Tag Archives: manufacturing solutions

A Simple Solution to Shop Floor Struggles

For anyone who wonders if paperless manufacturing is a viable solution to their shop floor troubles, a lesson in social history provides the answer.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

A few months ago, I spent some time at a bed and breakfast deep in the Appalachian Mountains – far from the urban sprawl.  There was one power line; phone access consisted of a satellite phone and a single cliff that had decent cell reception.

The first night was nice.  The scenery was gorgeous and the quiet serenity absolutely relaxing.  The next day was… disconcerting.  With only one TV, most of the news came via a morning paper.  It felt old and outdated.  There was no internet access, no cell reception, and no way to touch the world or even reliably communicate.

What can the power of the Internet do for your shop floor? Image  by www.colourbox.com

What can the power of the Internet do for your shop floor? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Without the Internet, I had no visibility.  I felt like I had no control.  To get any real time facts, reliable information, or make a phone call, I had to drive 30+ minutes.  It reminded me of the world before the Internet, or life on a shop floor without paperless manufacturing.

Did I get your attention?  Consider this – many production environments have disconnected islands of automation, with information scattered across several media.  Real-time information requires you to be there.  Accessing information, collating data, and even communicating within your organization is a struggle.  Many companies have limited ability to analyze and improve the work flow process – sounds a lot like life before the Internet.

Everyone has their own unique view and definition of the Internet (including the late Senator Ted Stevens who was sure it wasn’t a big truck, but a series of tubes).  If you look beyond the conveniences at the true value of the Internet, it has become a vehicle to collect, consolidate and communicate information between people anytime and anywhere.  The Internet has removed geographic distance as a limitation on human endeavor.  It gives everyone access to a single, convenient source of information.  The Internet gives us visibility and control, which many shop floors are still struggling to find.

With paperless manufacturing, remove the silos of information holding your company back. Image by www.colourbox.com

With paperless manufacturing, remove the silos of information holding your company back. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

The goal of paperless manufacturing is to bring the power and convenience of the Internet to manufacturing.  Paperless manufacturing collects, consolidates, sorts and communicates information between people in the company anytime and anywhere.  It collects and preserves production data while providing instant access to each element of the work flow.  Paperless manufacturing saves historical data to help shape the future of the company.  It eliminates the “silos” of knowledge.  No more disconnected reports with information 2+ weeks old, missing data, unreliable analytics, reactive quality control, or bits of information hiding in multiple formats.

No more disconnected (but stunningly beautiful) information-vacuum-like bed and breakfast sitting inside your company and holding you back.

This does not mean you are opening your company up to the horrors of the Internet (and I will admit, there are horrors out there).  Paperless manufacturing uses the concept of the Internet to provide you with the tools and power connectedness – a rich reservoir of information at your fingertips all the time and instantly available.  It gives your team a location to store all the data they accumulate, and an easy way to access it when you need to.   You have the security of firewalls and encryption, but the convenience of an enterprise Internet you control.

The Internet has made a dramatic difference in our lives, and paperless manufacturing can potentially make an equally dramatic difference for your shop floor.  I can remember many arguments against the Internet (including a neighbor who swore robots were spying on her through the Internet), but the power of technology has shaped our world, ultimately for the better.  Paperless Manufacturing is here – what are you waiting for?

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Understanding Manufacturing Software Solutions (MES) and Customer Service

Take an honest look at your software vendor – are you a business partner or a commodity?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Recently, I had to rent a car and wanted to know what was covered in my policy, so I gave the insurance company a call.  It turns out they couldn’t answer my question until I retrieved a number from my insurance card.  The entire experience made me feel like a number to a huge insurance-mega-corporation-behemoth.  My simple question couldn’t be answered until I retrieved a magic number they used to access my file amongst the sea of data the corporation swam in.

Ho confident are you in your MES or paperless manufacturing provider? Photo by www.colourbox.com.

How confident are you in your MES or paperless manufacturing provider? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com.

I first bought my current policy from a nice gentleman who came to my house and shared a cup of coffee while we looked at options.  But his agency was purchased by the mega-corporation, and, from what I heard, the nice gentleman left to open a restaurant.  So, now I am an account number to “Customer Service and Concern” reps who mangle my name each time they addressed me.  Even worse, I know each of those reps used a script as they spoke to me.  Yes, I just got scripted!

I am NOT against big corporations.  Corporations are made up of the same good and bad people you see in any company.  But I was dismayed when a commercial for the insurance company came on TV, obviously targeting new customers, while I waited on the phone to have a SIMPLE question answered.  New customers represent growth, and are the lifeblood of a company, but you shouldn’t sacrifice your existing customers in the relentless pursuit of new business!

This is especially true in manufacturing software.  Manufacturing solutions software, such as MES and paperless manufacturing, provides a vital service to the shop floor.  A well-crafted solution should work seamlessly with your current processes, but when a problem happens, you need an answer quickly… more quickly than a help desk can provide.  Because a shop floor is a constantly changing environment, especially in discrete manufacturing, the software can’t be installed and forgotten.  It needs active support to capitalize on the latest technology and processes, and a truly customer-centric solution shouldn’t gouge a customer for a simple update or necessary service.

That said, after spending (wasted) time on the phone with an insurance company, I’m proposing a simple manifesto of manufacturing software customer rights.  Here goes:

1)      All existing customers should have direct communication with a company representative they know by name, and not an anonymous “help” desk or an even more anonymous email address.

2)      A plan for regular software updates, to accommodate new technology and processes, should be offered before software is installed. Change will happen (anyone paying attention to the latest in 3D printing?) so you need a process to accommodate change.

3)      The manufacturing solution provider should know your company by name (not number) and understand your business to provide service and recommendations specific to you.

4)      Your software solution should be continually supported.  Any system that doesn’t have regular upgrades and releases will eventually become the obsolete legacy system so many companies struggle against.

5)      You should not be afraid you’ll accrue service charges if you call with a question.

Consider these the goal of manufacturing software customer service- an expectation you have before you go into business with a company.

Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better when it comes to customer service. Photo credit www.colourbox.com

Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better when it comes to customer service. Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

While this discussion started after a bad experience on the phone with a mega-corporation insurance company, I’m not specifically targeting the big companies.  I do think there is a tendency to focus effort on “new” customers and business, and forget existing customers.  The help desk and the customer service line become a sales tool, and not a tool for customers to find a true solution.  Sometimes, companies focus on the “sales funnel” to convert “prospects” into customers, but once a customer completes the sales funnel, they become forgotten.  The existing customer is a “commodity” measured in business statistics, rather than a partner.

Now that my rant is over, take a moment and think about the “manifesto” of customer rights.  How does your manufacturing software provider rate?  What confidence do you have in their service now and in the future?  What expectations do you have regarding customer support?

Questions?  Leave us a message.  I guarantee it won’t be answered by a help desk that needs a 13-digit account number to hear your question.