Tag Archives: cimx

Are Your Paper-based Travelers Holding Back Your Shop Floor?

Inefficient, annoying, error-prone and wasteful, many times paper-based work travelers are the source of countless shop floor problems and might be holding production back.

 By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Many times, discussions about paperless manufacturing and MES focus on hard data (35% increase in production and a 45% decrease in quality defects – hurray!), the ROI or the global enterprise (real-time shop floor visibility and control, and sustainable process improvement and enforcement – alright!).  We forget to notice the little improvements that have the greatest impact on the shop floor – the things that make everyone’s life easier.  They bring joy, increased job satisfaction and improve the shop floor quality-of-life.  It may not directly impact the ROI, but it sure makes everyone happy.

Exhibit A: The Paperless Shop Traveler
What steps can you take to improve performance (and happiness) on your shop floor?  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What steps can you take to improve performance (and happiness) on your shop floor? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Face it, shop travelers that are a huge bundle of paper, checklists, drawings and data collections can be a major pain.  Those annoying bundles of work instructions and shop floor records that are painstakingly printed every morning, then laboriously assembled and bundled into plastic sleeves, bags, or bound together by pins, clips or whatever is on hand.  It makes its journey across the shop, carried by hand or thrown on a cart.  As changes happen, notes are added, papers removed and measurements made.  It’s dropped, spilled on, and crammed into corners.  Pieces are lost and critical information gets shuffled back and forth with everyone hoping nothing gets missed.  Let’s be honest, all that paper isn’t necessary!

When it’s all done, the records are stored away – those piles and piles (and piles) of records.  Maybe someone has to collect the data scrawled on the traveler, then (re)input the information.  Finally, it’s all shoved into a box and carted away to storage.  If you’re lucky, maybe you have a process that converts it to a pdf.  Maybe.

That’s what happens all too often.  Like I said… it’s annoying, inefficient and error prone.  The paper-based traveler is the source of headaches and frustration for many shop floors.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  An integral feature of paperless manufacturing is removing the unnecessary paper from the work traveler and leaving you with a format that makes sense for your shop process.

With Quantum or Interax and CIMx Software, each work order created is a separate file in the system.  Important details are part of the file, and easily accessible.  Work and set-up instructions, safety material, important training information and more are all attached to each work order, and can be accessed when and wherever necessary.  Most importantly, only the latest approved information can be accessed, and when needed change orders can be signaled through the system and made in just a few moments.  After all, there’s proof visual work instructions are far superior to paper-based ones.

From the shop floor, quality checks can be made and added directly to the work order, where it can be securely stored.  If there is a file or digital photo the shop floor wants to add to the file, it can be added with a press of a button.

From anywhere you have access to your network; you can track the progress of the paperless traveler with real-time information.  No more running to the shop floor asking questions, or flipping through pages to swap out flawed work instructions, or retroactive quality checks.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?

When the work order is complete, it is securely stored in a digital archive.  You can access the file at any time, and a complete as-built record is a single button press away.  Forget the stress of audits, everything that needs to be done is done automatically.  Want to run reports on the data to help optimize production?  No problem.

Eliminating unnecessary paper from your work travelers may not be your primary reason for implementing a paperless manufacturing system, but it may be what your shop floor is most thankful for when the project is complete.  Shop floors are quickly moving paperless, so now is the time to get a head start on the process and a leg up on the competition.

A Look Back at Paperless Manufacturing in 2013

At the beginning of 2013, we made a few predictions.  Looking back, the results were surprising, and enlightening.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Each year there is an inevitable flurry of predictions and lists – speculation on the New Year and analysis of the old.  I’ll admit, it’s fun – the predictions and lists have become an annual tradition much like holiday cards and champagne toasts.

But this year, we decided to break the tradition, step back and take a look at our predictions for the previous year before offering our predictions for 2014.

What can you learn about the future of paperless manufacturing by looking at the past year?  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What can you learn about the future of paperless manufacturing by looking at the past year? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Manufacturing Growth and Capital Expenditures?

