Tag Archives: adaptable

3D Printing Could Kill You (Or Your Business), Here’s Why…

3D Printing is going to have a dramatic affect on manufacturing, but we can learn from other industries how to succeed when change comes.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications for CIMx Software

Choices and options.

3D printing will change manufacturing. How will you handle the change? Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com.

I came across an article on a Yahoo News about a University of Texas law student who is posting online a blueprint for a 3D printed handgun called “The Liberator.”  Download the blueprint/design, load it into your 3D printer- yes, you can purchase a home 3D printer, such as the Replicator 2 or the Cube– and you’re moments from producing your own plastic handgun; weaponry in no time at all!

Reading the article was scary and exciting, because I love technology!  The future is exciting, and I believe technology represents the best of humanity- using our ingenuity to solve problems together.  Others argue it is dangerous technology- not only physically harmful, this is….

… scary.  Worried about gun control laws?  Why worry, when you can print your own gun.  A world where a gun for a terrorist is only a website and 3D printer away is scary. But, it’s also…

.. exciting. Someday you will log onto a website, select a design, and print it on your desktop.  It sounds like pure science fiction, a scene from Star Trek, pulled straight out of Neal Stephenson’s book Diamond Age. Maybe, but soon the Defense Distributed website will offer the handgun design. Once the first design comes out, designs for more products will follow.  Household custom manufacturing is science fiction no longer, and that is…

What will manufacturing in the future look like? Photo credit www.colourbox.com

What will manufacturing in the future look like? Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

… scary, especially for manufacturers.  The University of Texas law student behind the handgun design describes himself as a “free-market anarchist,” and 3D Printing is a “free-market anarchist’s” dream. The entire manufacturing dynamic is changing. Consumers no longer rely on manufacturers, they have their own manufacturing control. Which means manufacturers need to offer more than a product, but also a service or a value-add to convince consumers to purchase, and I don’t think manufacturing is ready to make that transition.  It’s a radical change, and change can be…

… exciting, because for a long time, our industry (manufacturing) has been reluctant to embrace change.  Other industries have adjusted to the modern market.  Newspapers and magazines have moved to meet the consumer online and in social media.  Restaurants are providing an “experience,” and grocery stores are utilizing technology to connect to shoppers.  But manufacturers are reluctant to tackle custom orders, still embrace paper-bound build books, and rely on outdated Legacy systems.  We might know how to improve efficiency, but fear and risk hold us back. Change is coming, and that’s…

… scary, because for many in our industry, there seems to be little plan to adjust to a world where the consumer has access to a relatively inexpensive  manufacturing technology.  What will 3D printing mean for you?  What will desktop manufacturing mean to your shop floor?  Can we embrace the changes other industries have made; this includes a focus on customer service? Can we continue to ignore the need for change?

Take action now that will pay dividends in the future! Photo credit www.colourbox.com

Take action now that will pay dividends in the future! Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

This article on an idealistic law student brings up a number of questions.  There will be questions about gun control, regulation, empowering criminals versus free market enterprise, but we also need to think about what 3D printing and open information mean for manufacturing.  Sure, 3D printing can be an exceptional new tool for manufacturing, but we need to step back and look at how else it will affect the industry. Other changes are coming- including cloud computing, mobile manufacturing, paperless manufacturing, robotics, MES, agile processes, and more. Change is already here, and more is coming.

I’m not arguing that 3D printing is going to completely replace manufacturing.  The technology isn’t there yet.  It’s slow.  Products made with 3D printing aren’t high quality and are prone to defects, and 3D printers aren’t capable of discrete manufacturing, but it’s only a matter of time.  We continually refine and perfect technology.  At one time, televisions were large and heavy, with only black and white pictures.  Now, we can wear a television like a watch- so imagine what 3D printing will be like in 20 years. Or 10 years. Or even next year.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your business from the 3D printing revolution?  What manufacturing solutions are available? How can you increase quality, increase production, and offer customers a better manufacturing experience? How agile is your operation? Now is the time to take action. When change comes for your business, make sure it’s exciting, not scary.

What Can Beer Teach Us About Manufacturing?

Beer can teach us about the shop floor in ways you might not realize, and gives us a peek at what the future holds for our industry. 

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

CIMx is located in Cincinnati. Before Prohibition, Cincinnati was a center of the American brewing industry, and in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine district, 30,000-40,000 people lived and were employed by breweries or other beer-related industries.

