Tag Archives: Smart Manufacturing

The Key to Success with Data-Driven Manufacturing

Data-driven manufacturing – using facts and data rather than conjecture and guesswork to manage manufacturing processes – should be the goal of any forward-thinking manufacturer. Many companies struggle to realize the benefits of data-driven initiatives, even as the decline in cost of technology, software and hardware make it available to companies of any size or industry.

The problem isn’t the technology – it’s how it is being implemented.

The Human Element in Manufacturing Technology

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review identified four challenges facing companies implementing data-driven manufacturing. Moving from a Time-Triggered to an Event-Triggered Control System, a Unified Data Model and the other items discussed in the article are critical in finally realizing the full benefit of data driven manufacturing.

But what the article, and much of the industry, hasn’t addressed is the human element in data-driven manufacturing.

Humans play a critical role in managing production and workflow. While some processes can be completely automated with machines and sensors working together in a closed-loop control system, focusing on technology alone will leave holes in your processes. The operators must have easy and unimpeded access to relevant information during production.

Manufacturing software, specifically an MES (Manufacturing Execution System) designed with Smart Manufacturing tools, is the only solution that adequately meets this requirement.

Accelerating Production with MES

The key to true data-driven manufacturing is the MES.  By focusing only on technology of manufacturing and not addressing the end users, companies will struggle to maximize the benefit of the data they are collecting.

For example, automating machines to signal required maintenance and then automatically adjusting routing while the maintenance work is done is a perfect example of data driven manufacturing in action. Production doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and changes will have an impact on processes across the company. At this point, the MES should inform the operators of the updated routing. The dashboard used by Sales should also reflect the change, so the customer can be informed of the impact on the order.

The MES connects operators and machinery by communicating relevant data to the people best positioned to act on it. Without that communication, you’re left with disconnected and inefficient processes.

Looking Beyond Data-Driven Manufacturing

Companies are now collecting relevant production data, but without getting it to the right person at the right time, the data loses relevancy. An MES controls the manufacturing processes by managing information. In true data-driven manufacturing, the MES or manufacturing software system incorporates the human element and connects users to the critical data.

Without an MES, your data-driven manufacturing systems are still leaving potential production and profit on the table.

Want to know more, or see how true data-driven manufacturing works with a Smart MES? Contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis.

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Defining the ERP and MES Connection

When problems crop up in production, savvy manufacturers immediately search for a solution.

Many turn to manufacturing software like Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) or begin looking to their existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system for the functionality they are missing. Confusion creeps in at this point. As software providers expand their offering through development and acquisition, the lines blur between MES and ERP.

Removing the confusion and clearly defining the roles of the MES and ERP will eliminate this problem and help as companies plan for the future of their business.

The Role of the MES and ERP

Just as no accountant should ever use an MES to balance the books or run financials, no ERP will ever offer the functionality necessary for complex manufacturing. It can’t be done.

The MES delivers the workflow-based functionality required for discrete manufacturing. With a system based around the production value chain, it manages work and operations, and links data in a production cycle. Mistakes and quality escapes are flagged, allowing rework paths to be implemented. You can send a bill through an MES, but it’s not the optimal solution to billing.

The front office requires transaction-based functionality for financials, customer management and human resources. Data is input and tagged, creating data links, but at that point the process stops. There’s no workflow control because it’s not necessary. You could track a change order in a transaction system, but inefficiencies will cause the shop floor to struggle.

Some companies market their products as a “Manufacturing ERP.” They offer minimal manufacturing functionality tacked onto their core ERP product, often as a pricey module. It looks great in demos and claims to support some production processes, but a transaction system will never deliver the workflow control and visibility discrete manufacturers need. The inefficiencies result in “workarounds” your operators develop to overcome features that don’t work.

Fitting your Software Systems Together

Many companies initially turn to their ERP for manufacturing solutions, mistakenly believing a single software solution will lower costs and IT requirements. It doesn’t. A supplier selling an MES and ERP solution has either put a shiny “MES” veneer on top of basic ERP functionality or purchased an existing MES and completed an integration that you can’t control and they won’t be updating. You end up with an expensive solution with built-in inefficiencies, expensive upgrades, and gaps in manufacturing functionality.

