Tag Archives: shop floor technologies

Are Your Paper-based Travelers Holding Back Your Shop Floor?

Inefficient, annoying, error-prone and wasteful, many times paper-based work travelers are the source of countless shop floor problems and might be holding production back.

 By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Many times, discussions about paperless manufacturing and MES focus on hard data (35% increase in production and a 45% decrease in quality defects – hurray!), the ROI or the global enterprise (real-time shop floor visibility and control, and sustainable process improvement and enforcement – alright!).  We forget to notice the little improvements that have the greatest impact on the shop floor – the things that make everyone’s life easier.  They bring joy, increased job satisfaction and improve the shop floor quality-of-life.  It may not directly impact the ROI, but it sure makes everyone happy.

Exhibit A: The Paperless Shop Traveler
What steps can you take to improve performance (and happiness) on your shop floor?  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What steps can you take to improve performance (and happiness) on your shop floor? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Face it, shop travelers that are a huge bundle of paper, checklists, drawings and data collections can be a major pain.  Those annoying bundles of work instructions and shop floor records that are painstakingly printed every morning, then laboriously assembled and bundled into plastic sleeves, bags, or bound together by pins, clips or whatever is on hand.  It makes its journey across the shop, carried by hand or thrown on a cart.  As changes happen, notes are added, papers removed and measurements made.  It’s dropped, spilled on, and crammed into corners.  Pieces are lost and critical information gets shuffled back and forth with everyone hoping nothing gets missed.  Let’s be honest, all that paper isn’t necessary!

When it’s all done, the records are stored away – those piles and piles (and piles) of records.  Maybe someone has to collect the data scrawled on the traveler, then (re)input the information.  Finally, it’s all shoved into a box and carted away to storage.  If you’re lucky, maybe you have a process that converts it to a pdf.  Maybe.

That’s what happens all too often.  Like I said… it’s annoying, inefficient and error prone.  The paper-based traveler is the source of headaches and frustration for many shop floors.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  An integral feature of paperless manufacturing is removing the unnecessary paper from the work traveler and leaving you with a format that makes sense for your shop process.

With Quantum or Interax and CIMx Software, each work order created is a separate file in the system.  Important details are part of the file, and easily accessible.  Work and set-up instructions, safety material, important training information and more are all attached to each work order, and can be accessed when and wherever necessary.  Most importantly, only the latest approved information can be accessed, and when needed change orders can be signaled through the system and made in just a few moments.  After all, there’s proof visual work instructions are far superior to paper-based ones.

From the shop floor, quality checks can be made and added directly to the work order, where it can be securely stored.  If there is a file or digital photo the shop floor wants to add to the file, it can be added with a press of a button.

From anywhere you have access to your network; you can track the progress of the paperless traveler with real-time information.  No more running to the shop floor asking questions, or flipping through pages to swap out flawed work instructions, or retroactive quality checks.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?

When the work order is complete, it is securely stored in a digital archive.  You can access the file at any time, and a complete as-built record is a single button press away.  Forget the stress of audits, everything that needs to be done is done automatically.  Want to run reports on the data to help optimize production?  No problem.

Eliminating unnecessary paper from your work travelers may not be your primary reason for implementing a paperless manufacturing system, but it may be what your shop floor is most thankful for when the project is complete.  Shop floors are quickly moving paperless, so now is the time to get a head start on the process and a leg up on the competition.

Feeding the Upgrade Need for Your MES or Paperless Manufacturing Software

Do you have a plan in place to capitalize on the latest technological breakthroughs for your shop floor?  If not, does your competition?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

My brother has a new cell phone, and I have a case of tech-envy.

If you don't have a plan in place to upgrade your manufacturing software, how can you be sure your system isn't fading into obsolescence?  Image by www.colourbox.com

If you don’t have a plan in place to upgrade your manufacturing software, how can you be sure your system isn’t fading into obsolescence? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

With a faster processor, more memory and a better camera, he took the pictures everyone wanted at a birthday party this weekend.  He has access to more apps and new features he’s only now beginning to explore. My phone is 2+ years-old, and Evernote is just as likely to lock up as open, and for some reason I can’t get a signal in my kitchen, no matter what I do.

Unfortunately, tech-envy is fairly common today.  New technology comes out so quickly.  Innovation is a marketplace advantage.  Some will capitalize on the new innovations, and others (yeah, I’m looking at myself) struggle with legacy systems.