We predicted moderate growth in 2013, and we’re seeing proof of that growth even now.  In August, the manufacturing sector grew at its fastest pace in more than two years, with continued growth throughout Q4.

Capital expenditures are always a little trickier to predict and track.  But, a number of businesses are already predicting increased capital expenditures for 2014 – including Apple, who increased their spending from $7 billion to $11 billion.

Overall, the global economy benefitted from increased corporate spending and manufacturing growth in 2013.

American Manufacturing in Transition?

In 2012, we predicted a number of factors would pressure American Manufacturing, and we certainly saw that.  We mentioned the need for a skilled labor force, increased productivity and improved quality – but other factors added to the pressure in surprising ways, such as a surge in shale gas drilling that is helping fuel a resurgence in American industry, and an increase in automation driving the need for a skilled labor force.

We also saw a trend in “reshoring” (or bringing their manufacturing to America) from companies such as Ford Motor, GE and NCR.  In a recent survey of manufacturers, 54% said they were planning to or considering a move to reshore, up nearly 20% from a survey earlier in 2013.  American manufacturing is certainly still in a transition, but the future is looking much brighter.

Quality Growing in Importance?

We saw the growing importance of quality as a trend for paperless manufacturing in 2013.  In fact, quality is a driving reason companies are turning back to America for manufacturing.  Companies such as Procter & Gamble use innovations in the manufacturing process to not only improve quality, but drive business growth.

This year, CIMx saw a number of companies turn to MES and paperless manufacturing to not only improve production, but improve quality.  Companies have seen that process improvement programs such as Lean and Six Sigma are not enough.  Sustainable improvement can only be achieved with the real-time data collection and process control made possible with paperless manufacturing.

What will 2014 hold for your business? Photo credit www.colourbox.com

What will 2014 hold for your business? Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

Is Manufacturing Going Mobile?

We predicted increased interest in mobile manufacturing in 2013.  This year, a number of companies began marketing mobile “apps” for manufacturing.  Manufacturers have a wealth of mobile manufacturing apps options, including role-based apps shown to improve production by 5% to 10% and process improvement apps on the Google Play store.

Manufacturers are still tentatively approaching mobile applications on the shop floor.  More and more, the benefits of mobile manufacturing are making an impact on the manufacturing community, but companies recognize it’s not enough to give a worker a tablet and expect production to improve.  Detailed production plans won’t fit on a smart phone screen, no matter how good the app is.  Companies are discovering the key to benefitting from mobile manufacturing is finding the right app, the right tool, and rolling it out to the shop floor appropriately.

Are there New Solutions?

We also made a (very) safe prediction that new solutions and new options would roll out the industry in 2013, and even we were surprised in how this prediction played out.

Who would have thought GE would turn to 3D Printers for jet engines?  Or that NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne would successfully test fire a rocket engine partially built from 3D Printer technology?  Or that we are no longer looking at robots to replace humans on the shop floor, but to enhance them.

In paperless manufacturing, more and more companies are rejecting the old way of implementing a system (long development, expensive service costs and disruptive implementation) for new, lower-cost solution focused methods such as phased implementation and off-the-shelf Web 2.0 solutions.  The industry and technology is evolving too quickly to expect a 2-3 year development project to deliver an acceptable ROI.  Solutions should begin delivering an ROI a few months after implementation.

This time of year, prognosticators are common, but I would guess most are looking ahead, not behind.  Once you’ve put away the bottle of champagne and the New Year’s parties are over, take a moment to reflect on where you’ve been and where you and your manufacturing business are going.  Many times, you’ll be surprised at what you discover.  Our predictions in 2013 weren’t meant to shock the industry, but it’s interesting and enlightening to see how they played out during the year.

Next week, we’ll look ahead to 2014 and offer our predictions for the New Year.  And, as always, if you have a question let us know… we’re always happy to help.

