Tag Archives: Internet of Things

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.

3d render of time concept roadsign board isolated on white background

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.
3d small people - rolls gear

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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Four Paperless Manufacturing Predictions for 2014

We take a look at the manufacturing topics and trends you’ll be talking about in 2014, and offer hints and tips to help you get a leg up in the New Year.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

This year, I began thinking as 2013 rumbled to a close and 2014 burst on the scene in a polar vortex, considering what to expect in the New Year.

Manufacturing is in a pretty good place right now, with six straight months of growth according to ISM, and reports predicting continued growth and confidence in manufacturing for 2014, but there are still concerns and risks.  This week, we’ll highlight for manufacturing a few 2014 trends, and look at ways your business can turn a challenge into a competitive advantage.

Is your manufacturing business ready for 2014?  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Is your manufacturing business ready for 2014? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

1. Cloud Computing and Cybersecurity

As more and more servers become virtual, and businesses continue to search for ways to drive down IT costs, maintenance, and total cost of ownership, consolidation through the cloud is becoming an appealing option (or reality) for many companies.

Manufacturing isn’t ready to fully embrace the cloud.  There are still challenges to working in the cloud that make the option a non-starter for many companies.  Cybersecurity is one.  If there is one thing we’ve learned from the recent data breach at Target, and the continuing saga of NSA snooping, it’s that the cloud isn’t nearly as secure and safe as we would like it to be.  For manufacturing, where security and secure accessibility is paramount, the cloud is an unnecessary risk.

In 2014, vendors continue to adapt their offering and messaging regarding the cloud to manufacturers.  Keep an eye out for new innovations to target security and accessibility.  For your own business, be wary of fully embracing the latest trends.  Look for ways to utilize the strength of the cloud while minimizing the risk. 

2. Mobile Manufacturing

More and more of us are embracing mobile computing (tablets and cell phones) over the traditional PC.  Businesses are making the move as well, as employees find advantages in mobility.

What can you you do to make future trends work for you?  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What can you you do to make future trends work for you? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

In 2014, look for manufacturing to continue slowly embracing mobility.  There are apps and software focused on mobile manufacturing, but they don’t yet offer a practical shop floor solution.  For example, have you ever tried to view a complex CAD drawing on a cell phone screen?  In addition, cost and security is a limiting factor.  Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) will work for many businesses, but not for the secure shop floor.  Many shop floors are a dangerous place for an expensive mobile device.

We see manufacturers taking practical first steps to embracing mobile manufacturing.  Quality Control with a tablet and a strong MES can walk the floor and proactively increase quality, rather than waiting for a problem to happen.  For your own shop floor, look at ways you can benefit from the mobility – implementing it where it makes sense.

 3. The Qualified Worker Crunch

This is an issue we’ve seen in the past, but it’s also one that the industry continues to grapple with in 2014.

The skilled labor shortage continues to impact manufacturing in America.  According to statistics, more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled.  A study by Thomasnet.com reveals more than 80% of the current manufacturing workforce is between 45 and 65.  Studies have identified the shortage as not just a manpower issue, but an education issue.  Colleges are taking steps to address the issue with new programs and training opportunities, but manufacturers have also begun looking at ways they can ensure new workers can be effectively trained, and the knowledge and skills of the older workers can be passed on to a new generation before critical skills are lost to worker turnover.

In 2014, look for more attention to be spent identifying critical shop floor skills and for process enforcement and training to be a focus of manufacturing.  Take a close look at the processes and training programs you have in place to minimize the impact of the qualified worker crunch on your business.

Is your enterprise security up to date?  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Is your enterprise security up to date? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

 4. The Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data

In recent years, we’ve been riding the wave of Big Data and the Internet of Things due to advances in our ability to collect and store data.  It’s an issue we’ve seen manufacturing grapple with in the past.

The challenge we see for manufacturing in 2014 is collecting the “right” data and having the shop floor and process visibility and control to act on it.  We’re seeing the customer, supplier chain and the shop floor connected by information.  Big data holds the promise of improved quality and production, and an optimized and efficient enterprise, but only if your company has the tools and ability to act on the data – shaping manufacturing of the future through technology, real-time data and analytics.  Customers expect data and information at their fingerprints.  Are you ready?

As I wrap this blog up, I already see issues I’d love to explore further (3D PrintingGreen ManufacturingRobots on the shop floor?), but the issues and trends presented here offer opportunities for the New Year.  The strategic steps you take now can have a positive impact on your business in 2014.

What do you think?  What issues do you see impacting the industry in 2014?  Leave us a comment and let us know.  Our friends at the manufacturing software reviews site Software advice are also conducting a survey on the most popular manufacturing products, and if you’d like to contribute, take the survey here and see what other industry leaders are using and planning for 2014.  And as always, if you have a question don’t hesitate to ask.  We’re 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.