Manufacturers and the shop floor aren’t immune to tech-envy.  Many times, an older MES or process control system will constrain the work flow process, leaving manufacturers with a system costing more than the benefits accrued.  Because technology and processes advance so quickly, systems that aren’t upgraded sink into obsolescence.  The system you purchased to benefit production and save money is now stealing profit.

I’d love to upgrade my phone.  I recently came across a plan from T-Mobile that allows you to upgrade your phone after just six months.  With the “Jump” plan, when the latest technology comes out you can trade in the old phone for a new one.  I’m drooling at the thought of all that new, tasty technology goodness and the advantages it will give me over my brother. 

Technology is changing faster than ever before?  You can make technology a competitive advantage. Image  by www.colourbox.com

Technology is changing faster than ever before? You can make technology a competitive advantage. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Just like cell phone users, many manufacturers are seeing the value in an upgrade.  In today’s technology market, with buzzy buzzwords like, “mobility” or “cloud,” or “big data” upgrades, especially inexpensive upgrades that minimize operational resource drain, can be the difference between a successful MES installation and another legacy system slowly dragging your shop floor down.  As you consider shop floor software, look at not only current functionality, but how upgrades will be managed.

Here are a few questions to ask and secrets to successfully selecting an MES and paperless manufacturing systems that will ensure the latest technology is a shop floor advantage to you with a customer-friendly upgrade plan:

  • Does the system use open, adaptable work flow process control architecture? A form-based system will limit your upgrade opportunities, increase the cost and work necessary, and potentially impose a new process with each upgrade (which can happen with some cloud-based systems).
  • How long will it take, and will there be a service charge?   Is a large team and additional service charges necessary for initial implementation?  The cost for initial implementation will give you an idea of the requirements for an upgrade.
  • Is there a cost and charge for an upgrade? To stay current and maximize your benefit and ROI, you’ll want to upgrade at least once a year, and upgrade costs will increase your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
  • How much “customization” does your system have?  Many times, custom software will increase the cost of an upgrade (every upgrade) and will limit your ability to benefit from new technology and processes.

The best software solutions maximize and manage production, and increase quality and profit not only now, but in the future.  Ensure a long-term solution for your shop floor by having an upgrade plan in place before installation.

Otherwise, you might be installing your next legacy software system, and in a few years you’ll be looking for a new solution or managing a shop floor that can’t find a signal in the kitchen.

Discovering the (Hidden) Benefits of Paperless Manufacturing

Many times, the greatest benefits of paperless manufacturing aren’t ones in your list of requirements.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Our recently launched new website (have you seen it at www.cimx.com?) opened my eyes to how powerful an open, adaptable paperless manufacturing system can be.

We did extensive functionality and feature planning for our new website.  We looked at designs, determined the core audience and their needs, and studied how we use our CMS (Content Management System).   We were left with a massive, unwieldy list that we promptly whittled down to focus on our key needs.  In the end, it wasn’t a matter of sacrificing functionality, but realizing the massive list of requirements wasn’t the best way to meet our business needs or the real needs of visitors to the site.

Selecting an open, adaptable MES can yield hidden benefits you might never add to a list of requirements. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Selecting an open, adaptable MES can yield hidden benefits you might never add to a list of requirements. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Then the website launched and we started using it.  All the cool functionality on our initial list is there… like the ability to download PDF’s, a news stream, and our new blog (a VERY cool blog that this one will merge into), and more.  But, the feature I now love the most wasn’t even on our requirement list.

On the old site, I spent HOURS (many-many hours) uploading new material.   It involved formatting and loading text into forms, adding artwork, and creating links and menus.  In the past, I would schedule a day to load pages, and then time to make corrections.  Our CMS was custom-built, and I was making full use of the massive requirement list the CMS was based on.  I thought this pain was just the price of doing business on the website.

Once I got over my, “this is how we have to do it,” attitude, I quickly fell in love with the new system.  Today, loading a new page or article is something I can knock out quickly.  The system is open and easy-to-use, so I spend my time doing more productive work.  I miss nothing about the old method.

