Category Archives: Technology

The Benefits of MES Expertise

Spend enough time in the manufacturing software industry, and you’ll find software experts, manufacturing experts, and plenty of salespeople, but an MES expert is what you really need.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

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MES Success is much easier with the support of MES Experts. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

For more than 20 years, CIMx Software has developed software solutions for manufacturers. In the beginning, it wasn’t called MES (Manufacturing Execution System) or Paperless Manufacturing. MOM (Manufacturing Operations Management) was still short for Mother, and IoT (Internet of Things) was science fiction and not imminent fact. Our system was known as CAPP (Computer-Aided Process Planning). CAPP was a powerful tool for manufacturing back then.

Today’s systems are built on modern software platforms – easy-to-install, implement and adapt. With the right system you plan production and manage your shop floor, the software becomes the foundation of an IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) and digital manufacturing enterprise. The solution provides the discipline and data to implement a successful continuous improvement program. It eliminates the root cause of errors, reduces scrap and waste, and mitigates many of the risk factors that hold back manufacturing.

Working with manufacturers for more than 20 years to solve their costliest and most vexing problems has made CIMx MES experts. MES expertise is critical for success in an implementation for your shop floor.

Why You Need MES and Paperless Manufacturing Expertise

You have manufacturing expertise. You know how to build products and design workflows to maximize production safely and efficiently. IT experts maintain, implement and update technology. With enough time and money (okay, a lot of time and money) a team of software experts can build a software system.

Confidence Button Shows Assurance Belief And Boldness

A project guided by MES Experts gives you confidence in success. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

MES experts bridge the gap between those disciplines – bringing experience in manufacturing, an understanding of technology, and intimate familiarity of the software. MES expertise enables a solution provider to guide the implementation and cultural fit of the solution. They ensure you have the right solution optimized for your production operation by removing unnecessary complexity, lowering the overall cost and investment, and delivering better results.

Without this expertise, your shop floor may be forced to adapt to the demands of the software, rather than the software working for you. Systems like this will offer you the functionality you need, but at a much higher cost in productivity and effort than you expect to pay. The solution will never be optimized, and you’ll never see the benefit of a system optimized for you.

At CIMx, we know and love manufacturing and technology. We study the latest trends and technology looking for advantages for our customers. We work closely with manufacturers to understand their processes, and then apply the best technology solution for superior results.

Don’t assume a sales person or IT Solution provider has MES expertise. If a company representative doesn’t know discrete manufacturing from an assembly shop or MRO facility, or is just focused on their product and not your processes, then they may not have the MES expertise you need. You may be left with an overly complex, expensive solution that your shop floor doesn’t want to use.

Get to know your solution provider before signing a contract. Evaluate whether they have MES expertise. With the right provider, you shouldn’t have to figure out how you can make all the pieces of the solution work together for you. From the beginning the solution should support you.

Want to learn more, or see what a provider with real MES expertise can do for you? Then give CIMx a call today for a free shop floor evaluation by real MES experts. We’re always happy to help.

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The Most Critical Factor in a Successful MES Implementation

After more than 18 years of offering shop floor software solutions to manufacturers, we’ve gained insight into one surprising factor that can lead a project to success or failure.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

When implementing a paperless manufacturing system, selecting the right vendor can be more important than the right system. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

When implementing a paperless manufacturing system, selecting the right vendor can be more important than the right system. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

I was once asked to name the one factor that would make a difference in the success or failure of an MES or paperless manufacturing implementation. I pushed to think outside of the box, but first considered many of the standard, and legitimate, factors that contribute to project success such as…

… an honest evaluation of your shop floor processes. This is vitally important. Without input from the users of a system and a vision of how it will support production, you can be left with a system that hinders more than supports operations.

… a focused list of requirements. There are projects doomed from the start by a requirement list numbering in the hundreds, even thousands, and many of those “requirements” offering little ROI. The price ends up ballooning as the project team focuses on items that add little to overall project success.

