Category Archives: Understanding MES

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!

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.

Making Sense of the MES Module Conundrum

If you buy a manufacturing software solution as “modules,” how much benefit and potential is lost with only a partial solution? What are you missing?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

How many modules will it take to get the functionality you need? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

How many modules will it take to get the functionality you need? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

In 1997, MESA (Manufacturing Execution Systems Association) defined the scope of MES with 11 different functions. These functions include areas such as Quality Management, Labor Management, Data Collection & Acquisition, and Performance Analysis. Over the years, the scope and models used by MESA have changed, but the goal has remained the same – to provide a view of what can and should be accomplished with an enterprise system (MES) to increase performance.

Here is my problem – many suppliers offer piecemeal “module-based” systems as MES or Paperless Manufacturing. With a clearly defined scope for an enterprise system, how can you offer only a partial solution to a shop floor and expect them to operate at maximum efficiency? It’s like giving someone a few pieces of the puzzle and telling them to make it work.

For example, some companies offer Shop Floor Data Collection as a “module” to the main software system. It is an additional cost, and additional work to install. Sure, it may be marketed to the manufacturer as a bonus that can be “added” when they are ready, but without shop floor data collection you don’t have a complete solution. Other companies may offer Performance Analytics in a “Service Pack” with an additional cost, Maintenance Management in a Tooling Module, and Product Tracking and Genealogy as yet another installation because it’s not part of their core “Manufacturing Management or Paperless Management” solution.

It makes no sense! How can you offer a partial system and call it a “Manufacturing Solution?”  Why aren’t these pieces fully integrated into a cohesive solution? Why does the product have to be doled out piece by piece? Is this really a better way to manage information on the shop floor and control the elements of production?

The Foundation of a Total Solution

An MES should provide the foundation for production. Information enters the system and is managed and controlled throughout the production process before it is moved to another enterprise system. The problem with the flawed “module” approach to MES implementation is it leaves holes in the foundation – holes that create errors and inefficiencies. Production just disappears in those gaping holes as your team scrambles to fill the hole with non-productive effort.

A complete shop floor software solution should provide the foundation of information management for production. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

A complete shop floor software solution should provide the foundation of information management for production. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Consider this – if your “manufacturing management system” is just pushing orders to the shop floor and not collecting data, you don’t have a complete view of manufacturing or any way to effectively introduce process improvement. Quality control will be hindered and process enforcement incomplete. By removing an important function of a complete system just because it’s in a different module, you hurt the effectiveness of the entire system.

It would be like buying a car with the steering wheel missing, and the dealer asking you if you want the “4 Tires Upgrade.” Having only a few pieces of the puzzle offers only part of the solution. You might be happy with those parts, but the overall solution, and maximized system effectiveness, is still out of reach.

A Better Shop Floor Solution

So, why do companies offer modules if they are so problematic and ineffective? Many times it is because the system they offer was once focused on a single MES function. It might have started its life as Inventory system or a simple ERP, and the MES functionality was added later. It might even have been a whole different system that was purchased and smashed together to make a “new” product.

When looking for a manufacturing solution, position your shop floor for growth and improvement by making sure you have a true MES or Paperless Manufacturing solution. Don’t focus on a list of functions or individual requirements, but look at process and make sure there are no “holes” in the solution. The system needs to provide a complete foundation for production management.

This is why CIMx doesn’t offer modules. We offer the complete solution to every customer. Once installed, customers turn on and use the functions they need, and can add new features and functions at their own pace because the entire solution is in place and waiting.

Don’t be fooled by the Module conundrum, and end up purchasing a partial solution that leaves your shop floor searching for the missing piece of MES puzzle. Want to learn more, or talk about what a Paperless Manufacturing solution could do for you? Give us a call, we’re happy to help.

How You Can Embrace the Full Potential of Paperless Manufacturing

An MES is more than a list of features.  Maximize the impact of a new system by embracing positive changes it will encourage in your shop floor culture.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Manufacturers often ask how to unlock the full potential of a digital shop floor.  Many think it’s a cool feature, innovative function, or special training session.

My answer, always, is to look at the shop floor culture.  Consider the human element.  No software system, special feature, nifty function, automated process, extraordinary lesson, KPI, or analysis tool will get you where you need to be.  The software provides the foundation for process improvement and will immediately deliver benefits, but to unlock the full potential of the system, you need to develop the human element – study how the people, processes, system, tools and material interact, then focus on how the software will support the human element.

Looking Beyond Features and Functions

Consider the human element as you implement a new shop floor system to ensure maximum value for your investment.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Consider the human element as you implement a new shop floor system to ensure maximum value for your investment. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Consider this scenario – accidents happen on the shop floor.  Most will be errors in production builds, scrap in the making, but sometimes an operator or machine will fail to perform a task correctly.  What do you do then?

Most times, we simply solve the issue as quickly as possible.  We fix the machine, seek medical attention for injuries, and red tag the scrap.  After all, product is backing up and customers are waiting.  At that point, information on the error is sent to Quality Engineering or a safety board.  Problem is, once production is flowing again and the issue is no longer critical, no one is in a hurry to find a solution and whatever documentation you have is aging.

Without a permanent solution, the error will likely occur again, continuing to plague production like an itch you just can’t reach.

The Paperless Manufacturing Solution

Military pilots utilize a post-flight debriefing process to eliminate errors.  They will cover, replay, reconstruct, reflect and redirect every action on a flight.  It’s the most effective way to determine everything that went wrong and right during a session of work, and ensures improvement for the next flight.

During cover and replay, the pilot talks through the entire flight.  Through visualization, they will review each step of the flight plan.  Rather than simply listing what went right and wrong, offering a snap judgment of each action, they discuss the work, leaving more room for discussion and reflection.

