Tag Archives: Mobility

A Look Back at Paperless Manufacturing in 2013

At the beginning of 2013, we made a few predictions.  Looking back, the results were surprising, and enlightening.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Each year there is an inevitable flurry of predictions and lists – speculation on the New Year and analysis of the old.  I’ll admit, it’s fun – the predictions and lists have become an annual tradition much like holiday cards and champagne toasts.

But this year, we decided to break the tradition, step back and take a look at our predictions for the previous year before offering our predictions for 2014.

What can you learn about the future of paperless manufacturing by looking at the past year?  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What can you learn about the future of paperless manufacturing by looking at the past year? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Manufacturing Growth and Capital Expenditures?

We predicted moderate growth in 2013, and we’re seeing proof of that growth even now.  In August, the manufacturing sector grew at its fastest pace in more than two years, with continued growth throughout Q4.

Capital expenditures are always a little trickier to predict and track.  But, a number of businesses are already predicting increased capital expenditures for 2014 – including Apple, who increased their spending from $7 billion to $11 billion.

Overall, the global economy benefitted from increased corporate spending and manufacturing growth in 2013.

American Manufacturing in Transition?

In 2012, we predicted a number of factors would pressure American Manufacturing, and we certainly saw that.  We mentioned the need for a skilled labor force, increased productivity and improved quality – but other factors added to the pressure in surprising ways, such as a surge in shale gas drilling that is helping fuel a resurgence in American industry, and an increase in automation driving the need for a skilled labor force.

We also saw a trend in “reshoring” (or bringing their manufacturing to America) from companies such as Ford Motor, GE and NCR.  In a recent survey of manufacturers, 54% said they were planning to or considering a move to reshore, up nearly 20% from a survey earlier in 2013.  American manufacturing is certainly still in a transition, but the future is looking much brighter.

Quality Growing in Importance?

We saw the growing importance of quality as a trend for paperless manufacturing in 2013.  In fact, quality is a driving reason companies are turning back to America for manufacturing.  Companies such as Procter & Gamble use innovations in the manufacturing process to not only improve quality, but drive business growth.

This year, CIMx saw a number of companies turn to MES and paperless manufacturing to not only improve production, but improve quality.  Companies have seen that process improvement programs such as Lean and Six Sigma are not enough.  Sustainable improvement can only be achieved with the real-time data collection and process control made possible with paperless manufacturing.

What will 2014 hold for your business? Photo credit www.colourbox.com

What will 2014 hold for your business? Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

Is Manufacturing Going Mobile?

We predicted increased interest in mobile manufacturing in 2013.  This year, a number of companies began marketing mobile “apps” for manufacturing.  Manufacturers have a wealth of mobile manufacturing apps options, including role-based apps shown to improve production by 5% to 10% and process improvement apps on the Google Play store.

Manufacturers are still tentatively approaching mobile applications on the shop floor.  More and more, the benefits of mobile manufacturing are making an impact on the manufacturing community, but companies recognize it’s not enough to give a worker a tablet and expect production to improve.  Detailed production plans won’t fit on a smart phone screen, no matter how good the app is.  Companies are discovering the key to benefitting from mobile manufacturing is finding the right app, the right tool, and rolling it out to the shop floor appropriately.

Are there New Solutions?

We also made a (very) safe prediction that new solutions and new options would roll out the industry in 2013, and even we were surprised in how this prediction played out.

Who would have thought GE would turn to 3D Printers for jet engines?  Or that NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne would successfully test fire a rocket engine partially built from 3D Printer technology?  Or that we are no longer looking at robots to replace humans on the shop floor, but to enhance them.

In paperless manufacturing, more and more companies are rejecting the old way of implementing a system (long development, expensive service costs and disruptive implementation) for new, lower-cost solution focused methods such as phased implementation and off-the-shelf Web 2.0 solutions.  The industry and technology is evolving too quickly to expect a 2-3 year development project to deliver an acceptable ROI.  Solutions should begin delivering an ROI a few months after implementation.

