Category Archives: Process Control

The Margin Wars – How to Succeed in Global Manufacturing

Ed Deaton | CIMx Software

Let’s be frank, most of your customers can’t tell the difference between your plant and the next job shop on their vendor list.

You may have the best machinery, the most skilled operators and a spotless reputation, but all they really care about are the big three: quality, turnaround-time and price.

It’s frustrating, illogical and unfair; but it’s the world we sell in.

To stay competitive in manufacturing your shop needs to become the go-to supplier for every run. This means guaranteeing delivery dateseliminating turnbacks and producing the same work with fewer resources than your competitors.

 

Three Steps to Victory
Your secret weapon in the Margin Wars is simple. Enforce lean manufacturing tactics with a modern production control system.

How many bids have you lost in the last five years to undercutting competitors or overseas shops? It’s not enough to just be competitive with the plants in your area anymore; it’s your shop against the world.

Follow these 3 tips to connect, correct and control production with your existing Manufacturing Execution System (MES). Take control of your shop to gain control of your market.

Connect Your Resources
Lean manufacturing requires every resource on your shop floor to be as efficient as possible. This means optimized scheduling, complete asset control and total conformance on every build.

Manufacturers attempting to manage the complexities of their shop with spreadsheets and paper find themselves stuck in a damage control loop. Unreliable data, guesswork and unexpected changes lead to daily chaos, forcing your leadership team to spend more time putting out fires than growing your business.

Tip 1: Leverage your existing MES to tether every aspect of your workflow and guarantee your shop is running at maximum efficiency. Make sure your system allows priority-centric scheduling and real-time rerouting to avoid bottlenecks when the unexpected strikes.

 

Correct Errors in Real-Time
If you accept scrap and turnbacks as simply the cost of doing business then you’ve become your own worst enemy.

The biggest threat to the sustainability of your business is waste: wasted time, wasted materials and wasted opportunities. To maximize your margins it’s essential that you eliminate the waste that is eating away at your bottom line.

Tip 2: Your leadership team needs the ability to visually track every order throughout production in real-time to correct errors as they occur. Live Production Dashboards built into your MES allow your team to prevent workflow errors before they occur and react to issues instantly, eliminating defects and bottlenecks.

 

Control Every Stage of Production
In order to maintain quality while bidding competitively, your shop needs to plan each operation to perfection while capturing the necessary data every step of the way. Paper travelers, dry erase boards and pencil whipped data sheets are error prone, time consuming threats to production.

You need to ensure your customers that every tolerance has been checked and every specification met.

Tip 3: Digitizing your travelers, work instructions and data collection sheets ensure your Operators are following every step and completing every check necessary to remain compliant, all on one screen. Collect the data required for audits and build quality work faster with digital shop floor control.

 

Next Steps
The key to winning the Margin Wars is simple: make more with less. Take the steps required to gain market share by implementing an MES designed to control production from Engineering through Delivery. Give your team the tools they need to build it right™, ahead of schedule and under budget with Quantum.

Connect with a CIMx Application Expert to discuss your workflow and determine if the Quantum MES/MOM is the right solution for your shop. Request a quote or schedule your live demo today!


Manufacturing Software Experience | CIMx Software
For more than 20 years, CIMx has developed software solutions that connect, correct and control production for U.S. manufacturers of all sizes. Build it right with Quantum®.

Schedule your live Quantum demo with a CIMx Application Expert today!

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The Risk of Manufacturing Automation

Ed Deaton | CIMx Software

Standardized processes and machine automation are the driving forces behind modern manufacturing in the United States. These tools maintain order across the shop floor and keep work on schedule. This structure is essential to eliminating waste and generating profit, however, no process is without risk.

The threat from automation and well-structured processes arise when we become overly reliant on them. This reliance leads to blind spots and complacency across the company.


The Solution: Real-Time Production Control

Spot red flags in real-time with Production Dashboards designed to keep your orders on-schedule and under budget. Increase production with digital work packets and enforce Quality with automatic tolerance checks and sequential sign-offs.

Leverage a complete Manufacturing Execution System (MES) to empower your employees to increase both Quality and production rates. Your team is your most valuable asset and the right MES will give them the tools they need to succeed.

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Creating a Culture of Compliance

Ed Deaton | CIMx Software

Catch and resolve these common audit issues before the regulators do.

