Tag Archives: shop floor data collection

Improving Quality with Paperless Manufacturing

Manual and paper-based production records are a critical source of errors, and hinder the efforts of quality control.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Production moves fast.

Assembly lines must keep moving. Machines need to run. Downtime is lost money.

Even in the most exacting complex, discrete manufacturing industry, speed is vital.

With an eye on OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) spending resources and time on anything other than production represents failure.

This might be why some see shop floor data collection as non-value added time – there is no immediate benefit to tracking numbers on a spreadsheet or filling out a paper-based traveler. If your focus is on completing quality work and meeting or exceeding quotas, then data isn’t important.

Be honest – are the minutes saved by “guesstimating” and fudging a few data points worth it?

Confidence Button Shows Assurance Belief And Boldness

Are you confident in your shop floor data and quality control? Illustration by www,colourbox.com

Quality and Paperless Manufacturing

Automated production records and tolerance checks are critically important for shop floor improvement.

An initiative and a few more moments in the morning huddle aren’t going to deliver the benefits of real-time shop floor data. You’ll never see real, sustainable improvement in your records and quality using paper-based records. Asking a Quality professional to do their job with dated records is like asking a dentist to do their work with a hammer.

Manual records have too much margin for error. Trying to design foolproof processes that meet the requirements for audits, give you the data you want and need, and fit your shop floor, is never going to work.

Papers get wrinkled. Notes get smudged. Travelers get misplaced. Humans are fallible.

With even a sliver of doubt, records become suspect and quality suffers.

A modern MES, which automates data collection and production records, ensures the shop floor fulfills requirements through process enforcement.

Then the shop floor can focus on what they do best – production. Quality Control has the tools they need to be effective in their job.

Focus on Manufacturing

Rather than adding complexity and cost to production, paperless manufacturing allows everyone to work better. Improvements become not only possible, but sustainable.

Today, with modern software architecture and the advancement of technology, software is less expensive than ever before.  A system can be up and running and users trained very quickly so you can begin building your ROI within a month.

In addition to automated records and improved quality, you have revision-controlled planning, paperless operations, enhanced planning, and real-time shop floor visibility and control.

Want to learn more, or see how paperless manufacturing can improve your shop floor? The CIMx free shop floor analysis is an excellent way to kick off a new project.

5 Reasons You Need Real-Time Shop Floor Data Collection

A company relying on paper-based data collection isn’t giving their shop floor the tools they need to compete in the modern manufacturing market.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Are you getting the shop floor data you need? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Are you getting the shop floor data you need? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Consider this – operating a manufacturing company with paper-based build books and data collection is like trying to drive a car by looking backward, in the rear view mirror, instead of forwards.

The Problems with Paper

We look forward, and not back when we drive because it lets us react to changing conditions on the road. Looking backward will cause wrong turns and problems. You’ll hit a few things, get confused, end up driving much slower to avoid critical mistakes, and won’t see disaster until it happens. Along the way, you’ll miss opportunities and introduce more problems. You’ll reach your destination, but it won’t be the most relaxing or efficient journey …

… which actually does sound a lot like a shop floor still using paper. If you aren’t collecting real-time shop floor data:

  • You are always operating off dated information. Sure, in an emergency someone can run to the shop floor and answer a question, but how much disruption is that answer causing?
  • You create a vicious production cycle based on reacting to past production data. You get data weeks after a production cycle and plan a response. Then you wait for more data to see if the response brought improvement so you can plan another response and then wait again…
  • Simply gathering data is often more work than a benefit because the process can’t be automated. Since the data is historical and less valuable, some companies never bother to collect data, so the shop floor accepts problems and inefficiencies.

The Benefits of Real-Time Data Collection

Errors, quality escapes, avoidable problems and production missteps are all common for a manufacturer still using paper and relying on outdated data to manage production. Once a company begins using real-time production data, benefits quickly accumulate, including:

  1. Improve quality by identifying potential errors early, before they become more serious (and costly) problems;
  2. Increase customer responsiveness by changing the priority of an order when needed;
  3. Engage customers by responding more quickly to requests and answering questions immediately;
  4. Eliminate guesswork and empower management so they can make decisions with the most accurate information possible;
  5. Better respond to change on the shop floor by improving efficiency with data-driven process adjustments.

The Future of Manufacturing with MES and Paperless Manufacturing

With timely and accurate data, how much can you improve your shop floor? Image by www.colourbox.com

With timely and accurate data, how much can you improve your shop floor? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Moving forward, companies using paper will find it increasingly difficult to survive against competitors that have already embraced data-based manufacturing.

For manufacturing, as much as we like to plan the future of our industry with technology, many companies still struggle with paper-based manufacturing. Take a look at the latest industry news, and it’s as if we’ve already forgotten manufacturers still printing build books every morning and collecting data on a spreadsheet to be collated later.