This time of year, prognosticators are common, but I would guess most are looking ahead, not behind.  Once you’ve put away the bottle of champagne and the New Year’s parties are over, take a moment to reflect on where you’ve been and where you and your manufacturing business are going.  Many times, you’ll be surprised at what you discover.  Our predictions in 2013 weren’t meant to shock the industry, but it’s interesting and enlightening to see how they played out during the year.

Next week, we’ll look ahead to 2014 and offer our predictions for the New Year.  And, as always, if you have a question let us know… we’re always happy to help.

Manufacturing Innovation Waits For No One

Additive Manufacturing, Paperless Manufacturing, Cloud Computing, Mobile Manufacturing… the future of manufacturing is here, but many of us are letting it pass us by.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

How will manufacturing innovation help your business?

How will manufacturing innovation help your business? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

A few days ago, I came across an article on Yahoo News – 3D-Printed Rocket Engine Part Passes Key NASA Test.  I was eating a sandwich and waiting for a phone call, so I didn’t read it.  I planned to look it up later.  I thought if it was REALLY important, it would be on the news or the magic social media fairies would flood my Facebook page with the hundreds of ways I should feel about it.

In retrospect, that’s not the way the world or innovation works.  Here was innovation… a swift kick from the future of manufacturing!  And I decided to eat a sandwich… It wasn’t even a good sandwich.

We are all searching for innovation, and we all know that success in manufacturing is dependent on smart decisions, empowered employees, and delivering higher quality for lower cost.  We know success is dependent on working smarter, faster, and more cheaply.  Innovation is the key!

But how many of us are actually taking the steps to innovate?

How many of us are so focused on the next crisis, we don’t innovate?  No one has time to innovate, we are too busy working reactively to put out emergencies to think proactively.  Someone else will do it, or tell us to do it.  Until “innovation” becomes a critical emergency (such as a process no longer works, or a customer demands it, or something is broken and needs fixing), innovation isn’t a priority.

Take control of your business, and don't fall victim to the crisis of the moment. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Take control of your business, and don’t fall victim to the crisis of the moment. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

But the future isn’t waiting.  Its passing us by, and even Yahoo News can see it.  Innovation works.  Innovation created our industry… just ask Henry Ford and his assembly line.  So I decided to do something about it.  When a friend mentioned the, “Printed rocket thing that NASA did,” I realized I didn’t have anything intelligent to add.  I wasn’t innovating, only spinning my wheels making excuses.

Now, I get my coffee in the morning and take a look at industry news.  I think about how I work and where I spend too much time because the current tools aren’t working, and look for a solution.  I come up with plans and make innovation a priority.  I make sure I’m spending at least 10 minutes on innovation each day.  I even set a clock

After two weeks, I’m already seeing results… I’d like to congratulate Aerospace Rocketdyne on a successful test, and told my friend about it.  I’m going paperless and using the OneNote Web App to take notes and keep my calendar.  Integrating OneNote with the voice record on my smart phone was genius.  I also set up a filing system for my computer desktop, and can find a file in less than a minute.

Maybe I’m an idealist, but the results speak for themselves.  Innovation should never be the child of an emergency.  Once you make the promise to yourself to be proactive in your innovation, even if it’s 10 minutes every morning, you’ll find fewer emergencies that require your undivided attention.  Solve problems before they become an emergency.

Manufacturing thrives with innovation, a fact I believe many of us have forgotten.  So what steps have you taken to innovate?  How do you plan for the future in your business?  Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Paperless Manufacturing

For many manufacturers, large and small, paperless manufacturing gives them the freedom to build and grow their business.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

The 4th of July, American Independence Day, has always been about freedom, and freedom has a special connection to Paperless Manufacturing and CIMx Software.  I left an engineering company to start CIMx Software for the freedom to choose – my destiny, the company’s direction, and the people and products that are the foundation of CIMx.

Paperless manufacturing gives your shop floor freedom to focus on quality and efficiency.

Paperless manufacturing gives your shop floor freedom to focus on quality and efficiency.