… product functionality. Functionality will define the software, but let’s be honest; comparing functionality lists isn’t a critical requirement for a project. Given enough time and resources, a software vendor can add any functionality you need. I’d rather have an adaptable system that supports my production than one that has more buttons on each screen, leading me to features I may never use.

… cost. An over-priced product that doesn’t aid production or offer a reasonable ROI will doom a project, and you do need a clear picture of the ROI before implementation begins. But, if you’ve determined your ROI on the project, and the schedule is acceptable, the project should pay for itself, or you go find another vendor.

There are a number of other factors I considered, but the more I thought about it, the more one factor kept coming up. It’s not one many companies think about, but it ultimately leads to success more than any other factor…

Trust.

The Trust Factor in your Manufacturing Solution

I know, it sounds silly. Even writing it, I’m reminded of the phrases you might find in an online dating form. “Seeking SO to build trust and for long walks on the beach…” BLAH!

But, consider these factors when evaluating how much priority to give “trust” when selecting a vendor:

  • Cost.

Many software vendors are reluctant to offer a “price not to exceed” guarantee on an estimate, because they rely on service charges to pad the final bill. They plan to add service charges for necessary work not included in the initial estimate. Yes, there are vendors out there giving the rest of us a bad name. Find a software vendor you can trust to give you an honest estimate.

  • Culture.

Shop floor software is as much a cultural solution as a technological one. Consider this – you can have the best software in the world, but if your workers aren’t using it to improve production, it becomes shelfware. Try to cram a solution on someone and they’ll find a way to ignore it. You need a vendor willing to work with your shop floor as well as the front office and management, helping to guide employees to a new way of working. Trust is going to be a vital tool for a successful vendor.

  • Processes.

The functionality of the software is only one piece of a complex puzzle that is a shop floor system. The functions need to manage and support the manufacturing processes. In the past, when MES and paperless manufacturing systems were only available to the largest manufacturing companies, software was built custom so process fit was (hopefully) given. Today, with the availability of modern, off-the-shelf solutions, you need a vendor who will work with you to map the existing functionality of the software to your processes, and partner with you to configure the system to meet your specialized needs. They have to understand your processes to offer the best, most cost effective solution possible. The only way to be sure they are working with your best interests at heart is through trust.

  • Total Cost of Ownership.

The first bill you receive for your shop floor system is only part of the overall cost of the software. Most solutions are designed to be a long-term solution, so there will be recurring costs, adding to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). You want a vendor that isn’t going to sell you software, install it and then leave. You want one that will work as a partner, helping to ensure the software remains an effective and efficient tool for production over the life of the installation. Do they offer an upgrade path? Will upgrading the software be cost effective, or will it be cost prohibitive? Are you going to be relying on a help desk to solve problems, or will you have a knowledgeable resource available when you need them?


As I thought about the critical factors in project success, I kept coming back to trust. Purchasing an MES isn’t like purchasing a vacuum or even an app for your phone. It’s an investment not only in money, but time and company resources. The system should provide a long-term solution, not just short term relief. It should grow with you and your company, providing a foundation for growth and increased production.

You need to evaluate the purchase of a shop floor solution differently. Consider factors other than just cost, or a list of functionality. Done properly, you are purchasing more than just code on a server (somewhere) but a manufacturing partner willing to provide a tool for your shop floor for many years to come. This is why CIMx works so hard to earn the trust of our customers. We understand how critical trust is in an implementation. From the beginning, our goal is to offer a long-term solution to our customers. Building trust guides our every interaction with a customer. We see every implementation as the beginning of a partnership.

If you aren’t sure you can trust your vendor, then you are presenting your project team with a challenge they may never overcome. Want to learn more, or see how CIMx can help you solve manufacturing challenges, then contact us today,

What Can You Do to Keep Your Company from Drowning in Technology Debt?

