Category Archives: MES

Accelerate Production with Shop Floor Visibility and Quantum

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, manufacturers without shop floor visibility struggle to meet customer demands. It puts them at a disadvantage in a competitive marketplace. Without visibility, it’s impossible to see beyond the errors to eradicate the underlying problems. Put an end to late shipments, costly scrap and operator errors by integrating Smart Manufacturing process conformance and reporting.

Solving Shop Floor Problems with Quantum

A manufacturer should know what’s happening from one moment to the next on their shop floor.

Quantum Smart Manufacturing has made the answer simple. With a rapid installation, companies using Quantum open the window to the shop floor and start working faster and more efficiently with complete production visibility. Errors, problems, bottlenecks and quality escapes are quickly identified and solutions implemented all within the system. Unnecessary costs and expenses are eliminated, and revenue and output increase across the board.

Sound good? Let’s look at a few of the ways Quantum delivers production visibility and revolutionizes manufacturing:

  • Instant updates with Quantum’s real-time production dashboard

You’re tasked to check the status of an order – what is your current process? Do you consult a spreadsheet from a morning meeting or make a call to a supervisor? If so, you have a problem. Production moves too fast and resources are too valuable to waste for dated or faulty information. With Quantum, operators continually provide critical data as they use the software. That data fuels an accurate, real-time dashboard accessible from anywhere and at any time. Identify problems faster and take the pulse of production in real-time, eliminating the knowledge gap while your competitors still struggle with guesswork and blind spots on the shop floor.

  • Accurately plan and manage work with the Quantum Scheduler

Many ERP companies claim to offer a work scheduler, but in reality offer little more than a digital whiteboard sequencer. Quantum calculates and prioritizes work for you, incorporating shop floor capacity with a finite scheduler. You see in an instant expected ship dates once an order releases. Quickly identify problems like bottlenecks or gaps in the work cycle and make adjustments from the scheduler screen. Assess the impact of changes before releasing them to the shop floor. Rather than running your business on empty promises, Quantum gives the power to reliably manage work and make dependable commitments to customers.

  • Intelligently link your business with Quantum Communication

For production supervisors, responsibility for an order doesn’t end once it’s released to the shop floor, though it may feel that way as the Supervisor is often the last one to know when there’s a problem. With Quantum’s the built-in communication tool, the shop floor has instant access to solutions when they need it. Engineers, quality, and production supervisors are never too far away when a problem happens, and can rapidly implement a solution. With the digital tools and a system for managing and archiving communication, Quantum drastically reduces the time between when a problem occurs and resolution.

Process Improvement and Production Visibility

The goal of any process improvement project should be production visibility. Accurately identifying opportunities for improvement or assessing the results of the project without visibility is impossible. With Quantum, manufacturers identify and understand the root cause of problems. As a dedicated workflow-system, rather than an ERP-esque transaction-software, Quantum automatically provides shop floor visibility as users interact with the system.

Contact CIMx today to learn more about dedicated manufacturing software and how it instantly delivers the shop floor visibility your business needs to eliminate inefficiencies, errors, and unnecessary expenses to improve production and increase profit.

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Unlock Smart Manufacturing and Production Visibility with an MES

Once you cut through the hype-cycle surrounding Smart Manufacturing you will find that, if implemented properly, going Smart grants manufacturers the ability to identify the true sources of their woes at the click of a mouse.

What the hype misses, but more and more manufacturers are discovering, is the critical role MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) platforms like Quantum play in solution-focused Smart Manufacturing. Collecting data isn’t enough. Solving problems and optimizing production requires the production control and visibility available only with dedicated manufacturing software.

Adding Production Value with an MES

With an MES supported by Smart production data, manufacturers will:

  • Make intelligent connections using critical production data

Many companies struggle to decide where to store and use the Smart Manufacturing data. While their ERP can generate reports, it’s too far upstream in the manufacturing workflow to add value to production. A production-focused MES provides the workflow connections necessary to capitalize on the data, quickly identifying problems and implementing solutions. For example, if a machine goes down an MES will jump into action, rerouting work to maintain the shipping schedule.

  • Turn raw data into profit

Data alone won’t accelerate production or increase profit. You need to connect the data to the production insight provided by an MES to make a rapid, positive impact on production. In the previous example, if the machine goes down your MES will allow you to see the operation and actions taken that resulted in the problem. Supervisors can adjust processes to eliminate the problem in the future. When a line goes down, you can see the impact on production and evaluate the cost and benefit of solution options. Raw data is just information. An MES turns data into profit.

