Tag Archives: Manufacturing workflow

One Simple Step that Improves Manufacturing Productivity

Your shop floor hides dangers that eliminate more than 13 hours of productivity each week for every employee.  Learn how you can quickly improve productivity and profit with one simple step.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

As a culture, we are driven by technology.  There’s a chip in your coffee maker and a computer in your car, not to mention a smart phone that connects you to the greatest database in human history.  Technology can make our lives better and improve productivity.  With technology, it’s possible to get through your whole day without thinking (a skill many seem to have mastered already). But, some technology can be disruptive.  Rather than helping us work better, it hinders productivity.  Consider email – email can be a constant interruption, wreaking havoc on your day if you’re not careful.

The Dangers of Technology

Are you letting distractions hinder your shop floor productivity? Image by www.colourbox.com

Are you letting distractions hinder your shop floor productivity? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Many of us start the day with a list of priorities.  A good day would see every item on the list complete.    Unfortunately plans for productivity are often waylaid by the disruptive influence of email.  Each morning, you grab a cup of coffee (or your vice of choice) and sit down at your computer.  Then email starts beeping at you, demanding attention.  Email is like a thief, stealing your time for unplanned distractions.  Sure, some messages may be important, but most aren’t.  They certainly aren’t more critical than the items on your list.

In 2012, the Huffington Post reported that the average worker spends 25% of their day reading, attending to and answering email.  Just one short year later, that number jumped to 28%.  That’s roughly 13 hours a week.  What could you do with an extra 13 hours of productivity each week?  What could your shop floor workers do with that extra productivity?

Many manufacturers embed distractions in their workflow just as distracting, if not more, than email.  We plan for distraction in the workflow by having workers seek out information in massive binders or consult safety manuals, then wonder how we can improve productivity.

The Effect of Interruptions

Interruptions have ripple effects far greater than the interruption itself.  There’s an entire field devoted to Interruption Science, the study of what happens to job performance after an interruption.  Studies show that interruptions significantly disrupt workflow.  Employees need time to recover, leading to even more lost productivity.

The New York Times reports that 40% of workers cannot complete the task the same way after an interruption.  In fact, another study found an interruption during work increased errors by as much as 20%.  Companies know eliminating distractions and interruptions will drastically increase productivity and work quality.  For example, Toyota (with andon cords) and other companies have made it a priority to remove any interruption or distraction from the shop floor.  The goal is simple – protect the worker, improve production and profit.

 Increase Productivity with Paperless Manufacturing

Properly implemented, an MES will manage information and keep your shop floor focused on production by automating many of the tasks that were once “interruptions” in paper-based production.

Improve productivity and profit by removing a major source of shop floor distraction - paper. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Improve productivity and profit by removing a major source of shop floor distraction – paper. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Missing parts, unclear instructions, lack of certification and other critical issues cause distraction and interruptions to the shop floor workforce.  These interruptions, common in a paper-based work environment, quickly add up to 13+ hours of lost productivity each week.  If you look at any paper-heavy shop floor, workers are often doing one of two things – checking their work in a paper traveler packet, or ignoring the work instructions and doing work as they have always done.  Either way, you’ll pay for the interruptions with lost productivity or errors.

When a worker undertakes a task requiring precision, electronic instructions reduce confusion and provide everything the shop floor needs to complete the work without interruption.  Engineering specifications, safety instructions, machine set-up and more are only a mouse click away if they need it.  With all the information they need at hand, workers are more confident as they complete tasks, while the system provides a seamless transition from one task to the next, greatly increasing the overall performance of the shop floor.  Your team can focus on production.

Studies show distractions and interruptions lower overall worker productivity.  The goal of any shop floor manager should be to remove distraction and provide workers with everything they need to complete work better, faster and with fewer errors.  Paperless manufacturing manages workflow, automating many tasks, with productivity gain exponentially enhanced with distractions removed.

Consider this – how quickly could you deliver an ROI on a computer system that gave each worker 13 more hours of productivity each week?

Want to learn more, or see how our system can support workflow on your shop floor?  Give us a call or leave a message for a no-cost consultation on paperless manufacturing.  We’re happy to help and answer questions.

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Understand (and Increasing) the ROI of your MES

Many companies wonder where the inflection point will be for their paperless manufacturing project.  Let us show you how you can design a project that gives you control of your ROI.     

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

I spoke to a group of prospects about the inflection point in an ROI – the point where project costs (in licensing, services, training, support, and internal resources) equal the cost savings generated by the paperless manufacturing system.  As we talked, I realized there are many misconceptions about ROI, misconceptions that lead to more frustration than certainty.