Paperless Manufacturing and MES frees companies to grow without paper-based constraints.  The companies I talk to that are still using paper suffer from limitations including lack of real-time information, no reliable quality assurance, and an inefficient change process.  They may use readily available tools, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, or Power Point, for some measure of process control, but these tools weren’t designed to manage information in a production environment.  They can’t assure you of accuracy or manage change.  Doubt and inefficiencies prevent rapid decision-making and cause errors.  These companies are restrained, prevented from maximizing production or effectively building their business.

As a manufacturing solution, Paperless Manufacturing ensures production and process control, and manages information to enable growth.  Manufacturers focus on the future, on improvement, and delivering exceptional production and customer service, rather than chasing errors and struggling to make things work.

Need more proof?  Take a look at how some companies handle audits.  For many manufacturers, success in an audit is far from certain.  Many could argue the audit process is another infringement of freedom, but it can also be seen as a benchmark for measuring process control. Audits require businesses to be nimble and control information – almost impossible in a paper environment.  In a paper-based environment, audits cost days and weeks of lost productivity, with employees focused on work with no ROI.  In Paperless Manufacturing, securely archiving information and assembling as-built records for audits is automated. Employees are focused on productive work.  You have the freedom to plan beyond your next audit.

The success we’ve enjoyed at CIMx Software is based on freedom.  I started CIMx Software to discover freedom – the freedom to build a company the way I chose.  Our software solutions give manufacturers the freedom to focus on what they do best – building and producing.

Paperless manufacturing, when implemented by a company you trust, should minimize complexity, not add to it. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Paperless manufacturing, when implemented by a company you trust, should minimize complexity, not add to it. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

There are still manufacturers reluctant to embrace technology such as Paperless Manufacturing.  They put limitations on their business by clinging to inefficient paper-based production control.  Maybe they’ve been burnt by unscrupulous companies in the past, or have been approached by a consulting company hoping to sell services rather than a system.  Here’s an insider tip – to discover unscrupulous consulting companies hiding their true intentions, ask them the ratio of development team members working on core product releases to the number of installation experts and programmers working on customer jobs.  Ideally, you want a ratio of 3-to-1 (3 developers to 1 service person) in a software company.

When companies struggle, they turn to desperate measures, narrowing options and limiting freedom.  For example, they may try to build their own system.  They have no idea the time or investment necessary, and end up shackling their fortune and future on a system they are building from scratch with no guarantee of success.

Freedom is having a system that works with your processes and gives you control of your business and shop floor without imposing restrictions or adding complexity.  The system should give you tools to build and grow your business, such as Paperless Manufacturing, mobile and collaborative manufacturing, and a secure cloud-based solution.  It gives you the freedom to focus on what you do best, rather than struggle to stay one step ahead of disaster – a scenario all too common on a paper-based shop floor.

CIMx Software knows something about freedom, and the freedom paperless manufacturing gives manufacturers.  After all, freedom has been a foundation of CIMx Software since its founding more than 17 years ago.

Is Paperless Manufacturing Right for You?

No matter your company size or industry, paperless manufacturing delivers shop floor benefits (if you have the right system).

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications at CIMx Software

A while back, I had a leak in my basement- water from the shower came pouring out of the ceiling in a torrent, splashing across boxes of Christmas decorations.  I called a plumber, who gave me an estimate that included major construction, a replacement pipe, and a team of plumbers.  The estimate made me dizzy, but what could I do- shower in the basement below the leak?

Choices and options.

You have a shop floor challenge and you’re not sure what to do. Have you considered all the solutions available? Photo from http://www.colourbox.com.

I called another plumber who offered to take a look.  He studied the waterfall, and then cut a small hole in the closet outside the bathroom.  With a little wire and a wrench, he fixed the leak in 10 minutes.  “No worries,” he said. “The pipes are fine, but the fitting came loose.  I changed the seal, so it shouldn’t happen again.”  Total cost of the repair was less than $100.

The moral of the story… sometimes a solution is much easier, much cheaper and much closer than you might think.

It’s a scenario I’ve seen played out time and again in manufacturing.  A business will struggle with out of control shop floor processes, inefficient operations, significant loss from scrap and rework, or even failed audits because they believe a solution like paperless manufacturing or an MES is out of reach, too costly, and too complex.  They know the solution exists, but they think it won’t work for them.