Stories like this are common in successful MES and paperless manufacturing implementations.  Sure, MES will give you process control, increase quality, drive profit, and give you shop floor visibility and real-time production information, but with the right system, you’ll discover other benefits. For example, we recently implemented a shop floor work instruction viewer for a customer.  They now collect shop floor data and have eliminated paper build books – HUGE benefits to the shop floor.  They are more productive and efficient.  But the ability to link a photo of a machine to the work instructions has become the shop floor’s favorite feature, and it wasn’t even on the list of requirements.  Turns out, since the shop floor worker has to use multiple machines, having that photo saves them a lot of effort and makes their job easier

The shop used a digital camera to take a picture of the machines.  An engineer added the photo to the work instructions.  The photo could have been a short video of machine set up or on-demand training as another company is doing.  It took 10 minutes of work, and now the entire shop floor is more productive, and management benefits from increased excitement for the new paperless manufacturing system.  It was an unplanned benefit of using such a robust and open paperless manufacturing or MES system.  The goal of the software should be making your business better, working with your processes, and not dictating how your processes need to work.  We know manufacturing and software, but we’re still excited to hear how customers discover new ways to benefit from our software.

Many manufacturers believe their only option is a custom-built paperless manufacturing system, or a system built internally.  They fool themselves into believing an 18-24 month design and implementation project is necessary.     Many custom-built or form-based manufacturing systems are rigid by necessity, many times driven by extensive requirement lists, and end up delivering less functionality than a more open, adaptable system.

Want to know more?   Do you have the ability to use your shop floor methods in new and unexpected ways that excite the staff?  Is your shop floor empowered to use their system to maximize opportunity and find a “better way”? Stop by our new website (www.cimx.com) and take a look at other new features we’re offering.  As always, we’re happy to answer any questions you have.

Deciphering the Role of MES

Understanding the difference between MES and ERP isn’t difficult once you understand the Human Element of manufacturing operations.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Defining MES is much easier when you understand the human element on the shop floor. Illustration from www.colourbox.com

Defining MES is much easier when you understand the human element on the shop floor. Illustration from http://www.colourbox.com

Trying to answer, “What is MES?” is not easy, and it’s a question I get a lot.  A good MES delivers smooth operations.  The information and process management available in true MES increases quality, eliminates scrap, and build products efficiently.  For each part of your operation, MES has a different meaning.  For the shop floor, it’s where they get work instructions and collect data.  For engineering, it’s how instructions are built and a tool for ECO (Engineering Change Orders).  For finance, it might be a line item, for sales and customer service it’s a way to track orders, and so on…

This is why I’ve begun connecting the role of MES to the human element in manufacturing.  Confused?  Here’s what I mean…

Most customers we talk to are confused about the boundaries between MES, ERP, scheduling and a host of other products driving the engine of their business.  In digital business tools, an ERP or MRP is focused on the business and finance of your business, while the MES focuses on people – helping them work better, smarter and faster. 

Your workplace is teeming with the human element right now.  Employees are designing, planning, building, testing and shipping your products every day.  If you’re in the services industry, your product is your people. 

The human element can be amazingly powerful and scary all at the same time.  Machines aren’t as creative as humans, but a machine can reliably repeat the exact same motion long after a human arm has tired.  Humans aren’t as durable as a shop floor machine, but when disaster strikes, I trust a human to think through the next steps.

Make your operation more efficient with MES and Paperless Manufacturing. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Make your operation more efficient with MES and Paperless Manufacturing. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Take a closer look at a manufacturing business.  Inside the business, you have HR, finance, customer support and other operational areas.  The central tool to manage these aspects of your business is the ERP software.  The ERP connects these areas, manages the information and provides a communication flow.  It is a big task, which is why ERP installations are typically long and complex, but should result in a well-running support system.   It is a transaction-based system. 

Let’s examine this further.  An order from the Acme Co. comes in for 10 green widgets due a week from Tuesday. The order is entered into the ERP which stores the information and notifies engineering and the shop floor of the order.  The ERP is very good at managing a transaction-based operation such as this.

In engineering another set of tools come into play.  Engineering uses CAD systems, drawing and specification tools, and spreadsheets to produce the documentation necessary for green widgets.  This includes detailed instructions for how to build the widget, any relevant measurements to be made during production to ensure the widget meets specifications, drawings, blueprints, photographs, safety sheets and all other files related to the part.  One useful tool you often find here is a PDM (product data management) system to organize engineering documents and ensure only the latest version of a document is available.   