How We Can Make the Internet of Things Work for Manufacturing

The future is coming and carrying a wealth of production data, are you ready to capitalize on it?  Is your competition?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I don’t know where I first heard the term, Internet of Things (or, if I was a Cisco Champion, The Internet of Everything), but I quickly filed the term away for future consideration.  Yet, we are quickly coming to the point where we may soon be a cog in the grand Internet of Things machine whether we want to or not, and it’s going to have a tremendous impact on manufacturing.

Our world is rapidly becoming an Internet of Things, and it will have a profound impact on manufacturing. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Our world is rapidly becoming an Internet of Things, and it will have a profound impact on manufacturing. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

The Internet of Things is a conceptual world in which every object (a Thing) is given a Unique Identifier (UID) and the ability to automatically collect data and transfer it over a network without human or computer interface.  Currently, a Thing can be anything, from a sensor on your cell phone, to an RFID chip in a package, to a health monitor (such as the FitBit Flex) worn to track footsteps and your health.  In this way, everything operates in a giant system, continually collecting data to give a real-time assessment of a moment.  Still confused?  Consider it the first step toward living in the Matrix, or the tool the NSA is using to keep tabs on us.

According to Techtarget.com and modern computer theory, the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming a reality due to the, “… convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) and the Internet.”  With the recent increase in length of IP addresses from 32 bits to 128 bits with Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6), we have a system in place to create the IoT.  According to Steve Leibson and TechTarget, with IPv6 “we could ‘assign an IPV6 address to every atom on the surface of the earth, and still have enough addresses left to do another 100+ earths.’” This means, we’ve built a system that can assign a UID to everything on our planet.  It’s not a question of can we build the IoT, but when – if we’re not already living there.

The result of the Internet of Things is more data, and more accurate data.  Previously, nearly all data was captured by humans punching buttons, typing or measuring – which lead to gaps in data, or data that was just plain wrong.  But, in the future, more (vastly more) accurate data will be collected with minimal effort – and it is up to us to make the most of it.

What will you do with accurate, complete, real-time shop floor data?  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What will you do with accurate, complete, real-time shop floor data? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Do you think your business will dodge this incoming deluge of actionable data?  Don’t bet on it.  Manufacturing is at the forefront of the IoT.  According to McKinsey & Co, “… 40% of the connected devices will be related to real time analytics of supply chains and equipment,” such as those used in manufacturing.

When I saw that statistic, and began considering what the Internet of Things will mean for the shop floor, I’ll admit – I was intimidated at first.  Many of us have enough trouble getting product out the door, let alone pouring over data gathered by the boxes in shipping, metal press machines, and the assembly line.  But that’s not thinking ahead, and it’s letting a potential advantage slip through our fingers. 

Now, more than ever, manufacturing needs to start looking at process control.  It’s time to see the shop floor not as a tool of the ERP or CRM (you know… a machine you crank-up so you can fill orders) but an integrated piece of a cohesive enterprise.

Choices and options.

The shop floor control provided by paperless manufacturing will ensure you capitalize on the data provided by the Internet of Things. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com.

Ask yourself, do you have process visibility and control?  Do you know where an order is before the RFID on your packaging does?  Do you have true shop floor control?  If the Internet of Things reveals a potential problem, are you confident in your ability to fix it before your business starts losing money?  How are you going to capitalize on real-time, actionable data your IoT-enabled enterprise will begin delivering?  Once your customers are plugged into the data the system is generating, are they going to like what they see?

Face it, the future is coming and paper-based work instructions won’t give you the control and visibility you need, so what are you going to do about it?  Give CIMx a call and let us show you how process control, visibility, and the Internet of Things can work for your business.

How You Can Make Manufacturing Collaboration Work for your Shop Floor

Knowledge-driven enterprises are using collaboration to successfully solve problems, but manufacturing struggles to use collaboration in the modern production environment.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Sometimes, you come across articles on the Internet you just have to investigate.