By the 1890’s, breweries in the city were producing more than a million barrels a year. Much of that beer never left the area. Cincinnatians drank 2 ½ times the national average. In fact, it is estimated Cincinnatians drank as much as 40 gallons a year for every person in the city, and were healthier for it! Incidences of water-borne diseases such as cholera and botulism were low in the city, and as result, people lived longer.

Beer matters in Cincinnati.

You can learn a lot about manufacturing by studying the history of brewing.

Cincinnati brewers dug catacombs under the city to make their business more profitable and Lean. Photo reprinted with permission of David Oeters.

Cincinnati brewers dug catacombs under the city to make their business more profitable and Lean. Photo reprinted with permission of David Oeters.

For example, in the intense competition between breweries, innovation was the key to success. Cincinnati is built on hills, making it easy to build deep basements with cool temperatures to aid in the lagering of the beer. Some breweries didn’t stop digging once they had space for the beer. Successful brewers built tunnels under the busy streets to the bottle makers, bottlers, and shipping, cutting down the time it took to transport beer. This led to a virtual underground city in Cincinnati, and was an early version of Lean Manufacturing.

Here’s another example – prohibition bankrupted many local breweries and they closed. When prohibition was over, the remaining breweries consolidated and created the American beer barons. These large companies brewed uniform beer – paler in color, less complex taste and lower in alcohol content. Since then, beer lovers turned to homebrewing for more complex and satisfying brews. Brewpubs started to pop up – the first in 1982 in Yakima, Washington.  Last year, there were more than 2,000 American craft breweries, microbreweries and brew pubs.  Even smaller nanobreweries are appearing.

Manufacturing has a similar history.  As the American economy transformed itself from agriculture to industry and production increased, scalability meant volume, and consolidation swept-up many of the smaller manufacturers.  By the 80’s, mergers and acquisitions was a big business for many companies.

As software became a viable solution for many challenges in manufacturing, some software and ERP vendors advertised they could do anything, which led to solutions that took years to implement, couldn’t be upgraded, and weren’t optimized for the shop floor. Internal technology teams didn’t want to pay these costs, so they built their own system, leading to custom solutions that work when finished, but slowly degrade to obsolescence over time.

Think of custom legacy software as the tasty, but non-viable, local breweries before Prohibition.

So what lessons can we learn from the history of breweries? Innovation is the key to success is a lesson not only for a brewmaster in Cincinnati, but also today’s discrete manufacturer.

Many manufacturers are realizing their home-grown software systems aren’t supportable, much like hometown breweries before Prohibition. The systems are specifically built to their needs, but now they need something for the future, something to scale for the demands of today’s fluctuating manufacturing environments. When change, like Prohibition or a new technology, happens, the companies unable to adapt won’t survive.

Take a lesson from Master Beer brewers and find solutions that will last you far into the future. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Take a lesson from Master Beer brewers and find solutions that will last you far into the future. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Looking ahead, the future isn’t with pale, less flavorful software built by massive business-eating conglomerates. The days of long, expensive implementations are over. Today, do your homework and look at smaller companies (think microbreweries) with an innovative software offering giving you the optimization of a custom system without trapping you into custom software obsolescence. Look at Paperless Manufacturing for an integrated shop floor solution with a quicker ROI. How is mobile and collaborative manufacturing handled in each system?

Need more proof? Anheuser Busch is owned by Belgian-Brazilian InBev and is reducing the number of big beer brands they distribute in favor of their craft lines – Stella, Beck’s, Bass. People want flexibility, optimization, and microbrewery-like service!

There are more lessons to be learned from Cincinnati’s rich brewing history, especially as we look more closely at how we can find success in the future. After all, beer production has returned to Cincinnati with breweries that have found a way to not just survive in the modern market, but thrive.  We’ll take a closer look at how you can capitalize like brewers today in a future blog. Keep an eye here for more!

6 Hidden (or not-so hidden) Benefits of Paperless Manufacturing

Many Manufacturers turn to paperless manufacturing to solve a specific shop floor challenge, only to be surprised by a host of other production benefits.