The ERP and MES are separate, standalone systems that work best together when the user (your company) designs the integration points. This way, your front office has a software solution designed and built for their needs. Similarly, the shop floor and production team have the specialized functionality, visibility and control to keep up with the pace and complexity of manufacturing.

Since you aren’t buying expensive modules or customized functionality to awkwardly extend a software solution, you lower the overall cost. You have a clear upgrade path for both the MES and the ERP, and never struggle with an outdated solution.

Your company works from an integrated, cohesive production and business database. The reports use accurate data, sourced from the systems best positioned to collect and intelligently link information to increase production and efficiency while cutting costs.

Getting Started with Data-Driven Manufacturing

Once you’ve decided to eliminate inefficiency and embrace data-driven, smart manufacturing with a system like Quantum, the next question is where to begin.

Many mistakenly believe a software infrastructure project must start with the ERP, but the truth is it often makes more sense to implement an MES first.

Companies report a much quicker ROI for manufacturing software. The right manufacturing system will cost significantly less than an ERP, can be installed quickly and will pay immediate dividends through cost savings, and lower scrap and waste. The MES will reduce the scope and cost of the ERP by clearly defining the requirements of the enterprise system. With the MES in place, you won’t be pressured to purchase additional modules or software.

With manufacturing software you shield production from the disruption that often accompanies an ERP installation or upgrade. You can safely update other software when you are ready, with the comfort that your production data and shop floor are secure.

Want to know more, or see what benefits you will discover with manufacturing software? Contact CIMx for a free shop floor analysis with one of our Application Engineers. As always, the report is yours even if you decide Quantum isn’t the system for you.

Aligning IT and Operations for Successful Smart Manufacturing

Finding success with Smart Manufacturing requires more than software. Six questions will help position your team for improved production with Smart Manufacturing.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

The key to Smart Manufacturing is “alignment” between IT and operations. In a perfect production system, IT-driven tools collect, analyze, archive and deliver critical data to operations, fueling production. Tasks are automated when appropriate and possible, letting users focus on value-added work. IT delivers the appropriate tools, collects the right data, and synchronizes with operations, while operations adapt processes and workflow to make effective use of the data and tools.

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Manufacturing is changing. Are you ready? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

The Key to Success with Smart Manufacturing

Success with Smart Manufacturing isn’t a measure of the amount of data or processing power, or the number of integrations or drop-down menus you inflict on a production line. IT-driven tools don’t necessarily mean more software, functionality and systems. Unnecessary complexity will hurt production. Alignment, and success with Smart Manufacturing, requires the right tools and right processes.

Consider the following questions as you plan your own Smart Manufacturing program:

  • Are you putting good data into your system? Many companies moving from a paper-based or legacy system will load bad or incomplete data into a new MES or paperless manufacturing system. Inefficient processes are required to cope with bad data, and continue because no one bothers to correct it. Take time to correct errors before the project begins or adopt a solution that has built in error identification and correction.
  • Are you collecting the right production data? With the IoT (Internet of Things) and modern MES, there is no limit to the data you can collect. Don’t overwhelm operations with data that adds little practical value. Consider the ROI of the data you collect, and set up appropriate data collection.
  • Do you have the shop floor control to make use of the data? You need to synchronize the effort of IT and operations. The tools implemented by IT should match production needs. Operations should adapt to optimize the benefits of the new system, and not cling to old and inefficient processes. Both teams need to communicate and work towards a common goal.
  • Can you analyze trends to track overall efficiency? Process improvement is a core benefit of an MES or paperless manufacturing system. With a software system robust enough to analyze trends, you can identify process weaknesses and help make shop floor management a science rather than guesswork. Move from reacting to problems to proactively avoiding those problems.
  • Can you avoid operator fatigue once the software is in place? Software shouldn’t require operators service the system rather than focus on production. More than overly complex interfaces, it may also lead to operators refusing to use the system or creatively finding ways to avoid it. Consider if the system is truly easy-to-use for both operations and IT.
  • Can the system manage change efficiently? Once installed, many software systems will reflect the operational needs at a certain point in time. As the system ages, those needs will change. Determine how effectively the system can accommodate change, as this will affect the long-term value and TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of the software.
3d small people - rolls gear

