Tag Archives: digital manufacturing

Aligning IT and Operations for Successful Smart Manufacturing

Finding success with Smart Manufacturing requires more than software. Six questions will help position your team for improved production with Smart Manufacturing.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

The key to Smart Manufacturing is “alignment” between IT and operations. In a perfect production system, IT-driven tools collect, analyze, archive and deliver critical data to operations, fueling production. Tasks are automated when appropriate and possible, letting users focus on value-added work. IT delivers the appropriate tools, collects the right data, and synchronizes with operations, while operations adapt processes and workflow to make effective use of the data and tools.

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Manufacturing is changing. Are you ready? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

The Key to Success with Smart Manufacturing

Success with Smart Manufacturing isn’t a measure of the amount of data or processing power, or the number of integrations or drop-down menus you inflict on a production line. IT-driven tools don’t necessarily mean more software, functionality and systems. Unnecessary complexity will hurt production. Alignment, and success with Smart Manufacturing, requires the right tools and right processes.

Consider the following questions as you plan your own Smart Manufacturing program:

  • Are you putting good data into your system? Many companies moving from a paper-based or legacy system will load bad or incomplete data into a new MES or paperless manufacturing system. Inefficient processes are required to cope with bad data, and continue because no one bothers to correct it. Take time to correct errors before the project begins or adopt a solution that has built in error identification and correction.
  • Are you collecting the right production data? With the IoT (Internet of Things) and modern MES, there is no limit to the data you can collect. Don’t overwhelm operations with data that adds little practical value. Consider the ROI of the data you collect, and set up appropriate data collection.
  • Do you have the shop floor control to make use of the data? You need to synchronize the effort of IT and operations. The tools implemented by IT should match production needs. Operations should adapt to optimize the benefits of the new system, and not cling to old and inefficient processes. Both teams need to communicate and work towards a common goal.
  • Can you analyze trends to track overall efficiency? Process improvement is a core benefit of an MES or paperless manufacturing system. With a software system robust enough to analyze trends, you can identify process weaknesses and help make shop floor management a science rather than guesswork. Move from reacting to problems to proactively avoiding those problems.
  • Can you avoid operator fatigue once the software is in place? Software shouldn’t require operators service the system rather than focus on production. More than overly complex interfaces, it may also lead to operators refusing to use the system or creatively finding ways to avoid it. Consider if the system is truly easy-to-use for both operations and IT.
  • Can the system manage change efficiently? Once installed, many software systems will reflect the operational needs at a certain point in time. As the system ages, those needs will change. Determine how effectively the system can accommodate change, as this will affect the long-term value and TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of the software.
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Companies that successfully use the strength of both IT and Operations resources are ready for digital manufacturing. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Optimize Production with Digital Manufacturing

Smart Manufacturing brings IT and Operations into alignment. IT-driven tools improve operations and the shop floor, increase operational efficiency, and deliver better production results. Operations need processes in place to optimize usage of these tools.

Companies that take the time to explore digital manufacturing and design a Smart Manufacturing program that meets the needs of both IT and operations find significantly more success once the system is in place.

Want to learn more, or see how an implementation program can help prepare your company for Smart Manufacturing, then contact CIMx today for a free initial shop floor evaluation with an application engineer. We’re always happy to help harmonize your people, processes and technology.

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The Critical Role of IT and Operations in Digital Manufacturing

Implementing digital manufacturing requires both IT and operations resources.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Disruptive technology is having an impact on manufacturing as companies grapple with implementing and using new tools without hurting their core business. The struggle leads many companies to wait and do nothing, while opportunities for improvement pass them by.

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New technology holds tremendous promise for the shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) promises to integrate the manufacturing value chain to eliminate errors and problems before they happen. Smart Factories and Smart MES utilize integration and connectivity to automate the transfer of information, improving processes through the use of data and business intelligence. Companies that embrace technology have a competitive advantage, and those that don’t, or delay improvement projects, will slowly lose money and market share to better prepared competition.

Digital manufacturing, the smart combination of data and technology with operation processes, is the foundation of these disruptive technologies. Data and technology sitting on the shop floor does little unless it’s integrated with workflow processes. Likewise, an operations team will struggle to optimize operations unless the right technology and data tools are in place to support improvements. Operations and IT working together is the foundation of digital manufacturing.

Without operations and IT synchronized, companies will struggle to implement the technology and processes necessar will wait on improvement projects, continuing to use error-prone paper-based processes and old technology and falling further behind their competition.

Aligning IT and Operations for Digital Manufacturing

The solution is to clearly map out the roles for IT and Operations before the project starts. The key is logically defining the roles and building collaboration focused on corporate goals, rather than individual organizations within the company.  Organizations that approach decisions seeking collaboration will find success, while those that see the process as a battle will struggle. Consider these roles:

  • Operations should be focused on the functionality of the software system. They will use the system every day, and their work will deliver the ROI. Any system that doesn’t directly benefit shop floor operations will struggle to even be adopted by users.
  • IT should focus on the technology, installation, security and management of the system. They will support the system and work with the production process and databases. More than just the day to day maintenance of the software, they ensure the solution remains relevant over time, either through standard updates, continuing to work with the vendor and collaborating with operations to adjust to changes as needed.

You may utilize a different approach, which is fine. Mapping out the roles for an improvement project will not only help build collaboration, it will eliminate the confusion that can lead a company to delay an investment in new technology. Building a joint requirement list between operations and IT is easier, and you’ll have more confidence in the final software selection.

