Tag Archives: mes

Solutions to Manufacturing Skilled Labor Shortage

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Modern manufacturing requires skilled workers – a fact many companies aren’t prepared to address.

CIMx recently attended a manufacturing trade show and had the opportunity to speak with manufacturers about their industry concerns.

One topic kept coming up again and again – the workforce. Manufacturers are worried they won’t have enough skilled workers to meet production demand.

Manufacturing companies are receiving new orders and business is growing, but many question whether the current workforce can manage demand. If they can’t, and they need to hire more, can they find a hire with the right skill set? Will the right employee be willing to work in manufacturing? If they do take the job, how quickly can new workers be trained? If an employee leaves, is there someone available to take their place?  What critical skills will be lost when someone retires?

New orders and a growing business is a good sign for manufacturing in America, but only if companies can keep up with demand.

Understanding the Problem

Quality.

There are steps manufacturers can take to solve the skilled labor gap. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

The skilled labor problem shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who observes the industry. We’ve spoken about it before, and the industry warns the problem will continue to grow as older employees retire and manufacturing processes continue to evolve.

Recently, the need for skilled labor, especially with technology and software skills, has accelerated as companies increasingly turn to smart manufacturing, automation, and data-driven production to increase throughput and profit. The industry isn’t attracting workers with the right skills to manage and optimize modern manufacturing.

There isn’t a single core reason for this problem, but a combination of factors. Consider this:

  • Manufacturing has changed, but a college graduate is more likely to imagine a factory worker with a wrench than a tablet. Manufacturing has done little to change this dated perception, but some companies, such as GE, are taking positive steps to recognize the problem.
  • Our industry has been shortsighted in addressing the technology gap on the shop floor. Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article on the struggle of manufacturing to attract software developers. A critical reason is the perceived lack of support technology workers see in the industry. Companies still rely on paper on the shop floor, ensuring graduates turn to tech firms, rather than manufacturers, for employment.
  • Manufacturers don’t offer the training programs skilled tech workers need. Without training, workers can’t keep up with the pace of change in technology, leading to job stress and lower productivity. Only recently have companies begun designing vocational programs for skilled labor.

Solving the Skilled Labor Gap

There is no magic solution to the skilled labor shortage in manufacturing, but there are steps companies can take to mitigate the problems.

  • Eliminate information silos. Consider the critical skills and best practices in your manufacturing workflow as an asset and protect them. Too often, companies take for granted work will “just get done” without considering the process. Manufacturers need to capture critical processes, helping to create internal training programs for new employees.
  • Increase employee productivity. Dated and error-prone paper-based processes hinder production. Employees spend more time managing paper and looking for information than actually building products. Modern tech workers, the ones manufacturing needs to attract, will find work in industries with more job satisfaction when faced with paper build books.
  • Empower current workers. The solution may not be a new hire, but empowering existing employees. Utilizing a software system such as an MES or Paperless Manufacturing will provide an HMI current workers can use. It won’t give you a programmer on the shop floor, but it will allow you to better manage people, processes and machines during production.
  • Manage the workflow. Errors often occur when workers don’t read or even consult the work instructions. Paperless Manufacturing uses process enforcement ensure the shop floor follows steps precisely. In this way, the system becomes a digital instructor; ensuring knowledge and experience aren’t lost when someone retires and the manufacturing engineers instructions are followed precisely.
  • Fill in the technology gaps. Study your processes and identify where there are gaps. Develop a strategy to fill those gaps. Focusing effort and resources on one aspect of the manufacturing value chain will offer minimal benefit if other areas are hindering overall efficiency.
  • Change the culture. As evidenced by the difficulty in attracting skilled labor, manufacturing has an image problem. Slick commercials and an investment in technology will help, but without confronting head-on the culture that created the image, problems will persist. Many manufacturers are reluctant to embrace change, adopting a strategy of waiting when faced with challenges. Tech workers know this, and it drives many to seek employment elsewhere.

Where will Manufacturing Go from Here?

Manufacturing is changing. Whether you call it Industry 4.0, Smart Manufacturing, or another term, manufacturers need new skills and new workers to capitalize on the opportunity.  Waiting another year or doing nothing is not a sustainable solution as skilled workers continue to seek employment in industries where they are appreciated and supported.

The first step to solving the skilled labor gap is to admit there is a problem, and then developing a strategy to overcome it.

