Tag Archives: quality control

Improving Quality with Paperless Manufacturing

As manufacturers struggle to reduce costs and improve production, more and more companies are turning to paperless manufacturing to improve quality.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

As production grows increasingly more complex the Cost of Quality (COQ) is also increasing, with some companies reporting costs as high as 10% of revenue. The indirect and soft COQ may be even higher as you consider the non-value added time necessary to evaluate and address quality escapes.

When manufacturers consider initiatives to lower costs, quality is an emphasis. Modern MES and paperless manufacturing systems are delivering tremendous value to companies focused on improving quality.

MES and Quality Improvement

Quality.

A robust MES provides a solid foundation for improving quality. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

According to a white paper by Renaissance Services, the foundation of all quality escapes is the inability of the manufacturer to manage the details of production. The primary focus of paperless manufacturing and an MES is managing details through automation or providing the correct information at the right time and place in the production. Consider how paperless manufacturing addresses common sources of production errors:

  • Planning errors.

This could be the wrong plans or the wrong technical specifications. Many of these are paper-based errors, and occur when the wrong plans are used, or critical information is missing from the work packet. An MES will ensure the proper planning and revision control, and make accessible all the information the shop floor needs at any time.

  • Errors in approvals.

The approval process relies on communication and collaboration. Without a single source of manufacturing truth or a structure for communication and collaboration in the production process, errors occur during approval. Shortcuts are taken during approval, as the effort to coordinate the process increases. Improved quality relies on a disciplined approval process.

  • Missing documentation from the Technical Data Package (TDP).

Many times with paper-based planning, documentation is left out because it isn’t considered necessary. This is especially true of the TDP. Critical documentation from the first article inspections is ignored or buried to reduce complexity or to speed up production and get a product to market – leading to errors.

  • Ambiguity in the technical requirements.

Without automated quality checks during the production process, any ambiguity in specifications can lead to a critical quality error. For example, when a shop floor uses a paper spreadsheet to record production data, there’s no real time feedback loop on quality checks, and errors will occur. Quality assurance will find the error too late for corrective action.

  • Requirements that are overlooked in production.

This comes down to inadequate documentation and processes during production. Requirements are inadequately communicated to the shop floor, or aren’t accounted for in the planning. Without real time quality checks or a method of managing production, critical requirements are ignored until problems occur.

  • Changes in standard processes, especially special processes, in the production cycle.
Confidence Button Shows Assurance Belief And Boldness

Are you confident in your quality control plans? Illustration by www,colourbox.com

Process enforcement in an MES or paperless manufacturing system ensures the shortcuts that often creep into manufacturing process are eliminated by ensuring documentation is reviewed and work signed off before planning is released. Without process enforcement, the shop floor will rely on processes they know, not the correct processes.

  • Quality escapes that slip through inadequate first article inspections.

Often in paper-based or unstructured first article inspections, critical details can be lost, or there is an assumption on how work will be completed. This is especially true as the number of first article inspections increase at a site. Without adequate time, corners will be cut. With the automated records and audit reports created in an MES, critical details aren’t lost and are automatically recorded for future use, and the shop floor has more time to properly conduct a first article inspection.

 Smart Manufacturing and the Future of Production

As complexity has increased in production, and the tolerance for errors has decreased, manufacturers can no longer adequately manage the information and detail necessary using error-prone paper planning and inefficient processes. Manufacturers need a comprehensive system to manage production.

Manufacturing needs aren’t slowing down. The complexity and technical requirements of manufacturing are increasing. Consider Smart Manufacturing – the integrated technology and systems essential for advanced Smart Manufacturing require an MES to manage production. Excel spreadsheets and Word documents simply can’t manage complex manufacturing processes.

Want to learn more, or see how a shop floor software system can improve your shop floor? Contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis to learn more.

5 Keys to Effective Shop Floor Data Collection

Want to Increase quality, improve production and increase profitability? An effective shop floor data collection will do all this and more, and is much easier to implement than you think.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

How effective is your shop floor data collection? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

How effective is your shop floor data collection? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

How important is quality to manufacturing? According to a recent study, it may be the most critical factor in manufacturing profitability. A 1% to 2% increase in productivity may represent more product, but a 1% to 2% increase in quality represents less waste, less scrap, more product, more productivity, more efficiency, and happier customers.

Data collection provides the foundation for quality improvement in manufacturing, and every manufacturer has a quality team or processes in place, yet many companies never realize the full benefit of quality improvement due to ineffective data collection. They struggle to turn the data they collect into real benefit or measurable improvement. In fact, many times inefficient data collection will lead to errors, additional scrap and waste, as well as lost production.

Take a moment to evaluate your current plan for data collection using the follow criteria to identify areas for potential improvement:

  • How “smart” is your data collection?

