Tag Archives: manufacturing solution

The Benefits of MES Expertise

Spend enough time in the manufacturing software industry, and you’ll find software experts, manufacturing experts, and plenty of salespeople, but an MES expert is what you really need.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

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MES Success is much easier with the support of MES Experts. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

For more than 20 years, CIMx Software has developed software solutions for manufacturers. In the beginning, it wasn’t called MES (Manufacturing Execution System) or Paperless Manufacturing. MOM (Manufacturing Operations Management) was still short for Mother, and IoT (Internet of Things) was science fiction and not imminent fact. Our system was known as CAPP (Computer-Aided Process Planning). CAPP was a powerful tool for manufacturing back then.

Today’s systems are built on modern software platforms – easy-to-install, implement and adapt. With the right system you plan production and manage your shop floor, the software becomes the foundation of an IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) and digital manufacturing enterprise. The solution provides the discipline and data to implement a successful continuous improvement program. It eliminates the root cause of errors, reduces scrap and waste, and mitigates many of the risk factors that hold back manufacturing.

Working with manufacturers for more than 20 years to solve their costliest and most vexing problems has made CIMx MES experts. MES expertise is critical for success in an implementation for your shop floor.

Why You Need MES and Paperless Manufacturing Expertise

You have manufacturing expertise. You know how to build products and design workflows to maximize production safely and efficiently. IT experts maintain, implement and update technology. With enough time and money (okay, a lot of time and money) a team of software experts can build a software system.

Confidence Button Shows Assurance Belief And Boldness

A project guided by MES Experts gives you confidence in success. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

MES experts bridge the gap between those disciplines – bringing experience in manufacturing, an understanding of technology, and intimate familiarity of the software. MES expertise enables a solution provider to guide the implementation and cultural fit of the solution. They ensure you have the right solution optimized for your production operation by removing unnecessary complexity, lowering the overall cost and investment, and delivering better results.

Without this expertise, your shop floor may be forced to adapt to the demands of the software, rather than the software working for you. Systems like this will offer you the functionality you need, but at a much higher cost in productivity and effort than you expect to pay. The solution will never be optimized, and you’ll never see the benefit of a system optimized for you.

At CIMx, we know and love manufacturing and technology. We study the latest trends and technology looking for advantages for our customers. We work closely with manufacturers to understand their processes, and then apply the best technology solution for superior results.

Don’t assume a sales person or IT Solution provider has MES expertise. If a company representative doesn’t know discrete manufacturing from an assembly shop or MRO facility, or is just focused on their product and not your processes, then they may not have the MES expertise you need. You may be left with an overly complex, expensive solution that your shop floor doesn’t want to use.

Get to know your solution provider before signing a contract. Evaluate whether they have MES expertise. With the right provider, you shouldn’t have to figure out how you can make all the pieces of the solution work together for you. From the beginning the solution should support you.

Want to learn more, or see what a provider with real MES expertise can do for you? Then give CIMx a call today for a free shop floor evaluation by real MES experts. We’re always happy to help.

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The Innovation Conundrum in Manufacturing Software

In a scramble to out-innovate the competition and increase profits, many MES suppliers cram functionality into their software, leading to unnecessary complexity that drains productivity.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

After last weeks’ blog on Innovation, many asked about the difference between “good” and “bad” innovation. I can understand the confusion. After all, without criteria or real-world data, any assessment becomes a matter of opinion. People are fiercely protective of their tech investments, and no one wants to see themselves as a victim of unproductive technology, making it even more important to have effective methods of assessing innovation.

There are times in tech development and software lifecycles when innovation can hurt productivity. For example, Windows Vista has long been considered a failure for Microsoft. The software bloat in Vista, adding 15 million lines of code for functionality no one wanted or needed, is a reason for the failure. The compatibility issues and “user-hostile” features added to the disaster. Microsoft addressed many of initial criticisms of Vista, but the initial release was a clearly ineffective and misguided innovation.

Effective Innovation in Manufacturing Software

How much production and profit will you sacrifice to unnecessary complexity in your software? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

How much production and profit will you sacrifice to unnecessary complexity in your software? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

When considering criteria for evaluating innovation, look at technology as a vehicle for accessing tools. For example, we don’t buy a smart phone for the processor, battery, or the AMOLED screen, but for how they allow us to access the tools (like the phone and messaging) and apps (like Trello, Google Maps, and Evernote) we use. Technology and innovation should either bring us a new tool we can use (notice the emphasis on use) or bring us closer to our tools (by automating processes).