An ERP manages transactions, and a PDM organizes documents, but neither creates the process-focused operation necessary to create a work package for the shop floor.  This is the human element we mentioned at the beginning that is the focus of an MES, helping manage human and operational elements on the shop floor to ensure you have the most efficient-built green widgets for the Acme Co., and Acme has the quality assurance and as-built records they need for their completed order.

Choices and options.

Deciphering MES isn’t about using acronyms, it’s about understanding the human element on the shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com.

Production control receives the order from the ERP and needs to match it with the documentation from engineering.  The MES completes this function, where the ERP cannot.  With just a PDM or an ERP, you end up contorting a transaction tool or document management system to twist a myriad of MS Word and Excel documents into a process, which leads to the poor humans on the shop floor reading and re-reading documents, trouble-shooting, searching for answers when they should be building.  Data collection gets lost in the ERP transactions or the PDM, if it is collected at all. 

MES adds the human element to your digital manufacturing tools.  You have widgets you need to build.  You have machines to do it.  MES tells the people what to do at each machine in order to build the widgets correctly.  Without it, the people on the shop floor have to make independent decisions based on disparate knowledge about production, or they rely on tribal knowledge that is never adequately collected.  Sometimes this works, but since there is no process control, you can’t guarantee it will work every time.  It’s an unreliable and very expensive way to manufacture. 

MES provides a toolkit connecting other business systems to manufacturing, ensuring your team produces to the highest quality tolerances and with the highest productivity.  Ultimately, it has the biggest direct impact of any system on the profit for the business.  In manufacturing, an MES is the basic building block upon which profit is built because it is focused on process-based manufacturing operations that drive the business.

When someone asks me what an MES is, I could recite a litany of acronyms, starting with ANSI/ISA-95 standards, toss in a PRM note and sprinkle in OEE or LEAN with a healthy dose of tech speak… or I could talk about the human element that is so critical for manufacturing success.  You don’t purchase an ERP to build a car, and you don’t hire machines to fix a problem.  You hire the best people for your shop floor and give them to the tools they need to succeed, and that’s where an MES comes in.

Fix Your Shop Floor Processes Now

Don’t fall into the “If it ain’t broke…” trap.  Sometimes your biggest mistake is in not doing anything.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I don’t know where I first heard the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” but it’s become the rallying cry of procrastinators everywhere.  Unfortunately, it’s a rallying cry that ends up a funeral dirge or death knell…

Case in point… my neighbor had a rattle in the car engine.  It sounded like an engine wheeze – metal on metal.  “No big deal,” my neighbor said. “It’s just something loose and the car’s working fine.  I’ll get to it before vacation.”

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

Vacation passed and the rattle continued.  Other priorities and expenses came up, so why bother with a rattle that wasn’t hurting anything?  That is, until he destroyed the engine on his way to a business meeting.   The car overheated, the head gasket blew and it completely ruined the engine.  My neighbor missed his meeting, spent more than $4,000 fixing his car, enjoyed a night on the side of the highway waiting for a tow truck, and was forced to coordinate rides to work and trips to the grocery store while the car was fixed.

Lesson of the story… a simple belt replacement ended up costing him thousands in repairs, plus lost time, missed meetings, and endless aggravation.

Choices and options.

How will you handle broken and inefficient processes on your shop floor? Photo from http://www.colourbox.com.

It’s a lesson not all manufacturers understand.  Software Advice recently released a survey (found here) detailing manufacturing software buyer trends. The report, by Software Advice’s analyst Derek Singleton, identifies paper and spreadsheets as the primary method of tracking manufacturing processes for many of the manufacturers taking the survey.  Research by Oracle has shown paper-driven processes increase costs, introduce errors, add complexity and create compliance issues.  In fact, 75.9% of companies reported significant business risks due to inefficient document-driven processes, including paper-based processes.  So why do so many companies continue to use paper-driven processes to control the shop floor (the heart of manufacturing)?

Because if it ain’t broke, why fix it?  If all your shop floor knows is inefficiency and is comfortable with it, then why change?

More than increasing risk, paper-driven processes significantly increase costs for businesses.  As reported by Oracle, a study by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) found businesses, “spend $20 in labor to file a document, $120 in labor to find a misfiled document, and $220 in labor to reproduce a lost document,” (www.aiim.org).  The money has to come from somewhere, so these costs are either eaten by the manufacturer or passed along to the customers.  So why are companies throwing away money on paper?

I go back to my neighbor and the months he spent with a rattle in his engine.  He knew he should do something, but other priorities came up and the engine never seemed that bad.  “It’s more work to fix than deal with it”, he told me once.

