Tag Archives: quality assurance

5 Easy Shop Floor Quality Improvements You Can Make with Paperless Manufacturing

Sustainable Quality Improvements aren’t made with a committee or additional processes, but by giving your team the tools they need to succeed.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software
Give your shop floor the tools they need to improve quality. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Give your shop floor the tools they need to improve quality. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Quality is a critical component in manufacturing success. Poor quality leads to lost customers, rework, scrap, and vanished production – its wasted money and opportunity, and a clear sign of a shop floor with serious problems.  According to a study by Gerald Lee of ABB, poor quality can lead to significant losses, known as COPQ (Cost of Poor Quality). Even the “hidden” costs of poor quality – additional paperwork, large lot sizes, and excessive auditing – lead to losses as large of 15% of total revenue

Improving quality is a critical goal for manufacturing. Many see improved quality as the metric that has the greatest impact on profitability, even more than productivity – which is why companies contort themselves, their shop floor, and the workflow to eke out every last bit of quality improvement. Many times, this leads to improvements, but only temporary improvement.  Truth is, no initiative will have the immediate or profound impact on quality improvement that an MES or paperless manufacturing system does because the system offers the shop floor tools to improve quality, and provides a sustainable foundation for process improvement.

Consider these benefits you’ll have almost immediately with a shop floor system:

  • Process enforcement

Quality is dependent on sustainable processes. With an MES you can build best practices and quality processes directly into the planning, and utilize sign-off and shop floor data collection to ensure these processes are used throughout production.

  • Automatic tolerance checks

Many times, poor quality is discovered late in the process when corrective action is costly. With shop floor data collection and automatic tolerance checks, the QA team is aware of a problem the moment it happens, and can limit the expense of quality escapes.

  • Revision control

Change is a way of life on the modern shop floor. With a paperless manufacturing system, you can build a library of revision-controlled work instructions. This ensures the plans your shop floor works from are correct and include best practices, data collection and quality checks.

  • Visual work instructions

One of the best tools you have for improved quality is the shop floor worker, so help them build to specification. Highlight critical areas of the manufacturing process with graphics such as attachment points or tooling. Visual work instructions improve retention of instructions by as much as 80% over written work instructions.

  • Real-time, mobile access to quality data

QA on the shop floor can monitor only a fraction of production, and forcing them to track down and discover problems can lead to long delays that will shut down production. A modern MES will give Quality anytime and anywhere access to production data, including quality checks. They can then handle the disposition remotely, or even manage the process on-site as they need.

Improve Quality with Paperless Manufacturing

A paperless manufacturing system, when integrated successfully with shop floor processes, will have an immediate and beneficial impact on quality. Once you begin to collect production data on the shop floor, and can analyze that data in real-time, you will discover quality escapes before they become major issues that negatively impact your bottom line. Automatic tolerance checks and process enforcement are easy functions to add with manufacturing software.

Next time you consider how to improve quality or reduce manufacturing costs, take a moment to analyze the ways a modern, low-risk software system can benefit you. Want to know more, or see what manufacturing solutions you can find in a system today? Then contact CIMx for a free shop floor review.

A New Vision of Mobile Manufacturing

Don’t be fooled, mobile manufacturing requires more than just an app.  It requires an integrated mobile solution delivering shop floor functionality on the go.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I love music.  A few years ago I wanted a new stereo system.  I had a single requirement – I wanted to use my MP3 player with the sound system.  I wanted to throw parties, fill the house with music that fuels the fun.  Problem was – I didn’t do my research.  I bought a system with the words “MP3 Compatible” in big, bold letters on the box.

Unfortunately, “MP3 Compatible” meant a single USB port.  The stupid thing never worked, and was about as functional as fins on a kangaroo.  I couldn’t plug my player directly into the port.  Instead, I had to download my music onto an empty zip drive.  Then I had to plug the zip drive into the USB port.  After a few minutes, a song MIGHT start playing.  Maybe.  I couldn’t control the music, and between songs there was a LONG delay.  If I ever downloaded something other than music, an error would flash and the whole system shut down.

Honestly, the system and my music player were as compatible as fire and ice, and as functional as those fins.  I felt cheated, used and angry.  My excitement crumbled as the truth of my purchase became apparent.

What can mobile manufacturing do for you?

