Tag Archives: Six Sigma

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.

Will You Survive the Imminent Demise of Paper-Based Manufacturing?

Still reluctant to explore paperless manufacturing on your shop floor?  Change is happening, and the decisions you make now will shape your future.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Sometimes you can see global change happening from miles away.  The first time I logged onto the Internet I knew there was so much more to this new world than text-based games and discussion forums.

tombstone-black-whiteAnd sometimes global change can surprise you.  I’ll admit, the tablet-craze was a shock.  It couldn’t fit in my pocket, and it didn’t have nearly the functionality of a laptop, yet it’s a craze that doesn’t seem to be fading.  Reality TV was another surprise.  Honestly, how can we explain the Kardashians?

That said, are you ready for the demise of paper-based manufacturing?  Are you surprised that paper travelers and paper build books are gasping for breath and struggling to survive?  How will you respond when the market demands you move to paperless manufacturing?

Still in denial (which, in this case, is not the river in Egypt), then consider this:

  • Customers are demanding more custom manufacturing and small runs.  Their business needs more control over the manufacturing you provide.  The market is moving away from traditional manufacturing.  It doesn’t provide the control and visibility custom manufacturing requires.  Sure, paper works, but it provides diminishing returns that cut into your bottom line.
  • Big data is here.  You’re going to see more tools to convert that data into responses that benefit your business.  Process improvement, for example.  You need data and process control to implement Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing.  Paper-based manufacturing is a glaring hole in big data.  It doesn’t provide adequate support for analytics.
  • Manufacturing needs stronger information tools than paper can provide.  For example, visual information and multi-lingual work instructions aren’t easily supported on paper.  Complex manufacturing drives paper toward bigger and bigger build books, creating more errors and more problems, while a paperless solution provides scalable tools for the work.
  • Quality is improved with paperless manufacturing, and quality was recently cited in studies as more important to profitability in manufacturing than productivity.  Paper is the source of many quality escapes in manufacturing (lost information, and lack of revision control, for example), while paperless manufacturing directly addresses many of these problems.
  • Technology has eliminated many of the concerns potential customers have with paperless manufacturing and MES.  For example, with Quantum, CIMx can install a paperless manufacturing system in a few weeks.  Training for the system can be completed days.  With a phased implementation, the customer is in complete control of the installation and gains production benefits quickly.
Prepare for the future and improve production with paperless manufacturing. Image by www.colourbox.com

Prepare for the future and improve production with paperless manufacturing. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

I will admit, even with the clear benefits of paperless manufacturing there will be shop floors that cling to paper, fearing change.  They may be profitable, in spite of themselves, but it is hard to deny the market is moving (rapidly) toward paperless manufacturing.  In 2013, manufacturers spent $5 billion on paperless manufacturing systems.  That’s a LOT of money to be spent without a clear ROI and benefit.

The world is changing, are you ready?  Will the market drive change on your shop floor, or will you control the change, ensuring maximum benefit for your business?  Or will you be stuck carrying a giant phone book tethered to the wall by a rotary phone while your competitors are using a smart phone?

Want to learn more, or are you ready to make a change.  Contact CIMx today to learn how we can help, or sign up for our free webinar.

Make Your Shop Floor Data Work for You

Smart businesses have discovered data is a valuable asset, but struggle to deliver shop floor visibility, letting manufacturing data slip away.

 By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Don't let shop floor data, one of your most valuable commodities, slip away.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Don’t let shop floor data, one of your most valuable commodities, slip away. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Last week I went to the grocery store and bought dog food and lunchmeat.  The next day I received e-coupons for new dog food brands, sandwich bread, and condiments.  You know what… I ended up buying that sandwich bread.  It looked good, the coupon had value, and the bread was healthier than what I had.  The grocery store turned my shopping data into another sale.

The fact is – data is a valuable asset!  Businesses realize this, and are putting in place new systems to capture, store and use data.  Amazon.com is a MASTER of using data to tailor the online shopping experience.  Using data (the user’s online searches, previous purchases, and online habits), Amazon can customize the shopping experience for each user, and that drives sales and profit for Amazon.  None of that would be possible without quality data.