Here’s one.  It involves robots, stolen gold, missing treasure, NASA engineers, world-renowned oceanographers, and manufacturing.  A man named David Lang wanted to investigate the legend of missing gold deep underwater at the bottom of a well.  He recruited Eric Stackpole, a NASA Engineer, to create a sea exploration robot, known as OpenROV, to search for the treasure.  They offered free step-by-step instructions on building the robot on their website, and used crowdsourced modifications to improve the robot.

Don't waste your most valuable resource - your employees.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Don’t waste your most valuable resource – your employees. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Crowdsourcing and manufacturing collaboration have vastly improved the original robot, and lowered the cost.  “That’s what actually makes the project so successful: rapid iteration,” one of the inventors said. “We can build one for the same price as a 1,000 (robots) and change on a dime.”

Think about that… two treasure-hunters have tapped into a problem-solving resource and found benefits that would be the envy of discrete manufacturing shop floors across the world.  Customer modifications and change orders are simplified without raising costs.  Quality and production improves.  Best practices are collected, and overall cost drops.

Yet, manufacturers struggle to create a collaborative work environment.  In fact, according to the latest estimates, manufacturing is growing less collaborative, as knowledge silos build and employees and their best practices retire and are lost.  Customers are demanding custom orders that manufacturers can’t meet.  Rapid iteration is difficult, if not impossible.  How can a shop floor work collaboratively when they can’t even be sure if the paper-based work instructions are correct?

I read the story of Lang, Stackpole and their hunt for missing gold and recognized a few lessons manufacturing should consider in the future:

  • Shop floor and process visibility is critical.  The free (and very visible) step-by-step instructions offered by Lang and Stackpole inspired crowdsourcing.  Real-time data collection and visibility, and integrated computer systems and shop floor assets, should be your goal.
  • Data collection is the key.  Process improvement and increased quality are important benefits of crowdsourcing and collaboration, and you can’t measure or compare improvements without rigorous data collection.
  • Shop floor process control ensures sustainable collaboration.  Paper-based work instructions are too rigid to be sustainable.  Look at paperless manufacturing to improve collaboration.
  • Improved communication builds collaboration.  The OpenROV website and forum allows users to easily share ideas.  Real-time data collection and visual work instructions is a good beginning to improving collaboration.
  • A complete communication network using flexible computing platforms builds collaboration and eliminates knowledge silos.  Custom-built programs and legacy systems are the foundation for tribal knowledge in many companies.
The key to successful manufacturing collaboration if putting the right pieces in place.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

The key to successful manufacturing collaboration if putting the right pieces in place. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

So, if two guys looking for gold at the bottom of the well can do it – improve production through collaboration – why do we manufacturers with all our innovation, resources and know-how struggle to make it work?

Admittedly, Lang and Stackpole don’t have much regulation to worry about and amazingly low overhead, but there is a benefit to collaboration the industry is recognizing.  The ideas presented here shouldn’t be seen as a checklist for collaborative success, but goals that will help foster a more collaborative manufacturing enterprise.

Have you considered collaborative manufacturing before?  If so, what steps have you taken to create a shop floor that works collaboratively or uses crowdsourcing?  Let us know!

Simple Tips for Adding Shop Floor Visual Work Instruction

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Many times, a solution is much closer than you might think.

Are you stuck wondering what next step to take in implementing visual work instructions? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Are you stuck wondering what next step to take in implementing visual work instructions? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Face it, in an era when shop floors and manufacturers struggle to break information silos, ensure new employees are poised to find success and processes aren’t employee-dependent, and break down the information gap between engineering and operations – visual work instruction is an important piece of the solution.  For many, the thought of creating videos and pictures for the shop floor seems daunting.  I’ve listened to engineers complain about the cost of hiring a production company for machine set-up instructions.  They aren’t sure where to begin, so they don’t do anything.  They wait to implement the visual work instructions, and their shop floor problems grow.  But, the truth is, the solution is much closer than they think.  Here’s how:

Take a look at Paperless Manufacturing.  Did you know you can implement a simple, out-of-the-box paperless manufacturing solution for 1/10th of the cost of past manufacturing solutions?  License cost is often less than $1 a day per user.  With paperless manufacturing, you’ll be able to not only easily add visual work instructions, shop floor visibility and process control, but collect shop floor data and create as-built reports as well.