Using a tablet, smart phone, or other mobile device to access a true paperless manufacturing system will boost productivity, help eliminate errors, and increase work flow visibility.  Imagine giving your shop floor anytime and anywhere connection to production documents, including work orders, safety documents, training videos and more.  How much more productive will your team be if QA conducts real-time quality checks from anywhere?  How would shop management like anywhere access to real-time production data?

Can your manufacturing software support mobility on your shop floor? Image  by www.colourbox.com

Can your manufacturing software support mobility on your shop floor? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Unfortunately, many MES or paperless manufacturing vendors make promises regarding “mobile manufacturing compatibility” that fool many companies into accepting awkward functionality and systems that never work as promised.  Compatibility between a shop floor system and mobile devices is neither important nor useful, compatibility between the application software and the work flow processes is how you achieve true mobility.  You need a scalable, adaptable solution that supports your work flow processes.

For some vendors, “mobile manufacturing” is a simple app that provides a view of some production data from a mobile device.  Turn on the app and you can see shop floor trends, and maybe identify potential shop floor problems, but that’s about it.   These apps might allow you to open a document from your web device, see the production schedule, and maybe move an item on the screen, but that’s the limit of their app-functionality.

Other vendors promise mobile manufacturing as an add-on project once the initial project is complete. They can do it, if you want, but it leads to additional service fees, project schedule bloat, and complicated and risky implementation.  Like me and my “MP3 Compatible” sound system, manufacturers buy a system, only to see the limits of “compatibility” once they have the system on the shop floor.

True Mobile Manufacturing

True mobile manufacturing offers an integrated mobile solution within the core system, not an app.  The power of the complete manufacturing system should be available from most mobile devices, and offer interactive functionality, not just read-only screenshots of data.  Mobile manufacturing should ensure quick and easy access to your MES or paperless manufacturing system from almost any device.

How much more could you do with an integrated mobile solution on the shop floor?

How much more could you do with an integrated mobile solution on the shop floor?

Don’t be fooled.  Look for browser-based systems (though, be careful you aren’t diving head first into the dangerous world of the Cloud).  Look for systems that are fully compatible with the web, and offer complete mobile functionality, not an app or two.

The future of modern manufacturing is embracing mobility.  Even if you aren’t ready to give your shop floor a tablet now, in a few years (or less) you may need shop floor software that offers mobile manufacturing.  Take the time, do your research and find a solution with integrated mobile manufacturing, not just an app or hastily slapped-on “mobile compatibility.”

… unless you want to watch your dreams of an efficient, mobile shop floor crumble like my dream of music-fueled parties…

Let us know if you want to learn more or see how integrated mobile manufacturing can transform and benefit your shop floor.

Developing a Vision of Paperless Manufacturing and MES

Understanding the CIMx Vision for Paperless Manufacturing offers an insider’s view of what drives us to make the best product for our customers, and makes clear what paperless manufacturing can do for you.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

 “What is your vision for paperless manufacturing?”  I’ve gotten this question countless times.

The easy answer would be to repeat the tagline on our business cards, or prepare an elevator speech with a list of software features and sweet-sounding promises.  But, to be honest, that’s not a vision.  A vision should be bigger than 15 carefully selected words in a sales pitch.  It should be more than mere marketing.  A vision should define who you are and create a connection to the listener.

So, this is our vision.  We call it a “Day in the Life with Paperless Manufacturing” because we don’t see our system as a list of features, an installation method or a percentage of process improvement (but we can share all that if you want), but a better way to manufacture every day.  Here you go… let us know what you think!

A strong MES offers paperless manufacturing, increased collaboration, and process control on the shop floor.  Image by www.colourbox.com

A strong MES offers paperless manufacturing, increased collaboration, and process control on the shop floor. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Plant Manager

Plant manager John Rush arrived at his office; coffee clutched in his hand, and turned on the computer.  As it was booting up, he thought back to last year when every morning was a hurried meeting to determine the status of shop floor orders.  Sales and customer service worried about priority jobs falling behind schedule, while operations tried to make it all work with resources that never seemed to be enough.  The whole process was more guesswork and assumptions than facts.

This morning, with the paperless manufacturing solution in place, John glanced at his dashboard to see the current status of all shop floor orders; completed work; work on hold and work in progress.  He quickly determined the priorities with sales and customer service and scheduled the day’s work assignments.  He digitally sent morning alerts to Manufacturing Engineers for rework.  All the work done in last year’s hour-long meeting was complete in 10 minutes and less than a half cup of coffee.  He leaned back and finished his coffee before moving on to the next task.