Want to learn more, or see how Paperless Manufacturing can be the foundation for improved manufacturing and shop floor modernization? Then contact CIMx today for more information. We’re happy to help.

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Four Clues to Evaluating Current Manufacturing Software

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

If you take the pulse of the manufacturing software market, you’ll be surprised by what you discover.

We recently did an early demo of our product for a manufacturing prospect gone cold. A new Application Specialist was learning the job, and we offered a short demo as a way to engage the prospect and for our employee to get some experience.  We expected our main contact and maybe one or two others to show up. We were surprised when 20 executives and managers joined.

The limited discussions we had with this prospect had all been at a very high level. To have access to this many decision makers and influencers this early in the process seemed out of place.  I’ve been wondering what compels an executive to sit through a demo this early in the process, but the patterns are clear.

The Four Clues

We’re seeing signs of change in the MES market. Consider this:

  1. Manufacturers are hungry to learn more about MES and digital manufacturing.

It used to be our first calls were with quality managers or engineers, but today we are just as likely to get a call from a Vice President or Executive. The c-suite is taking an active role in the process early-on because they realize how critical the manufacturing software decision is.  They also fear getting taken by suppliers who are less than honest.  The MES purchase today is a critical foundation for the future. Sitting through a demo is an investment.

  1. Companies are searching for software solution truth.

Prospects are looking for a way to see through the empty promises offered by some software vendors.  The IoT (Internet of Things), Smart Manufacturing and the Digital Thread are terms companies use to confuse buyers into getting a solution that doesn’t really do what they need it to.  Prospects tell us regularly that software suppliers are unable to present their solution in the demo; they show illustrations of it (read more below) but rarely the real thing. Companies are beginning to question claims about functionality. They want to see the software, not a presentation.

  1. The term “out-of-the-box” has been hijacked.

Prospects are telling us that most demos they see from other MES vendors are “canned” (some are even using PowerPoint slides and short videos to “demonstrate” functionality).  Where they are able to see a real system in use, the prospect can’t ask the vendor to veer off script.  And even though almost every MES supplier markets their solution as “out-of-the-box,” for some systems a “live” MES demo requires extensive configuration of the system itself, making it unsuitable for most prospects.   The core product probably has some functionality that works out-of-the-box (OOTB), but it’s not enough to demo so vendors hide behind scripts and scenarios.

  1. A “robust” training program is not necessarily a good thing.

Want to know if a software vendor is bending the truth when they talk about their product? Ask how long training will take.  A lot of required training before using a system is not the sign of a “better” product, and a poorly designed product isn’t going to help you solve problems.  If you really don’t trust their answer, check out their website.  Verify the number of training videos or courses they offer.  Robust functionality with a laundry list of training courses that take days or weeks to complete can often signal inflexibility.

Optimizing Your Software Purchase

The long-term customers and prospects we work with are always searching for ways to improve production.  With 20 years in the industry, we have a lot of experience helping manufacturers.

Lately, we’ve had more and more prospects searching for OOTB functionality. They want to see the software, not a PowerPoint presentation.  Consultants and services companies that build custom systems or connect modules are posing as OOTB software suppliers, with sales people making promises the software team can’t keep.

“Can you demo from the live product?” It’s the one thing manufacturers challenge us to do all the time.  We can, and it’s the thing they comment on regularly.

Software vendors should show you what they can do today. Without a live demo, can you count on the system to work?  With enough time and money, anyone can build you something to do exactly what you ask, but the only way that you’re going to see a strong return on investment (ROI) is if the core system meets your needs. You shouldn’t have to rely on another module, software services, customization or extensive “configuration.”

Give us a call for more tips on MES or paperless manufacturing systems.  Whether you’re a CIMx customer or not, we’re tired of industry disinformation and happy to answer your questions, so contact us today to learn more.

By the way, our Application Specialist gave a fantastic demo of the product with just one month of work under his belt.  It’s hard to imagine software vendors with rigid systems and unnecessary complexity and don’t demo live could have had him demo-ready that early.  With CIMx, it just works.

Data Migration

Delivering Solutions with a Data Migration Engine

The data migration engine gives companies a reliable and safe tool to transfer their critical data and content from one system to another.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Our goal with the CIMx Data Migration Engine is to give companies a reliable, safe, and cost-effective way to move their data and content. Data migration shouldn’t be a reason why a business clings to outdated, unreliable and inefficient software systems.

