Tag Archives: manufacturing innovation

The 9 Most Common Manufacturing Symptoms, and How to Cure Them

The 9 Most Common Manufacturing Symptoms, and How to Cure Them
When looking for a solution to manufacturing problems, it’s important that you find the cure rather than just treating the symptoms.


Common Manufacturing Symptoms

Every manufacturer faces daily frustrations. Problems crop up that slow production, increase paperwork and waste resources. It isn’t until these issues start impacting the bottom line that solving the problem becomes a priority. Unfortunately, by that time, the damage has been done.

Think of your day-to-day production issues as symptoms and your manufacturing software as the doctor. You may schedule a check-up for a minor pain, but you expect your doctor to address the underlying issues. If your doctor only focuses on curing the symptoms, you’ll be back in their office with a similar problem the next week.

Manufacturers share a lot of their symptoms with our team when discussing potential production solutions. Here are some of the most common.

The Most Common Manufacturing Symptoms:

  • Decreases in Quality
  • Increases in customer turnbacks
  • Generating too much scrap
  • Missing ships dates
  • Increases in overtime
  • Frequently failing audits
  • Unreliable production records
  • Misplacing orders
  • Losing customers

You can put a band-aid on any of these problems by installing sidecar modular systems, but inevitably, that symptom will find a way to manifest in another area of your shop. Modular systems rely on this “finger in the dam” approach to keep you coming back for more. Your shop doesn’t need another short-term solution. It needs the cure.


The Cure is Production Control

In every manufacturing symptom listed above, the underlying issue connects back to a single problem: a lack of end-to-end production control.

The right MES enforces Quality and provides your supervisors real-time visibility on every order. Process control equates to less operator errors, which increases Quality and eliminates customer turnbacks.

Higher Quality eliminates scrap, cuts wasted resources, keeps production on schedule and brings your project in under budget. If you’re ahead of schedule you aren’t paying for overtime or rushed shipping costs. Your business is charging the same amount with less overhead while building trust with your customers.

In addition to end-to-end production control, a true MES collects data on every order in a permanent as-built record. This eliminates the tremendous amount of time and manual data entry errors that plague production. With production under control and your order data all automatically logged in a single, complete as-built record, audits are a breeze.


Next Steps

For more than 20 years, CIMx has developed complete solutions for manufacturers. The experience and innovation behind CIMx systems have delivered decades of increased production and cost savings. Quantum™ is designed to deliver the production control your team needs to build it right™, ahead of schedule and under budget. Cure your shop floor problems, with Quantum.

Schedule your live Quantum demo with a CIMx Application Expert today!

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Production Control from Coast to Coast

Quantum connects and controls production for US manufacturers.

Contracting more orders than you have the resources to complete seems like a great problem to have to most manufacturers. However, it’s the consequences of success that have forced many unprepared manufacturers to close shop. Overtime hours chip away at profit margins, over-worked employees become more likely to commit errors and late delivery frustrates longtime customers.

The irony is that the same processes that elevate a company to success can ultimately become that company’s downfall. To succeed in manufacturing, your shop must automate data-capture, enforce build conformance and direct production with real-time WIP dashboards. Keep your delivery promises to every customer and continue your business on the path to success with a production control system designed for every stage of manufacturing.

One CIMx customer was growing at a rapid rate. Business had taken such a positive turn that the company needed to expand operations to the West Coast. To guarantee the level of Quality was consistent at their new facility the company selected Quantum to connect and control production from coast-to-coast.


Case Study: Production Control from Coast to Coast

The Problem
An East Coast electronics manufacturer was growing. Overtime hours skyrocketed and rushed shipping costs began impacting their already narrow margins. This increase in work was welcomed, but resources were thin. To accommodate the increased demand, a secondary shop was scheduled to open on the West coast.

“We were getting by,” explained one production supervisor, “but there were problems we didn’t have solutions for… no records and no good way to track work. We had people just standing around the shop because they were missing information or materials.”

The Solution
Quantum was implemented at both facilities to connect and control the entire enterprise under one sustainable platform. By utilizing Quantum’s advanced planning center and end-to-end production controls, the manufacturer was able to enforce best practices on every build, increase quality standards and track operator/order data from both locations.

