Category Archives: MES

Does Your ERP Speak MFG?

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

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

Problems Hiding in Your Production Lifecycle

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

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

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

  • Bringing Workflow Control to the ERP

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

  • Connecting the Shop Floor and Front-office

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

  • Deliver Company-wide Production Visibility

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

Bringing Production to Your ERP

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

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

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

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Four Tips for Delivering Manufacturing Success in 2018

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

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

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

Evaluate Your Current Processes

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

  • Do you have a reliable source of production data?

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

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

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

  • How much control do you have over production?

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

  • How quickly can you adjust to changing production conditions?

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

Prepare Now for Manufacturing in 2018

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

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

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

Solving Problems and Improving Production with Behavior Science

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

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

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

Prospect Theory and Manufacturing

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

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

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

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

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

Embracing a Shop Floor Solution

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Production and Business to the Next Level

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

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

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

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.

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.