Simplicity and usability are key criterion for effective innovation, allowing users to work better and faster – reducing errors and the effort necessary to complete tasks and work. Even new features which enhance the primary function of the tool should focus on simplicity and usability.

In fact, I would argue the most effective innovation isn’t noticed by the user. Changes enhance the overall experience without adding layers of complexity, or new buttons and additional information to process.

Innovation to avoid

Don't be fooled by innovation that won't improve your shop floor. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Don’t be fooled by innovation that won’t improve your shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

The unfortunate truth is, in the tech and manufacturing software industry the easiest path to “innovation” is to add more buttons or features. Cramming a whole new set of functionality onto a product, utilizing a new interface with an explosion of connections and integrations may seem like an improvement, but it doesn’t make the tool more efficient or increase productivity.

Many times, the effort to innovate leads to functionality that isn’t necessary, resulting in complexity that decreases usability. In manufacturing software, this leads to functionality that sounds good on paper, but leads to headaches and lost production on the shop floor. Consider this – the PLM shouldn’t be your MES. Sure, the two systems can share a single source of manufacturing data, but any supplier trying to sell you a single PLM and MES package is sacrificing efficiency for both systems.

Embracing simplicity

Want further proof of the power of simplicity in innovation? Take a look at Apple products. Apple chief design Jony Ive often talks about simplicity and the need to develop products that work intuitively. “It isn’t about appearing to be simple but actually being complex, it’s about making the complex simple.”

This is a concept that many in manufacturing, and software development, have forgotten. There is a belief that we (as an industry) make highly complex products, and we need software tools that are equally complex (and expensive). Simplicity just doesn’t work for us. But, when you eliminate the preconceived notions and industry hubris, we still design and build products. The focus should be designing and building better products in less time and fewer errors.

If you keep that goal in mind as you select or develop a manufacturing tool, you’ll find the price of additional complexity far outweighs any real benefit.

Want to know more, or learn how an advanced manufacturing software tool can benefit your team? Contact CIMx today for a free shop floor evaluation.

How You Can Get Real Value for Your MES

Time and technology have changed, but many software companies are still selling dated manufacturing solutions. Get more value from your MES with a few simple tips.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

More money doesn't always mean a better solution. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

More money doesn’t always mean a better solution. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

We’ve gotten a lot of comments on our Two-Comma MES blog. Some agree the benefit of some MES may never justify an (extreme) two-comma cost. Others are quick to defend the high-cost, arguing a world-class manufacturing software system will have a world-class price. If you cut corners on your MES, and install a “cheap” software solution, you cut corners on productivity – the profit-driver for manufacturers.

There’s truth in both positions, and there isn’t an “optimal” price for manufacturing software. That said, times have changed, and the MES of the past no longer offer the value (even if slick marketing is hiding the creaking old code of some systems) they once did. We need to change how we approach the MES purchasing process.

Breaking Down the MES Budget

Assessing value starts with your budget. How much benefit can you buy for your budget? The IT budget is normally 1% to 3% of a company’s annual revenue.  For a $50,000,000 company, that would leave a budget of $500,000 to $1,500,000. From that budget, you need to pay for support, licenses, hardware, software, license fees and infrastructure costs. How much of that will be left for an MES? With the budget left, is there any way to financially justify the extreme cost some companies demand for their software?

In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven marketplace, it just doesn’t make sense to install a high-cost, system if you’re not getting flexibility. Systems like that are normally difficult to upgrade or adapt. Overly complex and over-engineered systems can’t handle the demands of modern manufacturing, even if the system looks modern, is it flexible and can it manage change? Will the effort and cost to maintain system efficiency represent a sunk cost that will quickly bury any initial benefit?

Tips for Finding Paperless Manufacturing Value

A powerful, effective and incredibly efficient MES doesn’t have to cost two-commas. It can be easy-to-use, easy-to-install, adaptable and flexible without a high cost. Here are a few tips for finding value in your search for an MES:

  • Don't get buried by the cost of your two comma MES. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

    Don’t get buried by the cost of your two comma MES. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

    Avoid the modules: Modules sound like a great option. Presented like a giant MES vending machine, you pick your feature, nothing more and nothing less, then it comes together magically. It doesn’t work that way. A “module” is often a separate app built by an entirely different company, which means configuration and integration costs. The more modules you add, the higher the cost. Companies offer a lower base cost, then drive profit on the “modules.” An integrated MES platform, with all features and functions built natively for the system, will deliver more functionality for a much LOWER cost.