The other day I visited my grandma. We decided to order pizza for dinner. “Go find the number in the phone book,” she told me.  You remember phone books – massive bound documents with thin yellow paper and ink that left fingers black with every touch. She couldn’t remember the number and insisted I use the phone book. I spent 15 minutes searching for the number she wanted before finding it under Restaurant – Italian.  The number wasn’t even in service. I was so frustrated, I ended up driving out to get the pizza just to get away.

How many of us have a shop floor document management system similar to a phone book? How many of us search a document for a piece of data, only to find it’s out of date? Ever think about the amount of data lost or misreported in paper-based systems? Do you dread audits? How long does it take to get accurate information from the shop floor?

Learn more about Paperless Manufacturing and what it can do for your shop floor.

Learn more about Paperless Manufacturing and what it can do for your shop floor. Photo: www.colourbox.com.

Yeah, life on a paper-based shop floor reminds me of life with phone books. Finding a phone number online is much easier than searching through a phone book. Verifying a phone number takes seconds, and I’m much more confident in the data I find. The amount of data that can be stored and found online is simply astounding compared to the tiny text you comb through in a phone book.

So, if we can make phone books paperless, why are we insisting on a paper-based shop floor?  The good news is there are more benefits to going paperless than just taking piles and piles of paper off the shop floor, including:

Revision control helps ensure the shop floor is using only the latest, most accurate plans. With the right system, the shop floor has access to only the correct plans.

Accurate records are easy to keep. The system will automatically update the records as needed. Workflow events can be created to collect data in real time. It’s a seamless part of the work procedure.

Simplified audits are the norm when you have accurate record keeping  You can be confident in the results before you go into an audit, and have easy access to necessary information.  Would a two hour audit with full compliance save you time and money?  Think of the waste you accumulate with audits that take weeks to complete.

Shop floor visibility means you have real time access to data, and aren’t forced to make business or production decisions based on outdated information.

Faster change management gives you assurance that when change happens, it reaches the right people at the right time.  Engineering changes that are available to all who need to know 5 minutes after approval saves rework and scrap.

Document control easily manages the documents needed in production. An effective paperless manufacturing system automatically collects data and archives it, making it easier to find in the future.

Companies usually seek a solution to a single problem, but the best solutions will not only solve that problem, but offer other benefits.  Solving shop floor document management (getting rid of those giant, phonebook-like production plans) offers additional benefits because it is a symptom of a larger problem – information mismanagement. Paperless manufacturing moves from document management to information management and control, delivering additional benefits such as increased efficiency and profitability.

As for the phone book, you still see them around, and we all feel better having one on hand in case we need it.  But, like shops that are still clinging to paper, we can’t help but wonder why those people flipping pages in a phone book are still clinging to relics of the past.

5 Ways to Take the Scary Out Of Continuous Process Improvement

5 Ways to Take the Scary Out Of Continuous Process Improvement

With Halloween here, we thought we’d take a look at something which inspires fear and dread in many manufacturing employees… the Continuous Improvement Committee.

In theory, “Continuous Process Improvement” offers a near Utopian vision of how business should work.  Rather than management dictating how business will improve, continuous process improvement utilizes the expertise, interest and strengths of employees to think about improvement, and then empowers the employees to make the improvements a reality.

The suggestion box has become the “go-to” tool for Continuous Improvement Committees.

But, all too often, reality is nowhere near the vision.  “Continuous Improvement Committees” may occasionally meet for lunch.  There might be a suggestion box in the lunchroom, and campaigns may lead to a lot of work and temporary improvements before, inevitably, slipping back to the status quo.  And, it has been shown “continuous improvement” may stifle innovation or worse.

Rather than give up and scrap all hope of “continuous improvement,” simply evaluating the process and making a few small changes could lead to the positive results many companies expect from the committees.  Here are a few common sense ideas for taking the pain out of continuous improvement so you can focus on the improvement:

1)      Create a steering committee that includes all branches of the company, including an advocate in management or the executive team.  You’ll need a voice with management to coordinate your improvement activities.

2)      Determine the ROI as you are planning improvements.  It’s not enough to ask people to “improve” for the sake of improvement.  There should be a clear benefit. Identifying the ROI will also help as you evaluate results and provide measurable benchmarks in the process.

3)      Structure the plan around phases.  Many times, continuous improvement projects fall victim to lofty goals that introduce more change and complexity than necessary.  Making small improvements in controlled phases with a measured result and ROI will build support for future improvements.  Historical evidence has shown smaller phases allow the opportunity to make adjustments, leading to greater project success.