In a matter of months, both shops were on schedule and operating at a level of quality and efficiency never before thought possible. By utilizing digital work packets, automatic tolerance checks and real-time WIP quality alerts, the manufacturer was able to prevent common operator errors, stay on schedule and enforce engineering changes from 3,000 miles away.

This customer has continued to grow and is once again expanding their facilities. Record, report and react to errors on your shop floor before they become bottlenecks. Support compliance certification and become the supplier your customers go to first when a job has to be completed on schedule. Build it right™, with Quantum.


If you’re interested in shop floor control, ahead-of-schedule production and complete order visibility, connect with CIMx Application Expert Liz Hamedi at 513-248-7700 x416, or email the CIMx team directly at info@CIMx.com.

CIMx Software celebrates 22 years of US manufacturing software innovation!

After two decades of advanced planning and production control, CIMx announces Quantum 6.0 release for spring of 2018

They say you can learn a lot about a company by understanding where they got their start.

CIMx began its journey in 1996 by developing Process Planning and Engineering systems for Fortune 500 US manufacturers. That foundation in advanced planning, highly regulated compliance reporting and agile engineering change management has fueled more than 20 years of manufacturing software innovation.

“From day one, the goal was to develop our systems in a way that even the shops just starting out could have access to the same tools leveraged by our Fortune 500 customers…” said veteran of the manufacturing tech industry and CEO, Anthony Cuilwik, PhD. “Our Quantum platform achieved that goal. It really is the next generation of manufacturing.”

From aerospace and government defense contractors to medical device, carbon composites and beyond, CIMx has delivered the same care for detail and process demanded by their customers for more than 20 years.

“US manufacturing is going through a renaissance. Shops are growing and their old manual processes just can’t keep up with customer demand.” explained Director of Messaging, Ed Deaton, “Quantum delivers the tools both engineers and operators need to drive velocity, eliminate scrap and ship ahead of schedule, all from one sustainable platform.”

CIMx’s mission of delivering production control to manufacturers of all sizes, regardless of revenue stream, is alive in Quantum. The latest system release is scheduled to deploy spring 2018 as a free upgrade to all licensed users.

If you’re interested in shop floor control, ahead-of-schedule production and complete order visibility, connect with CIMx Application Expert Liz Hamedi at 513-248-7700 x416, or email the CIMx team directly at info@CIMx.com.

 

 

 

Calculate the Benefit of Innovation in your Manufacturing Software

Optimize your investment with a disciplined approach to judging innovation in MOM, MES and paperless manufacturing systems using a few simple tips.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

The other day I bought a new cheese slicer. Of the 4 or 5 different models, I choose one with an “innovative” design. I like innovation (who doesn’t?) and figured it HAD to be better.

How can you be sure you are optimizing the benefits of innovation in your manufacturing software? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

How can you be sure you are optimizing the benefits of innovation in your manufacturing software? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

The first “innovation” was an ergonomic handle with an odd swirl of rubber and ridges for my palm, and I hated it. It was designed for a much smaller chef, because the swirl put my fingers in a vise and the ridges dug into my palm. The other innovation turned out to be an adjustable cutting guide that actually worked, letting me control the width of the slice – opening up a whole new vista of cheese slicing delight!

I know the term “innovation” has become white noise in the manufacturing tech industry. Everyone uses it, and all sales copy includes (what does this mean) variants of the term (innovation, innovative, revolutionary, advanced… blah, blah blah…). There is a real need for innovation in manufacturing software, especially MES and MOM systems. Our industry is grappling with accelerating change – new technologies, customer expectations, market shifts, new regulations, and more. Innovation is a strategic advantage, and can be the difference between barely surviving and thriving. To manage change, manufacturers need suppliers who innovate.

Ignoring the marketing to discover true production benefit in innovation can be an almost impossible task. Companies duped by innovation promises may end up with a system that never works as promised, or with a system that can’t adapt as your manufacturing needs change.

Here are five questions to help you determine the benefit in manufacturing software systems:

  • Does the innovation add real benefit?

Innovation is about recognizing a need and applying a solution. A key element of that simple equation is NEED. Adding complexity, cost, or processes to a system isn’t innovation if it’s not addressing a need. In fact, increasing complexity is counter-intuitive to innovation.