A paperless manufacturing system provides an immediate “discussion board” for manufacturing.  The shop floor operator can describe the work done prior to the error.  This immediate feedback provides invaluable insight, offering creative solutions an engineer may not be able to deliver in the  weeks after the error occurred.

Evaluative tools like this may not be practical after every shift, but a paperless system can create a feedback loop between the shop floor operators and engineers.  Operators can leave a message attached to an order, which the engineers can retrieve and review as needed.  The paperless system enables the reflection and reconstruction used so effectively by pilots.  Continuous improvement systems such as Lean, also rely heavily on continuous feedback and giving end-users a voice in improvement.

Redirection, the final step in flight analysis, has the pilot leap from the previous flight to the next.  It asks what he or she would do differently.  Through visualization, they work to see the steps in their mind.  Visual learning is a powerful tool, helping bring the lessons learned to life.  A paperless system utilizes visual learning to improve work instructions with videos and multi-media tools, helping eliminate mistakes. The system can even track users who open and watch a video, giving you an idea of how effective each learning tool is.

Paperless Manufacturing and the Human Element

Granted, the shop floor isn’t an airplane, and your operators may not be pilots, but consider the pilot culture, where every mistake can mean death, and how they go about eliminating errors and constantly improving.  Consider what a culture like that would mean for your business.

Paperless manufacturing and MES provides tools that eliminate errors and enable improvement, but to maximize the solution you need more than tools.  You need a culture that embraces the solution and is ready for improvement.  You need to not only implement the software, but integrate it with your culture.  Don’t focus solely on the tools the software provides, but how you use the tools.  Spend time to understand the human element and how it will fit with the software tools.  Look for solutions that are adaptable, supporting your shop floor culture and processes instead of demanding conformity.  The software should grow with your company as you implement changes to the culture.

The best solutions are ones that support your work process, and can adapt when and how you need it.  Look beyond the list of features and functions, because every company can provide those, and consider the human element.

Solve Problems, Not Symptoms, with MES

Maximize the value of your paperless manufacturing system by targeting the root cause, and not just the symptoms, of your shop floor problems.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Save yourself time, money and frustration when solving shop floor issues by focusing on the problem, not the symptom.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Save yourself time, money and frustration when solving shop floor issues by focusing on the problem, not the symptom. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

I had a neighbor once with a hole in her roof.  It wasn’t a big hole, but water dripped into her wall during a bad rain.  My neighbor didn’t fix the hole; instead she kept a bucket of paint and covered the water stain every few months.  “It’s easier to paint than get on the roof,” she once told me.

Many times, symptoms are easier to identify than the actual issue causing the problem.

When all is not going well on the shop floor – failed audits, quality control issues, slow orders, missing parts, confusion – it’s not always easy to pinpoint the cause.  Every single one of these issues impacts the schedule, which quickly becomes the culprit.  No matter the underlying issue, a missed deadline demands attention.  So, some cling to scheduling as the problem to fix, never discovering the real problem.

It’s slapping another coat of paint on the water-damaged wall.

Many customers look for dynamic scheduling solutions because they see a shop floor symptom (missed deadlines) and dynamic scheduling offers an easy solution (like a bucket of paint).  Truth is, a simple coat of paint isn’t going to solve much, and will never make much impact on your business.

A Closer Look at your Shop Floor Problems

We’re going to encourage you to look a little deeper.

Think about your personal schedule.  In the past 20 years, we’ve moved through a progression of devices – personal planners to smart devices.  No matter how diligent you are, or how robust the tool, scheduling isn’t going to increase the quality of your work.  Scheduling can only have minimal impact on efficiency; it simply selects the work to be done and places it in an open timeslot, then maybe offers innovative widgets to get you to do the work.  I admit, dynamic scheduling can synchronize the schedule of your shop floor, but that’s when the work of the tool is complete.  It’s not going to help your team achieve its goals.  Work quality isn’t going to magically improve.

To be honest, the benefits of scheduling on the manufacturing shop floor are limited.  Work can only move forward once each previous operation is completed, no matter the “schedule” you create.  An error or non-conformance isn’t going to solve itself because you know the “right” time to do the work.  Tighter scheduling is not going to correct the underlying problems hindering throughput.

Process Improvement graph.

No other shop floor solution addresses so many production challenges, or offers a bigger benefit. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Dynamic scheduling offers short term answers to shop floor problems.  Many companies solve problems by throwing more manpower at production, or eke out a little more production from a machine or two, but these are short-term solutions.  Tomorrow the same problem may come back.  Scheduling is a critical component for a shop floor, however, if the planning and workflows aren’t optimized, no amount of money (on a scheduling tool, overtime or additional operators) will solve the real problem.

It would be like spending money on buckets of paint and repair projects, while the hole in the roof waited for the next rainstorm.

MES and paperless manufacturing offer a broad range of tools and solutions for the shop floor.  No other product benefits the shop floor in so many ways, directly addressing the root cause of problems hindering production.  Many manufacturers find a solution to the original shop floor problem through the paperless system, and then discover other benefits they may not have known were there.

Talk to an engineer about shop floor issues, and work on the root problems causing the issues.  Expand the conversation beyond simply the schedule, and look at what is really causing the production delays.   We recommend an engineer be involved in the sales process from the very beginning, to identify issues before determining or selecting a solution.  Your shop floor team can provide both insight and focus on operations.

Many times, the solution to the problem is much simpler (and less expensive) than the solution to the symptom.  Once you’ve looked a little deeper at the real problem, the final solution will often deliver a wealth of other benefits.