Unfortunately, data migration is a burden for many companies updating their internal software systems – a very expensive burden that can lead to future problems if it’s not done right.

The Value of Professional Data Migration

3d man in trouble

Do you have the right solution for your data migration? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Data migration is a critical task when replacing older software with a newer system, consolidating information, or archiving and better utilizing content.

Companies limping by on old, error-prone legacy systems (you know the ones – ancient MS Access databases or software cobbled-together by a long-since retired co-worker) need a better solution if they want to grow. Outdated software will limit productivity and growth.

Data migration is a critical step in upgrade projects, but we’ve seen many companies roll out a new software system, with a foolproof implementation plan, only to have the project go off the rails when it comes time to move the content.

There are a lot of ways a migration project can go wrong:

  • The old data doesn’t work with the new system.
  • The content doesn’t transfer correctly, and you’re left with massive gaps in your database.
  • Lingering errors in the data, which past processes compensated for, render the new system useless.
  • The cost of the migration is so expensive; the decision is made to re-input everything and to keep the old system running for archive purposes.
  • Critical pieces of data have nowhere to go in the new system, and are either deleted or left in an old file that can’t be used.

The CIMx Data Migration Engine directly addresses these issues, delivering solutions rather than problems when it is time to move data.

Solutions for Data Migration

CIMx Software started more than 20 years ago as experts in managing manufacturing data. Many of the world’s largest manufacturers rely on CIMx database expertise through our CAPP (Computer-Aided Process Planning), advanced MES, and digital manufacturing solutions.

That expertise provided the foundation for the Data Migration Engine. Using the Engine, CIMx preserves the schema, organization and structure of a database throughout the transfer. Before beginning the actual migration, CIMx maps the data and structure to the new database or system, ensuring the schema is intact.

More advanced features of the Engine allow CIMx to work with end users to analyze and inspect the content and repair errors. Common errors, such as substitutions, are made automatically. Individual errors such as missing data and incorrect data values can be identified and then corrected. Flat files can also be converted to an accessible, object-oriented format ready for further use or even reporting.

The CIMx Data Migration Engine eliminates many of the risks and problems associated with standard data migration. In addition to ensuring a safe and reliable transfer, the Engine adds value by repairing many of the errors that limit the efficiency of older data – providing a solid foundation for modern, smart manufacturing solutions.

Want to learn more, or get an estimate on how the CIMx Data Migration Engine might help you? Then contact us today for a free shop floor analysis. We’re always happy to help.

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.

What Our Software Does

Sometimes, the simplest questions can be the most difficult to answer.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Not long ago, a prospect asked what we do.

He was looking for a standard MES and paperless manufacturing system. He had been to the website, and read over the material posted there. As he explained, it seemed to be what he was looking for, but he wanted a simple list that spelled out what, exactly, the software was going to do for him.

There is No Easy Answer for MES or MOM Functionality

Answering that question isn’t as easy as you might think. We have customers all over the world, and our software is used by thousands (many thousands) of users each day, and each one needs the software to do something different.

question.

What can MES and Paperless Manufacturing do for you? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Consider this – for a normal implementation of our software in a single factory, one person might use Quantum to pull up visual work instructions. The plant manager might use it to track production and identify potential bottlenecks. A sales rep uses it to answer questions for a customer and prepare orders. Quality is tracking non-conformances. Engineering is streamlining production on a new product line and working with the shop floor on engineering changes. In another office, an analyst is running reports on past production cycle working on ways to reduce costs and improve cycle time.

Our standard software, a Smart MES or MOM system, will do all that. It provides a digital foundation for manufacturing processes, which means for Medical device manufacturers it might manage labels, electronic validation and compliance with FDA 21 CFR Part 11, and automatically generate Batch Processing Records (BPR) – for a start. Carbon composite manufacturers need to control and synchronize specifications, recipes and process documentation. For an MRO it will coordinate all activities in the maintenance and repair process, while optimizing scheduling and improving communication and collaboration with the customer.

Every industry has slightly different needs, which is why we designed our software to configure so easily between industries. The open, flexible software design makes it easy for manufacturers to implement and use the features they need.

The shop floor technician knows it is where he gets his work instructions and tracks his work for the day. The crib manager uses it for asset management, and IT sees it as an app for operations. Each one answers the question of what the software does slightly different.

What is Paperless Manufacturing?