Even with the obvious benefits of business data, many manufacturers haven’t made an effort to capture shop floor manufacturing data.  They build a robust CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system or put in an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), but haven’t implemented the shop floor visibility offered by an MES (Manufacturing Execution System) or Paperless Manufacturing.  They still see manufacturing as a place where orders go in and products come out.  Manufacturing data is valuable in a number of areas, such as:

  • Process Improvement.  Quality data collection is necessary for shop floor process improvement plans such as Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma.  Quality data will allow the shop floor to make the smart process adjustments necessary for improvement.  As for benefit, manufacturers with real time quality data have shown a reduction in cycle time of 60% or more, and a reduction in rework as much as 90%.
  • Accurate Estimates and better sales.   Without accurate production data – understanding who did what and for how long – it is difficult to build an accurate estimate for sales.  How can you accurately price a product for a customer if you don’t have visibility into your shop floor processes?
  • Successful regulatory audits.  Audits are a way of life in regulated industries.  Many manufacturers spend time and energy responding to audits, when successful data collection and storage would ease audit preparation and provide many of the records needed during an audit.
  • Customer responsiveness.  Customers have come to expect instant customer service.  They want access to their data, and they want a vendor to be responsive.  Access to quality data helps build a relationship with your customers and shows responsiveness.

61% of businesses in a recent Forbes survey reported, “… suffering from flawed information.”  Are you suffering from flawed data?  Do you have complete visibility of your manufacturing processes?  Manufacturing is the heart of your business, and manufacturing data is one of the most important assets you own.  Make sure you’re not letting the data slip away with an inefficient shop floor system.

Paperless Manufacturing Is Changing Our Industry, Are You Ready?

Our world is going paperless, the question is who will drive the change when it reaches your shop floor?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

I recently got an eye-opening wake-up call to the paperless future.

It was finally time to retire my 16-year old air conditioner and upgrade to a high-efficiency system.  I did my research and price-checked estimates before choosing a company.  I called up the sales rep to select a system, schedule the installation and sign the paperwork… then things got interesting.

“Paperwork?” the rep said. “No need… we can do everything online.”

Isn't it time to free yourself from paper by looking at the benefits of paperless manufacturing?   Photo by www.colourbox.com

Isn’t it time to free yourself from paper by looking at the benefits of paperless manufacturing? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

And he was right.  He worked in his office while I sat on my couch with a laptop.  We spoke via the Web.  I filled out an online questionnaire while he pulled up data on my house.  It took him 45 seconds to send over three choices for my new system, incorporating the questionnaire and data.  I looked over the options while the rep finished credit approval.  A choice was made and he emailed a contract. I e-signed and he chose an installation team.  The entire process took 15 minutes.  I never left the couch, and even ate a sandwich while we worked.  The secure computer system efficiently managed the details, integrating all the pieces.

Honestly, why did I feel the need to “sign” paperwork?  I assumed that’s the way it was done, and inefficient travel and paper-based errors were the cost of business.  In retrospect, my misgivings could have torpedoed the process.

The Future Is Here, and It’s Paperless

Face it… the world is going paperless, and we are all better for it.  Digital systems connect people and businesses with machines and processes like never before, adding value and improving productivity.  Many industries and companies have made the move, including:

  • Paperless house closings through Ellie Mae;
  • Paperless shopping through Amazon and online retailers;
  • Paperless medical records;
  • Paperless accounting and recordkeeping;
  • Paperless service industries, including HVAC and Mechanic shops;
  • Paperless college education through University of Phoenix.

The digital revolution is impacting manufacturing in ways we are only now beginning to understand.  Paperless manufacturing, the process of adopting paperless work instructions to manage information and work flow on the shop floor, is changing the industry.  For example, 3D Printing, or Additive Manufacturing, requires a digital design and work instruction, not a paper-driven one.  A new Standard Interchange File Format, developed by ASTM International, will allow a seamless transition from design to physical printed object, but only if the shop floor has made the conversion to digital.

Paperless Manufacturing Solutions

As an industry, manufacturing is moving toward paperless processes.  Look at the latest trends in manufacturing such as mobile manufacturing, 3D printing, on-demand manufacturing, and customer-centric manufacturing.  Utilizing real-time information on the shop floor will require paperless systems.  Even contemporary process improvement initiatives in manufacturing, such as Lean, Six-Sigma and agile manufacturing all rely on the functionality offered by paperless manufacturing.

The future of manufacturing isn't paper build books. Photo credit www.colourbox.com

The future of manufacturing isn’t paper build books. Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

Many manufacturers believe moving to paperless manufacturing requires a significant investment of time, energy and resources.  This may have been true in the past, but new technology and processes have made it possible for more companies to make the transition to paperless manufacturing, reducing the cost and minimizing the risk.  No longer is paperless manufacturing and MES solutions reserved for the largest corporations or complex discrete manufacturing.  Manufacturers of all sizes and in all industries will find workflow process control benefits with paperless manufacturing.