A smart data collection program is proactive. By catching and eliminating errors early, you can minimize waste and save money and production. A “dumb” data collection delays review of the data, or may not have a plan in place to take corrective action. Looking at a report of mistakes a month after they happened highlights a month of lost opportunity for improvement, and leaves the cause of errors in place.

  • Does your data collection include automatic tolerance checks?

Automating as much of the data collection and check-off process as possible removes potential sources of errors and keeps shop floor employees and the quality team focused on critical tasks. For example, automating tolerance checks will identify quality escapes the minute data is collected. Comparing collected data against the engineering specs is best left to the software system.

  • Does your system eliminate potential input errors?

The truth is, your data is only as good as the system used to collect it. How many times do you input the data? Any more than once is a sign of wasted effort and increased errors. How long do you wait to input the data? What is your source for the data? If you wait till the end of a shop floor shift, when data is collected from handwritten notes on the traveler, then you have a problem. The data you are using is unreliable, out-of-date, and is costing you money. Look for ways to streamline and improve the reliability of your data collection and input.

  • Do you have access to real-time reports?

With modern manufacturing tools and advances in software and technology, there is no reason why the shop floor shouldn’t have access to real-time reports. Today, you can implement a low-cost and low-risk paperless manufacturing system in less than a month, and have a dashboard with real-time shop floor visibility and quality control soon after. With an automated system, you can also move the people who once assembled reports onto more important tasks.

  • How are you using the data that’s collected?

Consider when you are collecting data. Many times a company will collect data once all the work is done. Unfortunately, this data is collected too late to take corrective action. It’s true, this data can be used in an audit or to eliminate a defective product, but both the work and materials are wasted, and planning and shop floor scheduling is unreliable as product is pulled after production. Consider when you can best utilize the data, and when it should be taken. Look at the reasons why you aren’t getting the data you need when you need it. Taking a few moments to collect shop floor data during production is time well spent.


The goal for all manufacturers should be continuous improvement toward optimal production given the machines, equipment and processes being used.  The single most important requirement to achieve that goal is continuous monitoring of shop floor results.  Collection of result data that is automatically verified against specifications and available to decision makers who are tracking progress of all work orders across the shop floor is the best way to continually monitor production and achieve continuous improvement. Give CIMx a call today or leave us a message and ask for a free review of your shop floor processes and a plan to optimize production flow.

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.

Uncovering the Real Benefits of MES and Paperless Manufacturing

Curious to know the real benefits of MES, we asked a shop floor production team what the top benefits of the system were one month after their successful rollout.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Curious to know what benefits you will discover with your MES?  We asked the shop floor what they thought one month after installation.

Curious to know what benefits you will discover with your MES? We asked the shop floor what they thought one month after installation. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Ever read a press release about an MES implementation project and marveled at the carefully worded quotes?  Full of buzzwords like, “synergistically,” or “significantly reduced (or increased)” and “comprehensively,” each press release reads like a carefully scripted marketing piece – only the names are changed.

Let’s be honest, you don’t read a press release for the truth.  The Vice President of What-everness quoted in the press release isn’t the one using the system, he’s following the script and looking at a report someone prepared for him.

Not long ago, we implemented a complete MES and Paperless Manufacturing system for a customer.  To help meet new FDA regulations, they needed the complete solution installed and implemented across their production lines in less than 4 months.  To uncover the “true” story regarding the benefits of MES and paperless manufacturing, we asked the shop floor production team what they thought about the software.  How is it making their life easier, their work better, and benefiting their operation?  Here are the “top” benefits they identified one month after the successful rollout:

Shop Floor Benefits of Paperless Manufacturing

  • Solving compliance and regulation challenges.  Meeting the changing FDA and customer regulations was a constant effort before the project, but the system has solved nearly all the challenges with minimal effort or extra work.  No other solution could provide so many answers in a single tool.
  • Real-time access to Quality Data.  Before implementing the solution, Quality Control (QC) was forced to wander the shop floor to collect data, or they would evaluate historical (and often outdated) data.  QC now has remote access to the real-time quality data of any order with the single press of a button.  According to the customer, Quality Control is now proactive, focusing effort on improvement.  Improving quality wasn’t a primary driver for the project, but the benefits from paperless manufacturing are exciting.
  • MES and Paperless Manufacturing will help you work better, faster and with fewer errors.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

    MES and Paperless Manufacturing will help you work better, faster and with fewer errors. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

    No more paper.  Simply removing paper from the shop floor was a huge improvement.  Before the system, massive build books and orders were assembled and used, leading to piles and piles (and more piles) of paper. Paper (moving paper, organizing paper, using paper, fixing mistakes from paper, and more) was one of the top frustrations for many shop floor employees.  Now, paper is only used when and where it makes sense.   Records, orders and work instructions are digital and much easier to use.