4)      Keep in mind the idea of “controlled” phases as you plan.  Look at the project and identify who or what is driving the changes.  Maintaining control during each phase helps ensure the ROI continues to be the focus of the project.

5)      As you plan improvements, think about sustainability.  Implementing an improvement is only half the project.  The other half is ensuring the improvement is one that will last after the campaign is over.  Many times it is necessary to implement “process enforcement” to ensure sustainability.

Take the fear out of continuous improvement and make a positive change today.

Honestly, the suggestions here aren’t groundbreaking, but they’re not meant to be. Our goal is to take the fear out of continuous improvement. These concepts can be applied to any improvement project, including the move to paperless manufacturing on the shop floor.  We designed our paperless manufacturing around simple, controlled phases that ensure an ROI for each phase and gives control of the project to our customers.  Our software has been designed to minimize training and ensure sustainable process improvements for manufacturing.  It’s how we can promise paper off the shop floor in less than 30 days.

So what success (or failure) have you had with Continuous Process Improvement?  How can you ensure improvements are sustainable?  The truth is, continuous improvement isn’t scary, but not doing anything to improve your business might be.  Send us a message if you’d like to learn more.  We’d love to hear from you!

Next week, we’re going to take a look at that moment when you realize something isn’t working and it’s time for change.  See you then!

Mobile Technology for Manufacturing – Anytime, Anywhere, Any-maybe…

With proper planning, mobile manufacturing will increase efficiency.

Mobile manufacturing has the ability to revolutionize manufacturing, when it’s implemented well.

Many have predicted mobile technology will revolutionize the shop floor, and the technology does hold promise.  In fact, IDC Manufacturing Insights reports that 75% of all manufacturers currently use or plan to implement mobile technology in their business, and market research has noted MES providers are working to provide mobility.  But, is there a point when a tool for operational efficiency becomes a doorway to information overload?  This is especially dangerous for a generation constantly plugged-in to a steady diet of Twitter feeds and Facebook updates.  In fact, plugging an “information-hungry” generation in may have an adverse effect on productivity.

One foundation of operational excellence is getting critical information to the right person at the right time.  With the advent of Wi-Fi, tablets, smart phones, mobile apps, and secure connected technology; mobile technology has made this an attainable goal.    Imagine, a shop floor worker receiving notification of a change order on a tablet, and then taking the tablet with the revised and approved plans directly to the workstation.  The manager and engineer receive notification of the change order receipt, and the as-built data is instantly updated.  The entire process is the model of efficiency.

The strength of mobile devices is their ability to quickly and easily send and receive data.  Information overload happens when the information delivered doesn’t add value to the production process.  As others have noted, the mobile technology system needs to sensibly deliver right information.  There’s no need to plug a shop worker into an ERP or have them simply log into the company intranet.  That’s not the information they need, and it won’t increase process efficiency.  For this reason, the end users and shop managers need to have input on how a mobile system is implemented.

Have you looked at optimizing your shop floor for mobility?

Right now, mobile technology is still growing, defined more by product diversity than as a commodity.  Any system implemented to utilize mobile technology needs to be agile and have the capability to adapt to meet future business needs.  If not, the system you implement risks early obsolescence when the newest phone, tablet or OS hits the market.  Mobile technology has tremendous promise for manufacturing.  It is changing the way we do business, but it needs to be implemented with forethought and care.  Plugging an app into your work process or opening a shop floor tablet into an ERP may not be the solution you want.

What experience have you had with mobile technology on the shop floor?    How are you approaching the issue?  We’d love to hear from you.

Join us next time as we look at calculating ROI for your MES system.

4 Reasons Why Manufacturing Excellence Is Within Reach…

4 Reasons Why Manufacturing Excellence Is Within Reach…

Finding opportunities for improvement is easy, but taking the steps necessary to improve is much more challenging.  The unfortunate mess in my basement is proof of that.  I wrote a list of “basement improvements,” but boxes sit against the wall and shelves still aren’t hung.

Too often, process improvement faces a similar challenge in manufacturing.  We recognize steps for improvement, but taking them is more difficult.  But I believe now, more than ever, manufacturing excellence is within reach.  Here are a few simple reasons why:

Moving toward Operational Excellence.