Some try to build a software solution in-house, thinking this will get them a “personalized” solution under their control for less money, not realizing how much time and cost is involved in writing computer code from scratch.  An effective in-house solution can take YEARS of effort, with no guarantee of success.

Have you considered paperless manufacturing for your company?

Have you considered paperless manufacturing for your company?

Other companies limp along with patchwork solutions, legacy systems, or increasingly larger stacks of spreadsheets and documents traveling the highways and byways of their shop floor.  These companies believe software solutions are designed for multi-national companies with sales in the billions and the resources to pay for a team of programmers.  This belief leads many smaller companies to continue to use paper build books and excel spreadsheets.

You’ll be happy to know, the solution IS much closer than you imagine.  CIMx offers paperless manufacturing solutions for any size company, large or small, in any industry.  It is the right system for many manufacturers.  Here’s why:

  • CIMx offers scalable solutions.  CIMx designed a paperless manufacturing solution that scales to your operations.  You never have to take on more complexity or functionality than you want or need.  If all you need is improved quality, or as-built records, or a real-time view of production for improved customer service, paperless manufacturing offers a solution.  With CIMx, you can focus on the solution you need, then integrate additional capabilities when you are ready.  The solution scales to your needs, your operation doesn’t struggle to scale to the solution.
  • Phased implementation gives you control of the process.  The entire system can be completely installed in weeks.  At that point, you select the features and functions you want, turning them on in phases and using them when you are ready.  You and your team never take on more cost, risk, or change than you are prepared to manage.
  • Use your current processes and work instructions. With CIMx, there is no need to change your work instructions or adapt your current processes.  The system doesn’t require you to squish or adapt your current processes or instructions into new forms or tables.  The CIMx solution works as a tool for you.  This minimizes change and shop floor disruption, and ensures an even quicker ROI.
Paperless manufacturing is now a scalable solution, offering benefits to manufacturers in all industries and of all sizes. Photo by www.colourbox.com.

Paperless manufacturing is now a scalable solution, offering benefits to manufacturers in all industries and of all sizes. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com.

On top of that, CIMx offers one of the most effective support systems in the industry.  Rather than an impersonal help desk or support line, you have an applications engineer assigned to your account who is available for training, questions, and product support.  They know you, your business and your system.   They offer solutions instead of questions, and ensure the software is really benefitting your shop floor.  You never have to worry that once the system is installed, you are left on your own.

Ever since the waterfall in my basement, I’ve quit assuming the easiest, most practical solution isn’t for me.  I won’t take a reactive approach to problem solving, instead I try to use the BEST solution with the RIGHT answer (yeah, I’m looking at you broken air conditioner).  This approach has saved me money, minimized frustration and made me happier.

So what challenges does your shop floor face?  Have you thought about what paperless manufacturing can do for you?  Contact CIMx Software today to learn how we can help you overcome shop floor challenges with solutions that include workflow control, shop floor and production visibility, mobile manufacturing, and visual multi-media work instructions.  We have a number of solutions ready to tackle your biggest problems.

Paperless Manufacturing Is Changing Our Industry, Are You Ready?

Our world is going paperless, the question is who will drive the change when it reaches your shop floor?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I recently got an eye-opening wake-up call to the paperless future.

It was finally time to retire my 16-year old air conditioner and upgrade to a high-efficiency system.  I did my research and price-checked estimates before choosing a company.  I called up the sales rep to select a system, schedule the installation and sign the paperwork… then things got interesting.

“Paperwork?” the rep said. “No need… we can do everything online.”

Isn't it time to free yourself from paper by looking at the benefits of paperless manufacturing?   Photo by www.colourbox.com

Isn’t it time to free yourself from paper by looking at the benefits of paperless manufacturing? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

And he was right.  He worked in his office while I sat on my couch with a laptop.  We spoke via the Web.  I filled out an online questionnaire while he pulled up data on my house.  It took him 45 seconds to send over three choices for my new system, incorporating the questionnaire and data.  I looked over the options while the rep finished credit approval.  A choice was made and he emailed a contract. I e-signed and he chose an installation team.  The entire process took 15 minutes.  I never left the couch, and even ate a sandwich while we worked.  The secure computer system efficiently managed the details, integrating all the pieces.