There has never been a better time to invest in digital manufacturing and a Smart manufacturing system. Contact CIMx today to see how quickly and easily you can improve production with a software solution.

5 Steps to Assessing Your Digital Manufacturing Strategy for 2016

Experts agree a digital manufacturing strategy is a critical component to success moving forward. We offer tips on crafting a successful strategy for your shop floor in 2016.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Experts agree 2016 will be a year of change for manufacturers. The actions companies take now will have a dramatic impact on the success, or failure, of their business in the future.

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Do you have a plan for success in 2016? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Manufacturing thrives on data and information. Digital Manufacturing uses data and technology to empower and improve production outcomes through seamless communication across the organization, and workflows supported by timely and accurate digital information. IDC (International Data Corporation), an intelligence and analysis firm for the IT and consumer technology market, predicts 20% of manufacturing companies will import IT resources in 2016 for a digital manufacturing strategy. Other experts see a digital manufacturing strategy as a key to growth. According to Damian Hennessey, Commercial Director for Proto Labs, an advanced manufacturing company based in the United Kingdom, in manufacturing, “… there is a potential for a strong resurgence as it (the industry) embraces a digital revolution. New business models are being built around customer demand, production speed, and enhanced software programming.”

Creating a Digital Manufacturing Strategy

To manage change, mitigate risk and position themselves for success, companies must craft a digital manufacturing strategy for 2016. These 5 simple steps form the core of a personalized strategy for your company:

  1. Review your current environment and digital manufacturing strategy.

Before crafting a strategy for the future, you need to assess your current environment. How is work completed? How are you currently managing manufacturing operations? Are you collecting data during production? Where have you automated processes to eliminate errors and ensure employees are focused on value-added work? What KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) do you collect? Do you have access to real-time KPI’s? How much work is required to collect this data? Finally, how does critical information move through the enterprise?

Your goal in this stage should be an honest assessment of how you are currently utilizing data. Many times, the results can be shocking. Tracking data in a single area is relatively simple, but as you add pieces or areas to your analysis, the complexity increases dramatically.

  1. Identify weaknesses in your current workflows and digital manufacturing strategy.
Process Improvement graph.

The strategy you create now can bring you future success, or future failure. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Every company will operate differently, but once you understand your current environment there are questions you can ask to start the analysis – how do you get information to the shop floor? Are you still printing paper build-books and travelers? How do you collect information from operations? Are you manually updating the ERP once work is complete? Look at the process you use to collect information and transfer it to the people who need it, including your customers. What about your supply chain? How quickly and efficiently can you manage change in operations? Often times you will find gaps and inefficiencies, and the potential solutions become the core of your future digital manufacturing strategy.

Even so, you shouldn’t set goals or requirements at this point. Stay focused on your current processes.

  1. How are you collecting, storing, and transferring information?

After reviewing your current strategy, look for “silos” where data can’t be easily accessed. You want an efficient flow of information through the organization. Difficulty accessing vital information at the right time and place is a key source of error and inefficiency for many manufacturers. Consider quality control – reactive quality checks conducted after work is complete result in additional errors and scrap. Does customer service have real-time information on production? Do you use information from the supply chain? Is vital data sitting unused on disconnected machines across the company? Do you have a single-source of manufacturing truth for your company, or does everyone collect their own “nuggets” of data they need?

A comprehensive digital manufacturing strategy should eliminate the barriers between employees and the information they need to do their work better, faster, and with fewer errors.

  1. How do you want your company to operate in the future?

At this point, you should have an understanding of your current processes, and there are likely problems you want to fix, but this isn’t a strategy. A strategy operates proactively, so calculate how your company could operate in the future.

Consider the opportunities offered by digital manufacturing. Is increasing production speed or managing change a priority for you? Will you be focused on eliminating errors and waste, or moving employees to value-added work by automating processes? Another digital manufacturing strategy might focus on process improvement by driving consistency across the enterprise. Each goal is attainable, and all have tremendous value. Prioritizing goals help you shape and refine your strategy, so you have a place to start and a direction to move, and allow you to implement change in phases. Once you have a goal, you know what problems you should solve first, and what can wait for future phases.

Remember, the digital strategy should align with the business strategy, and the changes you make will have effects far beyond the shop floor. Consider this as you prioritize your initiatives.

  1. What early, easy success can you find to jumpstart your digital strategy?
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Plan with confidence and enjoy a more productive and successful business. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Start your project off on the right foot by identifying the low-hanging, easy-to-reach fruit in your digital strategy. You will discover relatively simple items in your strategy that deliver an early ROI to help pay for and enable later phases.

For example, paper is a source of errors and costs for many manufacturers. A paperless manufacturing system can be completed relatively quickly, depending on your current processes. The system adds value almost immediately and will become the foundation for your overall strategy, including collecting machine data via the industrial internet (IIOT) or adding visual work instructions. Automating quality and tolerance checks through a digital system is another relatively easy success once you begin collecting shop floor data.

Each phase of the overall digital strategy should build toward the goals you identified in the previous step, so selecting an easy success first should help build excitement in the organization for future phases.

Kick Off 2016

For most of us, the most difficult step is the first one. By tackling a larger project like crafting a digital manufacturing strategy into manageable steps you can deliver impressive results with less work and less risk.

Want to learn more, or see how a free shop floor analysis with a manufacturing expert can identify manageable strategies for your shop floor to enable digital manufacturing, then contact CIMx today at info@cimx.com. We’re always happy to help.