Manufacturing Engineers

The Manufacturing Engineers, Ed and Susan, received the rework orders through the paperless manufacturing system and quickly updated the work plans.  The new plans are quickly sent through Production Control to shop floor workstations to replace the previous information.  The engineers know production operations can only work on the latest, most accurate work plans, unlike past years when the morning was a rush of reworked plans being assembled and carried to the floor, while production control reassigned work, and supervisors trained workers for new processes.

“Remember how long it took to print and assemble build books?” Ed asked Susan.

MES guides work and processes on the shop floor. Image by www.colourbox.com

MES guides work and processes on the shop floor. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Susan smiled, “Yes, and remember how many mistakes we made doing it,” she replied.  With so many moving parts, mistakes happened.  Paper errors caused production delays, human errors led to the inaccurate work plans or plans going to the wrong work station.  Many times, production ground to a halt while printers churned out paper or employees waited for plans which are now sent digitally with no errors.  In the past, every day felt like a crisis waiting to explode because nothing worked as smooth as it should.

Today, Ed and Susan were able to update the work plans from the Best Practices library with the push of the button.  They attached short training videos and multimedia materials from the resource library to ease training.  Production control reassigned work within the system, and each shop floor employee received only the most relevant and current work plans, training videos, and supplemental production material.  New work orders are sent digitally to all assigned workstations.  Their morning work complete, Ed and Susan start work on a new training video of a set-up process.

Quality Assurance

Production had begun on the shop floor, and Steve in Quality Assurance is monitoring all quality metrics being measured on the shop floor at his desk.  With the paperless manufacturing system, process enforcement ensures shop floor quality checks at each stage before more work can be released.  “Before paperless manufacturing,” Steve explained.  “I used to give my cell phone number to the shop floor and ask them to call me if there was a non-conformance.  I don’t even want to think about how many times I had to put projects on hold because it seemed like non-conformances would all hit at once.  Sometimes we had work stations down for 30-45 minutes while they waited for me.  And without process enforcement, many non-conformances slipped by in the rush to make up for lost time.  Accumulating scrap and major, costly rework was our only option.”

This morning, Steve saw a major non-conformance at Workstation 20.  From his desk, Steve ordered work stopped at the Workstation, and sent Ed and Susan an order for a rework plan.  Within 10 minutes, Workstation 20 had the rework plan and production resumed.

Does your shop floor run like a well-oiled machine, or a wheezing engine?  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Does your shop floor run like a well-oiled machine, or a wheezing engine? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Shop Floor

Later in the day, Greg, a shop floor operator, was collecting data before the completion of the next operation in Work Order 4334.  He thought back to a time when he would scramble, looking for a pencil to write data directly on the build book, which clerks would use for data entry.  There were times he missed writing a number down, and struggled to remember it at the end of the day.  Too many times data entry ended up being a “best guess” that caused problems in audit reviews.

Greg stepped around his workstation; happy he could use a laptop and not carry a build book. He always struggled to find a place to set the build book, many times papers spilled everywhere.  On his laptop, he opened the next operation on the Work Order, only to get a sequence alert on the system.  Greg opened the correct operation and started work again.  Sequence errors once required QA and rework; sometimes an entire new build book had to be assembled.  With paperless manufacturing, sequence errors are no longer a problem.

Customer Service and Sales

In the front office, Anne receives a call from a customer about an order shipped last month.  In particular, there is a problem with quality acceptance on the welds.  Anne asks the customer to wait a moment while she retrieves the as-built records from the system.  She sends a copy to the customer.  The customer finds the problem, and requests a change order with new specifications.  Anne passes the call to Production Control, who put a hold on the order.  Ed and Susan make changes to the work order, and the revised order is sent directly to Greg at his Work Station.  Greg opens the revised orders and continues work.  With paperless manufacturing, the change order should cause minimal delay in the order.

As the day closes out, John the Plant Manager checks the status on jobs complete, jobs pending, WIP, and jobs on hold.  He notices a priority job falling behind and reassigns the shop floor to ensure the deadline is met.  John creates a report and sends it to sales, then calls a meeting for Ed, Susan and Anne to assess progress and reset priorities for tomorrow.  Each prepares a report in the system to share at the meeting.

“Having real-time access to data, and knowing information is getting to the right person at the right time, is more than a convenience,” John explains.  “It makes us more productive, letting us focus on priority tasks and solve problems.  It gives us real control over the shop floor, eliminating production errors and saving us money every day.  I can’t imagine life without paperless manufacturing.”