  • Create feedback loops to increase production

The goal of Smart Manufacturing isn’t better reports. You need to increase production and efficiency, and eliminate errors and waste. Smart Manufacturing solutions rely on getting critical information to the people who need the data to positively impact production; this is the primary role of any MES. With an MES, you can create feedback loops in the production value chain to shorten the time between the identification of a problem and the resolution. When a problem happens, an alert in the software is immediately sent so action can be taken quickly. There’s no need to search for information or wait for answers.

Unlock Smart Manufacturing

The foundation of Smart Manufacturing is turning production visibility and manufacturing insight into increased profit and efficiency.

Simply collecting data and running reports isn’t enough. Smart manufacturers turn insight into action that solves problems, generates revenue, eliminates errors, and accelerates throughput. An MES and dedicated manufacturing software includes the tools manufacturers need to take action on Smart Manufacturing data.

If you would like to learn more, or see how your company can quickly implement manufacturing software and Smart Manufacturing for a rapid ROI, contact CIMx Software to speak with an Application Specialist. We’re always happy to help.

How to Find the Best Partner for Manufacturing Software

Last week I read a press release announcing a merger between two manufacturing software companies. The goal of the new product – a combination of the offerings from both companies – was to deliver functionality neither company had previously been capable of offering.

Dangers of Software Mergers

Joint offerings like this rarely deliver the expected benefits. With no real focus on customer needs, these business mergers lead to expensive, inefficient and ineffective product offerings propped up by the promise of innovation.  Too often, the real goals are either opening another revenue stream or fixing existing flaws in each developer’s software. Purchasing a competitor’s technology and marketing it under a unified brand isn’t innovation. For companies looking at a patchwork software solution, here are a few thoughts to consider:

  • Lack of Product Support

Ask how support for the “collaborative product” will be managed. Who will be responsible for support? Many times, the merger will completely change the support dynamics leaving users in customer support limbo. There will be lengthy and frustrating growing pains as the merger develops. Over time, the companies move on to other initiatives, with customers left struggling with unsupported software.

  • Functionality and Complexity You Don’t Need

Software acquisitions add functionality without thought to workflow. Continually cramming functionality into a software product creates complexity and inefficiency. The shop floor will ignore these systems. Additionally, consider the cost increase as users pay for functionality they don’t need and won’t use.

  • Expensive and Flawed Product Integration

Many product collaborations result in a lowest-common denominator solution for users. Software products developed independently, with different architecture and design, can’t be easily combined. There will be significant costs passed on to the customers to tightly link and connect the products. Some features can’t be linked, resulting in product flaws your shop floor will have to overcome.

The Power of Partnerships

Manufacturing software is critical for modern manufacturing. For companies struggling to support production with paper-based word documents, spreadsheets or modules tacked onto their existing ERP, the answer is not in the latest software partnership.

You’re not going to find a long-term, sustainable manufacturing solution with the “flavor-of-the-month” products developed in these partnerships. Unnecessary complexity, higher costs, support issues and flawed design elements eliminate any user benefit from the partnership.

Look for a software supplier ready to partner with you and your production team for a solution, and willing to focus on your unique business needs. The focus of any partnership should be your production needs and the growth of your business; not just the business of the software partners. CIMx Software has never purchased another product to increase our functionality footprint. Quantum was developed completely in-house, with a focus on empowering manufacturers to eliminate problems and increase output. Companies using Quantum know the focus is their production needs and supporting their business goals.

In our next CIMx manufacturing blog, we’ll take a look at how market consolidation is hurting manufacturers, and what you can do to find the right manufacturing software partner for you. Let us know if you have any questions, or would like to learn more about what modern manufacturing software can do for you.

5 Powerful Benefits of Production Data Visibility

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Production data fuels the manufacturing industry. Putting this strategic information to work adds profit and production to your business.

As employees collect and use data locally in a wide variety of homegrown formats, data silos are created diminishing the overall value of production information. Over time, competing spreadsheets and shared drives of disconnected production data create inefficiencies and errors. The problem is as much cultural as technological, preventing alignment between sales and operations.

Align Sales and Operations with Data

Unlock the business value of your data by making it accessible across the enterprise. Here are five reasons why data visibility and aligning production databases must be your next improvement project:

  • Work from a single source of production truth

Employees use guesswork and estimates if they can’t find the data they need. This leads to errors and mistakes. With a single source of accurate and accessible production information, there’s no need to guess. Employees work faster with critical information at their fingertips.

  • Eliminate redundant data entry

If sales, operations and dispatch all keep their own spreadsheets tracking related elements you end up with employees doing the same work again and again. Redundant data entry is error-prone and creates waste. Eliminate wasted time and focus on value-added work when you adopt comprehensive, modern data collection standards.