  1. Seamless, integrated communication is possible (and affordable).  To manage change and ensure quality, shop floor workers need access to up-to-the-minute information and the latest plans.  Managers need access to quality control and other data instantly so they can rapidly respond and make informed decisions.  With improvements to data collection, integrated MES software systems, wireless networks, and secure mobile technology, seamless communication is not only feasible, but easy to implement using the right tools.
  2. Lean and Six Sigma processes are sustainable.  There is no doubt Lean and Six Sigma processes improve efficiency, work flow, and inventory control, leading to improved shop floor processes and company profit.  According to the Manufacturing Advisory Service in the UK, implementing Lean manufacturing principles will, on average, improve productivity 25%, reduce scrap levels 26%, and improve delivery performance by 26%.  The challenge has been sustaining improvements.  MES systems implement and maintain a production system that takes advantage of improvements through procedural enforcement and controlled processes.
  3. Shop floor workers are becoming more proficient with technology.  Mobile technology is revolutionizing manufacturing, and is now as commonplace as the smart phone. In fact, according to AdAge, 4.8 billion (out of 6 billion) people on the planet have a mobile phone (and only 4.2 billion own a toothbrush)! In an age where everyone has multiple home computers and many of us spend more time browsing the web than watching TV, we all find it much easier to accept new technology, even on the shop floor.
  4. Quick implementation of new technology is possible.  Implementing an MES project doesn’t necessarily mean taking production offline for an extended period of time.  There are currently OOTB (Out Of The Box) projects that deliver the functionality manufacturers need, and can be implemented and go live in production in 90 days or less (sometimes, much less).  Creating an implementation plan with short, focused phases can show an almost immediate ROI.

The truth is, production shops are dynamic environments where change, both planned and unplanned, is the norm.  Technology has improved and processes developed to give us the capability to manage change and risk, and deliver quality results in less time and money.

The goal of this blog, Paperless Manufacturing, is to focus on manufacturing excellence and what steps we can take to get there.  Manufacturing excellence is a lofty goal, but it’s not one we can ignore.  According to the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. manufacturing produces $1.7 trillion dollars of value each year.  For every $1 spent in manufacturing, $1.35 is added to the economy.  We have too much riding on manufacturing not to strive for excellence.

Delivering manufacturing excellence.

If you have an idea for a blog topic, a question you want to ask, or an issue you want to discuss, let us know.  If you have something you want to add to the conversation (and who doesn’t want to be heard), leave a comment.  We’re listening.  You can email us here.  Improvement should be the goal for all of us.  Next week we’ll talk about mobile technology, manufacturing, and what you should look for as you plan for the future.

Facing Your Fears

Facing Your FearsWhat do manufacturers both embrace and avoid? CHANGE. Change is a double-edged sword. It’s both welcomed and feared, accepted and resisted yet necessary for growth and sustainability.

In the past ten years we have seen technology change at an astonishing rate. We have seen the birth of social networks, cloud computing, Wi-Fi, tablet computers and smart phones. Changes in technology have pushed global competition to an all time high. So, what are manufacturers doing to evolve to this new environment?

Sustainable Software

According to the USMTC (United States Manufacturing Technology Consumption) report released in June 2011, the change in orders for technology supporting plant production is up over 100% from last year.  Furthermore, twice as many firms are adding software systems that focus on efficiency and productivity.  This includes shop floor production technology from execution systems to robotics to automated systems. Manufacturers are driven to evaluate their shop floor and determine the path to optimal efficiency, productivity and profits.

The Value

It’s not feasible for manufacturers to replace existing systems every time technology changes. The manufacturing technology that has the best value evolves with your company as the manufacturing environment changes. It is easily upgradeable so that new features and functionality can be added as soon as they become available.

New software architectures and tools provide a greater level of adaptability to help the software integrate with future technologies and extend the life of current manufacturing systems.

Fear of Change

What is holding some manufacturers back? Although there has been a dramatic increase in the purchase of manufacturing technology, many companies are still hesitant to take the leap. They remember past experiences, slow implementations, disruptions in their manufacturing plant and delayed customer shipments. Although this once might have been the case, the transformation of manufacturing technology and new software architectures have greatly reduced these risks. Now, there’s only one thing standing between manufacturers and the path to optimal efficiency, productivity and profits. Once companies decide to take the leap and move to these new technologies,  the benefits that are realized can truly be a game changer.

What’s holding you back?