As more industries adopt paperless systems, manufacturers that cling to paper will discover their business isolated as they find it increasingly difficult to integrate with paperless systems.  The cost of duplicate work will increase, and processes will continue to grow more inefficient.  These companies will have fewer options and less opportunity.

To be honest, I installed my new AC less than two months ago, and I can’t imagine going back to a paper-based system.  Change is coming, so ask yourself, who will drive the change to paperless manufacturing on your shop floor?  New paperless manufacturing and manufacturing solution systems are lowering risk, reducing cost, and minimizing the pain of installation, implementation and training.  CIMx offers a system that incorporates your current processes and work instructions, making implementation even more efficient.  Want to look over options or learn more about paperless manufacturing, contact CIMx Software today.

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.

What Can Beer Teach Us About Manufacturing?

Beer can teach us about the shop floor in ways you might not realize, and gives us a peek at what the future holds for our industry. 

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

CIMx is located in Cincinnati. Before Prohibition, Cincinnati was a center of the American brewing industry, and in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine district, 30,000-40,000 people lived and were employed by breweries or other beer-related industries.

By the 1890’s, breweries in the city were producing more than a million barrels a year. Much of that beer never left the area. Cincinnatians drank 2 ½ times the national average. In fact, it is estimated Cincinnatians drank as much as 40 gallons a year for every person in the city, and were healthier for it! Incidences of water-borne diseases such as cholera and botulism were low in the city, and as result, people lived longer.

Beer matters in Cincinnati.

You can learn a lot about manufacturing by studying the history of brewing.

Cincinnati brewers dug catacombs under the city to make their business more profitable and Lean. Photo reprinted with permission of David Oeters.

Cincinnati brewers dug catacombs under the city to make their business more profitable and Lean. Photo reprinted with permission of David Oeters.

For example, in the intense competition between breweries, innovation was the key to success. Cincinnati is built on hills, making it easy to build deep basements with cool temperatures to aid in the lagering of the beer. Some breweries didn’t stop digging once they had space for the beer. Successful brewers built tunnels under the busy streets to the bottle makers, bottlers, and shipping, cutting down the time it took to transport beer. This led to a virtual underground city in Cincinnati, and was an early version of Lean Manufacturing.

Here’s another example – prohibition bankrupted many local breweries and they closed. When prohibition was over, the remaining breweries consolidated and created the American beer barons. These large companies brewed uniform beer – paler in color, less complex taste and lower in alcohol content. Since then, beer lovers turned to homebrewing for more complex and satisfying brews. Brewpubs started to pop up – the first in 1982 in Yakima, Washington.  Last year, there were more than 2,000 American craft breweries, microbreweries and brew pubs.  Even smaller nanobreweries are appearing.

Manufacturing has a similar history.  As the American economy transformed itself from agriculture to industry and production increased, scalability meant volume, and consolidation swept-up many of the smaller manufacturers.  By the 80’s, mergers and acquisitions was a big business for many companies.

As software became a viable solution for many challenges in manufacturing, some software and ERP vendors advertised they could do anything, which led to solutions that took years to implement, couldn’t be upgraded, and weren’t optimized for the shop floor. Internal technology teams didn’t want to pay these costs, so they built their own system, leading to custom solutions that work when finished, but slowly degrade to obsolescence over time.

Think of custom legacy software as the tasty, but non-viable, local breweries before Prohibition.

So what lessons can we learn from the history of breweries? Innovation is the key to success is a lesson not only for a brewmaster in Cincinnati, but also today’s discrete manufacturer.

Many manufacturers are realizing their home-grown software systems aren’t supportable, much like hometown breweries before Prohibition. The systems are specifically built to their needs, but now they need something for the future, something to scale for the demands of today’s fluctuating manufacturing environments. When change, like Prohibition or a new technology, happens, the companies unable to adapt won’t survive.

Take a lesson from Master Beer brewers and find solutions that will last you far into the future. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Take a lesson from Master Beer brewers and find solutions that will last you far into the future. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Looking ahead, the future isn’t with pale, less flavorful software built by massive business-eating conglomerates. The days of long, expensive implementations are over. Today, do your homework and look at smaller companies (think microbreweries) with an innovative software offering giving you the optimization of a custom system without trapping you into custom software obsolescence. Look at Paperless Manufacturing for an integrated shop floor solution with a quicker ROI. How is mobile and collaborative manufacturing handled in each system?

Need more proof? Anheuser Busch is owned by Belgian-Brazilian InBev and is reducing the number of big beer brands they distribute in favor of their craft lines – Stella, Beck’s, Bass. People want flexibility, optimization, and microbrewery-like service!

