Category Archives: Process Improvement

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!

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!

Process Improvement graph.

Use Your Data for Accurate Production Costs

For manufacturers, accurate estimates are critical to managing costs and margins. If estimates are based on guesswork: bids can be lost, delivery times missed or costs can spiral out of control. Too often, operators will pencil-whip work times on their way out the door rather than accurately tracking and recording their work. This skews the limited data available causing misinformed directives from the top.  When both the historical data and the analytics at the foundation of estimates are suspect, problems quietly grow costing the company money that has to be made up in additional production.

Turn Production Data into Profit

Accurate estimates require both clean historical data and production visibility, both of which are provided by the Quantum Production Control System (PCS). Let’s look at a few areas a PCS can enhance your estimates:

  • Accurate Labor and Production Data

Know who did what and for how long during production, and then turn that data into more precise estimates. The PCS automatically tracks labor and production through standard use of the system. This includes machine time and labor, so management can see how much time, effort, materials and parts are required to complete work. Over time, as accurate data is accumulated, the company can begin providing more accurate estimates and labor loading.

  • Identify and eliminate scrap

Scrap can turn profitable products into an expense for manufacturers, and yet many companies struggle to understand the cause. The production control system collects production data that reveals where and how scrap is generated. The PCS links the scrap to the work being done at the time it occurs. With this information, the manufacturer can either eliminate the root cause of scrap, or better estimate standard losses in production.

  • Focus on profitable work

Once you are tracking labor and production costs, leverage the data to identify and prioritize the most profitable work. Refine your gross manufacturing margin using production data to identify products and goods with a higher gross margin. With this information, you can make more profit on every sale and shipment. The company makes more and spends less.

Increasing Profit Velocity

Many companies look at a production control system to solve a specific problem such as a failed audit, late shipments, or poor visibility into Work in Progress (WIP). Even with the solution in place, the company finds more value in the critical data the system feeds to the sale and production cycle. With higher gross margins, accurate estimates, and control over scrap and production the company finds expenses go down and profits up.

If you’re ready to take control of production costs and enhance your profit on every product built, contact CIMx Software today to learn more about Quantum. Discover what a PCS can do for you.

5 Keys to Effective Shop Floor Data Collection

Want to Increase quality, improve production and increase profitability? An effective shop floor data collection will do all this and more, and is much easier to implement than you think.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

How effective is your shop floor data collection? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

How effective is your shop floor data collection? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

How important is quality to manufacturing? According to a recent study, it may be the most critical factor in manufacturing profitability. A 1% to 2% increase in productivity may represent more product, but a 1% to 2% increase in quality represents less waste, less scrap, more product, more productivity, more efficiency, and happier customers.

Data collection provides the foundation for quality improvement in manufacturing, and every manufacturer has a quality team or processes in place, yet many companies never realize the full benefit of quality improvement due to ineffective data collection. They struggle to turn the data they collect into real benefit or measurable improvement. In fact, many times inefficient data collection will lead to errors, additional scrap and waste, as well as lost production.

Take a moment to evaluate your current plan for data collection using the follow criteria to identify areas for potential improvement:

  • How “smart” is your data collection?

A smart data collection program is proactive. By catching and eliminating errors early, you can minimize waste and save money and production. A “dumb” data collection delays review of the data, or may not have a plan in place to take corrective action. Looking at a report of mistakes a month after they happened highlights a month of lost opportunity for improvement, and leaves the cause of errors in place.

  • Does your data collection include automatic tolerance checks?

Automating as much of the data collection and check-off process as possible removes potential sources of errors and keeps shop floor employees and the quality team focused on critical tasks. For example, automating tolerance checks will identify quality escapes the minute data is collected. Comparing collected data against the engineering specs is best left to the software system.

  • Does your system eliminate potential input errors?

The truth is, your data is only as good as the system used to collect it. How many times do you input the data? Any more than once is a sign of wasted effort and increased errors. How long do you wait to input the data? What is your source for the data? If you wait till the end of a shop floor shift, when data is collected from handwritten notes on the traveler, then you have a problem. The data you are using is unreliable, out-of-date, and is costing you money. Look for ways to streamline and improve the reliability of your data collection and input.

  • Do you have access to real-time reports?

With modern manufacturing tools and advances in software and technology, there is no reason why the shop floor shouldn’t have access to real-time reports. Today, you can implement a low-cost and low-risk paperless manufacturing system in less than a month, and have a dashboard with real-time shop floor visibility and quality control soon after. With an automated system, you can also move the people who once assembled reports onto more important tasks.

  • How are you using the data that’s collected?