There is no reason to keep operating the shop floor with dated and inaccurate information, or to keep relying on paper.  There are MES out there, even ones that aren’t cloud-based, that can deliver an ROI in only a few months. With a phased implementation, you can install the system in a few weeks and start collecting real-time production data soon after.  In the following phases, you start implementing more advanced features of the system to match your exacting workflow needs.

Using a shop floor system is like wiping the confusion off the windshield of your shop floor, letting you drive production by looking ahead, rather than behind. Want to learn how quickly and easily it would be for you to start using data-driven manufacturing, then contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis. We’re always happy to answer questions.

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.

6 Ways Paperless Manufacturing Can Help Your Shop Floor

A paperless manufacturing system can quickly and easily deliver even more benefits than you might think.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Ensure an early ROI for your project by focusing on items with the greatest return. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Ensure an early ROI for your project by focusing on items with the greatest return. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Many companies begin researching paperless manufacturing to solve a single problem.  Depending on the problem, paperless manufacturing likely holds the solution.  No other shop floor investment addresses so many of the challenges manufacturing faces.  Which is why manufacturing firms spent more than $5 Billion on MES and paperless manufacturing solutions in 2013, and estimates predict the MES market will expand more than 20% annually.

But, a powerful and capable paperless manufacturing system offers more than just a single solution or capability.  With the right system, you have workflow control and complete shop floor visibility.  As you consider a system for your shop floor, take a look at the six capabilities that provide the foundation of any paperless system.

1)      Track, measure, record and dynamically manage work flow.

Every manufacturer must track and manage workflow – it’s the key to a production system.  The methods used to manage work vary between manufacturers, and can lead to vastly different results.

With paperless systems, work flow is digitized, allowing automated tracking and recording of work.  Management of the work flow is made possible with instantaneous communication and error-free work instructions.

2)      Create production plans with approved, accurate work instructions.

Operations benefit from standards, best practices, and process improvement plans such as Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma only when they are implemented in production.

Using a paperless manufacturing system, procedural enforcement ensures the productions team incorporates best practices on the shop floor.  Planners use only the most recent and approved plans.   A library of approved work plans, best practices and standards ensures your team completes planning in less time and with better work instructions.

3)      Collect data on all production operations.

Data is a valuable commodity.  Unfortunately for many manufacturers, the age and inaccuracy of collected data significantly limits its usefulness.

A successful paperless system collects real-time data at each work station.  The system automatically verifies specified quality metrics fall within acceptable ranges.  The collected data becomes a valuable tool for manufacturers.

4)      Create a complete, accurate production record for all products.

The production record includes every action taken, every specification read, every training module referred to, every log in and out on a job, and every measurement taken on a product.

Most (if not all) manufacturers monitor shop floor activity, but an effective paperless solution automatically creates a comprehensive production record used to verify all actions were completed accurately.  This unified record, compliant with all regulatory body or key customer standards, provides a rich source of accurate data for future use.

5)      Have a continuous real-time view of all open work orders.

In the past, a real-time view of production meant walking around the shop floor asking questions.

With a paperless system, manufacturers can get a comprehensive, real-time view of production.  Current work can be seen in the context of actual work flow order at each moment.  This real time view is invaluable to plant management and quality assurance, helping proactively solve problems and ensure smooth production.  It is a major component of business intelligence.

6)      Enable seamless communication across the enterprise from a single source of truth about production.

Many companies struggle with data coming from multiple locations with no coordination, and often communication focuses on building consensus rather than manufacturing.

Paperless manufacturing is built around the concept of a single source of truth about the product.  Everyone works from the same data and toward the same goal.  The solution has the flexibility to manage, record, and distribute information from multiple sources, eliminating mistakes from faulty information while managing WIP all the time.

Delivering Benefits and ROI with Paperless Manufacturing

Process Improvement graph.

No other shop floor solution addresses so many production challenges, or offers a bigger benefit. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

With paperless manufacturing, companies reduce quality defects, eliminate human error, minimize waste and scrap, and increase productivity.  The system delivers shop floor control and visibility like no other product on the market.

Current trends in manufacturing are pushing companies to adopt paperless solutions.  Customers demand more customization and quicker turnaround times through smaller production runs.  They expect real-time information on the status of their orders.  Paperless manufacturing offers a clear advantage over paper-driven processes in delivering these goals.

Want to learn more, or to see what paperless manufacturing can do for you, then contact CIMx today.  We’re happy to help.

Insider Tips on Calculating ROI for Your Shop Floor

CIMx Software offers simple tips that take the fear out of calculating ROI for your next paperless manufacturing or shop floor software solution project.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Calculating ROI for your next paperless manufacturing or MES project is easy with our insider tips.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Calculating ROI for your next paperless manufacturing or MES project is easy with our insider tips. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Calculating ROI is a dreaded task for many shop floor solution and paperless manufacturing committees.  The final ROI estimate is an uncomfortable marriage of budget, estimate, faith, conjecture, arcane formula, and (sometimes) chicanery – among other things.