Use Readily Available Video Tools. Are you wondering how to make videos?  You don’t need a camera and Hollywood film crew, a smart phone is all you need.  Most phones can take videos with enough quality to teach a shop floor task.  A short 2 minute video in an easily shared format is all you need to accurately show someone how to do something they may not easily understand from word instructions.  Pull out your phone, take a video and attach it to the work instructions.

Recruit In-House Experts.  Many manufacturers struggle to pass along information and best practices from an older generation to new workers.  Why not recruit the older generation and in-house experts to star in the videos?  Have them work through an operation while someone films them.  10 minutes of filming is all you need to do to tear down an information silo and ensure best practices won’t be lost.  The small time away from the workbench will pay for itself many times over.

Position Visual Work Instruction as an Achievement.  You have options as you roll out visual work instructions.  Rather than simply filming and adding them to existing instructions, why not hold a contest with shop floor workers to select who films the work instruction.  The task becomes an achievement, and your team begins searching for new best practices.  Select top workers to direct and star in the video.  Give them recognition for their achievements and they’ll be more excited to help, and everyone will be more likely to use the videos (and learn from them).

Build a Library of Best Practices.  Don’t see the process of creating visual work instructions as a campaign, but a process.  Slowly build the library of best practices videos as the need and opportunity arises.  This will take the pressure off your team, and sooner than you realize, you’ll have a complete library of videos to choose from when you need it.  What’s it worth to have a visual library of best practices on-line and available to all your shop floor people whenever they need them?

Visual work instructions will improve shop floor productivity and benefit your entire team, not just the shop floor.  Manufacturing is the center of your business, and manufacturing depends on work instructions and processes that are easily lost in information silos.  Too often, those silos hinder productivity and drain creativity.  Take a simple step to ensure you have the best possible work instructions, and your shop floor best practices aren’t lost, by implementing with visual work instructions.

Is Your Shop Floor Hammering to Make It Fit?

Most manufacturers know quality and efficiency would suffer if they asked their shop floor to use the wrong tool, but all too often that’s what happens when a shop floor uses an ERP to do the work of an MES.

By Kristin McLane

Do you hammer to fit your shop floor operations? Clip art by Microsoft.

Do you hammer to fit your shop floor operations? Clip art by Microsoft.

Hammer to fit.  It’s a term we use at CIMx to talk about the inevitable moment in manufacturing when you realize your sub-assemblies don’t fit properly, or a part is a little bit off.  Many times, the solution is to tap, bang, press, cajole or weasel the part back into place.  It’s not a best practice, and I’m sure no credible manufacturing expert ever proudly claimed to be the best at “hammering it in place.”  But, if you’ve ever been on a manufacturing shop floor, you know there’s not a lot of time to stand around (or at least there shouldn’t be).  Many times you do what you can to keep the process moving, but hammer to fit is NOT the optimal manufacturing process.

Here’s the point… in the low tolerance, highly-engineered world of discrete manufacturing… or, to be honest, all manufacturing today, I don’t think anyone ever wrote “hammer to fit” in the work instructions.  There is always a solution for making the parts fit and the customer wouldn’t accept something that was done any other way.

In fact, many times there isn’t even a hammer available on the shop floor.  A hammer is the least seen tool in the tool crib.  I’ve seen drills, saws, all kinds of tools that attach or separate objects, but rarely have I ever seen a hammer.  So if we don’t really hammer parts to fit them together (really – most times we take it apart and make it right), then why do many of us try to make our supporting tools – such as software, applications and processes – do things they weren’t built for?  Using the wrong tool for shop floor control and visibility is like writing “hammer to fit” in your work instruction and expecting efficient operation and quality results.