  • Provide revision-controlled, accurate information

Many companies struggle with document and change management. Inaccurate and outdated work instructions and production data create errors and frustration. With documentation under revision control, you can better manage change. Employees work with confidence knowing they have the most accurate and complete production information.

  • Work from a single screen

According to a recent survey, shop floor workers waste 30 minutes to 2 hours every day looking for information. With a single production database and data visibility, employees make data-driven decisions to increase productivity and respond accurately to change.

  • Align the business from shop floor to top floor

Manufacturers identify alignment between sales and operations as a critical business need. Collaboration requires everyone working toward the same goals, with the same vision of the business. Foster collaboration and alignment by linking sales and operations with accurate production data.

Empowered, Data-Driven Manufacturing

Data visibility is the foundation of increased output and business growth. Data collection standards provide the basis of sustainable process improvement and business collaboration.

Start by eliminating the silos and moving your historical data to a manufacturing system. If possible, convert your data to object-oriented files so you can begin running reports on it, providing the trending and analysis that is the foundation of data-driven, Smart Manufacturing.

Want to learn more, or see how a Data Migration Engine can eliminate data silos and empower an MES to do more for manufacturing and production? Contact CIMx today to talk to an Application Engineer about Quantum and learn how to unleash your production data for higher output and profit.

What Quantum MES Can Do for You

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications at CIMx Software

The internet can be a confusing place for anyone doing research – especially for manufacturers researching Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES).

Research leads to more questions than solid answers. Finding the truth among lofty, but hollow, claims from ERP vendors that don’t know production can be a challenge. To clear up confusion, we’ll explain exactly what Quantum can do for you and other discrete manufacturers that are struggling to manage and improve production. Companies need solutions, not questions, to meet the complex demands of modern manufacturing.

Connecting the Shop Floor to the Top Floor

Quantum MES provides a data-driven edge for manufacturers by intelligently linking the shop floor to the top floor.

In the past, companies would struggle to manage production processes. Errors would be found only after manufacturing was complete, requiring expensive and time-consuming rework. Rampant inefficiencies, mistakes and non-productive work were common. Getting the big picture on shop floor was difficult, if not impossible. Data and information on production was either lost, inaccurate, or kept in isolated databases.

Without timely and accurate production data or process control, the company struggled to solve these problems. With scheduling based on guesswork and not capacity analysis, change orders requiring a printer and a red sticker, and a shop floor grappling with inefficiency, measurable improvement is difficult.

Companies using Quantum efficiently manage production operations by ensuring critical data and information is accurate and available when and where it is needed. The software eliminates guesswork and confusion with a built-in communication system. All aspects of the production process are integrated as everyone on the team uses the same and most up to date information. Many processes are automated, eliminating the source of errors and ensuring operators focus on production.

Smart Tools for Manufacturing

Since the software maps to and mirrors existing production operations, manufacturers find it easy to begin using the tools in Quantum, immediately improving operations. There are no extra modules or additions in Quantum, so you’ll have:

  • Built-in Finite Scheduling delivering real-time WIP dashboards to eliminate production and shipping uncertainty;
  • A closed-loop Quality System to identify non-conformances as they happen and automate rework to ensure timely delivery;
  • Process Conformance supporting standardized processes to dramatically increase accuracy and reduce production time;
  • Document Control that eliminates paper by digitizing work processes to remove errors;
  • Asset Management to track business assets throughout the manufacturing value chain, providing complete traceability for the most demanding regulatory requirements.

These tools are part of the complete manufacturing solution in Quantum. Since the software simplifies and enables the capture of relevant data across the production cycle, integrated Data Analytics delivers insights in real time to support data-driven business decisions that accelerate the benefits of the software. Visualization and feedback loops provide a critical foundation for Smart Manufacturing. With Quantum, your business will synchronize and integrate business operations from the top floor to the shop floor.

With industry-focused configurations, enterprise and multi-site options, and turnkey implementation and training – Quantum delivers error-free manufacturing and enterprise wide visibility for companies of any size at a price you can afford. Contact CIMx today to see what Quantum can do for you.

Bridging the Gap between Your PLM and Manufacturing

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

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

It All Starts in Design

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

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

Manufacturing Pushes the Pace

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

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

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

Where is the Bridge?

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

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

A Solution for Both Manufacturing and Design

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

What Can Help?

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

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

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

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

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

2016 Year in Review for Manufacturing Technology

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications for CIMx Software

At first glance, 2016 was a year of promise linking production priorities with emergent technologies.  Speculation was rampant with industry buzzwords flying fast and furious – Smart Manufacturing, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the Digital Thread, Data Mining, Cloud technology.