  • Is the innovation built on a solid foundation?

An adjustable cutting guide on a cheese slicer that doesn’t slice cheese isn’t really a benefit. Likewise, an innovative reporting system on an MES that doesn’t offer shop floor control isn’t useful. Don’t get distracted by marketing. Make sure the system is built on a solid foundation and effective solutions.

  • Is the supplier “buying” innovation?

As a company grows, it becomes more difficult to innovate. Innovation requires agility you don’t find in massive corporations. This leads some big companies to buy smaller companies and products for their innovation. They package the systems together and call it “revolutionary” and innovative. Don’t be fooled. Real innovation doesn’t come from throwing software products together. It requires organic growth and development after the “Eureka” moment.

  • Where will the innovation go from here?

It’s important to see an innovative new feature or function as part of a cohesive product. Many failed innovations never find a fit in the processes offered by the overall product, especially in a software ecosystem. Consider the struggles Apple is currently having with the Apple Watch. It is an innovative product, but many consumers struggle to see how it fits in the overall Apple ecosystem. You shouldn’t have to wonder how to use a feature.


As manufacturers grapple with change, innovation from software suppliers will be of strategic importance. You need a MOM or MES system that is agile, flexible, adaptable, and easy-to-use. Software companies can’t just “promise” innovation, they need to show it. Hopefully, the questions above will help you evaluate suppliers who promise innovation.

Want to learn more, or see how paperless manufacturing can add immediate production benefits and revolutionize your shop floor. Contact CIMx today for a free shop floor evaluation.

Are You Getting the Whole Story from Your MES Vendor?

The decisions a vendor makes while building their system can have an impact on the viability and cost of your solution.  Learn how you can protect yourself from hidden costs and frustration.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Make versus Buy?  It is a question that has vexed many a manufacturer looking for the shop floor control and visibility an MES (Manufacturing Execution System) or paperless manufacturing system will provide.

Did you know the decisions a software vendor makes with their product can have a major impact on the cost and long-term viability of your purchase? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Did you know the decisions a software vendor makes with their product can have a major impact on the cost and long-term viability of your purchase? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Building your own software system, the “make” in this equation, has its advantages.  You can design the system you want, and if you have the patience, resources, and money to make it happen, that’s the system you will get.  But, it will be significantly more expensive and risky than other options, and you will need to invest time and resources to secure the long-term reliability and maintainability of the software.

Buying a software system means reaching out to vendors, researching options and how they will work with your workflow and shop floor, and purchasing the solution you need.  It is less expensive, and you have software support (at least, with reliable vendors you do), but it does require initial work, and training and preparation on the shop floor.

There is no right or wrong answer to the make versus buy question for you.  That said, MES and paperless manufacturing vendors also face the option to make versus buy, and their answer can have a major impact on the product they offer you.

The Genealogy of MES Functionality

Today, with the rapid rate of change in technology and manufacturing processes, MES and paperless manufacturing systems will need new functionality to maintain their competitive edge.  The vendor needs to decide how they will fill the hole in their product.

Some vendors “make” the functionality by writing new code and continuing to develop their product.  There are benefits to “make” for customers.  By developing the functionality in-house, vendors ensure the addition is tightly integrated with the core product, and it works seamlessly with the other product capability.  The functionality should be thoroughly tested before it is released to the public, giving you confidence in the results.  In addition, any installation, implementation, and training will be done by the people who wrote the software, which is always a benefit.

Other companies elect to “buy” the functionality.  They see a hole in their offering, and do exactly what a potential customer does – market research, find a company or product that fills the hole, and then purchase the solution.  The vendor adds necessary functionality in their product, but it is a budget-based, not an innovation-based solution.

The Benefits of an Innovation-based Solution

There are problems with “buy” based solutions in MES and paperless manufacturing software.  First off, any purchased solution must be, somehow, integrated with the main product.  This is not always an easy process, especially when solutions use different system architecture.  Many products, filled with pre-purchased functionality (they sometimes call them “modules”) end up with a maze of integration points that lead to additional complexity and risk when it is integrated.