What steps can you take to increase shop floor efficiency?  What steps are your competition taking?  Photo by www.colourbox.com

What steps can you take to increase shop floor efficiency? What steps are your competition taking? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

For manufacturers operating in a paper-driven environment, going paperless would mean buying and installing a new system (which takes valuable IT resources), integrating a new process, and training the shop floor.  It feels like a lot of work for some nebulous, paperless return.  If the decision-maker isn’t a shop floor employee, it is even more difficult to justify the cost since you don’t feel the paper-based shop floor pain on a daily basis… and so, life under, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” goes on.

But there is a danger to the, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” mentality, and the grinding noise in my neighbor’s engine perfectly illustrates it…  We recently worked with a manufacturer that repeatedly failed audits due to paper-based record-keeping.  In less than a month, we were able to install a system on the shop floor and begin collecting audit-worthy as-built records.  Another manufacturer lost a major client because they couldn’t guarantee timely change orders – a simple function in paperless manufacturing and MES.  Waiting to fix shop floor challenges isn’t a solution, it means disaster hasn’t struck yet.  Worse yet is failing to recognize there is a problem and it needs fixing.

So what does this mean for you and your shop floor?

Another section of the Software Advice study identifies improving or automating processes as the top reason manufacturers purchase new manufacturing software.  Other reasons include updating or modernizing their software, additional features and functionality, and company growth.  Another part of the study identified improving efficiency as the primary reason companies seek to replace existing manufacturing software.  We are seeing a consistent drive to improve the shop floor, and the beginning of a movement away from the “If it ain’t broke…” mentality because people are starting to realize “It is broke”.

Companies are beginning to take control of their own destiny and take action proactively, rather than reactively.  The manufacturing marketplace is tightening, and proactive process and efficiency improvements are a competitive advantage for many companies.   More and more companies are turning every day to paperless manufacturing and manufacturing software for an advantage.

“If it ain’t broke…” isn’t a recipe for success in modern manufacturing.  Take a lesson from my neighbor – if you hear a grinding engine wheeze in your shop floor, get it fixed or you might be stuck waiting while your competition moves ahead.  Are there problems you are waiting to solve on your shop floor?  Are there problems you don’t even recognize on your shop floor?  Are your work processes a victim of the, “it ain’t broke…” mentality?  If so, let us know.  The solution may be much closer, easier to solve, and less expensive, than you might think.

Don’t Let Your Ego Get in the Way of Your MES

When manufacturers ask if they need both an MES and ERP, I mention a lesson Sigmund Freud shared nearly 100 years ago.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

In the 1920’s, Sigmund Freud recognized a truth that many manufacturers are only now beginning to recognize.

Is it reasonable to expect an ERP to maximize shop floor efficiency like an MES?  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Is it reasonable to expect an ERP to maximize shop floor efficiency like an MES? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Curious?  Here’s what I mean; in Freud’s “structural model” of the human psyche there are three constructs at work in the human mind – the id, the ego and the superego.  It is the interaction of these three systems that make us who we are.  They are dependent and inter-dependent.  Without all 3 systems, we can’t operate efficiently. 

The id is basic human needs and wants, without perception or judgment.  In your business, this drives work on the shop floor – the customer has placed an order and your team is focused on getting the work done.

The ego, in contrast, mediates between the id and reality.  The ego works towards fulfilling needs and wants, but creates a realistic strategy to reach them.  For a manufacturer, it is the rules and processes to support the organization – the ego dictates the order will be filled by sending it to the shop floor. 

Finally, the superego incorporates the values and rules of society to add a level of control to the id.  Where the ego will make a plan to meet the id’s desires, the superego will determine the “best” course of action.  In your business, the superego includes the planning required to make the business sustainable. 

Is your business operating at peak efficiency?

Is your business operating at peak efficiency?

Without getting too philosophical or diving too deeply into theory, the human psyche is a success because of the interplay and exchange between these systems.  The id determines what we need, the ego incorporates reality to formulate a plan for acquisition of what we need, and the superego determines the consequences to ensure you’ve formulated the best plan to meet the need.  Each system plays its part well.

Would we be so successful if one piece were missing?  No.  Much like a manufacturing business won’t operate optimally without a functioning and independent ERP, MES, and customer orders.

An ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning system) is the gatekeeper of all the data on your business – from financial performance, to HR, to customer lists, and work orders.  It’s the ego for the shop floor, offering a minimal direction to the shop floor for customer orders (the id) but not enough to make the parts correctly every time and certainly not optimally.  The ERP isn’t designed to maximize shop floor efficiency, and if it was the other functions would suffer.  Human resource records would operate like a work instructions, and business data would conceivably be formatted like a tool crib data.   

At its core, an MES (Manufacturing Execution System) connects the customer order in the ERP with shop floor work processes necessary to successfully produce the customer order.  The MES takes the order, breaks it down into individual processes, and provides a work flow to produce the parts efficiently.  It then adds data collection, revision control, and archiving to ensure efficiency.    When a customer order (id) comes in, the ERP (ego) plans how to fill it, then the MES (superego) adds order and efficiency to the process, ensuring everything works optimally.

Just like the human psyche, a manufacturer won’t operate efficiently (if at all) without each of these systems working in harmony.

This is not to say a manufacturer can’t “make it work” if a system is missing.  With an ERP and planning documentation you can print up a build book and run it to the shop floor, but this isn’t optimal or efficient.  It operates like a person without a superego; tell them to “grab a cup of coffee” and they literally just go out and grab one – yours or someone else’s.  With a superego in play, you know you have to go to the counter, select a drink off the menu, order it, and wait for it to be served. 

An ERP is focused on orders coming in, tracking profit, loss and assets at play.  It’s not designed to review the manufacturing process and provide the shop floor control manufacturers need in the modern market.

Manufacturers often wonder why an ERP can’t handle the tasks normally handled by an MES.  They see an ERP and MES as computer systems moving data.  But each is fundamentally differently, and much like the id, ego, and superego, they work best together, not separately.

As I said, Sigmund Freud recognized a truth many manufacturers are just now beginning to realize – success is many times dependant on the interaction of different systems working together.

Hopefully I’ve shed a little light on how an MES and ERP work together (and maybe a little light on the theories of Freud).  We’ll talk more the differences and strengths of an MES and ERP in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, let us know what you think.

Where Will Your Shop Floor Be In 10 Years?

All signs point to major changes for manufacturing, so what are you doing to prepare for the future?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I came across a recent news article about a man in New Zealand using a 3D Printer to build a replica of a 1961 Aston Martin DB4.

Okay, let’s get all the amazement and wonderment out of the way now….

First, he is building a car with a $500 Solidoodle 3d Printer.  This is a readily available printer, easily found by a web search.  It’s easy to use, and even easier to purchase.    Apparently, you can use it to build a car frame (the interior of this car will consist of the engine of a 1993 Nissan Skyline).

What steps are you taking now to ensure you have the shop floor you want in 10 years?  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What steps are you taking now to ensure your future? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Next, this is his first attempt at 3d Printing.  So far, he has spent a total of $2,000 on the project.  Sure, Ivan Sentch, the man behind the project, estimates it will be five more years before he can drive the car, this is still a private citizen using a simple printer in his free time to BUILD A CAR!

Now, the really interesting point in this article is near the bottom, “Sentch believes it will be at least a decade or two before 3D printing will be used regularly for useful projects.”  Useful projects like cars, home appliances, and mechanical parts that are currently being manufactured in factories all over the world.  These factories and shop floors are the heart of our industry.

Let that sink in a moment…

I’m not suggesting we’ll suddenly shut down factories and start printing space shuttles in our garage, but a fundamental change is coming on par with Henry Ford and his manufacturing methodology and the rise of industrial robots.   This means many manufacturers will have to adapt or succumb.  Readily available manufactured goods via 3D printers will change the market.  To compete with a $500 printer, manufacturers need to offer customers more.

The retail industry is already grappling with this trend.  Why should a consumer travel to a store when they can order what they want on the web, via Amazon or another online outlet?  Stores have had to adapt, look at multi-channel sales and even question their role and function to the modern consumer.  It has required difficult choices, a lot of work, and a willingness to accept that what once felt comfortable and brought in enough profit isn’t going to cut it any longer.

10 years is not that far in the future.  A man in New Zealand spent $500 for a 3d Printer and gave us a glimpse of what the future will be like. So, where do you see your business and shop floor in 10 years?  What are you doing to prepare for the future?  Is it enough?  Now is the best time to start asking those important questions, and seek out someone who can help you plan for the future.