Make sure your shop floor has the right tools for success. Illustration from www.colourbox.com

Make sure your shop floor has the right tools for success. Illustration from http://www.colourbox.com

We’ve been banging on the topic of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) versus MES (Manufacturing Execution System) for a while now.  We started a dialogue on why you need both – and you do – and what each system does.  An ERP system, naturally or through the use of add-on functions, simply cannot do what an MES does. It’s not built to deliver the process control or visibility the shop floor needs.

If you need to track, bill, order, sell or report on something, use your ERP.  But if you need to build, use an MES.  Simply put, the MES builds things while the ERP tracks.  Trying to use one system to do the work of the other is using a tool to do a job it wasn’t meant to do.  You can make it look like it fits, but the solution isn’t efficient and it won’t last, won’t perform, it’s probably costing you money, and it most certainly isn’t supporting your shop floor the way you need it to.

If you need an ERP, there are lots of vendors out there that provide the window into your data an ERP gives you.  If you need shop floor and process control and information management, then use an MES.  Talk to us, we’re happy to help.  Visit us at www.cimx.com.

What Can Visual Information Do For Your Shop Floor?

The key to increasing productivity isn’t always a new machine or process, it can be as simple as an adjustment to your work instructions.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

There are shop floors still relying on paper build books and spreadsheets of work instructions to feed information to the shop floor.  The entire manufacturing operation relies on the smooth transmission of information from engineering, to the build book, to the worker who then acts on it.  Which leads to the question… is the information getting where it needs to be?  How much of the work instruction is the shop floor actually retaining?

Adding visual information to your work instructions can improve retention of information by as much as 83% more than text only work instructions. Image by www.colourbox.com

Adding visual information to your work instructions can improve retention of information by as much as 83% more than text only work instructions. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Would you believe only about 20%?   According to psychologist Jerome Bruner of New York University, studies have shown people only remember or retain 20% of what they read.  That means, the shop floor is only working from every FIFTH word in that incredibly well-written and pointedly accurate operation.  Critical errors can happen in the missing words 1 -4.  Add in the speed of work and the confusion on the shop floor and that number goes down even further.

Written instruction in a build book is not an effective way to transmit information, leading to mistakes.  Quality is sacrificed, rework is increased, and you are left with a frustrated work force.  Productivity and efficiency goes down because you don’t have an effective way to communicate with your shop floor.

The solution is much easier than you might think.  According to a recent study by the US Department of Labor, 83% of all learning is done visually.  Another study by the Wharton School of Business compared visual and verbal presentations and found presentations with a visual element were 67% more persuasive than purely verbal ones.  According to Bruner, we retain 80% of information transmitted visually and verbally.

Visual information is the key to improving productivity and eliminating errors on the shop floor by engaging more of the brain, ensuring a higher percentage of retention, according to a study by UC Berkley.  Adding a few images and a short video to your instruction will significantly improve productivity over verbal or written communication.  The quicker your work force can pick up new information, and the more accurate the transmission of information, the more productive your shop floor will be.

Moving your work instructions from text or spreadsheet paper-based formats to a format that incorporates visual information is an easy process with an MES or paperless manufacturing system.  Simply adding photos of the steps toward the finished product to digital work instructions will significantly improve understanding and quality.  Use a smart phone to take a quick video of a machine set up with a little running dialogue, and you’ll benefit from less errors and quicker production.  Rather than simply list out the materials and tooling for a job, add a caption below a photo of each tool to ensure to improve production.

Even better, with a library of approved plans built within the MES, you can eliminate rework and focus on improvement with each operation.  Once you’ve created a visual work plan, you can reuse it again and again.

I hate to mention such an overused saying – a picture IS worth a thousand words, but it’s also worth improved quality and production on the shop floor when matched with a paperless manufacturing system.