Companies that successfully use the strength of both IT and Operations resources are ready for digital manufacturing. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Optimize Production with Digital Manufacturing

Smart Manufacturing brings IT and Operations into alignment. IT-driven tools improve operations and the shop floor, increase operational efficiency, and deliver better production results. Operations need processes in place to optimize usage of these tools.

Companies that take the time to explore digital manufacturing and design a Smart Manufacturing program that meets the needs of both IT and operations find significantly more success once the system is in place.

Want to learn more, or see how an implementation program can help prepare your company for Smart Manufacturing, then contact CIMx today for a free initial shop floor evaluation with an application engineer. We’re always happy to help harmonize your people, processes and technology.

Reasons to be Thankful for a Smart MES

Ever consider why you should be thankful for a modern, smart manufacturing system?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

In the USA, we’re preparing for the holiday season, and pondering the multitude of reasons we should be thankful.

This got me thinking about Smart MES. Recently, we looked at Smart MES, and discussed data-driven manufacturing. In doing so, we studied the benefits of both. While capabilities and benefits of software are important, neither highlights the true value of the system.

So, in honor of the season of thankfulness, we take a closer look one very important reason why you’ll be thankful you invested in new Smart MES and digital manufacturing.

Integrated Operations with the Smart Factory

A major goal of the Smart factory and digital shop floor is eliminating the silos of information that develop in a manufacturing company (or any organization). Consider this – engineering designs a product, but operations may build from entirely different plans (if they don’t ignore the instructions and just build from memory and experience). It’s a familiar problem for many companies. How can you optimize production if you can’t even get employees working from the same page?

Efficient Manufacturing

Are you creating more work and inefficiency by not embracing Smart Manufacturing? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

All this data is being produced, but not connected. There are opportunities for errors, and no comprehensive method of managing data.

The Smart factory and data-driven manufacturing puts data to use, driving efficiency and improving results. By giving the organization a single resource for managing production information, you eliminate silos. You automate many of the tasks associated with creating, storing and reporting information. A necessary component of this goal is integrating your data and people so everyone works from a single source of (correct) information, and has access to data when and where they need it.

An integrated team, streamlined to operate efficiently, is a key benefit of Smart Manufacturing. According to the Manufacturing Innovation Blog produced by NISTMEP (National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership), Dan Green, Director of Joint Advanced Manufacturing Region (JAMR) within the Navy, identified Smart Manufacturing as, “… the convergence of operating technologies (OT) and Information Technologies (IT) working together in a real time integrated fashion.”

Currently, many companies report a disconnect between IT and operations. Rather than collaborating, organizations within a company will defend their priorities. Without cohesion, any proposed solutions to operational inefficiencies will favor one segment of the company over another, delivering a less than optimal result.

The Smart Factory changes this dynamic. Most companies who have embraced Smart Manufacturing report decreased stress and workload for both IT and Operations. For operations, a solid digital foundation for manufacturing eliminates many of the inefficiencies (including paper-based ones) that hinder production, and directly address the source of problems and errors in manufacturing, reducing scrap and improving production. For IT, with Smart Manufacturing it is easier to write reports and data mine the raw data accessible in a single location to produce critical production analytics. With the system automating many time-consuming tasks, IT can focus on higher priority items.

By integrating data and eliminating silos, you can bridge the gap between IT and Operations, helping everyone in the organization work as a cohesive team. The result is more focus and effort toward goals that deliver real benefit.

This, if you open your mind, is really what Thanksgiving is all about – a cohesive team delivering tremendous results in a time of need.

Enjoy the holiday! Want to learn more, or see how a Smart MES or MOM system can make your company work more efficiently, then contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis.