Tag Archives: paperless shop floor

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.

Simple Tips for New Year’s Manufacturing Resolutions that Make a Difference

Each year, many of us in manufacturing make resolutions focused on improvement.  Too often those resolutions fail to deliver.  This year, make a resolution to fundamentally improve your business.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

As one year ends, people begin crafting personal resolutions focused on improvement.  We promise to exercise more, eat better, write more letters, read more, slow down, or lose weight.  Businesses build strategic plans much the same way, perhaps using a SWOT analysis to start the process – before resolving to sell more, retain more customers, keep employees engaged, or grow the business.

There is a fundamental flaw to both of these approaches.  It’s a flaw that many times leads to resolutions that fade away as Spring rolls around.  Think of it as Kryptonite for your best intentions.

Choices and options.

Choose to make a positive difference in your business by making fundamental change, or resign yourself to making the mistakes of the past. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com.

Many times, our resolutions don’t fundamentally change the trajectory of our current path.  Albert Einstein quoted insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”  Yet, each year we collectively seem stricken by a New Year’s case of insanity.  We examine the steps we have taken to reach our current status, and use it as the basis for the future plans.  We make resolutions to, “do better,” “increase sales,” “improve quality,” or “reduce production time,” without making the fundamental change necessary to position ourselves for success.  It’s as if the act of making the resolution has imbued us with the magical powers necessary to improve on the results of the previous year by doing nothing different.

Then, a few months later we all wonder why we couldn’t meet our goals for the New Year.

The secret to a successful resolution isn’t making a smaller resolution, it’s making a bigger one and having the courage to make the fundamental change necessary to make it happen.  I had lunch this week with Mary Miller of Jancoa.  Mary was instrumental in the founding of the Dream Manager program, linking people with what they want to do by asking them to stretch far beyond where they currently are to see where they want to be.  These questions the program asks are independent of the individual’s current position or success in life.  By helping employees to think big and by tapping into their passion and dreams, the Dream Manager program delivers tremendous success by helping people make fundamental improvements to help them reach their goal.

There's no better time to make a real change in your business prospects than now, so make it happen!  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

There’s no better time to make a real change in your business prospects than now, so make it happen! Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Many businesses would be scared to ask people their dreams.  It’s a “touchy-feely” exercise, and business is more comfortable focusing on hard reality or problems, which is too bad, because employees are much more determined and successful when you tap into their passion to reach a goal.  The Dream Manager program supports goals that “stretch” beyond the current situation to explore what is possible.

The reluctance to “stretch” is not only holding you back from your goals, it is also holding back shop floor improvement.  With paperless manufacturing, electronic shop floor tools transform the way production works.  They provide a new structure, a vector off the current path, and support targeted improvement.  By introducing a simple tool, paperless manufacturing, you benefit from instant access to all orders on the shop floor – fundamentally increasing your efficiency, improving your accuracy and driving profitability.  Complexity and customization isn’t necessary to reach the goals.  You can use your current work instructions, and you control the pace of change through phased implementation.  Time and again, we have seen paperless manufacturing as a catalyst for growth.

Your strategic plan may have increased sales or volume goals, but the growth may be already threatened by the current culture and external pressures.  You may have built your goals on a SWOT or on input from the prior year’s results.  A plan built on historic information will most likely deliver similar results.  Dramatic growth requires external stimulus and a new approach.  Paperless manufacturing provides the stimulus to inspire dramatic growth.

Make 2014 different.  Enable catalytic change and fundamentally improve your manufacturing shop floor.  As always, send us a message if you have a question.  We’re happy to help.

6 Hidden (or not-so hidden) Benefits of Paperless Manufacturing

Many Manufacturers turn to paperless manufacturing to solve a specific shop floor challenge, only to be surprised by a host of other production benefits.

The other day I visited my grandma. We decided to order pizza for dinner. “Go find the number in the phone book,” she told me.  You remember phone books – massive bound documents with thin yellow paper and ink that left fingers black with every touch. She couldn’t remember the number and insisted I use the phone book. I spent 15 minutes searching for the number she wanted before finding it under Restaurant – Italian.  The number wasn’t even in service. I was so frustrated, I ended up driving out to get the pizza just to get away.

How many of us have a shop floor document management system similar to a phone book? How many of us search a document for a piece of data, only to find it’s out of date? Ever think about the amount of data lost or misreported in paper-based systems? Do you dread audits? How long does it take to get accurate information from the shop floor?

Learn more about Paperless Manufacturing and what it can do for your shop floor.

Learn more about Paperless Manufacturing and what it can do for your shop floor. Photo: www.colourbox.com.

Yeah, life on a paper-based shop floor reminds me of life with phone books. Finding a phone number online is much easier than searching through a phone book. Verifying a phone number takes seconds, and I’m much more confident in the data I find. The amount of data that can be stored and found online is simply astounding compared to the tiny text you comb through in a phone book.

So, if we can make phone books paperless, why are we insisting on a paper-based shop floor?  The good news is there are more benefits to going paperless than just taking piles and piles of paper off the shop floor, including:

Revision control helps ensure the shop floor is using only the latest, most accurate plans. With the right system, the shop floor has access to only the correct plans.

Accurate records are easy to keep. The system will automatically update the records as needed. Workflow events can be created to collect data in real time. It’s a seamless part of the work procedure.

Simplified audits are the norm when you have accurate record keeping  You can be confident in the results before you go into an audit, and have easy access to necessary information.  Would a two hour audit with full compliance save you time and money?  Think of the waste you accumulate with audits that take weeks to complete.

Shop floor visibility means you have real time access to data, and aren’t forced to make business or production decisions based on outdated information.

Faster change management gives you assurance that when change happens, it reaches the right people at the right time.  Engineering changes that are available to all who need to know 5 minutes after approval saves rework and scrap.

Document control easily manages the documents needed in production. An effective paperless manufacturing system automatically collects data and archives it, making it easier to find in the future.

Companies usually seek a solution to a single problem, but the best solutions will not only solve that problem, but offer other benefits.  Solving shop floor document management (getting rid of those giant, phonebook-like production plans) offers additional benefits because it is a symptom of a larger problem – information mismanagement. Paperless manufacturing moves from document management to information management and control, delivering additional benefits such as increased efficiency and profitability.

As for the phone book, you still see them around, and we all feel better having one on hand in case we need it.  But, like shops that are still clinging to paper, we can’t help but wonder why those people flipping pages in a phone book are still clinging to relics of the past.