Honestly, why did I feel the need to “sign” paperwork?  I assumed that’s the way it was done, and inefficient travel and paper-based errors were the cost of business.  In retrospect, my misgivings could have torpedoed the process.

The Future Is Here, and It’s Paperless

Face it… the world is going paperless, and we are all better for it.  Digital systems connect people and businesses with machines and processes like never before, adding value and improving productivity.  Many industries and companies have made the move, including:

  • Paperless house closings through Ellie Mae;
  • Paperless shopping through Amazon and online retailers;
  • Paperless medical records;
  • Paperless accounting and recordkeeping;
  • Paperless service industries, including HVAC and Mechanic shops;
  • Paperless college education through University of Phoenix.

The digital revolution is impacting manufacturing in ways we are only now beginning to understand.  Paperless manufacturing, the process of adopting paperless work instructions to manage information and work flow on the shop floor, is changing the industry.  For example, 3D Printing, or Additive Manufacturing, requires a digital design and work instruction, not a paper-driven one.  A new Standard Interchange File Format, developed by ASTM International, will allow a seamless transition from design to physical printed object, but only if the shop floor has made the conversion to digital.

Paperless Manufacturing Solutions

As an industry, manufacturing is moving toward paperless processes.  Look at the latest trends in manufacturing such as mobile manufacturing, 3D printing, on-demand manufacturing, and customer-centric manufacturing.  Utilizing real-time information on the shop floor will require paperless systems.  Even contemporary process improvement initiatives in manufacturing, such as Lean, Six-Sigma and agile manufacturing all rely on the functionality offered by paperless manufacturing.

The future of manufacturing isn't paper build books. Photo credit www.colourbox.com

The future of manufacturing isn’t paper build books. Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

Many manufacturers believe moving to paperless manufacturing requires a significant investment of time, energy and resources.  This may have been true in the past, but new technology and processes have made it possible for more companies to make the transition to paperless manufacturing, reducing the cost and minimizing the risk.  No longer is paperless manufacturing and MES solutions reserved for the largest corporations or complex discrete manufacturing.  Manufacturers of all sizes and in all industries will find workflow process control benefits with paperless manufacturing.

As more industries adopt paperless systems, manufacturers that cling to paper will discover their business isolated as they find it increasingly difficult to integrate with paperless systems.  The cost of duplicate work will increase, and processes will continue to grow more inefficient.  These companies will have fewer options and less opportunity.

To be honest, I installed my new AC less than two months ago, and I can’t imagine going back to a paper-based system.  Change is coming, so ask yourself, who will drive the change to paperless manufacturing on your shop floor?  New paperless manufacturing and manufacturing solution systems are lowering risk, reducing cost, and minimizing the pain of installation, implementation and training.  CIMx offers a system that incorporates your current processes and work instructions, making implementation even more efficient.  Want to look over options or learn more about paperless manufacturing, contact CIMx Software today.

Shining the Truth on Mobile Manufacturing Myths

Mobile Manufacturing is a hot topic in the industry, but many manufacturers are clinging to myths holding their company back.

By David Oeters, CIMx Software Corporate Communications

Manufacturers see the advantages of mobile technology on the shop floor.  For example, how much more effective could your quality control be if they could implement a hold from the shop floor?  How much more effective would your organization be if customer service had access to real time data on production from anywhere?  Would leadership meetings benefit from real-time production reports and dashboards?

Is there room on your shop floor for mobile manufacturing? Photo by www.colourbox.com.

Is there room on your shop floor for mobile manufacturing? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com.

Mobile manufacturing obviously holds promise, including increased quality, better process control and productivity, but while companies search for information, little benefit has come from these investigations into mobile or collaborative manufacturing.  Perhaps it is the misguided belief mobile manufacturing is simply giving iPads to the shop floor employees, or that mobile manufacturing will lose production data, holding companies back.

We wanted to take a few minutes to shine the honest truth on the mobile manufacturing myths.  Here are our Top 5 mobile manufacturing myths, and the truth hiding behind the myths:

1)      Mobile Manufacturing means putting iPads on the shop floor.

Not necessarily true!  You implement as much, or as little, mobile manufacturing as you want.  With the right system, you select the devices with access to your data.  This could mean executives with mobile access to real-time, shop floor production dashboards, but an employee with a smart phone can’t make changes to work instructions, and your shop floor won’t have access to Facebook. A robust system supporting mobility will offer you more control of production, not less, and become an important tool for increasing efficiency.

2)      Mobility is another name for cloud computing, and I’m going to lose control of my data.

In one sense, this is true.  PCMag defines cloud computing, in the simplest terms, as accessing data and programs over the internet, usually with a web-based browser.  If so, mobile manufacturing is a form of cloud computing… and an excellent way to evaluate the Cloud risk-free!  Mobile manufacturing can set up a secure “cloud” inside your company, protecting your data from outside threats while allowing you the security of automated data backups and other cloud-based IT benefits.  Think of it as a low-risk first step into the cloud without depending on an outside organization.

3)      Mobile manufacturing will expose my data to outside security threats.

As with any new system that works with your data, there is a potential risk, but common-sense precautions will protect your enterprise from risk. Bill Connor, CEO of the security firm Entrust, has identified a few of the more common misconceptions and myths regarding mobile security.  For example, you can see who is connected to your system and what mobile device they are using, and with common-sense precautions, confidential data can be protected even if a device is stolen.

4)      Mobile Manufacturing will expose my business to change I can’t control.

One key to success is controlling risk and capitalizing on change.  Consider a phased implementation for mobile manufacturing, which gives you complete control of change.  You select the change you want  and when you implement it, so you never take on more risk than you can handle, guaranteeing an ROI (return on investment) for the project.  For example, implement mobile manufacturing in one area, such as quality control.  Slowly roll it out to other areas of the enterprise when you have a better understanding of the process, a clear goal for the system, and have achieved an ROI.

5)      Mobile devices can’t be trusted.

More errors and inefficiencies are produced by a paper-based manufacturing system than a paperless one, which you will likely achieve with mobile manufacturing. Research has shown paper-driven processes increase costs, introduce errors, and create compliance issues.  In fact, 75.9% of companies reported significant business risks due to inefficient document-driven processes, including paper-based processes.  You may feel more comfortable in a paper-based system, but this is not necessarily what is best for you or your company.

Mobile and collaborative manufacturing is coming, are you ready? Photo by www.colourbox.com

Mobile and collaborative manufacturing is coming, are you ready? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Paperless and mobile manufacturing systems hold a lot of promise for manufacturing, and can make your shop floor more productive.  But few manufacturers have taken action on the research.  Myths and misinformation are clouding the topic.  Visit our website to learn the latest CIMx initiatives in mobile manufacturing, and see what other advantages you might be missing.  As you consider possible process improvements for your shop floor, find the truth – don’t let myths get in the way of game-changing ideas.

Putting secrets of baseball to work on your shop floor!

There are baseball lessons that will improve manufacturing production, increase efficiency, and deliver real-time shop floor visibility and control.

Baseball is a tradition in Cincinnati (the home of CIMx).  Every spring, little league baseball teams appear in every open field, and residents sport at least one (and probably more) piece of Cincinnati Reds apparel.  The city is awash in a sea of red and white for every home game. Excitement for the game is infectious.

What can baseball teach you about your shop floor? Or mobile manufacturing? Or quality? The answer will surprise you.

What can baseball teach you about your shop floor? Or mobile manufacturing? Or quality? The answer will surprise you.

So I leapt at a recent invitation to a game.  A few friends offered me an extra ticket.  It was a great game!  The home team won, I got beer and a hot dog.  But, I didn’t know it was a “working” game.  It turns out one of my friends was a baseball statistician, and we were there to help with a project.

While I watched the game for a wicked curveball, a nice defensive play, or a massive home run, my friend was thinking about probability, applied statistical methods, quantitative analysis and variance theory.  During the game, each of us had a notebook filled with lines and data collection notes.  My job was to collect data on each pitch.  It was hard work!  I had scribbled notes in the margins, question marks all over the page.  Ever try to see the difference between a slider or a split finger fastball from the second tier of a stadium?