Position yourself for success by making the right software purchase. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Position yourself for success by making the right software purchase. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

It can lead to other problems as well.   In an MES system, every interaction has offsetting interactions throughout your production.  A non-conformance in one area has repercussions in notification, messaging, resolution, archiving, reporting, and more.  Without the right architectural approach, the loosely linked functionality is adjusted and readjusted each time you have a new requirement or you need to update the system.  Over time, the need to adjust the system to account for the genealogy of the individual systems that make up your software significantly increases the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of your system.  It becomes a confusing software mess that hinders production and adds cost.

Sure, the vendor may have found a quick and easy solution to their missing functionality, but you’ll be paying for that solution over the life of the software.  Have fun with that…

Behavior versus Transaction-based Software

This is a common problem for manufacturers that turn to their ERP vendor for an MES solution.

When we started in MES eighteen years ago, there were just half a dozen vendors on the market.  ERP systems were just being implemented in manufacturing, and MES focused on connecting the shop floor.

Over the next 10 years, ERP vendors searched for ways to expand their customer offerings and gain a critical edge on competition.  At the very heart of an ERP (any ERP) is the transaction.  The ERP focuses on documenting and managing the transactions that make up your business.  Because the ERP was a transaction-based system, it was far too complex for these vendors to integrate a simultaneous workflow-based system that is the foundation of an MES.  Vendors who tried to build their own MES usually delivered a template-based system (which uses transaction architecture) that requires significant training and will never mirror your existing workflow without customization.  Other vendors started buying MES and offering them as “add-ons” to their primary offering, the ERP.

All too often, a “buy” MES purchased by an ERP vendor is not likely to be integrated with the main platform.  Sure, they may have developed a plan for integration, but it isn’t going to be any better than another MES integrated to the ERP.  Since the vendor didn’t build the MES, they are going to have difficulty supporting it, and any additional functionality you’d like to add to the MES, or upgrades or updates, will be another purchase or a development struggle since MES is not their primary expertise.

This is why many companies don’t offer free product upgrades with new releases.

Consider where and how the system and functionality came from before making a purchase.  Are you talking to an ERP vendor about MES?  If your ERP vendor has an MES, chances are it’s a “buy” and not a “make.”  The vendor who built and developed the software will ensure better support, lower risk, lower project complexity, more software updates and upgrades, and a much lower overall TCO.

Be sure your vendor “makes,” and not “buys” the functionality you need for the shop floor.

Are You Killing Shop Floor Innovation?

We take a look at the warning signs of a shop floor stifling innovation, and see what you can do to find success through innovation.

 By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

I love ideas.  Ideas and opinions, even ones I don’t agree with, provide the spark and fuel for innovation and growth.  That’s what makes ideas so powerful (even bad ideas…)

Are you killing innovation on your shop floor?  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Are you killing innovation on your shop floor? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

In an article posted on The Build Network, Ilan Mochari explored new technology and the market.  Originally, I wanted to write a defense of technology, especially from companies reluctant (even fearful) of new technology.  As Mochari explains, many businesses fear change, even change for the better.  This isn’t prudence, reluctance or worry, many businesses, even manufacturers, praise innovation and growth, then build a culture that stifles new ideas and change.  It’s a powerful idea… we are all sharing a grand delusion (hurray for innovation!), then collectively ignore the hypocrisy (hurray for innovation, just not here!)

In his article, Mochari cites a blog by Ben Horowitz discussing the ways in which many companies stifle innovation and growth.  He calls it the, “Can-Do vs. Can’t-Do Culture” and discusses, “… a movement to replace today’s startup culture of hope and curiosity with one of smug superiority,” (ouch).  Horowitz reflects on how many businesses approach technology.  As I (and Horowitz) see it, technology should be used to find a “better way to do things,” but in many companies (especially big companies) there is such a rigorous vetting of ideas (even good ones) innovation is stifled.

Killing Innovation In Your Business

Horowitz makes a number of good points – points we run into every day, with customers, competitors, prospects, and even ourselves.  Consider this:

  •  It is extremely difficult to find a better way to do things, but it can and has been done.

Horowitz is right.  Many companies fail to fully embrace the potential offered by technology and innovation because they are missing the opportunity – the “better” offered by a solution.  They install technology for technology’s sake, never really embracing innovation.