To be honest, no one is wrong. All see the system as a tool for them to do their job better, faster and with fewer errors. There is nothing wrong with that, but we still want to answer the question. We’re not hiding anything, so here is our answer to that (not so simple) question: Our software will:

  • Author and manage process plans for product models and quantities to meet customer orders.
  • Automatically, or manually through a production control person, attach correct product plans to orders. An ERP integration is used for automatic work flow.
  • Distribute all order work to the correct work center with priority, estimated times, and all specific information such as specifications, measures, tooling, materials and special instructions.
  • Review and manage shop floor order schedules and routings.
  • Collect data on work processes (how the work was done and by whom).
  • Collect data on labor (how long it took to do the work).
  • Collect all quality data on the order (how accurate was the work done).
  • Collect data on scrap and rework. (what problems occurred).
  • Observe trending reports on selected data.
  • Observe Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on selected data.
  • Track all orders on the shop floor on a dashboard showing progress to the minute.
  • Create automatic reports of product events and order data.
  • Create real time report of all quality issues (a real time dashboard).
  • Create automatic report of the complete, accurate as-built record for all orders.
  • Create report of all serialized parts for accurate traceability in the future.
  • Manage and oversee shop floor machine maintenance schedules and processes.
  • Manage inventory of tooling, materials and parts.
  • Manage a secure data warehouse of all historical, orders, plans and data.
Efficient Manufacturing

Paperless Manufacturing and MES provide digital support to your manufacturing operations. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

So, this is our answer, bereft of the marketing and sales copy.

You can go to MESA for their model of MES. In a few years, I’m sure the model will change yet again, and with good reason. Other software vendors can pick at this list and find holes they can fill with their own glorious functionality. We aren’t trying to challenge the industry with this list, just answer the question of what we do. The needs of manufacturing are constantly changing. New tools, technologies, and market demands are a disruptive influence on our industry, and we need to adjust with them or we fall behind.

In a few months we can go back to our list and see if it has changed, because we are a dynamic company. Our customers need and expect us to continue to innovate. That’s the value we bring to them.

Have a question, or want to see how we can benefit your operation, then contact us today. We’re always happy to help.

Setting Smart Manufacturing Goals for 2016

In 2016, technology opportunities abound for savvy manufacturers looking to grow their business. What are your manufacturing goals for the New Year?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Two Thousand And Sixteen Character Laptop Shows Year 2016

Are you setting Smart goals for your shop floor in 2016? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

2015 has been a year of changes and conjecture for manufacturing.  New technology and new ideas are having a disruptive influence on manufacturing, and many are wondering what comes next.

Embracing the Smart MES and Digital Manufacturing

Disruptive isn’t necessarily bad for the savvy manufacturer – it can also lead to opportunity. We’re at a moment in history when you can see the future taking shape. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), the Smart Factory, and digital manufacturing is becoming less conjecture, and more a reality that must be addressed.

This is a paradigm shift driven by the benefits of the technology on the shop floor. Even now, in the nascent stages of the tech development, we see the benefit. Suppliers and innovators continually develop new products and services utilizing the technology for manufacturing.

Some (maybe even most) of us face change with a pit in our stomach and reluctance in our heart. Change, any change, is risk. We know, understand and can control a paper build book, and the idea of relying on software, sensors and (even-limited) automation to manage manufacturing is new, untested and scary. But the benefits far outweigh the risk.

What Will You Do in 2016?

As one year ends and another begins, there’s a cycle of goal-setting and planning. Admittedly, this cycle often ends with goal-forgetting, but with so much opportunity out there, this is not the year to ignore setting goals for your manufacturing technology. 2016 has the potential to make a powerful impact on your company if you’re willing embrace new tools and ideas.

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

How are you preparing for the future in 2015? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Consider this the year you make a start. Look at a phased implementation for a new MES or MOM system. Start on one production line, move planning to a digital system and start collecting a few key pieces of data. Small steps like this will lower the initial cost, decrease the overall risk, and help prove the ROI. Once the initial phase is complete, evaluate and adjust, and then roll out the system to new areas.

Most companies are shocked with the results, and surprised they hadn’t embraced MES and paperless manufacturing earlier.

For some companies, 2016 will be the year they took a step forward and seized a competitive advantage in the market. Other companies will cling to the status quo; lose market share and the goodwill of customers, falling further and further behind the competition. In 2016, old tools and technology can’t compete. There has never been a better time to invest in technology.

So what will you do in 2016?

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.