What is lost in the speculation of 2016 is the technical and industry hurdles we need to overcome before the speculation becomes a practical reality for our industry. Consider this:

  • The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will use machine sensors and automation to better manage production processes, identifying and eliminating problems before they happen…once we determine the format and infrastructure of the IIoT, significantly lower the cost of integration, and agree on how security will be managed.

  • Cloud-based apps offer companies the chance to reduce capital and infrastructure expenses and manage software remotely…as long as they relinquish control of their data and apps to the service providers and accept increased costs and potential downtime.

  • Smart Manufacturing heralds the convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT)…so Production Managers with enough time, resources, and a willing and able IT resource to implement and support smart, connected devices can improve production outcomes.

  • Manufacturing customers see the promise of collaborative manufacturing and customization, and are expecting more from manufacturers, and manufacturers are using 3D printing and digital PLM tools to provide flexibility not found in traditional manufacturing processes…hoping they can maintain margins while frantically searching for new value streams to improve profits.

A Dose of Manufacturing Truth

As exciting as it was to speculate on the future in 2016, we’ve ignored the current manufacturing truth faced by many companies. Businesses don’t need speculation, they need practical solutions.  According to a study by Adobe, 82% of the companies still rely heavily on paper.  Four out of five businesses say they are trying to use less paper, but a third of the companies actually used MORE paper.  These companies aren’t thinking about the Digital Thread, they wonder how they can continue supporting their business.

An operations team struggling to manage massive paper build books and unsure how to access the latest revision of production plans isn’t considering smart-connected machines.  A company with a single, overworked IT resource isn’t ready for a Smart Manufacturing strategy.  A shop floor supervisor struggling to identify shipping dates and manage production schedules isn’t thinking about IIoT.

The solutions our industry is focused on and the suppliers offering them are still years, perhaps even decades, from providing a viable application for most manufacturers.  For example, an IIoT solution will require new machines, sensors to integrate with a shared database, a common machine language for all those sensors, a tool for mining the information for actionable data, and a method of automating the process. Currently, it’s expensive, with only limited applications.

The largest companies, with the money, resources and time to devote to speculation, are exploring the options and opportunities. Often, the goal is to monetize the technology and offer it on the market as a product or module for an existing application. The company hasn’t even worked out how to use it in their own processes.

Where We Were in 2016

Rather than speculate, I’d like to take an honest look at 2016.  Let’s see where our industry is now, rather than 10+ years from now.

MES_Success_WEB_082813.jpg

How are you using technology in production and operations? Illustration from http://www.colourbox.com

We’ve come across companies that have implemented an MES, or have stitched together different applications to remove paper from their processes and better manage and record manufacturing digitally.  Today, these companies are working to improve their processes, optimize production, and further support the manufacturing value chain.

The push to further optimize can lead to additional risks.  Companies are working toward integrating their software systems, such as ERP, PLM and ERP, through a single system.  Most of these projects have run into trouble, as the complexity of the integrated software slows, rather than supports, enterprise processes.  Brian Carpizo, a Team Lead with Uptake, an IIoT company in Chicago, described the problem in an article in Forbes as “… the converged IT/OT world does not lend itself to one-vendor systems of record or some kind of mega-ERP. The problem is just too complex.”

CIMx regularly works with companies struggling with inefficient, legacy software systems that should have been retired years ago.  These companies purchased manufacturing software during the advent of MES in the early 1990s; some built their own systems using Microsoft Access or other computer software. These early systems used custom code, making it expensive and difficult to upgrade.

Today, companies still using that old software pour more money and resources into maintaining the inefficient status quo, a logic fallacy known as a “sunk cost” that blinds businesses to the opportunity for improvement. Continuing to wait leads the company further into Technology Debt.  These companies are looking for a smooth transition to a new system.

Finally, there are a significant number of manufacturers still clinging to traditional, error-prone paper-based manufacturing. From our experience, whatever the reason for waiting each year to implement even a simple software system to better manage production operations, the company falls further and further behind their competition. Often, management doesn’t realize how easy and inexpensive a possible software solution is to implement.

A Bridge Forward in 2017

I’m not arguing against Smart Connected devices and technology. Technology will have a positive impact on manufacturing, now and in the future.  Automation and the IIoT are promising, and there are companies leveraging the Cloud to improve current business outcomes.

But to focus on technology still years away from practical application while ignoring the struggles of the majority of the industry in 2016 isn’t really putting your audience’s interests first.  We’re excited by the opportunity new technology offers, and we’re looking at ways to best utilize it in our product offerings, but in no way was this reflective of the work done in 2016, or the status of manufacturing last year.

A review of the year should focus on the business, and not the future.  There are tools out there now to help businesses still relying on paper and inefficient technology.

Next week, we’ll take a close look at what you can do in 2017 to deliver a positive impact on your business.