Category Archives: Process Control

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.

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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.

A New Vision of Mobile Manufacturing

Don’t be fooled, mobile manufacturing requires more than just an app.  It requires an integrated mobile solution delivering shop floor functionality on the go.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I love music.  A few years ago I wanted a new stereo system.  I had a single requirement – I wanted to use my MP3 player with the sound system.  I wanted to throw parties, fill the house with music that fuels the fun.  Problem was – I didn’t do my research.  I bought a system with the words “MP3 Compatible” in big, bold letters on the box.

Unfortunately, “MP3 Compatible” meant a single USB port.  The stupid thing never worked, and was about as functional as fins on a kangaroo.  I couldn’t plug my player directly into the port.  Instead, I had to download my music onto an empty zip drive.  Then I had to plug the zip drive into the USB port.  After a few minutes, a song MIGHT start playing.  Maybe.  I couldn’t control the music, and between songs there was a LONG delay.  If I ever downloaded something other than music, an error would flash and the whole system shut down.

Honestly, the system and my music player were as compatible as fire and ice, and as functional as those fins.  I felt cheated, used and angry.  My excitement crumbled as the truth of my purchase became apparent.

What can mobile manufacturing do for you?

Using a tablet, smart phone, or other mobile device to access a true paperless manufacturing system will boost productivity, help eliminate errors, and increase work flow visibility.  Imagine giving your shop floor anytime and anywhere connection to production documents, including work orders, safety documents, training videos and more.  How much more productive will your team be if QA conducts real-time quality checks from anywhere?  How would shop management like anywhere access to real-time production data?

Can your manufacturing software support mobility on your shop floor? Image  by www.colourbox.com

Can your manufacturing software support mobility on your shop floor? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Unfortunately, many MES or paperless manufacturing vendors make promises regarding “mobile manufacturing compatibility” that fool many companies into accepting awkward functionality and systems that never work as promised.  Compatibility between a shop floor system and mobile devices is neither important nor useful, compatibility between the application software and the work flow processes is how you achieve true mobility.  You need a scalable, adaptable solution that supports your work flow processes.

For some vendors, “mobile manufacturing” is a simple app that provides a view of some production data from a mobile device.  Turn on the app and you can see shop floor trends, and maybe identify potential shop floor problems, but that’s about it.   These apps might allow you to open a document from your web device, see the production schedule, and maybe move an item on the screen, but that’s the limit of their app-functionality.

Other vendors promise mobile manufacturing as an add-on project once the initial project is complete. They can do it, if you want, but it leads to additional service fees, project schedule bloat, and complicated and risky implementation.  Like me and my “MP3 Compatible” sound system, manufacturers buy a system, only to see the limits of “compatibility” once they have the system on the shop floor.

True Mobile Manufacturing

True mobile manufacturing offers an integrated mobile solution within the core system, not an app.  The power of the complete manufacturing system should be available from most mobile devices, and offer interactive functionality, not just read-only screenshots of data.  Mobile manufacturing should ensure quick and easy access to your MES or paperless manufacturing system from almost any device.

How much more could you do with an integrated mobile solution on the shop floor?

How much more could you do with an integrated mobile solution on the shop floor?

Don’t be fooled.  Look for browser-based systems (though, be careful you aren’t diving head first into the dangerous world of the Cloud).  Look for systems that are fully compatible with the web, and offer complete mobile functionality, not an app or two.

The future of modern manufacturing is embracing mobility.  Even if you aren’t ready to give your shop floor a tablet now, in a few years (or less) you may need shop floor software that offers mobile manufacturing.  Take the time, do your research and find a solution with integrated mobile manufacturing, not just an app or hastily slapped-on “mobile compatibility.”

… unless you want to watch your dreams of an efficient, mobile shop floor crumble like my dream of music-fueled parties…

Let us know if you want to learn more or see how integrated mobile manufacturing can transform and benefit your shop floor.