  • Beware of forms-based systems: Companies that promise to “configure” a system for you specifically are likely using forms. They “make” it for you by mirroring your current processes through a form in their MES. They add to the initial cost of the MES a configuration “charge,” and know that any time you want to change the form, due to a process change or manufacturing need, you’ll go back to them. A forms-based system seems perfect at first, and then loses efficiency over time. A truly flexible, and lower-cost, option will use your current work instructions on a framework within the MES. Any work instruction or plan can be used in the software, delivering all the tools and functionality you want or need, in the format you want.
  • Flexible support options: Some companies, especially companies using an older software system, will hide the true cost with a confusing array of support options. There may be tiers of support, an entire configuration team you pay for, a base cost with an array of additional costs. It may seem like “comprehensive” support, but add it all up and the “support” will have destroyed your budget. Look for a solution provider who can offer a set cost for support expenses, or who is willing to offer a cost-not-to-exceed contract for work.
  • Utilize a phased implementation: With a phased implementation, you have greater control over the pace, focus and cost of a project. You select the features and functionality that offer the greatest return and put them in place first. Other systems, especially ones that require extensive configuration or messy integration of modules, will limit how you use and roll out the software. You’ll have a much higher initial cost, longer training, and often an open-ended implementation phase where expenses pile up. With a phased implementation and an integrated software system, the software is installed once and you turn on and use whatever you want whenever you are ready.

In the past, a 6 – 18 month installation and implementation period for an MES was standard. A multi-million, two-comma cost was to be expected. MES has grown up since then. The technology and market have changed, and manufacturers are benefiting with lower-cost systems that are adaptable, flexible, easy-to-use and –learn.

Don’t be suckered by flashy promises of a high-cost software company. Look for value in your manufacturing software solution, not two-commas.

Information Management: The Greatest Gift You Can Give Manufacturing

Information management, when implemented on the shop floor, will unlock production potential that’s hindered in a paper-based environment

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Ever notice how much your shop floor relies on information?  Consider this:

  • You get in an order from a customer (information) so you create a work order (information) which contains work instructions (information) and send it on to the shop floor (information).
  • The shop floor follows the instructions (information), then collects data (information) on the work to ensure it meets specifications (information).
  • When complete, the product is packaged and sent as instructed (information) and records of production are stored (information) and the process analyzed (information) for improvement.

Granted this is a very succinct and abbreviated recap of the manufacturing process, but it’s hard to miss how vitally important information is.  And yet, many companies rely on outdated and inefficient information management techniques (including paper) to assemble, deliver, monitor and record manufacturing data.

… and they wonder why they aren’t getting the results they should.

Defining Information Management

So, what is information management?

What challenges can an effective information management system solve for your shop floor?  Image by www.colourbox.com

What challenges can an effective information management system solve for your shop floor? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Information management encompasses the assembly, delivery, and eventual storage of all the data and information used in the production process.  A system that efficiently and effectively manages the transmission of information, which drives production, will have a tremendous positive impact on production.

An effective system gets the correct information precisely when and where it needs to be, with minimal effort from the users.   Now consider your current information management system.  Do users:

search for information through stacks and stacks of paper, bound or paper-clipped, flipping pages to find a key fact and holding up production while they frantically scramble for the data….

struggle with managing change when a customer requests different specifications, wondering how they will find every piece of data that must be revised as they run to the shop floor with the updated plans…

labor to correct the inevitable mistakes that occur when old work instruction or incorrect information is sent to the shop floor…

toil to collect data by scribbling on the margins of the work instructions or traveler, and then hoping mistakes aren’t made when it comes time to input it….

drown under piles and piles (and piles) of paper records, knowing that retrieving data from those boxes will be a nightmare…

An information management solution

Process Improvement graph.

Solve the underlying information management problems on your shop floor with a single, comprehensive solution – paperless manufacturing. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) and paperless manufacturing systems directly address the information management challenges on the manufacturing shop by providing a vehicle for assembling, collecting, delivering, recording and archiving data and information.  The system ensures the right people get the correct information when and where they need it.  It provides a foundation and framework for your information, with each piece of data organized so it can quickly and easily be retrieved when and where you need it.