And when we were done, sitting at the bar over wings, collating the data was a huge headache.  A key data point was lost under mustard.  Another page of data was missing, likely victim of an overzealous stadium attendant.  My statistician friend was not amused at my unscientific “guess-timates.” After 3 hours of collating, we left without a clear mathematical picture of the game.  All we had was a messy collection of data points that inspired little confidence.

Which, unfortunately, reminds me of shop floor data collection and as-built records for many manufacturers.

I’ll admit my friend set-up what seemed like a “can’t-miss, error-free” system for collecting data.  I just had to mark the sheet for each pitch, log the number for each batter and pitcher, and keep track of when and where in the game we were.  Sounds simple, right?  It was, until reality hit.  We had pitching changes and substitute batters (change orders), bathroom breaks (user-errors), missing and torn notebooks (paper-errors), unreadable data (shop-errors), unreadable notes (input-errors).  All five of us at the game are college-graduates with successful careers, but I was amazed at the number of errors we ran into during the course of a single game.  It was the perfect example of the challenges facing shop floor data collection.

What opportunities for improvement are you letting slip by?

What opportunities for improvement are you letting slip by?

The cost in effort, manpower, and money to create an accurate as-built with paper records is a losing proposition.  Quality?  Unless you have a strong data collection system, then quality production analysis is going to be a “guess-stimate.” Want to use real-time data to track orders or improve production? Can’t do it when your data sits getting dusty in the margins of your as-built book or work order traveler until someone types it into your database. Can you really say your data is secure cruising around the shop floor?  Looking at Lean Manufacturing or Six-Sigma production improvement?  Paper data collection will not get your team where it needs to be. How long does it take you to answer a production question when a customer calls?  Is that acceptable?

So how does baseball keep such accurate records and data?  They have a team of statisticians collecting data throughout the game and a digital system collecting data and identifying errors, which are quickly corrected when needed. Data is kept in a secure location (so stadium attendants can’t clean it away).  The system is designed to automatically create usable records (real-time reporting) from the data so baseball junkies can get their fill of real time baseball stats at the click of a button.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

We have accurate baseball records going back decades.  This is data we can trust (as long as you ignore potential “juicing” in your analysis).  Want to know how the Cincinnati Reds did in 1982? The data is there, accessible at a push of a button, and it is trustworthy.  Not that you would want that data, because it happens to be one of the worst seasons for the Reds (first time they finished in last place since 1937).

How far can you go with the right tools and processes in place? Photo credit www.colourbox.com

How far can you go with the right tools and processes in place? Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

Your shop floor can and should work like that.  Data collection should be a seamless part of the process for real time data collection, just like the team of data junkies that pore over and analyze every baseball game. Ensure accurate data with built-in safeguards.  Improve quality with a system that compares work plans with current data, flagging non-conformances. Production improvement is possible only with accurate and efficient data collection.  What could you do with anywhere, anytime access to real production data?  If the baseball brainiacs can access the pitch count from a random game five years ago, why can’t your shop floor produce accurate as-builts when it comes time for an audit?

The truth is, they can.  It is not difficult to implement shop floor data collection.  A controlled, phased implementation is a low-risk process that ensures an ROI for each phase, and will improve production, reduce errors, ensure quality, and create accurate real-time records that for an easy, timely, and efficient audit.

So, my first effort at baseball stadium data collection was a failure (but did get me a free baseball game, beer, a hot dog, and wings… so it wasn’t THAT much of a failure).  But, we learned a lesson.  Next time, we’re going with tablets and an app (our own version of mobile manufacturing). A laptop is collecting data and correlating it for real time accuracy. We set up a process one evening, tested it during a game on TV, and it’s ready to be implemented at the next game.

What kind of shop floor data collection system do you have?  How do you use and control your production data?  How quickly can you prepare for an audit?  If you’d like to know more about how you can improve your manufacturing process and shop floor data collection, contact us today. We’re happy to help.