Uncovering the Real Benefits of MES and Paperless Manufacturing

Curious to know the real benefits of MES, we asked a shop floor production team what the top benefits of the system were one month after their successful rollout.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Curious to know what benefits you will discover with your MES?  We asked the shop floor what they thought one month after installation.

Curious to know what benefits you will discover with your MES? We asked the shop floor what they thought one month after installation. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Ever read a press release about an MES implementation project and marveled at the carefully worded quotes?  Full of buzzwords like, “synergistically,” or “significantly reduced (or increased)” and “comprehensively,” each press release reads like a carefully scripted marketing piece – only the names are changed.

Let’s be honest, you don’t read a press release for the truth.  The Vice President of What-everness quoted in the press release isn’t the one using the system, he’s following the script and looking at a report someone prepared for him.

Not long ago, we implemented a complete MES and Paperless Manufacturing system for a customer.  To help meet new FDA regulations, they needed the complete solution installed and implemented across their production lines in less than 4 months.  To uncover the “true” story regarding the benefits of MES and paperless manufacturing, we asked the shop floor production team what they thought about the software.  How is it making their life easier, their work better, and benefiting their operation?  Here are the “top” benefits they identified one month after the successful rollout:

Shop Floor Benefits of Paperless Manufacturing

  • Solving compliance and regulation challenges.  Meeting the changing FDA and customer regulations was a constant effort before the project, but the system has solved nearly all the challenges with minimal effort or extra work.  No other solution could provide so many answers in a single tool.
  • Real-time access to Quality Data.  Before implementing the solution, Quality Control (QC) was forced to wander the shop floor to collect data, or they would evaluate historical (and often outdated) data.  QC now has remote access to the real-time quality data of any order with the single press of a button.  According to the customer, Quality Control is now proactive, focusing effort on improvement.  Improving quality wasn’t a primary driver for the project, but the benefits from paperless manufacturing are exciting.
  • MES and Paperless Manufacturing will help you work better, faster and with fewer errors.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

    MES and Paperless Manufacturing will help you work better, faster and with fewer errors. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

    No more paper.  Simply removing paper from the shop floor was a huge improvement.  Before the system, massive build books and orders were assembled and used, leading to piles and piles (and more piles) of paper. Paper (moving paper, organizing paper, using paper, fixing mistakes from paper, and more) was one of the top frustrations for many shop floor employees.  Now, paper is only used when and where it makes sense.   Records, orders and work instructions are digital and much easier to use.

  • Visibility of the shop floor.  Before the system, planners had research the progress of each order before planning work for the next shift – a time-consuming and error-prone process.  Now, planners have instant access to a dashboard updated in real-time for the status of each order. Time isn’t wasted creating status reports just so they can tell what orders to prepare.  Future work can be accurately planned with minimal effort.
  • Easier data collection and quality control.  The shop floor once had to write data collections and quality checks on a spreadsheet attached to the work travelers.  So much data had to be collected, it, “… gave everyone carpal tunnel.”  Collecting data interrupted work and slowed production.  Now, data is easily and accurately collected as work is completed, and is automatically attached to the relevant order, saving time and eliminating a frustration.
  • Process control, accountability, and visibility.  Prior to the system, it was difficult to enforce policies or shop floor improvement projects, or even implement a system of process enforcement.  Now it is much easier to implement a system to enforce best practices and track employee work.  Workers must now open plans before work begins, so revisions can be accurately communicated to the shop floor.  Through the as-built report, all work is tracked.  Everyone is accountable for their work – success and failures.  When corrective action on an order is needed, it can be done quickly and appropriately.  Overall, quality and productivity have significantly increased.
  • Library of planning.  All plans are stored in a single database under revision control, ensuring only the latest approved plans are used.  Planning has confidence they are using the “right” plan.  There is no need to research whether revisions have been made or not before the plan is added to an order.  Planning is easier and more efficient, and many of the errors that occasionally creep into work orders are eliminated.

