Tag Archives: 3D Printing

Making Technology Work for Manufacturing

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Manufacturing and technology have always had a… curious relationship.  At CIMx Software, we work at the intersection of technology and manufacturing, and it’s interesting to see how the relationship has developed.

Simple tips to help ensure technology works for your shop floor.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Simple tips to help ensure technology works for your shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Technology needs manufacturing.  Without the support of a strong manufacturing base, and manufacturers willing to innovate, the latest technology won’t be available for the masses.  For example, most of us would still be riding horses if it weren’t for the manufacturing innovation of Henry Ford.

Manufacturing needs technology.  Manufacturing innovation is based on technology.  3D printing and additive manufacturing, mobile technology, paperless manufacturing and robotics are driving the latest advances in manufacturing.  To stay competitive and to lead the industry, manufacturers must embrace technology.

But, that’s not always what happens.  Some manufacturers are skeptical of technology.  Many times, that skepticism isn’t far from outright fear or loathing, and with good reason.   Even when the new technology is understood, its effect on the shop floor (after all… production must continue) may not be understood.  The cost of implementing the technology may lead to an ROI that will never be achieved.  It’s become a truth in the manufacturing industry – new technology holds both tremendous promise and tremendous risk.  A wrong decision can be ruinous.

We’ve seen technology implementations work in manufacturing, and we’ve seen them fail.  Here’s a few questions we’ve learned you should ask as you consider how your business will innovate:

  • Does the technology fit your current processes?

Unless the innovation will improve your current processes, you shouldn’t consider new technology that requires a major change in your shop floor processes.  The benefit you gain won’t outweigh the loss in productivity you will accrue as you implement the technology or struggle to make it fit.

  • Is the technology adaptable and flexible?

The one truth we’ve found in manufacturing is: change happens.  Many times, a new technology will address a single issue at a single point in time, and then will lose relevance over time as the industry changes.  Make sure the technology you implement will adapt as your shop floor and business adapts.  Make sure an update or adaptation process has been put in place in the technology.

  • Is it a custom solution?

Many manufacturers feel better when they have a technology solution built just for them, but this is a very costly and dangerous prospect.  The cost of maintenance, updates, and the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is significantly increased in a custom solution.  An out-of-the-box solution that has been configured for your needs will be able to meet your shop floor needs, and the maintenance and update costs will be significantly less.

  • Is it easy to use?

Technology only works when it is adopted and used by the people on your shop floor.  Many technologies we’ve come across are overly complex for no reason, or not designed with the end user in mind.  This is a sign of technology that’s still being developed.

  • Do you trust the provider?

When you purchase a new technology for the shop floor, you aren’t just buying the technology, but the provider.  Make sure you find a provider you can trust, and you know will be there when you need help.  A quality provider will offer fixed price proposals, and avoid expensive extra services.  They should be a company you are comfortable contacting, and you know you can get an answer quickly when you need it.

 

Manufacturing needs technology as much as technology needs manufacturing.  By following a few simple lessons, you can make technology work for your shop floor and continue to innovate.  As always, don’t hesitate to contact us with questions, we’re happy to help!

Where Will Your Shop Floor Be In 10 Years?

All signs point to major changes for manufacturing, so what are you doing to prepare for the future?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I came across a recent news article about a man in New Zealand using a 3D Printer to build a replica of a 1961 Aston Martin DB4.

Okay, let’s get all the amazement and wonderment out of the way now….

First, he is building a car with a $500 Solidoodle 3d Printer.  This is a readily available printer, easily found by a web search.  It’s easy to use, and even easier to purchase.    Apparently, you can use it to build a car frame (the interior of this car will consist of the engine of a 1993 Nissan Skyline).

What steps are you taking now to ensure you have the shop floor you want in 10 years?  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What steps are you taking now to ensure your future? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Next, this is his first attempt at 3d Printing.  So far, he has spent a total of $2,000 on the project.  Sure, Ivan Sentch, the man behind the project, estimates it will be five more years before he can drive the car, this is still a private citizen using a simple printer in his free time to BUILD A CAR!

Now, the really interesting point in this article is near the bottom, “Sentch believes it will be at least a decade or two before 3D printing will be used regularly for useful projects.”  Useful projects like cars, home appliances, and mechanical parts that are currently being manufactured in factories all over the world.  These factories and shop floors are the heart of our industry.

Let that sink in a moment…

I’m not suggesting we’ll suddenly shut down factories and start printing space shuttles in our garage, but a fundamental change is coming on par with Henry Ford and his manufacturing methodology and the rise of industrial robots.   This means many manufacturers will have to adapt or succumb.  Readily available manufactured goods via 3D printers will change the market.  To compete with a $500 printer, manufacturers need to offer customers more.

