Tag Archives: shop floor processes

Are You Letting Your Most Valuable Manufacturing Resource Slip Away?

As one generation of employees retires, companies struggle to capture their knowledge and pass it on to the new generation.  We offer simple solutions to ensure a smooth transition and improve production.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Need to train new employees and capture expertise of retiring ones?  Start with an MES.  Image by www.colourbox.com

Need to train new employees and capture expertise of retiring ones? Start with an MES. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Here’s the situation: Manufacturers are losing valuable experience and essential best practices as a generation of shop floor employees retire.  Companies that seek to replace the retirees struggle with a lack of skilled labor in the job market.  New hires simply don’t have the same skills as the workers they are replacing.  Manufacturers struggle to overcome these challenges just as manufacturing market rebounds – orders are coming in, but companies don’t have the right experience or workers in place to meet the demand with the same quality.

Many companies are turning to MES and paperless manufacturing to solve the steady bleeding of experience and best practices, and it is working.

An effective solution to this problem must capture best practices and shop floor processes.  It must have process enforcement and revision controls to ensure new employees utilize best practices and don’t create inefficient habits.  The solution needs data collection, preferably real-time data collection, to measure success.  Paperless manufacturing does all this, and more.  Consider this:

  • Create a single source of manufacturing truth.

Many times a shop floor will struggle to determine manufacturing “truth.”  Best practices are kept in a book, but also in the expertise of a line manager.  The right way to set up a machine might be found in a manual, but also posted on the side of the machine.  Many times these truths compete, and new employees end up teaching themselves the “right” way to do things.  With an MES, you have a single source for manufacturing truth, and new employees more easily understand how work should be done.

 

  • Capture best practices and processes with a library of approved planning.

 

With paperless manufacturing and MES, you can build a library of approved work instructions using the expertise and experience of your veteran workers.  The system drives consistency because planners pull from this revision-controlled library of operations.  As you build the library, integrating this invaluable expertise, you know everyone using the plans will have access to the same standard trusted expertise, rather than starting from scratch each time a new order comes in.

 

  • Ensure best practices are followed with process enforcement.

 

Collecting best practices and capturing the expertise of veteran workers is a good first step toward a smooth transition between generations, but you need to ensure new employees follow these practices.  Process enforcement builds a behavioral system that makes best practice second nature, not a lesson to be memorized.  The system walks the new worker through the process steps accurately and completely.

 

  • Utilize visual work instructions.

 

Even with the best writers, written work instructions will never have the positive impact of a short video of an expert teaching an operation or setting up a machine.  Using a paperless manufacturing system and a cell phone, you can take a quick video of your veteran workers illustrating a best practice and attach it to a relevant operation.  Any future worker doing that operation will have one-click access to the expert lesson.

 

  • Measure results and adjust as necessary.

 

Many times, when a company doesn’t have a clear view of shop floor operations, problems can be hidden.  Over time, the problem becomes standard operating procedure.  Easy access to a complete as-built audit report, or real-time production data, gives a manufacturing company the ability to judge and adjust shop floor processes as needed.

 

 


As it is now, many manufacturers operate inefficiently, struggling to capture the expertise of workers before they retire, and wondering how they can replace them once they are gone.  Paperless manufacturing provides a solution in one easy step.  Retiring workers help build policies and procedures through revision controlled plans in the system.  New employees learn through the same system, benefitting from a single location for all approved planning and manufacturing truth.  In addition, companies using MES gain increased production and quality, and the other benefits found in the system.

 

Want to learn more, or see how your company can benefit from MES or paperless manufacturing?  Then contact CIMx today for a free shop floor evaluation.  Let us show you how we can help.

Making Technology Work for Manufacturing

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Manufacturing and technology have always had a… curious relationship.  At CIMx Software, we work at the intersection of technology and manufacturing, and it’s interesting to see how the relationship has developed.

Simple tips to help ensure technology works for your shop floor.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Simple tips to help ensure technology works for your shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Technology needs manufacturing.  Without the support of a strong manufacturing base, and manufacturers willing to innovate, the latest technology won’t be available for the masses.  For example, most of us would still be riding horses if it weren’t for the manufacturing innovation of Henry Ford.

Manufacturing needs technology.  Manufacturing innovation is based on technology.  3D printing and additive manufacturing, mobile technology, paperless manufacturing and robotics are driving the latest advances in manufacturing.  To stay competitive and to lead the industry, manufacturers must embrace technology.

But, that’s not always what happens.  Some manufacturers are skeptical of technology.  Many times, that skepticism isn’t far from outright fear or loathing, and with good reason.   Even when the new technology is understood, its effect on the shop floor (after all… production must continue) may not be understood.  The cost of implementing the technology may lead to an ROI that will never be achieved.  It’s become a truth in the manufacturing industry – new technology holds both tremendous promise and tremendous risk.  A wrong decision can be ruinous.

We’ve seen technology implementations work in manufacturing, and we’ve seen them fail.  Here’s a few questions we’ve learned you should ask as you consider how your business will innovate:

  • Does the technology fit your current processes?

Unless the innovation will improve your current processes, you shouldn’t consider new technology that requires a major change in your shop floor processes.  The benefit you gain won’t outweigh the loss in productivity you will accrue as you implement the technology or struggle to make it fit.

  • Is the technology adaptable and flexible?

The one truth we’ve found in manufacturing is: change happens.  Many times, a new technology will address a single issue at a single point in time, and then will lose relevance over time as the industry changes.  Make sure the technology you implement will adapt as your shop floor and business adapts.  Make sure an update or adaptation process has been put in place in the technology.

  • Is it a custom solution?

Many manufacturers feel better when they have a technology solution built just for them, but this is a very costly and dangerous prospect.  The cost of maintenance, updates, and the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is significantly increased in a custom solution.  An out-of-the-box solution that has been configured for your needs will be able to meet your shop floor needs, and the maintenance and update costs will be significantly less.

  • Is it easy to use?

Technology only works when it is adopted and used by the people on your shop floor.  Many technologies we’ve come across are overly complex for no reason, or not designed with the end user in mind.  This is a sign of technology that’s still being developed.

  • Do you trust the provider?

When you purchase a new technology for the shop floor, you aren’t just buying the technology, but the provider.  Make sure you find a provider you can trust, and you know will be there when you need help.  A quality provider will offer fixed price proposals, and avoid expensive extra services.  They should be a company you are comfortable contacting, and you know you can get an answer quickly when you need it.

 

Manufacturing needs technology as much as technology needs manufacturing.  By following a few simple lessons, you can make technology work for your shop floor and continue to innovate.  As always, don’t hesitate to contact us with questions, we’re happy to help!