So, what does this mean for your shop floor?  Consider this, an effective system will:

  • Automate information processes. Companies without a system utilize laborious and error-prone processes to collect and distribute information.  For example, printing work plans, assembling travelers, and carrying them to the shop floor.  A good MES will do all that work for you, ensuring your team can focus on production and other tasks that add value.
  • Increase your information velocity. Ever consider how much time is wasted looking up information and just figuring out what you need to do?  How much improvement would your team realize if there was a single place to get correct information, and it was delivered right to them when they needed it.
  • Eliminate errors. Wouldn’t it be nice to be sure your shop floor was working from the latest, most correct work instructions?  What if you could know each employee was actually looking at the work instructions, doing the work in the correct order and catching quality escapes before they became a problem?

Put simply, an MES or paperless manufacturing system manages production information, providing more benefit than almost any other purchase.  It improves every aspect of the manufacturing operation.

Want to learn more, or see how your shop floor will benefit with information management through paperless manufacturing?  It’s much more than simply putting your work instructions on a computer screen – it’s eliminating errors, streamlining processes, and organizing your production operation.  It gives you control and visibility of your shop floor.

Contact CIMx today to see how paperless manufacturing will benefit you.

What Can We Learn About Paperless Manufacturing from a Cup of Coffee?

The best software tools work seamlessly with your existing process, making the experience better, much like the ubiquitous coffee cup we use every morning

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Every morning, I have a cup of coffee on my desk.  It’s the darkest roast possible and I sip it throughout the entire morning.  When I pick it up at the coffee shop, I put a coffee sleeve on it to hold the cup comfortably without burning my hands.  The sleeve is a common tool for coffee drinkers, an improvement over the days of annoying Styrofoam cups.

There are MES Lessons to be learned from a simple cup of coffee.  Photo by www.colourbox.com

There are MES Lessons to be learned from a simple cup of coffee. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Cup sleeves make it easier to enjoy the coffee, keep your fingers from being burned, and are useful no matter the size of your cup.  They slide up only as far as necessary – simple, flexible and incredibly useful.  You don’t spend a second thinking about selecting one or how improved the coffee experience is with one.  You use it because it’s easy-to-use and it works.  Now, you’ve trained yourself to pick one up because a cup of coffee is too hot and the sleeve is the solution.

In the world of software packages for your business processes, a tool like a coffee sleeve is very useful.  If that tool could manage your shop floor, improve quality and increase production, it would dramatically increase your profits.  Many tools on the MES market sell themselves this way.  If you Google “paperless manufacturing,” you will find close to a million records (at last count).  Some of these tools will run various parts of your shop floor.  Some will improve quality.  Some will increase production.  A few manage the shop floor.  But the thing about the simple cup sleeve that works so well is that it dramatically improves the coffee experience, it works so well with the cup, and it’s so simple to use it doesn’t require a change in behavior.

Your paperless manufacturing system should work seamlessly with your existing processes, not dictate unnecessary change. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Your paperless manufacturing system should work seamlessly with your existing processes, not dictate unnecessary change. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

That is the flaw in most shop floor tools.  When you explore the universe of paperless shop floor software packages, it’s difficult to discern the difference between the highly effective “sleeves” versus the complex software packages that demand you purchase and consume coffee in an entirely different way (or even make you drink tea or water down the coffee – the villains).  These systems halt shop floor progress as your team works to integrate an invasive tool.  You struggle with a solution that is too costly or too time-consuming, and as you struggle, all progress you might make from the solution is swallowed in the process.

As you research paperless manufacturing solutions, don’t forget the long-term costs such systems might require.  Consider our cup sleeve analogy.  It’s as if you found a tool that protected your hand from the heat, but only if you get a new size cup.  If the market begins offering new cups, you’ll find that sleeve no longer works.  This happens all the time in software – we call it obsolescence.

CIMx Software guarantees customers will never struggle with a solution that is obsolete.  Our carefully architected system protects your investment.  The CIMx system provides a continuous upgrade path without the expensive services bills other software vendors charge.  It’s a benefit we’ve designed and built into our system.

People go for coffee every day because coffee offers them a benefit that makes their day better.  For some, it’s the heat of freshly brewed java.  For others, it’s the flavorful aroma, or the caffeine pick-me-up.  Maybe a cup of coffee is just a habit or instinct.  In manufacturing, you have the problems to solve.  For example, your production might be slowing or your quality decreasing.  Perhaps you’ve not been able to increase throughput as the economy turns.  As you search for a solution, consider the cup of coffee for your desk – discover a manufacturing program that injects heat and caffeine into your organization with a tool that won’t require a new cup size or a change in your drinking habits.  Look for a solution that’s ready to help you right away.