Many companies today are drowning in tech debt, and they don’t even know it. A few simple tips will help you manage your tech debt and determine your next steps in enterprise upkeep.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Technology debt is a term that originated in programming. Originally, it explained the programming debt developers would incur while writing code. A quick and easy solution in programming might incur a future “tech debt” – when that quick solution would require significant modification or hinder future progress. Another solution might require more development resources to implement, but will drastically reduce or eliminate the need for modification and better support future development.

Modern manufacturing relies on solid support from IT. Is your IT doing everything it can to increase production? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Modern manufacturing relies on solid support from IT. Is your IT doing everything it can to increase production? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

In manufacturing, the Technology Debt is the total cost of replacing outdated technologies or systems as they begin to degrade the overall functionality of the company. In general, manufacturing is reluctant to add new technology, and so as systems age the overall effectiveness of the operation degrades. Companies struggle to determine when they finally have to pay their technology debt.  When is it the right time to make a change or add a new system? What risk will they take with a technology purchase or implementation? In the end, many manufacturing companies fool themselves into continually delaying a project – their technology debt becoming a massive expense. This will hinder production, increase errors and decrease efficiency, but as long as production limps along, these companies continue to wait.

Evaluate Your Manufacturing Technology Debt

Are you curious to know how large your tech debts might be? Use the following questions to analyze your current systems and better understand the benefits of your software and technology systems:

  • What is the cost of the current software or system?

Most enterprise software and systems have a licensing cost, which is only one part of the cost of the system, but it is a good place to start. You also need to study the hidden costs of the system.  Look at the amount of time and resources necessary to maintain the system. If IT spends an average of 20 – 30 hours a week maintaining, or repairing, the system, this is a significant expense that must be added to the analysis. Lost production during times when the system is down will also add to the cost. Finally, look at the expense you may be incurring by using a less than optimal system. For example, if you can’t integrate a legacy system with your current ERP, then there will be a cost for manually moving data from one system to another.

  • Is the current system upgradeable?

Look at the current system, and determine if it can be upgraded.  What is the cost of the upgrade? If you have a custom software system, the cost of any upgrade will be significant. Over time, this cost will only grow as you continue to upgrade to pay off that tech debt, increasing the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of the software. In addition, systems that are difficult to upgrade, or don’t have a clear upgrade path, will degrade your overall productivity exponentially. The system you have isn’t going to get any better, and you risk the eventual cost of the tech debt becoming prohibitive. Keep this in mind as you consider a new system versus an upgrade of your current system.

  • How much will the new system increase shop floor productivity?

Too often, as companies begin to evaluate their systems, they don’t consider manufacturing and operations. They will look at the front office and IT compatibility, but not the potential dramatic benefit the new system will have to shop floor productivity. For example, eliminating paper from the shop floor with a paperless manufacturing system will save on the cost of paper and ink travelers and build books. Scrap and errors can be eliminated. The need to input the same data multiple times is removed. Redline edits and change orders are improved. Even so, some companies are satisfied meeting the need with a lesser, forms-based system that leaves paper on the shop floor. Understand your current processes and evaluate the benefits to the process with the new system. Many times, the benefit to productivity will more than pay for the entire new system.

  • What is the overall cost of the replacement or new system?

Many companies today still believe a new manufacturing software system will cost millions of dollars, and require several years to full develop and implement. With new software technology, that’s no longer the case. A new system can be implemented in as little as a few months, and may cost much less than the licensing costs of your current, outdated system. As you evaluate your tech debt, work with a vendor you trust to understand your current shop floor and find a solution that meets your needs, then determine the true cost. As you study the cost, look at the licensing fees, the cost of product support, and the internal resources necessary to maintain the system. Before selecting a course of action, make sure you are comparing the true costs of both your current system and a potential replacement system.

  • What does an “integrated” system really mean?