If you’re in the manufacturing industry you understand how essential auditing is to your company’s success. The amount of resources required to report multiple times a year may be frustrating, but their value cannot be overstated.

That said; you hate everything about them.

Here are three tips for getting ahead of your inspection and receiving the most value out of every audit.

 


1. Risk Avoidance

Audits are all about mitigating risk. Whether it’s risk to your employees, your customers or your bottom line; audits exist to keep your shop on schedule, compliant and safe. Inconsistencies in processes, Operator error and record keeping are among the most common issues reported during internal reviews.

To mitigate these risks you need to both control how work is executed and collect the right data as consistently as possible.

Leverage the digital work packets and data collections in your Manufacturing Execution System (MES) to guarantee every order is built to spec. By utilizing clear work instructions with automatic Quality checks your Operators will have everything they need at their fingertips.

Modern MES platforms also generate permanent as-built records (eDHR) to ensure you have a complete history of every material, tool and process used on an order. With the asset traceability and revision control tools (included in your MES) your data will be reliably stored for easy access when requested by auditors.

2. Know Your Weaknesses

This isn’t your first rodeo. Audit preparation 101 is addressing and reporting on the results of your previous review. You need to show that, not only have past issues been addressed, but that the processes set in place to prevent their reoccurrence have been enforced and well documented. Being docked for a new infraction is bad, but being docked for reoccurring infractions is much worse.

Remember, no two audits/auditors are the same. To assure yourself that processes are being followed, visit the areas most likely to commit an error. This could be anywhere from a highly complex workstation to an area with an above average number of new hires. Regardless, visit your areas where failure is at his highest probability and don’t leave until you’re confident in their success.

3. Stop Cutting Corners

The truth is most manufacturers will only do the bare minimum to pass their audits. Management has other priorities and often sees these check-ins as intrusive and unnecessary. This leads to a culture of sweeping the dirt under the rug twice a year without making any real changes to support the growth of the business.

However, this line of thinking is dangerously flawed. The reality is that there are few greater risks to a manufacturer’s success than losing their certifications. How many customers would your company lose if its ISO 9001, AS 9100 or FDA certifications were revoked?

Implement a long-term solution designed to grow with your business. Do your research and select a vendor with the experience and dedication you need to succeed. Enforce quality, control production and track every order from engineering through delivery with an MES designed for your industry. 


 

Next Steps

If your company needs a plan leading into your next audit, connect with a CIMx Application Expert today to learn more about complete MES functionality. Our experienced team understands your industry and can provide the insight you need to succeed. Learn more about what the right Manufacturing Execution System can do for your shop today!

The Quantum® MES/MOM delivers the order traceability, audit control and production efficiency your shop needs to compete in a global market. Complete orders ahead of schedule and under budget with the manufacturing system designed for your industry. Build it right with Quantum.


Manufacturing Software Experience | CIMx Software

For more than 20 years, CIMx has developed complete solutions for manufacturers. The experience and innovation behind CIMx systems have delivered decades of increased production and cost savings. Quantum® is designed to deliver the production control your team needs to build it right™, ahead of schedule and under budget.

Schedule your live Quantum demo with a CIMx Application Expert today!

3 Manufacturing Slow Downs That are Impacting Your Bottom Line

Ed Deaton | CIMx Software

3 Manufacturing Slow Downs that are Impacting Your Bottom Line

Production and profit had plateaued at a Midwest Composites manufacturer. Orders were consistent enough to turn a small profit, but margins were paper-thin and the workforce was aging out of their roles.

With an influx of inexperienced new hires joining the company, the Production Manager (PM) had the idea of using a stopwatch to measure employee efficiency in the hopes of finding areas of opportunity. What this PM quickly realized was that it wasn’t his team that needed redirection; it was his processes.

These are the 3 process changes that increased production and profitability across his shop:


1. The Chain of Approval

The first issue is well known to manufacturers of every industry: a simple supervisor sign off.

When a non-conformance required a Supervisor to sign off before the Operator could continue, the PM started his stopwatch. Sign offs are commonplace and, in most cases, a non-issue. However, in this instance, the only Supervisor with authority was on the opposite end of the shop floor.

After tracking the amount of time required to simply locate, wait and walk back to the work center with the Supervisor, a shocking realization came to the PM. In the time wasted locating approval, this Operator could have completed an addition 3 pieces of work. When taking a moment to consider how frequently these occurrences take place, the amount of waste impacting the bottom line quickly added up.