Many times with an MES or Paperless Manufacturing implementation (especially an off-the-shelf system), there will be unexpected benefits that add significantly to the ROI.  For example, this system was installed to support data collection on the shop floor and help facilitate meeting FDA regulations.  These goals were met, but the shop floor is also benefiting from increased accountability.  Quality Control benefits from access to real-time quality data, and planners now work from a library of revision-controlled planning.  Each of these points, while not a primary focus of the project or a requirement, figured prominently in our discussion of the benefits of the system and was praised by the shop floor team.

Overall, the project has been extremely successful, and the customer is already looking at other ways the software can benefit their business.  Want to know more, or see how a system can benefit your shop floor?  Give us a call or leave us a message.  We’re happy to help.

Making Sense of MES: Template-based and Behavior-based Systems

For manufacturers engaged in process-improvement projects, the difference between success and failure is having the right shop floor software system.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Humans love to categorize.  It helps us make sense of things.  We bring order out of chaos by putting things in their place, grouping the countless multitude into finite categories.

The problem is, sometimes we can be fooled into bad decisions by simplistic or faulty categorizations.  For example, take a look at shop floor solutions.  Software systems that monitor and support manufacturing operations, including paperless manufacturing, MES and MOM systems, can be grouped into two categories: template-based and behavior-based.  One category offers a clear advantage to shop floor process improvement.

Template-based Systems

A template-based solution requires people to conform their work to screens of information and specific sequences of data input.  Users work from the forms and

Process Improvement graph.

Sustainable and continuous process improvement requires the right tools and support system. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

templates that guide the work on the shop floor.  Think about the ERP screens that are highly formatted data collection vehicles which digest transaction information.  They can be easy-to-use, with a structured format that drives consistency, but the system struggles to adapt to changing processes or user needs.

There are many template-based systems on the market, and people routinely input data into them and digest output information with little regard for whether it improves efficiency or profitability.  These do the job, but there is little opportunity for improvement.  People just feed the information into the prepared slots, and gather instructions from other slots… which feels very Orwellian, but I digress.

Behavior-based Systems

A behavior-based system adapts to shop floor processes and behavior, including manufacturing work flow.  The architecture is structured around screens or windows users edit and reconfigure as needed.  Key data can be collected at any point in the process.  Users configure the screens, and attach or open the information they need.  The entire system can be quickly adjusted.  This way, the system adapts to support behaviors that produce an efficient and productive shop floor.  The system becomes a foundation and tool for process improvement because of the adaptability.

In a behavior-based system, one production line or area might require text-based work instructions and multiple measurements.  Another area in the same plant might use assembly work instructions with images or videos, and require only a few key quality data collections.  Behavior-based systems are flexible, designed to optimize work flow process through tools that promote and support behavior under control of local management.  A flexible behavior-based system can use existing work instructions enhanced by software tools with minimal set-up and preparation.

Supporting Shop Floor Process Improvement

Process improvement programs, such as Lean manufacturing or Six Sigma, optimally support a behavior-based shop floor solution.  The only way to optimize work flow is to configure the support system to best match the value-added activities at each point in the process.  Forms and fixed templates dictate a structure that limits adaptation.  In a template-based system, the shop floor processes will struggle to adjustments to improve the processes, adding a significant amount of non-value-added work.

Process Improvement strategies such as Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma deliver measurable shop floor benefits.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Process Improvement strategies such as Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma deliver measurable shop floor benefits. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Process improvement requires behavior-adjustment, which template-based systems don’t promote.  For example, the Six Sigma process requires analysis of the work flow.  When a source of quality escapes is identified, processes will be changed to reduce variation.  A behavior-based system can be configured to the new process, and ensure the shop floor incorporates the new process into the work flow.

In this example, as a company improves steps in the work flow to reduce variation, data collection will change.  Using the same templates and forms after adjustments have been made will do nothing to promote a change in behavior.  Additionally, in a template-based system, moving material over to new templates will often require significant work, in addition to potentially expensive service charges for adjustments to the system itself.