There are more lessons to be learned from Cincinnati’s rich brewing history, especially as we look more closely at how we can find success in the future. After all, beer production has returned to Cincinnati with breweries that have found a way to not just survive in the modern market, but thrive.  We’ll take a closer look at how you can capitalize like brewers today in a future blog. Keep an eye here for more!

3 Tips for Successful Shop Floor Resolutions!

Break the cycle of broken New Year’s Resolutions with these simple to implement ideas.

The New Year has become synonymous with renewed energy, passion, and the resolution list.  Perhaps it’s the holiday joy or eggnog that motivates us to personal and professional improvement.

But, unfortunately, all too often reality sets in quickly after the New Year.  Promises and goals are renegotiated and adjusted, before eventually being put aside sometime during the doldrums of February.

Set yourself up for success in 2013 with these tips.

Set yourself up for success in 2013 with these tips.  Photo: colourbox.com

Let’s be honest… it doesn’t have to be that way.  The energy, passion and motivation that starts the New Year, and drives the beginning of many manufacturing improvement projects, doesn’t have to fade.  So, as the New Year rolls around and many of us in manufacturing are planning for Q1, here are a few ideas to ponder and ways to ensure the motivation and energy we all find after the holidays lasts the whole year.

 1) Do Your Homework!

Many of us set aside an hour or so to write out resolutions, which leads to goals that sound good, but may not be the best solution.  By the time you determine the resolution is not all it’s cracked up to be, you’ll have lost the motivation and energy necessary to replace it with a better one.

Take time to do research before writing resolutions or making improvement plans.  Even a few hours of reading and studying pay HUGE dividends for your business.  Make research part of the resolution.  Ask questions of potential vendors and collect information.  Many of us are afraid of opening the floodgates to sales calls, but an honest vendor will help ensure you have the best solution plan.  In fact, once you’ve done a little research and understand what you are getting into, you’ll be even more motivated and driven.

Example: There are more options than ever for manufacturers looking at paperless manufacturing.  In fact, CIMx is preparing a new product for 2013 that will deliver paperless manufacturing to shop floors that may never have imagined paperless would work for them.  Okay, this might sound like a shameless pitch, but the truth is, the marketplace is continually changing with new products and options.  Gather information and make an informed decision on how to proceed.

 2) Set Manageable Goals!

January 1st seems to hold more opportunity than February 12th (and no, I have nothing against February 12th, but you get the idea).  This means the massive undertakings you plan at the beginning of the year may not be as possible as you imagined.  And all too often, when one part of a resolution doesn’t seem possible, we put aside the entire resolution.  Creating a complex, ambitious goal will likely lead to nothing getting done, and 2013 being another year of the “same-old.”  But, setting a smaller goal or a few smaller goals that lead to quick rewards and measurable improvements make it much more likely you’ll find success and make positive changes.

Example: Here’s a simple improvement with quick rewards: digitize your shop floor.  This might seem like a massive undertaking fraught with risk and high costs (despite new options that minimize risk and cost), but the simple step of making paper work instructions digital lead to savings and production improvements, and it’s not nearly as hard as you might think. 

For example, many remember those massive, yellow phone books that wasted ink, paper and time.  Now, the phone book is online and user-friendly.  Why can’t we do the same thing with work instructions?  Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to shuffle paper from printers, to shop floor, to cataloging and storage, only to haul it back out for an audit?  Digitizing the shop floor is a simple process with real rewards.

3) Make Change Sustainable!

Does anyone remember no-carb diets?  Years ago, it was all the resolution-rage.  But, let’s be honest, a diet of steak and hamburger is NOT sustainable.  You need to spend some time considering how sustainable a change is before you set a goal.  Plan on how you will make a lasting, positive improvement.  You need processes and change management systems in place before you dictate improvements on your shop floor.

Example: No one can honestly deny Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma won’t improve production.  Fewer errors leads to more profit.  The problem many manufacturers have is collecting the data necessary to implement changes, and implementing procedural enforcement to sustain change.  Integrating process improvements such as Lean and Six Sigma into software processes or features will ensure success and maximum benefits.

There is an energy and optimism that accompanies every New Year.  Capitalize on the energy by making positive changes to keep your business competitive, profitable and successful.  Your goal for each year should be steady improvement, because the competition is continually finding ways to improve.  Opportunity is out there.  Do your research, set achievable goals, and make sure those goals are sustainable.

What are your goals for the New Year?  What areas do you want to improve, or what challenges are you faced with on your shop floor?  Tell us!  Putting your plans in writing will add even more motivation to improve and deliver success in 2013.

Do you have any questions about this, or any of our blogs, or just want to know more? Leave a comment or email us at cimxsoftware@cimx.com.