Unraveling the ROI Conundrum

ROI is a tricky thing.  The term is so overused some believe it’s more like the accounting

Often misunderstood, the ROI is a vital component of any successful MES project. Image by www.colourbox.com

Often misunderstood, the ROI is a vital component of any successful MES project. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Easter bunny than a data point.  Despite that, ROI is more important than ever to control project cost.

Over-engineering is prevalent in the MES industry… some vendors want you to add one more feature or capability, because it adds to their bottom line.  These vendors design fancy, flashy demos, post pretty YouTube videos, host elaborate conferences, with fancy marketing collateral, and even pay bloggers to help sell their services so they can offer module after module and entice you into buying more.  Let’s be honest, none of that will provide you the cost savings to justify the investment.  Without a clear ROI, you can’t be sure if the additional costs will offer a return.  You might be the poor customer with a bloated service bill helping to pay for the YouTube videos and marketing collateral.

With enough time and money, anyone can build anything, so vendors make promises that can’t be achieved except through costly custom services, even as they promise their system is “configurable.”  The higher the final cost, the more difficult it will be to achieve an ROI.  Don’t be fooled.  If extensive services are required – it is not configuration.  Configuration is done by the software itself – not by the expensive implementation team you are renting.

Here’s a tip for discovering how “configurable” your potential software solution really is – ask the vendor what percentage of the installation services are related to configuration.  Ask them how configuration changes are made.  Do you need the vendor to make changes?  If the configuration services are a large portion of the total service cost or an expensive line item on the itemized proposal costs (you should ask for those, too), then you shouldn’t expect an early ROI.  As you start adding up the costs, the inflection point may not even be visible.

An Honest Look at Projected Savings

Some vendors will offer “suggestions” on how to calculate the ROI, but you need to be careful.  We do not sell, nor do we recommend, customers rely on reduced headcount to calculate ROI.  It is tempting to build a business case on a reduced number of resources, as they are the most costly line item on your production P&L.  But that’s not really what happens…

You have more control over the ROI of your paperless manufacturing project.  Let us show you how.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

You have more control over the ROI of your paperless manufacturing project. Let us show you how. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Take your most experienced Quality Engineer.  In many cases, this is an employee with a hectic schedule, and yet is underutilized for their training.  Manufacturers need QEs to implement Continuous Improvement initiatives, but if your QE is running around the shop floor, fighting fires and trying to stay ahead of the next problem, then they aren’t being utilized efficiently.  A well-designed MES system will greatly improve the efficiency of the QE, allowing them to implement improvement plans and build new, more efficient processes for your shop floor operations.  The net effect is an entire production team that’s more efficient and more accurate.  You may find that you don’t hire to fill spaces as operators leave (and the least capable may leave as the system begins tracking shop floor efficiency), but it isn’t common for MES customers to see large gains from reduced headcount.

Maximize the Inflection Point

So, if reduced headcount is not a key factor in projected savings, how do you maximize the inflection point and increase your ROI?

At CIMx, we focus on generating ROI for our customers through understanding their workflows and providing value in more efficient work.  Our system is behavior-based, not template- or module-based.  The software provides value through your workflows and best practices, enhancing behavior rather than changing the shop floor to adapt to a new system. This is possible through the use of our architecture.  Unlike modular or template-based systems, workflow or behavior-based MES utilize a system architecture that gives customers the flexibility and tools they need to implement automatic and ever-increasing efficiency improvements to their workflow and processes – changes that have the greatest impact on your shop floor.  By not focusing on isolated, individual requirements, capabilities or functions, which can drastically increase the cost of the system, customers manage the inflection point and ensure an early ROI by focusing on the total workflow process and the largest gains.

The key is to manage what you spend on the project, and focus on items with the greatest ROI – your workflow.  Complete the installation in manageable phases that provide a planned and measurable return, and identify future expenses for the system that could impact the ROI.  The next time you have an improvement event in your business, will the system support the improvement, or must you purchase expensive assistance with customization?  If you can perform the necessary business improvements without an expensive services contract from the software vendor, then you can maximize the inflection point and your ROI.

This doesn’t mean it’s not tempting to create a massive requirements document that resembles a manufacturing wish list.  You should identify key capabilities, but make sure there is an expected ROI attached to each.  Then take a look at the workflow using the system, and identify improvements and benefits there.  It’s those benefits that will generate your greatest ROI.

If you want to see how we can deliver savings and increase profit through workflow efficiency, contact us or give us a call – we’re happy to help.