Often, and with good reason, IT resources in manufacturing will be reluctant to add a “new” system to their enterprise. They are reluctant to tackle new software without an idea of potential benefit and an understanding of the internal resources necessary to maintain the software. Anything new is immediately seen as “system bloat” no matter the manufacturing benefit. Because of this, many companies look at “modules” or extensions of a currently implemented system, and end up creating the problem they hoped to avoid. The truth is, many companies offer “modules” they purchased from another software vendor. The module isn’t really linked to their product, and may not even be compatible to past versions of their software. Integration, implementation and installation becomes a massive project more complex than adding an entirely new system. For an honest analysis, study the benefit of competing systems, and identify the support needs of each individually. Don’t be fooled by a system having the same name.

The Enterprise Cost of Increased Tech Debt

As companies delay paying off their tech debt or upgrading their current systems, the problems faced by their operations team will only grow. The problems – shop floor errors, scrap, the inability to meet customer needs and lost production – will explode. Technology and modern manufacturing has reached the point when companies that haven’t upgraded, and haven’t addressed their tech debt, will no longer be able to compete or operate in the global marketplace.

Are you letting your company drown in technology debt? What is it costing you? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Are you letting your company drown in technology debt? What is it costing you? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Many times, tech debt grows because of the separation between operations and IT. Both operate in enterprise silos, and overcoming challenges without understanding the perspective of other departments create problems.  It’s in these cracks the tech debt grows. Operations have a growing production need which IT doesn’t understand, so the company waits to fill that need because operations can’t adequately communicate the value of the system. IT is only added to the implementation team late in the process, and their needs are never factored into the decision. Miscommunication leads to projects being shelved and the tech debt growing – the problem being put off for another year.

That old paradigm will no longer work in the new world. New technology and processes, increased customer demands, government regulations and the need to operate on a global scale are pushing many companies to finally eliminate enterprise silos and pay their tech debt. Companies can no longer wait – they have to adapt, update and embrace technology and new systems and software.

What are your greatest technology challenges? How are you managing your tech debt? Let us help you eliminate your tech debt and overcome operational challenges. Contact CIMx for a free evaluation of your shop floor today.

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.

5 Ways Market Acquisitions May Hurt Your Manufacturing Business

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Market acquisition is changing the manufacturing software solutions market, but not always for the better.  We take a closer look at its cost to innovation and service to manufacturers.

Market consolidation – big companies purchasing smaller companies in order to make even bigger companies – has become a way of business.

Consider this, Google has purchased more than 160 companies since the company was founded.  In less than one year, they purchased 21 companies.  In 2010, Google bought a company, on average, every two weeks!  According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Apple averages an acquisition every other month.  Acquisitions are rampant, widespread, and especially common in the high-tech and software industries.

Market Acquisitions and Manufacturing

What can you do when your software vendor is sold to another company? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What can you do when your software vendor is sold to another company? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Manufacturing software solutions aren’t immune to the epidemic of strategic acquisitions (or, as we call it, “purchase, use, abuse, consolidate, wash and repeat”) trend.  Just this year, Dassault Systemes has purchased companies such as Quintiq, which offers supply chain optimization software, Accelrys, which manages research data, and Apriso, an MES.  Other manufacturing software companies are being gobbled up at a rate rarely seen outside a holiday meal.  Visiprise was purchased by SAP.  Dassault purchased Intercim (let’s be honest… not sure why you need two MES – perhaps one was lonely?)  Most recently, Siemens has signed an agreement to purchase Camstar, another MES.

The marketing spin factories are hard at work turning these purchases into stories of customer benefit.  They tell us about “expanded offerings” (i.e. more stuff you can buy), with “market synergies,” (i.e. more places to sell our stuff) “value delivery focus” (i.e. more ways you can buy our stuff) and even, “innovation accelerant” (i.e. more ways we can make you buy our stuff).

Big companies have a goal in mind with each purchase, and it’s not focused on the customer’s needs.  In fact, there’s a “I just bought a company” expense passed on to customers when an acquisition occurs.  We call it (mockingly) the “Purchase Pain Payment Plan.”  It’s this unspoken sacrifice all customers pay when a vendor decides it’s time to acquire or be acquired.

Customer Payment Plan for MES Market Consolidation

Let’s take a look at a few of the items you might come across in the payment plan:

  • The Service gaps and delays.

