Category Archives: software implementation

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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Manufacturer’s Guide to Software Implementation

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

In a recent survey, Automation World and ARC Advisory found that MES systems were critical to compliance, cost reduction and profitability. They go on to talk about the importance of implementation. While that seems obvious, implementation is sometimes the last thing that prospects talk to us about. Implementation should be discussed early in the vendor selection process as it may be the single most over-looked and critical project requirement.

A Close Look at Manufacturing Software Implementation

Implementation can drive quick returns or bury you in cost. Ask questions of your potential vendors to assess their product approach. Consider how the product structure will affect implementation.

In building a software tool for your shop floor, you have to consider what you will build after you finish it. Why? Because it determines how you actually structure the tool. Let’s break this down a little further and see what it all means.

Software can be a single platform with a single login or a series of smaller products (modules, nodes, apps) tied together. If your software vendor uses or refers to the use of “implementers,” they use the second approach. The sales pitch for a module-based platform is you don’t have to pay for what you don’t use. That is true in the licensing, but my experience tells me the services are so much more expensive that you’ll end up paying more for less.

Platforms that come as one unit or product are often referred to as “out of the box” or “standard” software tools. This simply means you pay the vendor a licensing fee to get a license key that turns on the functionality you purchased. You have every right to expect this product will work without any broken links or pieces, even if you didn’t purchase the whole system.

Module-based platforms are exceptionally difficult to upgrade. This is important to know if you plan to implement new, updated software as the vendor builds and releases it. (These updates should be part of standard support and free if you pay for support.) While it seems unlikely, we do have customers that prefer to stay on a version and not upgrade. This is a great choice where it is difficult to change work practices or train your workforce for various reasons (contract workers, labor contracts, seasonal workforce).

Out of the box software may also be difficult to upgrade. You really need to ask questions of the vendor to assess this. Sustainability and obsolescence are the keys here. Need more help with this? Call us, as that could be another whole blog.

Data Management for Manufacturers

Industry Week joined the conversation with a posting around data management. Just like the implementation concerns above, data management is a fancy word that can really drive up not just the original system costs, but repetitive ones as well. The key to data is making sure it’s available to you where you need it. That could be anywhere from the point of production on an operator’s workstation to a database you can access to see how your workforce is doing.

Whether you’re looking at a standard product offering or a module-based one, take a look and be sure to ask questions of the system’s data management capabilities and approach. What can you see and how do you get it? Reporting on this data is a key task for any organization from aerospace to office furniture. If you don’t know what’s going on right now on your shop floor, then you will never know if you will be able to meet your metrics for on-time delivery, on-budget costs or the more sophisticated analysis of profit margins.

A Critical Assessment of Software Vendors

So, while compliance, cost reduction and profitability are serious benefits to an MES offering, I would suggest you use implementation strategy, speed and cost as a measure against which these benefits could be judged.

Need more hands-on help? Here are important questions you should ask your vendors to see if they meet your requirements.

  • What percent of implementation costs for your software will be services?
  • How many man hours do you expect to spend on my implementation?
  • How many of those days will be on-site?
  • What kind of relationship do you typically have with your customers?
  • How do you maintain this relationship?

Good luck with your first steps in this process and please call us if you need any help. We’ve been doing this for more than 20 years in discrete, regulated businesses. We can share a thing or two to make the process a success.

Managing the Speed of Change in Manufacturing

Manufacturers are continually looking for ways to improve, but are reluctant to actually embrace change, leading many businesses to become stuck in a vicious planning cycle.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Not long ago, I spoke to a Quality Manager at a job shop about paperless manufacturing. He loved our software, and recognized it could solve his problems and improve production, but he wasn’t sure if they would implement. “We know we have to do something,” he said. “But, I don’t know if we’re ready to change.”

It’s a line I’ve heard too many time.

Breaking the Planning Cycle in Manufacturing

Manufacturers are quick to recognize the need for change and process improvement, but they see change as risk – more risk than managing their current errors and problems. It leads manufacturers to an endless cycle of planning and discussion, throwing resources at what they could do creates a comforting illusion of action. Rather than solving problems, they cling to waiting a little longer.

Now, as manufacturing teeters on the brink of another industrial revolution, with low-cost and low-risk manufacturing software systems such as MES and paperless manufacturing readily available, there is no reason not to embrace change and process improvement. Here are five easy steps to consider as you plan for change:

  • Set a timeline for a solution. Once you identify an issue that must be solved, set a timeline for getting the solution in place. Take action and improve, rather than waiting. Eventually, inaction will result in a critical production problem – one you may not recover from.
  • Involve the appropriate stakeholders. If you are implementing a shop floor system, you need input from the users. Trying to cram a little more functionality from an ERP because it’s the solution the decision-makers know is not really a solution.
  • Consider the future. Technology, production processes, and customers are always changing.  Implementing a solution that can’t adapt as your shop floor adapts is setting yourself up for future problems.
  • Run a test case. Select a single area on the shop floor to run a pilot program. Reduce risk for this initial phase, and after the program, you should have a good idea of the scope of the change, and the benefits.
  • Evaluate and plan the next steps. Improvement doesn’t stop with a single project. Embrace continuous improvement and evaluation. If you are always looking ahead to the next step, you create a culture of continual improvement.