  • Visibility of the shop floor.  Before the system, planners had research the progress of each order before planning work for the next shift – a time-consuming and error-prone process.  Now, planners have instant access to a dashboard updated in real-time for the status of each order. Time isn’t wasted creating status reports just so they can tell what orders to prepare.  Future work can be accurately planned with minimal effort.
  • Easier data collection and quality control.  The shop floor once had to write data collections and quality checks on a spreadsheet attached to the work travelers.  So much data had to be collected, it, “… gave everyone carpal tunnel.”  Collecting data interrupted work and slowed production.  Now, data is easily and accurately collected as work is completed, and is automatically attached to the relevant order, saving time and eliminating a frustration.
  • Process control, accountability, and visibility.  Prior to the system, it was difficult to enforce policies or shop floor improvement projects, or even implement a system of process enforcement.  Now it is much easier to implement a system to enforce best practices and track employee work.  Workers must now open plans before work begins, so revisions can be accurately communicated to the shop floor.  Through the as-built report, all work is tracked.  Everyone is accountable for their work – success and failures.  When corrective action on an order is needed, it can be done quickly and appropriately.  Overall, quality and productivity have significantly increased.
  • Library of planning.  All plans are stored in a single database under revision control, ensuring only the latest approved plans are used.  Planning has confidence they are using the “right” plan.  There is no need to research whether revisions have been made or not before the plan is added to an order.  Planning is easier and more efficient, and many of the errors that occasionally creep into work orders are eliminated.

Many times with an MES or Paperless Manufacturing implementation (especially an off-the-shelf system), there will be unexpected benefits that add significantly to the ROI.  For example, this system was installed to support data collection on the shop floor and help facilitate meeting FDA regulations.  These goals were met, but the shop floor is also benefiting from increased accountability.  Quality Control benefits from access to real-time quality data, and planners now work from a library of revision-controlled planning.  Each of these points, while not a primary focus of the project or a requirement, figured prominently in our discussion of the benefits of the system and was praised by the shop floor team.

Overall, the project has been extremely successful, and the customer is already looking at other ways the software can benefit their business.  Want to know more, or see how a system can benefit your shop floor?  Give us a call or leave us a message.  We’re happy to help.

Going for Gold on Your Shop Floor

With paperless manufacturing and an effective shop floor solution, finding a competitive edge for your shop floor isn’t as difficult as you might think.

By Kristin McLane, President, and David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

The winter Olympics in Sochi have dominated the news recently, and it’s gotten me thinking – the elite athletes in Sochi have dedicated their life to long hours, sacrifice and competition, and success at this level may be the difference between a microsecond on the clock and a wobble on a single jump.  Competitive edge is won through experience and dedication – the hours of work and endless training sessions shape their body, muscles and mind, developing the memory used to perform.  When the difference between first and second is so small, athletes need to capitalize on every possible advantage.

What can the Olympics teach us about the shop floor?

What can the Olympics teach us about the shop floor?

As I watched the Olympics, I began making connections to the work we do on the shop floor and the razor edge between success and failure.  Your shop floor is dedicated to getting work done on-time, on-budget, and on-plan.  The focus is on excellence.  Success and quality is determined by the narrowest of margins.

So, how does your shop floor stack up?  How do you measure yourself against competitors?  What metric do you use to validate the work you do is the highest standard?  How do you find the competitive edge?

Like athletes, the right equipment can give you an advantage.  While athletes find sponsors who generously donate the latest, most expensive, custom equipment, manufacturers can rarely afford that luxury.  Equipment rarely returns an ROI before the first several years of payments are made, making it impossible to keep up with the rate of change in technology. 

Where else can you turn to ensure success on your job floor?  You can hire the best employees and build a culture that rewards dedication and loyalty, but they can only work so many hours.  Even finding the best employees may be difficult with the manufacturing job skill squeeze. 

Paperless Manufacturing is one invest that benefits all areas of the shop floor.

Paperless Manufacturing is one invest that benefits all areas of the shop floor.

What about investing in one tool that touches on all these areas on your shop floor – a tool that helps your machines, operators, front office and quality control work better, faster and with fewer errors?  MES, or paperless manufacturing, manages information on the shop floor.  How do you get order information (what to make, how many and by when) to operators at the work center, and how effective is the information in improving production?  Paper-based work instructions (or even electronic media through and ERP or MSWord / Excel) limit your shop floor and ruin your competitive edge.  An effective shop floor system ensures synchronized operations, improves quality, reduces production time and eliminates errors.  You shop floor employees and machines work better, faster and with fewer errors.

You’ll find other ways a paperless manufacturing will benefit your business.  For example, a small investment in a paperless manufacturing system that enables shop floor mobility might be just the tool that propels you to an industry-leading position.  In the next few weeks, we’ll talk about mobile manufacturing, changes in the industry that we see, and how you can reach Olympic status in the industry without spending a fortune. 

Our industry is changing, faster than most of us imagine, and now’s the perfect time to build a competitive edge.  Watch here for more information, and let us know what you’d like to talk about!