Face it, every software system is different.  As a company begins to integrate their internal service organizations with those of the newly purchased company, there will be service gaps.  The service plan you previously purchased slowly morphs into a new plan that better serves the vendor.  You may discover new service charges on your billing, or a flood of “Service Update” notices on legal letterhead.  Once the vendor adjusts their workforce (i.e. layoffs) the service gaps will widen, and you may see delays in service or changes in how the company responds to your needs.  Eventually, the problems and service questions will be worked out, but not before the company has you and the other customers where they want you.

  • How can you protect yourself when a new company is servicing your business? Image by www.colourbox.com

    How can you protect yourself when a new company is servicing your business? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

    Upcharges and the push for new functionality.

Many companies buy a smaller company to acquire their smartest employees or access their IP (intellectual property).  It is one way to fill out a product offering, eliminate a perceived weakness, or make up for a lack of innovation.  For example, Google purchased Emu to add context and an interactive element to text messages.  Many manufacturing software companies, such as Siemens, will purchase MES to complement their PLM or other software.  Vendors seek upcharges and sales of the new functionality, pushing customers to purchase and spend more with promises of amazing new software synergies that may (or may not) be of benefit to you.  These vendors will also exploit their new customer base for new sales, offering them their existing products or packaging them with the product they know the customer needs.

  • Adjustments to the upgrade path.

Software ages, and one way to ensure your software stays relevant is an upgrade.  Most companies offer an upgrade path, or a plan for upgrading your system.  This plan is thrown out the window once a company is purchased, as the teams that were working on your upgrade are now moved to integrating the new software or to other projects.  In fact, many times the vendor will push you to purchase a new system in order to move customers to the systems they are actively supporting, leaving customers that were happy with the software and system before wondering how they can work with the system being pushed on them now.

  • What will a change in vendor mean for you and your business? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

    What will a change in vendor mean for you and your business? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

    Scalability issues.

There is a fine balance between getting the service you and your company needs, and being overcharged for services you don’t want.  As a vendor grows through acquisitions (or being acquired) changes will be made in how the business is handled, your software is serviced, and in the relationship between customer and vendor.  Many times, this will lead to scalability problems, as customers begin paying for services, functionality, tools or features they don’t want.  Your use of the software system may be consistent, but as they vendor begins incorporating new products and employees, they adapt their billing change – which will be reflected in the cost of the software.

  • New features that aren’t focused on your needs.

Many times, an acquisition will herald a strategic change for a company.  They will not only purchase a company to fill a void, but bring innovation back into their processes with a solution that has been perfected and scaled for the market.  Problem is, the new direction may not be the one you need, and it may not even be the solution you originally thought you were purchasing.  As the vendor resources pivot to capitalize on the recently purchased innovation, previous customers are left wanting.

Minimize the Impact of Market Consolidation

The truth is, not all acquisitions are bad.  There are benefits, such as rapid growth, additional market penetration, economy of scale and service synergies.  Large companies, hindered by infrastructure and layers of management, rely on acquisitions to fuel innovation and growth.  Acquisitions can be catalysts for positive change, helping both companies find success.  A successful acquisition can propel an excellent idea and successful product to a much wider market.

Process Improvement graph.

The right strategy will help you navigate unforeseen market consolidation. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

But not all acquisitions are successful, either for the companies involved or their customers.  Even with a solid integration plan, there will be challenges that customers need to recognize and plan for, either with an alternate service or internal adjustments.  In the painful process of integrating companies, customers can easily become forgotten in the shuffle.  The key is to ignore the hype and marketing surrounding an acquisition and take a critical look at what it means for your business, your shop floor, and your team.  Plan accordingly and make sure your business needs are met.

In addition to the inconvenience an acquisition can cause customers and manufacturers, there is also a real danger to innovation.  As companies purchase smaller businesses to fuel growth and product line, innovation is lost to integration.  Energy is poured into making systems work together as a (somewhat) cohesive whole, rather than solving problems better and faster or creating new solutions.  Integrated systems often produce increasingly complex systems that create more problems than they solve.