2. Change Management Control

The second major slow down occurred when an experienced operator caught an error in a plan’s work instructions. These instructions had been used by less experienced workers to complete dozens of parts over the past week.

Not only did work on that line need to be shut down until a fix could be planned and approved, but the parts that had already been completed were difficult to differentiate due to limited traceability.

This shift in the schedule caused bottlenecks at fixed-time ovens slowing down production even more. There was no quick fix and once again, the clock continued to tick cutting into profit and pushing delivery dates.

3. The Problem with Paper

Lastly, after seeing the negative impact of everyday processes on profitable time, the Production Manager returned to his desk. He pulled records of previous quarters in an effort to verify if what he had seen on the floor could be as common as he feared.

After spilling over binders of paper reports, searching through spreadsheets and digging through a homegrown Access database, the third problem became clear. Not only was the data in front of him unreliable, but the amount of time required to find the information he needed was as wasteful as wandering the shop floor for a sign off.



One Complete Solution

It was only after recognizing the root causes of waste that this manufacturer could explore potential solutions. After connecting with his manufacturing network and discussing potential solutions with multiple software vendors, he determined his shop needed a Manufacturing Execution System to get production under control.

Real-time production visibility, order traceability and complete process control were required to eliminate non-value-added time and increase production. The proper Supervisors could be alerted at the click of a button and management could update change orders across the entire shop in an instant eliminating walk-around time and increasing efficiency on every part.

The data collected from each build ensured Quality standards were met on every order and gave the management team the high level data they required to keep production on schedule.

The Quantum® MES/MOM delivers the order traceability, audit control and production efficiency your shop needs to compete in a global market. Complete orders ahead of schedule and under budget with the manufacturing system designed for your industry. Build it right with Quantum.


Manufacturing Software Experience | CIMx Software

For more than 20 years, CIMx has developed complete solutions for manufacturers. The experience and innovation behind CIMx systems have delivered decades of increased production and cost savings. Quantum® is designed to deliver the production control your team needs to build it right™, ahead of schedule and under budget.

Schedule your live Quantum demo with a CIMx Application Expert today!

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

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

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

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

The Connection Between Process Control and Manufacturing Scrap

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

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

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

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

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

Insider Secrets to System Integration for MES and Paperless Manufacturing

There’s confusion out there in the MES and paperless manufacturing market about what “system integration” means and what it can do for your company.  We cut through the confusion and offer tips for ensuring integration leads to benefits for you and your shop floor.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

How can you navigate the myths and legends of manufacturing system integration? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

How can you navigate the myths and legends of manufacturing system integration? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

System integration.

For many manufacturers, the term has taken on mythical, magical, properties.  Like some IT or software unicorn, many companies are questing for the holy grail of total “SYSTEM INTEGRATION.”  They call it the “digital enterprise,” “enterprise integration,” or “operation integration.”  Companies feed into the myth, believing they cannot achieve operational Nirvana without system integration.  Current IT trends and tools lend support to these beliefs, especially big data and advanced analytics – both require integrated systems.

There are benefits to system integration for savvy manufacturers.  It’s worth the investment, but many companies fail to fully realize the benefits in their single-minded focus on complete system integration.  They may even be hurting production.  The goal shouldn’t be a monolithic digital enterprise, but improved productivity and better business processes.

We want to take a brief look at system integration, focusing on the benefits and dangers rather than the technology (which can change quickly as new products and techniques are released), and offer tips on how you can design a more successful integration project.

What is system integration?

System integration is a computer technique where individual software components are combined into an integrated whole.  With interconnected systems, electronic data is shared and exchanged across the network, ensuring accurate information is available anywhere and at any time.  Integration improves communication and coordination.  By linking computer systems or software applications together, either physically or functionally, the entire computer network acts as a coordinated whole, eliminating information “silos” that occur when data is input in different locations.

There are several methods of system integration.  Most utilize a variety of techniques, not just new software or hardware.  Cultural adaptation and coordination, as well as an evaluation of business processes, are also required for a successful integration.

The Benefits of system integration

Follow our tips to ensure maximum benefit for your next system integration project.  Image by www.colourbox.com

Follow our tips to ensure maximum benefit for your next system integration project. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

The primary benefit of integrated systems is improved functionality.  Data within the organization will be fully harmonized, creating a more capable system, improving performance and enhancing existing systems.  Reports will access more data, improving accuracy and decision-making while delivering better operational management.

