Category Archives: manufacturing technology

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.

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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.

The Broken Promises of Manufacturing Innovation

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

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

The Truth about Market Consolidation

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

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

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

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

Fighting Back Against Market Consolidation

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The Key to Success with Data-Driven Manufacturing

Data-driven manufacturing – using facts and data rather than conjecture and guesswork to manage manufacturing processes – should be the goal of any forward-thinking manufacturer. Many companies struggle to realize the benefits of data-driven initiatives, even as the decline in cost of technology, software and hardware make it available to companies of any size or industry.

The problem isn’t the technology – it’s how it is being implemented.

The Human Element in Manufacturing Technology

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review identified four challenges facing companies implementing data-driven manufacturing. Moving from a Time-Triggered to an Event-Triggered Control System, a Unified Data Model and the other items discussed in the article are critical in finally realizing the full benefit of data driven manufacturing.

But what the article, and much of the industry, hasn’t addressed is the human element in data-driven manufacturing.

Humans play a critical role in managing production and workflow. While some processes can be completely automated with machines and sensors working together in a closed-loop control system, focusing on technology alone will leave holes in your processes. The operators must have easy and unimpeded access to relevant information during production.

Manufacturing software, specifically an MES (Manufacturing Execution System) designed with Smart Manufacturing tools, is the only solution that adequately meets this requirement.

Accelerating Production with MES

The key to true data-driven manufacturing is the MES.  By focusing only on technology of manufacturing and not addressing the end users, companies will struggle to maximize the benefit of the data they are collecting.

For example, automating machines to signal required maintenance and then automatically adjusting routing while the maintenance work is done is a perfect example of data driven manufacturing in action. Production doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and changes will have an impact on processes across the company. At this point, the MES should inform the operators of the updated routing. The dashboard used by Sales should also reflect the change, so the customer can be informed of the impact on the order.

The MES connects operators and machinery by communicating relevant data to the people best positioned to act on it. Without that communication, you’re left with disconnected and inefficient processes.

Looking Beyond Data-Driven Manufacturing

Companies are now collecting relevant production data, but without getting it to the right person at the right time, the data loses relevancy. An MES controls the manufacturing processes by managing information. In true data-driven manufacturing, the MES or manufacturing software system incorporates the human element and connects users to the critical data.

Without an MES, your data-driven manufacturing systems are still leaving potential production and profit on the table.

Want to know more, or see how true data-driven manufacturing works with a Smart MES? Contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis.

Can You Navigate Your Manufacturing Software?

In this virtual and connected world we live in, a website should represent who you are and what you do. You can learn a lot from a manufacturing company’s website. 

By Lisa Kessler, Customer Relations with CIMx Software

Like many people in this day and age I’m often perusing the web. Sometimes it is work related; other times I’m purchasing things, sometimes I’m just trying to find an interesting article to read.  I don’t always know what I’m looking for, but I do know, if I land on your homepage and it looks disorganized and chaotic…I’m moving on without a second glance.

Things move fast. I don’t have time to decipher your website to find what I need.  I need answers now – clear, concise answers.  What do you do?  How do you do it?  Can you help me?  Your website should be designed with the end user in mind – me.  If it’s not, and I can’t find a compelling reason to stay, then I have better things to do.

In manufacturing, time and speed are also critical.  Manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve production, reduce errors, save time and save money.  Manufacturing software, like paperless manufacturing, are a crucial tool for modern production.  These systems aid in best practices, eliminate errors, and manage information.

Software to Optimize Production

digital solution

Is your software offering a solution, or creating more confusion? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

To optimize production, you need software that not only manages workflow and processes, helping eliminate out-of-control processes, but does so in a way that ensures you and your team focuses on manufacturing, not managing the software.

If your first impression of a software system is a website, do you really think a site that is a confusing mess that is almost impossible to navigate – and is so incomprehensible you aren’t even sure what the software does– is going to improve your workflow or manage your shop floor?

CIMx has been in business for nearly 20 years, in fact we developed one of the very first Computer-Aided Process Planning systems. We’ve helped many manufacturers as they begin researching software tools. Some know what they need, others may be uncertain; they just know they need to do something.

This drives home the importance of a well laid out website.  If you have to keep a shop floor running, you don’t have time to browse 20+ pages of  messaging to see if they can help.  You need clear communication, precise outcomes, and defined benefits.  You need software that will not only improve processes, but is also easy to use, easy to implement, and won’t take years to deliver an ROI.

If it takes you hours of effort to navigate a website, how long will it take an operator to find a work plan in the system, or for an engineer to roll a revision? How much effort will be wasted operating the software? How much more benefit would you have if the software was easier to use?

This is something to consider as you plan your digital manufacturing strategy. Just as in production, complexity does not mean improvement – results do.

Want to learn more, or see how paperless manufacturing might help improve your shop floor, then contact CIMx today for a free shop floor evaluation. We’re always happy to help.

The Critical Role of IT and Operations in Digital Manufacturing

Implementing digital manufacturing requires both IT and operations resources.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Disruptive technology is having an impact on manufacturing as companies grapple with implementing and using new tools without hurting their core business. The struggle leads many companies to wait and do nothing, while opportunities for improvement pass them by.

3d small people - rolls gear

New technology holds tremendous promise for the shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) promises to integrate the manufacturing value chain to eliminate errors and problems before they happen. Smart Factories and Smart MES utilize integration and connectivity to automate the transfer of information, improving processes through the use of data and business intelligence. Companies that embrace technology have a competitive advantage, and those that don’t, or delay improvement projects, will slowly lose money and market share to better prepared competition.

Digital manufacturing, the smart combination of data and technology with operation processes, is the foundation of these disruptive technologies. Data and technology sitting on the shop floor does little unless it’s integrated with workflow processes. Likewise, an operations team will struggle to optimize operations unless the right technology and data tools are in place to support improvements. Operations and IT working together is the foundation of digital manufacturing.

Without operations and IT synchronized, companies will struggle to implement the technology and processes necessar will wait on improvement projects, continuing to use error-prone paper-based processes and old technology and falling further behind their competition.

Aligning IT and Operations for Digital Manufacturing

The solution is to clearly map out the roles for IT and Operations before the project starts. The key is logically defining the roles and building collaboration focused on corporate goals, rather than individual organizations within the company.  Organizations that approach decisions seeking collaboration will find success, while those that see the process as a battle will struggle. Consider these roles:

  • Operations should be focused on the functionality of the software system. They will use the system every day, and their work will deliver the ROI. Any system that doesn’t directly benefit shop floor operations will struggle to even be adopted by users.
  • IT should focus on the technology, installation, security and management of the system. They will support the system and work with the production process and databases. More than just the day to day maintenance of the software, they ensure the solution remains relevant over time, either through standard updates, continuing to work with the vendor and collaborating with operations to adjust to changes as needed.

You may utilize a different approach, which is fine. Mapping out the roles for an improvement project will not only help build collaboration, it will eliminate the confusion that can lead a company to delay an investment in new technology. Building a joint requirement list between operations and IT is easier, and you’ll have more confidence in the final software selection.

There has never been a better time to invest in digital manufacturing and a Smart manufacturing system. Contact CIMx today to see how quickly and easily you can improve production with a software solution.