Consider when you are collecting data. Many times a company will collect data once all the work is done. Unfortunately, this data is collected too late to take corrective action. It’s true, this data can be used in an audit or to eliminate a defective product, but both the work and materials are wasted, and planning and shop floor scheduling is unreliable as product is pulled after production. Consider when you can best utilize the data, and when it should be taken. Look at the reasons why you aren’t getting the data you need when you need it. Taking a few moments to collect shop floor data during production is time well spent.


The goal for all manufacturers should be continuous improvement toward optimal production given the machines, equipment and processes being used.  The single most important requirement to achieve that goal is continuous monitoring of shop floor results.  Collection of result data that is automatically verified against specifications and available to decision makers who are tracking progress of all work orders across the shop floor is the best way to continually monitor production and achieve continuous improvement. Give CIMx a call today or leave us a message and ask for a free review of your shop floor processes and a plan to optimize production flow.

Pushing the Envelope with MES and Paperless Manufacturing

Want to get the most out of your paperless manufacturing system? Evaluate the push technology in your system using a few simple tips.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

In manufacturing, a few seconds can mean the difference between success and scrap.  A single error can snowball and lead to missed shipping deadlines, lost profit and angry customers.  Consistency and repeatable processes is the key to success, while complexity leads to errors, waste and worse.

Push technology systems, which automatically deliver contextually relevant data to the shop floor user, have significant benefits for manufacturers.  Despite this, many companies still rely on less efficient pull technology systems for their MES and paperless manufacturing.  Pull systems require the user request the data each time, adding complexity and introducing opportunities for errors.

Pull Technology

Pull technology requires a specific user request for the release of data.  Typing the URL or clicking the link of a web page is an example of pull technology at work.  The user requests information using specific input and the information is delivered.  Logging in to a work station terminal, following system-based procedures, sorting through the work of the day, and then requesting the work instructions is an example of pull technology.

Pull technology can be error prone and requires effort and time from the user.  With some complex or overly engineered MES, this can be significant time, unnecessary effort, and any errors in the input can be costly.  Users request the wrong work instructions, or unapproved plans are released.  Template-based systems utilize pull technology.  Users input data in specific fields, and the system dictates the work process.  This introduces unnecessary complexity and additional training.  The effort needed to log in and find the work instructions is non-value added time.  With many systems, unnecessary steps are added simply to suit the system or accommodate system-based processes.  There is a tradeoff between making the solution easier to program and making it more efficient for the manufacturer using the software.

Push Technology

What can push technology do for your shop floor production? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What can push technology do for your shop floor production? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

With push technology, data is automatically delivered to the user, either on a set schedule or when a specific circumstance or trigger is met.  An automatic calendar update is an example of push technology.   With automated information transmission, errors are eliminated.  The correct information reaches the right people at the right time in the process, every time.  Complexity is reduced, since non value-added procedures are removed.  With the right operation being sent at the correct time, you have better control over the process.

An example of push technology on the shop floor could include an RFID badge, barcode or fingerprint scanner keying a user to a work station.   With a swipe of the barcode or the RFID, the system is aware of the user at the station, and the prepared work is pushed to them.  Before the day begins, new orders have been pulled from the ERP or MRP systems, the work instructions assembled and routed.   Staff prepares the kitting and delivers parts, tools and materials to the work station.  The worker arrives can begin work moments after they arrive.

As the process becomes more automated, using procedural enforcement, repeatable processes, automated data collection, and automatic validation of tolerances, the shop floor can now focus on value-added tasks such as eliminating errors and improving production.  The administrative tasks such as verification of processes and data collected, while necessary, add less value and can be automated.  Push technology automates the administrative work to optimize production processes and profits.

Delivering on the Promise of Push Technology

There are shop floor solutions, MES and paperless manufacturing systems, on the market designed to deliver the benefits of push technology when appropriate.  As you evaluate potential solutions, ask a few key questions of the system:

  • Does the system use a newer platform technology? Web-based solutions enable the adaptable systems found with push technology.  If the system used an older platform requiring additional work to integrate or additional steps to simply start, then it won’t deliver the benefits found in push technology.
  • Will it match and benefit your existing workflow processes? Can you reuse your existing work plans and best practices?  If the system is forcing an entirely new process on your shop floor, or requiring you to rewrite or recreate your work instructions in a new format, then you have a system based entirely around pull technology.
  • How much training is necessary? How complex are the work screens?  If training is a significant cost in the implementation, or the screen is busy with buttons and input fields, then you can be sure your team is going to need to use that training and all those buttons with pull technology, rather than focusing on shop floor production.

The goal of a paperless manufacturing system should be to synchronize the people, information, and materials on the shop floor.  Utilizing push technology in the system ensures a tighter synchronization, getting the right information to the right people at the right time with fewer errors.  It’s another way you can ensure you’re maximizing the benefit of a shop floor system.

Questions, or want to see how paperless manufacturing can improve production and remove errors on your shop floor, then give us a call.  We’re happy to help.