Manufacturing pioneered the early study and use of system integration as companies sought improved operations through the use of Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM).  In CIM, companies used computers to integrate manufacturing activities.  By integrating computer systems, such as product development, process planning, production, and delivery and after sales, companies could deliver accurate information where and when it was needed, and in the format that was required.

Companies that smartly invested in CIM were rewarded.  The US National Research Council asserts production can be improved through CIM by as much as 40 to 70 percent.  Design costs can be reduced by 15 to 30 percent, and overall lead time can be reduced by 20 to 60 percent.

Navigating the dangers of system integration

Simply pushing computer systems together, or imposing a new workflow process or computer application, is not enough to achieve beneficial system integration.  Many times, the drive (or quest) for system integration begins in the front office, not the shop floor, which can lead to a number of problems for production.  A system that benefits one department may not benefit or even work for another, hindering productivity, reducing benefit, and building resistance to the overall integration plan.

The fact is, the business processes and computer systems that work for finance, IT, or product design aren’t an optimal solution for production.  An ERP is a transaction-based system, and the data, output and processes are different than a behavior- or process-based MES or paperless manufacturing system. A transaction-based system catalogs data, while a process-based system manages workflow with information.  Trying to impose a transaction-based system on shop floor workflow is inefficient.  Any advantage gained from the system integration is lost as more resources are required to complete work.

In an effort to create a common data format or a shared operational system for the integration, many companies will sacrifice operational efficiency.  Manufacturers will lose the operational functionality they need.  A transaction-based system will never offer the tools necessary to optimally manage redline edits or deliver process enforcement, even if it works great for HR or design.

Consider the cultural side of the equation.  Can you imagine imposing engineering workflow or finance workflow on an assembly or production line?  It sounds silly, but many companies do that when the purchase a “suite” of pre-integrated software systems.  It delivers front office benefits by sacrificing operational efficiency.

Tips for successful software integration

Don't forget to consider cultural needs, as well as technological needs, when planning an integration project.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Don’t forget to consider cultural needs, as well as technological needs, when planning an integration project. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Consider these tips as you evaluate the opportunities for system integration:

  • Set specific goals for the integration, and ensure those goals are met with a clear ROI. Many times, companies will continue to add functionality as their costs and project complexity grows exponentially.  Add in the costs a piece of functionality may have to one area, and for some projects an ROI will never be achieved.  Manage your initial expectations to focus on the initial key project drivers.
  • Look at not only a technical solution, but a cultural one as well. Start the process by breaking down the cultural boundaries in your company before rolling out a technical solution.  This will require buy-in and consensus.  Make clear not only the goals, but the expectations.  Give each area a voice in the final solution, and ensure their needs are met.
  • Look at delivering the project in phases, rather than a single, massive installation. Any enterprise-wide system integration is more than just software installation, it requires a cultural shift.  Tackling an enterprise project is not just technically difficult, but culturally difficult as well.  A phased implementation will eliminate many of these problems.
  • Look for added value in the project, and ensure it is real value, and not just functionality. For example, linking design and production on a single system is one tactic, but many times system integration can be as simple as sharing a single database with revision control and an approval process, and doesn’t require an entirely new software package.  The value of the project is achieved without the additional and unnecessary complexity.
  • Beware of vendors promising an “integrated” solution. Many companies are working to build “digital enterprise” software.  Their tactic  is to “purchase” solutions to be integrated into their own system.  The result of these purchases is often problematic.  The integration the vendor makes by smashing the system together may not match your current processes or needs, and will add complexity to the installation at your site.  The benefit the vendor gains by marketing an “integrated” solution does not translate to your shop floor or enterprise.
  • System integration doesn’t require a single “master” system to manage operations. Look at sharing data across relevant systems using an application-independent data format.  This project can easily be done in phases.  For example, send orders from your ERP to your MES, automatically generating orders for production.  Once a product ships, send the product data to the PLM to create a master record.  Strategically link your systems to maximize value and increase functionality, rather than making wholesale changes to your operation or workflow that lead to enterprise disruption and the never-ending project “roll-out” that is outdated by the time it finally launches.