Take some Manufacturing Execution System (MES) projects we’ve encountered.  Many MES providers or consultants sell their technology by imitating your current operations on a computer screen – giving you a “pretty” solution that doesn’t offer a better way to do things.  It makes the customer “feel” happy because it mixes the familiar with JUST enough of the new.  Solutions like this won’t work for long.  Here’s why –

You have an issue on the shop floor.  A work station operator needs a quality inspector to approve a change in the operation.  Without a shop floor system, employees call, email or wander around till they find a Quality Engineer (QE).  An MES might automatically notify the QE of a problem, or provide an entirely new system of notification and approval (with a number of forms and steps in the system) but this isn’t embracing innovation.  A more efficient process is to provide the QE with real-time build information so they can proactively eliminate problems before they happen, and provide the ability to remotely approve change when possible.

Technology, including an MES (or any other electronic solution), should provide a better way to do things, not offer an entirely new process that simply mirrors the current process.  Your MES should help you do your work better, faster and with fewer errors, and not replace one piece of work with another.

  • Big companies have trouble innovating.

From our experience, in a big company it seems like everyone either needs their hands in an idea or they want the chance to destroy it.  Some want to ensure the project makes their career, and others are naysayers who make themselves important by focusing on the flaws in every idea.

Make an effort to promote a culture of innovation and build a competitive advantage for your company. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Make an effort to promote a culture of innovation and build a competitive advantage for your company. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Most times, innovation doesn’t look promising at first.  There are growing pains, and phases of development.  An MES purchase for most manufacturing companies starts as a daunting list of 400 requirements, each line item categorized, prioritized and meticulously measured.  The project started with great ideas built on potential, solutions and dreams, but as more voices and opinions get piled on top, the potential gets narrowed and innovation is stifled.

A committee is formed or a consultant brought in, and the list (that massive, all-inclusive master list) begins to look more like a doctoral dissertation than your production floor.  By the time the call goes out to vendors to make the dream a reality – it has become an arduous task nearly devoid of innovation.  You end up with a project not looking for innovation, just mapped to a spreadsheet with requirements you can check off.

Consider this, if you need 4 hours to demo an MES and see all your requirements, you are asking for so much that you will never be able to see a return on that system, and you’ve just ripped the potential “better” from the project.

Why do we innovate a shop floor like that?  This process just feeds the troll-like naysayers and dream-killers.  When buying a car, you will need the 15,000 to 20,000 parts in the engine, but you don’t bring a checklist of those items to the car dealer.  Auto makers build cars to perform and last using all those parts.  You check the handling, the comfort and the feel of the car, make sure it has your key requirements (perhaps a moon roof), and perhaps verify a few items on the list against the industry standard.  The massive “List” is a weapon for the naysayers… keep it simple and focus on key requirements.  Let innovation thrive before you drown it!

Find an MES vendor you can trust to help you navigate the process.  The system that provides the most return for you is the one that best fits the innovative idea you had when you started.  Ensure the system meets the standard MES requirements, and let the vendor concentrate on your use of the end product rather than a checklist.  As Horowitz says, “We hurt innovation by focusing on what it can’t do, rather than what it does or could do.”

 Build your shop floor through innovation

Businesses grow and thrive through innovation and new ideas, but those that rely on a “Can’t-do culture” stifle innovation, promote cynical sarcasm and focus on limits.  The truth is, the most successful companies promote innovation, and find a way to nurture it without sacrificing the core business.

Even bad ideas have potential, and hiding inside what seems like a completely ludicrous piece of business insanity may be a concept that takes your company to the next level.  Early in a project, especially an MES project, let innovation shine and see where it takes you.  Look for the opportunity to improve, and make sure you aren’t embracing change simply because it’s change.

Find a way to do more than just admire innovation from a distance, but embrace it.  Listen to innovation and ideas (even ones that seem bad) with an open mind.  Nurture ideas, don’t stifle them.  Are you curious to know more, or see how you can embrace innovation without hurting the bottom line or sacrificing production?  Ask us how we can help through our phased implementation process or innovative Quantum paperless manufacturing system.

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!