Category Archives: software implementation

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!

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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!

What to Consider When Selecting a Manufacturing Software Vendor

Liz Hamedi | CIMx Software

In this day and age, customer service and reputable businesses are getting harder to find. There is more to the sustainability of a software system than just the promised functionality. In fact, a system is only as good as the support and the reputation of the company that maintains it. This means it is critical to find a vendor that proves they are trustworthy, knowledgeable and collaborative.

Avoid the Vendor that does it all.

If you’ve ever started down the software implementation path, you’ve likely been blindsided by costs that you hadn’t planned for.

Maybe you had to add a module or two to meet your core requirements. Maybe you needed to pay extra for support or additional training. Or maybe your vendor required you to purchase an additional service to upgrade or integrate?

Unfortunately, the list goes on and on. To combat this, look for a vendor that will not say “yes” to everything. A trustworthy vendor will ask the right questions to ensure you get what you need, without adding additional cost for little to no benefit towards solving your long term goal.

Find a Vendor that supports your buying process.

Your primary goal is to find a system that is reliable with minimum support needs. However, it is important to know that if something does go wrong, or if you have a question, you won’t need to waste time hunting down a response. Although you can never truly understand the future support structure until you become a customer, there are red flags throughout the sales process that you should look out for.

When you ask your sales rep a question or request a demonstration, how long does it take for them to respond back? If you find your buying process to be slowed or hindered because your vendor is unable to deliver, this will be a strong indication of their ongoing customer service.

Find a vendor that can see the big picture.

Most businesses have more than one system to support their production. For you, if all the different parts do not move in harmony, you will be left with more headache than efficiency. Find a vendor that is willing to partner with other software systems to ensure the end result is a positive one.

A good vendor will ask questions to understand the important systems you are currently using and how they impact production so that you have everything you need. It is important that they keep you focused on the primary goals and help you identify future opportunities for additional functionality or system integrations.

By focusing on a vendor that will care enough to ask questions about your most costly production issues and your long-term goals, you will be sure to succeed. You don’t need someone that will tell you they can do everything, because you don’t need everything. You need a vendor that has the expertise and the experience to guide you through a successful project, while also taking into account what is best for you and your shop, not just their bottom line.


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!

The 5 Reasons Why Everyone Hates Manufacturing Software

The 5 Reasons Why Everyone Hates Manufacturing Software

No one enjoys researching shop floor systems. You have plenty of other responsibilities on your plate and frankly, you didn’t get into manufacturing to browse software recommendation websites.

We’ve compiled the 5 most common reasons people hate researching manufacturing software, the red flags to avoid and recommendations for success.

Continue reading

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.

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.