 

Just like a magic unicorn, more often than not a single “enterprise” system sounds good, but the implementation is problematic.  Forcing change and new processes to ensure a single system isn’t integration.  It leads to unnecessary complexity, project delays, and problems.  When planning a project, consider the needs of each area, and how the system will benefit them.  Conduct the project in phases, with clear goals and expectations.  Want to learn more, or see how you can begin a phased implementation of a system integration project?  Give us a call or leave a message.

One Simple Step that Improves Manufacturing Productivity

Your shop floor hides dangers that eliminate more than 13 hours of productivity each week for every employee.  Learn how you can quickly improve productivity and profit with one simple step.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

As a culture, we are driven by technology.  There’s a chip in your coffee maker and a computer in your car, not to mention a smart phone that connects you to the greatest database in human history.  Technology can make our lives better and improve productivity.  With technology, it’s possible to get through your whole day without thinking (a skill many seem to have mastered already). But, some technology can be disruptive.  Rather than helping us work better, it hinders productivity.  Consider email – email can be a constant interruption, wreaking havoc on your day if you’re not careful.

The Dangers of Technology

Are you letting distractions hinder your shop floor productivity? Image by www.colourbox.com

Are you letting distractions hinder your shop floor productivity? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Many of us start the day with a list of priorities.  A good day would see every item on the list complete.    Unfortunately plans for productivity are often waylaid by the disruptive influence of email.  Each morning, you grab a cup of coffee (or your vice of choice) and sit down at your computer.  Then email starts beeping at you, demanding attention.  Email is like a thief, stealing your time for unplanned distractions.  Sure, some messages may be important, but most aren’t.  They certainly aren’t more critical than the items on your list.

In 2012, the Huffington Post reported that the average worker spends 25% of their day reading, attending to and answering email.  Just one short year later, that number jumped to 28%.  That’s roughly 13 hours a week.  What could you do with an extra 13 hours of productivity each week?  What could your shop floor workers do with that extra productivity?

Many manufacturers embed distractions in their workflow just as distracting, if not more, than email.  We plan for distraction in the workflow by having workers seek out information in massive binders or consult safety manuals, then wonder how we can improve productivity.

The Effect of Interruptions

Interruptions have ripple effects far greater than the interruption itself.  There’s an entire field devoted to Interruption Science, the study of what happens to job performance after an interruption.  Studies show that interruptions significantly disrupt workflow.  Employees need time to recover, leading to even more lost productivity.

The New York Times reports that 40% of workers cannot complete the task the same way after an interruption.  In fact, another study found an interruption during work increased errors by as much as 20%.  Companies know eliminating distractions and interruptions will drastically increase productivity and work quality.  For example, Toyota (with andon cords) and other companies have made it a priority to remove any interruption or distraction from the shop floor.  The goal is simple – protect the worker, improve production and profit.

 Increase Productivity with Paperless Manufacturing

Properly implemented, an MES will manage information and keep your shop floor focused on production by automating many of the tasks that were once “interruptions” in paper-based production.

Improve productivity and profit by removing a major source of shop floor distraction - paper. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Improve productivity and profit by removing a major source of shop floor distraction – paper. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Missing parts, unclear instructions, lack of certification and other critical issues cause distraction and interruptions to the shop floor workforce.  These interruptions, common in a paper-based work environment, quickly add up to 13+ hours of lost productivity each week.  If you look at any paper-heavy shop floor, workers are often doing one of two things – checking their work in a paper traveler packet, or ignoring the work instructions and doing work as they have always done.  Either way, you’ll pay for the interruptions with lost productivity or errors.

When a worker undertakes a task requiring precision, electronic instructions reduce confusion and provide everything the shop floor needs to complete the work without interruption.  Engineering specifications, safety instructions, machine set-up and more are only a mouse click away if they need it.  With all the information they need at hand, workers are more confident as they complete tasks, while the system provides a seamless transition from one task to the next, greatly increasing the overall performance of the shop floor.  Your team can focus on production.

Studies show distractions and interruptions lower overall worker productivity.  The goal of any shop floor manager should be to remove distraction and provide workers with everything they need to complete work better, faster and with fewer errors.  Paperless manufacturing manages workflow, automating many tasks, with productivity gain exponentially enhanced with distractions removed.

Consider this – how quickly could you deliver an ROI on a computer system that gave each worker 13 more hours of productivity each week?

Want to learn more, or see how our system can support workflow on your shop floor?  Give us a call or leave a message for a no-cost consultation on paperless manufacturing.  We’re happy to help and answer questions.