The Secret to Successful Process Improvement

Success with Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing and process improvement requires adaptation and adjustments to shop floor behavior.  You will need to change the flow of information, adjust data collection and record keeping in the support systems.  This can be done in phases across manufacturing operations.  This process isn’t how a template-based system is designed.  A behavior-based shop floor system is adjustable, supports process improvement, and offers a foundation for promoting behavior adjustment.

Look closely at the characteristics of the software system you evaluate.  Can you use your current work instructions with the system?  How much control do you have over the system?  Does it work with your process, or will you have to adjust your process?  The difference between a template-based system and a behavior-based system is the difference between successful continuous improvement and watching error-prone processes and inefficient behavior slowly take root again on your shop floor after a process improvement campaign.

Will You Survive the Imminent Demise of Paper-Based Manufacturing?

Still reluctant to explore paperless manufacturing on your shop floor?  Change is happening, and the decisions you make now will shape your future.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Sometimes you can see global change happening from miles away.  The first time I logged onto the Internet I knew there was so much more to this new world than text-based games and discussion forums.

tombstone-black-whiteAnd sometimes global change can surprise you.  I’ll admit, the tablet-craze was a shock.  It couldn’t fit in my pocket, and it didn’t have nearly the functionality of a laptop, yet it’s a craze that doesn’t seem to be fading.  Reality TV was another surprise.  Honestly, how can we explain the Kardashians?

That said, are you ready for the demise of paper-based manufacturing?  Are you surprised that paper travelers and paper build books are gasping for breath and struggling to survive?  How will you respond when the market demands you move to paperless manufacturing?

Still in denial (which, in this case, is not the river in Egypt), then consider this:

  • Customers are demanding more custom manufacturing and small runs.  Their business needs more control over the manufacturing you provide.  The market is moving away from traditional manufacturing.  It doesn’t provide the control and visibility custom manufacturing requires.  Sure, paper works, but it provides diminishing returns that cut into your bottom line.
  • Big data is here.  You’re going to see more tools to convert that data into responses that benefit your business.  Process improvement, for example.  You need data and process control to implement Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing.  Paper-based manufacturing is a glaring hole in big data.  It doesn’t provide adequate support for analytics.
  • Manufacturing needs stronger information tools than paper can provide.  For example, visual information and multi-lingual work instructions aren’t easily supported on paper.  Complex manufacturing drives paper toward bigger and bigger build books, creating more errors and more problems, while a paperless solution provides scalable tools for the work.
  • Quality is improved with paperless manufacturing, and quality was recently cited in studies as more important to profitability in manufacturing than productivity.  Paper is the source of many quality escapes in manufacturing (lost information, and lack of revision control, for example), while paperless manufacturing directly addresses many of these problems.
  • Technology has eliminated many of the concerns potential customers have with paperless manufacturing and MES.  For example, with Quantum, CIMx can install a paperless manufacturing system in a few weeks.  Training for the system can be completed days.  With a phased implementation, the customer is in complete control of the installation and gains production benefits quickly.
Prepare for the future and improve production with paperless manufacturing. Image by www.colourbox.com

Prepare for the future and improve production with paperless manufacturing. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

I will admit, even with the clear benefits of paperless manufacturing there will be shop floors that cling to paper, fearing change.  They may be profitable, in spite of themselves, but it is hard to deny the market is moving (rapidly) toward paperless manufacturing.  In 2013, manufacturers spent $5 billion on paperless manufacturing systems.  That’s a LOT of money to be spent without a clear ROI and benefit.

The world is changing, are you ready?  Will the market drive change on your shop floor, or will you control the change, ensuring maximum benefit for your business?  Or will you be stuck carrying a giant phone book tethered to the wall by a rotary phone while your competitors are using a smart phone?

Want to learn more, or are you ready to make a change.  Contact CIMx today to learn how we can help, or sign up for our free webinar.