing workflow and processes. A (welcome) by-product of using the tool is better understanding of the processes in production.

Paper-based records and planning, which is often filled with gaps, incomplete, and many times never even used, is the breeding ground for knowledge silos.  Without a system to guide response, your (physical) presence is necessary when problems occur. Solutions require you to physically gather critical information, or supply the knowledge needed for the solution. With a digital solution, knowledge is safety and completely encapsulated in the system, providing the context your team needs to implement a response to problems – leaving you to go on vacation whenever you choose without jeopardizing your company production flow.

Want to discover how easy it is to use your planning in a paperless system or to map your shop floor processes to our MES? Give us a call or set-up a time for a free workflow analysis. We’re always happy to help.

Newton’s Laws and MES: What the Laws of Motion Tell You about Your Shop Floor?

Isaac Newton’s physical laws have become the basis of modern manufacturing. They also help explain why many manufacturer’s struggle to improve, and point to a solution.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

What direction is your shop floor heading? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What direction is your shop floor heading? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

We use Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion every day. They may not be as popular among scientists as more revolutionary theories – like General Relativity, Supersymmetry and Quantum Mechanics. Though we may never think about it, the shop floor operates efficiently using Newton’s Laws of Motion.

It may also help explain why so many manufacturers struggle to improve, grappling with the same tired issues year after year. Consider this:

  • Newton’s First Law (Improvement starts with change!)

Every object persists in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed on it.

Also known as the Law of Inertia, Newton’s First Law states that unless there is no net force acting on an object (or a shop floor), then the object will maintain a constant velocity.

For a shop floor, this means that unless someone (or something) pushes, then the shop floor will continue to operate as it has in the past. Errors will continue to be made, paper and misplaced records will continue to pile up, and problems will continue. Even worse, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, over time energy loss and inefficiency will increase in the system (your shop floor). According to physics, doing nothing is not an option if you want to stay competitive.

Let’s be honest – there will be some who are happy with good enough, and they see the problem they know (errors and inefficiency) as preferable to the problems they don’t know (what will life be like with a system managing operations and eliminating problems?) That’s fine – if you are  struggling to improve and fear change even if you are wasting money – then go for it.

But, as Newton’s First Law says, if you want to change or improve, you’re going to need net force acting on your current operations.

  • Newton’s Second Law (You control the rate of change and improvement!)

Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object). Or, Force = Mass times Acceleration (F=MA).

Use a phased implementation to improve your shop floor in manageable steps. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Use a phased implementation to improve your shop floor in manageable steps. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Newton’s Second law explains the relationship between mass, force, and acceleration. If you know the weight of an object and how fast you want it to move, you can figure out how much force you will need to apply.

I don’t think anyone expects to throw their shop floor, but we are (or at least should be) in control of the pace of change in operations. Does the shop floor manager worry about incorporating too much change at once? Then start with a pilot program on one line to test the capabilities of the new system. Slower acceleration (A) in a smaller area (M) will require less work (F). Then, when you are ready, apply a little more force and move it to another area.

Start with a single function of an MES or shop floor paperless manufacturing system, such as Quality, and then roll out new functionality. Focus first on the most important features to help build an ROI. Eventually, you can completely upgrade operations without the growing pains that plague many implementations. We call this a “phased implementation,” and it works well.

  • Newton’s Third Law (It’s human nature to embrace improvement and reject inefficiency.)

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Accord to the Third Law of Motion, in every interaction between objects there is an equal and opposite force that acts on both objects. Another description of this Law is the “action-reaction force pairs.”

At first glance, you might think this is good reason to do NOTHING. After all, if you are upgrading your shop floor, then there must be a disastrous downgrade approaching.  Maybe you see a full-scale revolt of the workers who don’t want you to take away their beloved paper build-books.

But the truth is, the world thrives on the action-reaction pairs. It is what allows a bird to fly and fish to swim. The wings of a bird push the air downwards, and the air pushes the bird up. The bird instinctively knows how to adjust. Measured and deliberate change on the shop floor will inspire production to improve. By working to improve you create the force to enact improvements.

Without directly confronting the source of problems, you’ll never make a sustainable improvement in your operations. It is human nature to adapt and adjust to change to action and reaction force pairs. Once you determine a path forward for your shop floor, trust they will adapt and embrace the benefits.


 

If you see a need for improvement in your operations, and you know the status-quo won’t be good enough in the future, then now is the time to act. Seize the moment and give us a call for a free review of your shop floor operations. Starting a project that brings positive change and benefits to your operation is easier than you might thank.