Innovation has always been the fuel that drives manufacturing growth, and acquisition will never be a suitable replacement to innovation.

Do you have questions about your manufacturing software solution, or want to see how software innovation can benefit you?  Give us a call or leave a message.  We’re happy to help.

Information Management: The Greatest Gift You Can Give Manufacturing

Information management, when implemented on the shop floor, will unlock production potential that’s hindered in a paper-based environment

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Ever notice how much your shop floor relies on information?  Consider this:

  • You get in an order from a customer (information) so you create a work order (information) which contains work instructions (information) and send it on to the shop floor (information).
  • The shop floor follows the instructions (information), then collects data (information) on the work to ensure it meets specifications (information).
  • When complete, the product is packaged and sent as instructed (information) and records of production are stored (information) and the process analyzed (information) for improvement.

Granted this is a very succinct and abbreviated recap of the manufacturing process, but it’s hard to miss how vitally important information is.  And yet, many companies rely on outdated and inefficient information management techniques (including paper) to assemble, deliver, monitor and record manufacturing data.

… and they wonder why they aren’t getting the results they should.

Defining Information Management

So, what is information management?

What challenges can an effective information management system solve for your shop floor?  Image by www.colourbox.com

What challenges can an effective information management system solve for your shop floor? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Information management encompasses the assembly, delivery, and eventual storage of all the data and information used in the production process.  A system that efficiently and effectively manages the transmission of information, which drives production, will have a tremendous positive impact on production.

An effective system gets the correct information precisely when and where it needs to be, with minimal effort from the users.   Now consider your current information management system.  Do users:

search for information through stacks and stacks of paper, bound or paper-clipped, flipping pages to find a key fact and holding up production while they frantically scramble for the data….

struggle with managing change when a customer requests different specifications, wondering how they will find every piece of data that must be revised as they run to the shop floor with the updated plans…

labor to correct the inevitable mistakes that occur when old work instruction or incorrect information is sent to the shop floor…

toil to collect data by scribbling on the margins of the work instructions or traveler, and then hoping mistakes aren’t made when it comes time to input it….

drown under piles and piles (and piles) of paper records, knowing that retrieving data from those boxes will be a nightmare…

An information management solution

Process Improvement graph.

Solve the underlying information management problems on your shop floor with a single, comprehensive solution – paperless manufacturing. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) and paperless manufacturing systems directly address the information management challenges on the manufacturing shop by providing a vehicle for assembling, collecting, delivering, recording and archiving data and information.  The system ensures the right people get the correct information when and where they need it.  It provides a foundation and framework for your information, with each piece of data organized so it can quickly and easily be retrieved when and where you need it.

So, what does this mean for your shop floor?  Consider this, an effective system will:

  • Automate information processes. Companies without a system utilize laborious and error-prone processes to collect and distribute information.  For example, printing work plans, assembling travelers, and carrying them to the shop floor.  A good MES will do all that work for you, ensuring your team can focus on production and other tasks that add value.
  • Increase your information velocity. Ever consider how much time is wasted looking up information and just figuring out what you need to do?  How much improvement would your team realize if there was a single place to get correct information, and it was delivered right to them when they needed it.
  • Eliminate errors. Wouldn’t it be nice to be sure your shop floor was working from the latest, most correct work instructions?  What if you could know each employee was actually looking at the work instructions, doing the work in the correct order and catching quality escapes before they became a problem?

Put simply, an MES or paperless manufacturing system manages production information, providing more benefit than almost any other purchase.  It improves every aspect of the manufacturing operation.

Want to learn more, or see how your shop floor will benefit with information management through paperless manufacturing?  It’s much more than simply putting your work instructions on a computer screen – it’s eliminating errors, streamlining processes, and organizing your production operation.  It gives you control and visibility of your shop floor.

Contact CIMx today to see how paperless manufacturing will benefit you.

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.