We all know it, which is why many committees are stymied when it comes time to create and present an ROI.  For most companies, there is no right or wrong answer, and most times there is no “auto-calculate.”  The final result comes down to a “reasonable” guess based on a mix of fact and estimate, which leads many to question how to even begin the process.   

Never fear, we’ve collected tips, thoughts and ideas on how to get started with a common-sense ROI that will win over the most critical judge.

Calculating the cost of a Paper-based Shop Floor

Start your calculation by looking at your present shop floor.  Consider it a baseline for your calculation.  In every paper-based production shop we’ve encountered, the following is true:

  1. There are employees involved in preparation, distribution and then collection work instructions, work orders, travelers and quality data collection forms.  Many times, these employees are better used in important production tasks;
  2. Change is a way of life on the shop floor. ECOs (Engineering Change Orders) happen, and are approved and distributed – sometimes long after production is complete.  ECO’s distributed after production often require rework or scrap;
  3. Poor instructions, missing information, and misunderstanding about work to be done result in costly errors;
  4. Audits by regulators or customers to certify quality processes in a paper environment takes (significant) time and resources away from production.   Missing information, misplaced records, and data collection errors results in inadequate and costly audit results;
  5. Record keeping – the shuffling, organization, and storage of paper records – is labor-intensive especially in a shop that is growing and expanding.
Where are you leading your shop floor?  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Where are you leading your shop floor? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

All of these activities take time, resources and money.  Often, these costs increase in direct proportion to increased production.  None of them directly impact or improve production.  These activities, and many others like them, are costly.  For each issue you identify, calculate or estimate a cost.  Even if the actual cost is not known, you can begin with an estimation.  For example, if 5 employees were involved in collecting data for an audit, then determine the cost in manpower for the audit.  Look at the effort and cost of record keeping, and begin assigning costs (including paper storage, manpower, and mistakes).

 Estimate the Savings of the Solution

The items and issues above are directly addressed (in various ways) by a paperless manufacturing solution.  Most times, a company researching a paperless manufacturing solution will have one or two key issues as the focus of their search.  They seek a simple, low-cost, low-risk solution to eliminate a problem, save time and money, and gain better control and visibility of production.

Don't let fear hold your shop floor back.  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Don’t let fear hold your shop floor back. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

When calculating an ROI for a potential paperless manufacturing solution, look at the issues the system solves.  For example, does the solution offer:

  • A technology proven to eliminate the need for paper work flow, and the cost and errors that occur using paper.

If the solution eliminates the need for paper, then add the savings you gain from eliminating paper distribution, and the errors you incur from using paper on the shop floor.

  • Creation of automatic as-built and a digital record of production.

A solution that offers automatic record-keeping will eliminate the cost, frustration and errors of record-keeping.  This should also eliminate the cost (in both time and work) and stress associated with audits and assembly of production records for customer services.  Add these savings to your ROI.

  • Improved digital work instructions, work orders, and shop floor data collection.

Digital work instructions and shop floor control and visibility are the heart of paperless manufacturing.  Look at the improvements the system will make to work orders, and determine the mistakes, error and quality escapes that will be eliminated.  Calculate the cost in scrap and rework to the ROI.  Also, digital work instructions should significantly improve production overall.  Add this savings to the ROI. 

  • Change management and shop floor visibility.

Look at the costs incurred by change management, including scrap and rework.  Look at the cost of job tracking.  A system that successfully manages change and offers real time visibility will save on these costs.

Once you’ve matched the solutions provided by the system to the expenses you’ve identified in the previous step, you’ve begun assembling your ROI.

Other Considerations
Take the confusion out of building an ROI estimate with these insider tips. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Take the confusion out of building an ROI estimate with these insider tips. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

There is more to be considered when calculating ROI.  Look at the costs and expenses that you may incur with the new system.  Beyond the base cost, maintenance and any license fees, consider other potential high cost features of the system, such as:

  • Can the solution be easily installed?  Look for systems that can be installed in phases.  This will minimize the installation time, risk, and the disruption and changes to production.
  • Does the solution offer simple options for integration into other systems to share data or files?
  • Does the solution use non-proprietary hardware and software?  This will allow self-support if desired, and minimize service charges.
  • What is the cost of upgrades to the software?  Free lifetime upgrades allow the shop floor to take advantage of new technology and avoid obsolescence.

Study the system for other potential costs, and consider these as you calculate the ROI.

Summary

With most paperless manufacturing research projects, as the solution is uncovered and the features and the functionality are revealed, there is a flush of excitement.  But, as the work of calculating and creating an ROI begins, the excitement fades.  But it shouldn’t be that way.

Creating an ROI should be a simple matter of identifying issues on the shop floor, calculating the cost of the issue, and assigning a savings to the solution.

Want to learn more, or see how we can help your shop floor create an ROI for a shop floor solution, let us know!  We’re happy to help.

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.