Category Archives: Smart Manufacturing

Five Steps and 12 Weeks to a Manufacturing Solution

If you’re struggling with manufacturing problems – failed audits, late shipments, scrap, waste and worse, a sustainable solution is closer than you may think.

Manufacturing software has come a long way from the days of command prompts and MS DOS. With advances in software technology and the lower cost of hardware, it’s possible to quickly install a targeted software solution. You’ll eliminate the problems holding you back, and increase production output and profit.

Best of all, the right solution uses your existing work instructions and processes, and doesn’t require a risky cloud-based system.

A Better Solution for Manufacturers

Quantum can deliver a Smart Manufacturing system on a modern platform in 12 weeks or less. Here’s how we do it:

Step 1: Identify Your Primary Requirements and ROI

The project starts by developing a requirement list with a CIMx Application Engineer who will partner with you on the project. Target the source of errors and problems and identify solutions to build your list. For example, you may find paper-based work instructions often result in past revisions of planning being used for production, causing quality escapes, scrap and missed production deadlines.

Using this list, calculate the cost savings for each solution. In the previous example, how much would be saved if operators worked from only the most accurate plans? As you work, you may find a requirement doesn’t deliver enough savings. Those requirements can be tabled for a future phase of the project.

Step 2: Map-out Your Production Workflow

Now that you have a good idea of your project goals, you can begin mapping your production workflow into Quantum to identify how the software will support and manage production.

As a workflow system, Quantum is extremely effective in supporting existing workflow and modern manufacturing, unlike ERP or other non-manufacturing solutions. Once your processes are mapped in Quantum, the Application Engineer can demonstrate the workflow using your planning so you see the solution in action.

Step 3: Configure Quantum

Once you agree to the solution and how it is mapped in Quantum, the system will be configured.

You can set up specific work centers, dashboards, reports and alerts. Special workflow requirements and processes can be added for a smooth transition to Quantum. With regular progress reports and demonstrations you can track progress of the work.

Step 4: Migrate Data and Work Instructions

Using Quantum’s Data Migration Engine, CIMx moves your existing planning, documents and data into the system applying the workflow identified in step 2 – a true turnkey manufacturing software solution.

When users log into Quantum for the first time they will see only their plans, making an easy transition to Smart Manufacturing. Keep in mind, as you use Quantum further improvements can be made such as adding data collections and visual elements to work instructions.

Step 5: Final Installation and Training

When you’re ready, Quantum can be loaded at your site in less than an hour. Since the system has been configured and loaded with your planning, very little additional work is required.

All users are trained in Quantum – a process that takes less than an hour – and will begin using the software that day. The Application Engineer will be on-site to answer questions. Most companies find implementation quick and easy after requirements are identified and the workflow mapped.

Getting Started Today

MES are no longer the complex and expensive software projects companies feared in the past. Anyone with a basic understanding of a cell phone will feel at home using Quantum. In fact, most companies that eliminate paper by moving to Quantum regret not taking the plunge to digital manufacturing earlier.

Quantum eliminates the root causes of production errors and inefficiencies. A real-time view of production and access to production data will improve your production output and profit.

If you’re interested in learning more about Quantum, Smart Manufacturing or how you can eliminate paper and embrace digital manufacturing, contact CIMx today for a shop floor analysis.

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Bridging the Gap between Your PLM and Manufacturing

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

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

It All Starts in Design

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

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

Manufacturing Pushes the Pace

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

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

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

Where is the Bridge?

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

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

A Solution for Both Manufacturing and Design

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

What Can Help?

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

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

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

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

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

How to Manage the Smart Manufacturing Revolution

For companies still reluctant to change in the face of the next industrial revolution, there are simple strategies you can take to position your company for success.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications at CIMx Software

There’s a famous quote by Albert Einstein that has particular relevance to modern manufacturing – “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

The convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) is having a profound effect on manufacturing. The days when IT resources could get by without ever having stepped on a shop floor are gone. Operations can no longer refuse to put another “damn computer” on a work center.

In fact, more and more companies are actively pursuing IT/OT integration.

The motive for this convergence is simple – if the end goal for a manufacturing organization is improved production and profit, there are a wealth of solutions and benefits to be found in IT.

According to the Wall Street Journal, many manufacturers are beginning to see themselves software firms, hiring software and computer experts rather than mechanical engineers. “… the transformation of the nation’s factories by digital technology is not only remaking the sector’s hiring needs, but altering how it needs to operate.”

IT is shaping how the supply chain operates, how products are designed and produced, and influencing how manufacturers add value in the marketplace. According to ARC, an analyst firm, “…IT-OT integration is a necessary step, and one that will pay dividends. The results… will, ‘increase the value of existing infrastructure, provide both new opportunities and risks for manufacturing, and allow the reinvention of the relationship with the customer.’”

Process Improvement graph.

Managing change is the difference between success and failure. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Managing a Smart Manufacturing Strategy

Unfortunately, many manufacturers decide to manage change by doing the same thing, over and over again. Instead of addressing the root cause of production struggles with a Smart manufacturing solution, they contort existing processes to get by. Their strategy comes down to doing nothing.

The market is moving past paper-based manufacturing and ineffective Legacy MES. Software companies and industries that serve manufacturing no longer offer the inefficient tools these companies are clinging to. Over time, the divergence between companies that embrace change and those waiting will become so profound as to be unsustainable.

For companies still waiting, there are simple steps to managing the Smart Manufacturing revolution:

  • Foster collaboration between IT and OT. Adding an IT resource to your OT team will not only provide an important resource for the shop floor, but also train your IT team in how the shop floor operates. Over time, this collaboration will begin paying dividends as the company better synchronizes internal projects.
  • Remove paper and paper-based processes from production. Paper causes errors, is difficult to manage, and cannot support modern Smart manufacturing. With a phased implementation, you can begin eliminating paper with a flexible MES in as little as 3 months. Start by digitizing your travelers, a simple task for modern MES, and you’ll also increase production visibility.
  • Consolidate your production information. Many companies struggle with production data kept in multiple locations. Engineering will have a database. Operations will keep their data on paper travelers, while Quality stores their own records. With Smart manufacturing, you need to consolidate data in a secure, accessible location – most often a comprehensive production database. A single source of production truth eliminates much inefficiency companies often struggle to contain.

Doing nothing is not a viable strategy for managing change.  Even for manufacturers unsure or reluctant to take action, there are simple steps you can take that will position the company for success in the future.

Want to learn more, or see how an MES, the foundation for a Smart manufacturing, can help you? Contact CIMx for a free shop floor analysis and receive a personalized report that will become the core of your own improvement strategy.