Analyze Your Shop Floor Needs

Many companies have a dated vision of how manufacturing software works. They believe any solution will result in massive costs and risk. That may have been true 10 years ago, but today modern manufacturing software has eliminated many of the risks that drive up costs and production problems. We are in the digital age, and users are ready for a digital manufacturing solution.

Want to learn more, or see how paperless manufacturing can help you? Contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis – a critical first step toward embracing change on your shop floor.

Sustainable Products, Consultants and Paperless Manufacturing

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Manufacturers have options when selecting a software solution, but often they lose sight of the most important requirement during the selection process.

On a recent flight, I sat next to a fuel transportation consultant with a background in software implementation.  As he talked about himself (incessantly), he explained he was a legend and master in his chosen industry. I instantly identified his sales pitch.

That’s really what it was – a sales pitch. Consultants are interesting that way.  The consulting industry – both corporate and independent – doesn’t make money unless you hire them. They don’t usually have a product to show or sell, only themselves, so they have this shiny, made-to-be-hired aura that promotes their skill and expertise.

Consultants need you to keep paying for their services; the end of one project may mean a lapse before another paying project comes.    Hiring them to install software, a job with a definitive end, seems counterproductive to their business model.  What is the impetus to complete a software installation in a timely manner?  Why should they make it sustainable or teach you how to adapt the software?

There may be very honest and skilled consultants out there, but the entire sales model seems designed to undercut the customer and minimize sustainability.

The Hard Facts of Building an MES

man under money on white background. Isolated 3D image

Custom built software solutions will quickly bury manufacturers in unforeseen costs. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Many companies hire a consultant to select, modify or build a software system.  Short of trying to build a custom system internally, using a consultant is the most expensive option.  Here are some sobering data points to consider:

  • If you choose to build an MES, you’ll need at least 3 to 4 full-time staff and 18 months or more to get an initial beta offering launched. The cost, at minimum, will be $500,000 to $750,000.
  • The team will spend the first 6 months getting the requirements and design nailed down. It will be another 12 months of coding and development work.
  • The beta is not a full system. There will be missing features and no depth. Plus, the beta won’t fully support production. The next 2 to 3 years will be spent finishing work on the software.
  • This complete system will (hopefully) meet your specifications. But, if someone on the team leaves, the project will be delayed as a new employee gets up-to-speed or the rest of the team fills in and this may impact the software in the future.

Most companies that have built their own system eventually turn to a vendor offering in the future.  Custom software is too expensive, and isn’t adaptable. These systems simply aren’t sustainable.

Struggling Against Software Obsolescence

If you hire a consultant to build a manufacturing system or serve as an implementer (in that case, the consultant can double-dip on charges for selecting, reselling and installing the software), plan on roughly the same schedule as an internally-built custom system.  With a professionally outsourced consultant, the first beta offering may be far more robust than one built by an internal team, especially if they are modifying an existing system.  Unfortunately, to manage any modifications or changes to the system in the future you may need to keep the consultant on staff – resulting in extremely high overhead costs.

Here’s another inside fact – consultants do not like to work on each other’s code base.  Each has their own individual style.  Whether their code is the majority of the work or just a connector, making any change, even minor ones, is difficult.  In our experience, the number-one reason a company will replace a software system is obsolescence – that system installed by a consultant can’t be updated.

Sustainable Paperless Manufacturing Solutions

This is why CIMx offers a thin services model.  We build our products sustainably – so system connections, modifications and configurations (both at the time of install and in the future) are manageable by us and your internal teams.  Once we complete an installation, customers are free to make it their own (although many continue to ask us to do the work for them).  Knowing that we built it and can execute these changes quickly and effectively is comforting and cost-efficient.

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Increase the value of a solution by ensuring sustainability. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

In the world of MES, CIMx is unique – we offer a product completely built in-house.  We don’t suffer from the web of integrated, separately-purchased toolsets of many competitors.  Software suppliers who purchase other businesses to acquire a new tool for their MES platform (we call it growth by acquisition) and then market it as a synthesized package, end up working like a consultant, struggling to keep the system up and running.  Back end programs don’t talk or work together, so the supplier struggles to maintain the system and the customer continues paying service charges for a product that shouldn’t have been sold as an integrated product in the first place.

I’m sure there are very good consultants out there willing to work with a client to deliver the best solution possible – one that is designed to be adaptable and sustainable.

But there are others like the gentleman I shared a three-hour flight with. After our quick conversation about himself, he proceeded to play Panda Pop for the next 2 ½ hours.  Perhaps someone with enough attention to using a cartoon panda to pop balloons can deliver a project with forethought and sustainability. Perhaps his ability to sermonize about his skills won’t preclude his ability to actually listen to his clients and thoughtfully deliver the solution they need.

He was focused and persistent.  Maybe he’ll have the same degree of focus when he’s building or implementing your system, but is it a risk you really want to take with your shop floor production?

Or you could minimize the risk and find a solution provider focused on sustainability – with an update plan for the software. Give us a call if you want to learn more, or discover how CIMx builds sustainability in our product. We’re happy to help.