The retail industry is already grappling with this trend.  Why should a consumer travel to a store when they can order what they want on the web, via Amazon or another online outlet?  Stores have had to adapt, look at multi-channel sales and even question their role and function to the modern consumer.  It has required difficult choices, a lot of work, and a willingness to accept that what once felt comfortable and brought in enough profit isn’t going to cut it any longer.

10 years is not that far in the future.  A man in New Zealand spent $500 for a 3d Printer and gave us a glimpse of what the future will be like. So, where do you see your business and shop floor in 10 years?  What are you doing to prepare for the future?  Is it enough?  Now is the best time to start asking those important questions, and seek out someone who can help you plan for the future.

Paperless Manufacturing Is Changing Our Industry, Are You Ready?

Our world is going paperless, the question is who will drive the change when it reaches your shop floor?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I recently got an eye-opening wake-up call to the paperless future.

It was finally time to retire my 16-year old air conditioner and upgrade to a high-efficiency system.  I did my research and price-checked estimates before choosing a company.  I called up the sales rep to select a system, schedule the installation and sign the paperwork… then things got interesting.

“Paperwork?” the rep said. “No need… we can do everything online.”

Isn't it time to free yourself from paper by looking at the benefits of paperless manufacturing?   Photo by www.colourbox.com

Isn’t it time to free yourself from paper by looking at the benefits of paperless manufacturing? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

And he was right.  He worked in his office while I sat on my couch with a laptop.  We spoke via the Web.  I filled out an online questionnaire while he pulled up data on my house.  It took him 45 seconds to send over three choices for my new system, incorporating the questionnaire and data.  I looked over the options while the rep finished credit approval.  A choice was made and he emailed a contract. I e-signed and he chose an installation team.  The entire process took 15 minutes.  I never left the couch, and even ate a sandwich while we worked.  The secure computer system efficiently managed the details, integrating all the pieces.

Honestly, why did I feel the need to “sign” paperwork?  I assumed that’s the way it was done, and inefficient travel and paper-based errors were the cost of business.  In retrospect, my misgivings could have torpedoed the process.

The Future Is Here, and It’s Paperless

Face it… the world is going paperless, and we are all better for it.  Digital systems connect people and businesses with machines and processes like never before, adding value and improving productivity.  Many industries and companies have made the move, including:

  • Paperless house closings through Ellie Mae;
  • Paperless shopping through Amazon and online retailers;
  • Paperless medical records;
  • Paperless accounting and recordkeeping;
  • Paperless service industries, including HVAC and Mechanic shops;
  • Paperless college education through University of Phoenix.

The digital revolution is impacting manufacturing in ways we are only now beginning to understand.  Paperless manufacturing, the process of adopting paperless work instructions to manage information and work flow on the shop floor, is changing the industry.  For example, 3D Printing, or Additive Manufacturing, requires a digital design and work instruction, not a paper-driven one.  A new Standard Interchange File Format, developed by ASTM International, will allow a seamless transition from design to physical printed object, but only if the shop floor has made the conversion to digital.

Paperless Manufacturing Solutions

As an industry, manufacturing is moving toward paperless processes.  Look at the latest trends in manufacturing such as mobile manufacturing, 3D printing, on-demand manufacturing, and customer-centric manufacturing.  Utilizing real-time information on the shop floor will require paperless systems.  Even contemporary process improvement initiatives in manufacturing, such as Lean, Six-Sigma and agile manufacturing all rely on the functionality offered by paperless manufacturing.

The future of manufacturing isn't paper build books. Photo credit www.colourbox.com

The future of manufacturing isn’t paper build books. Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

Many manufacturers believe moving to paperless manufacturing requires a significant investment of time, energy and resources.  This may have been true in the past, but new technology and processes have made it possible for more companies to make the transition to paperless manufacturing, reducing the cost and minimizing the risk.  No longer is paperless manufacturing and MES solutions reserved for the largest corporations or complex discrete manufacturing.  Manufacturers of all sizes and in all industries will find workflow process control benefits with paperless manufacturing.

As more industries adopt paperless systems, manufacturers that cling to paper will discover their business isolated as they find it increasingly difficult to integrate with paperless systems.  The cost of duplicate work will increase, and processes will continue to grow more inefficient.  These companies will have fewer options and less opportunity.

To be honest, I installed my new AC less than two months ago, and I can’t imagine going back to a paper-based system.  Change is coming, so ask yourself, who will drive the change to paperless manufacturing on your shop floor?  New paperless manufacturing and manufacturing solution systems are lowering risk, reducing cost, and minimizing the pain of installation, implementation and training.  CIMx offers a system that incorporates your current processes and work instructions, making implementation even more efficient.  Want to look over options or learn more about paperless manufacturing, contact CIMx Software today.