5 min read

How to Buy a Manufacturing Software Tool to Manage Your Errors

How to Buy a Manufacturing Software Tool to Manage Your Errors

Last week, we discussed why you might need a manufacturing software system to manage and eliminate errors from your shop floor. We focused on defects first, as these are hard-coded errors and don’t have the subjective component that an incorrect schedule, improper inventory levels, and untrained people do. Defects are widely recognized, reported regularly, and often come with pre-assigned fixes.

So, if you can identify a defect, name and track it, report on it, and tell someone how to fix it, why can’t you just eliminate them from happening at all?


Why you can’t stop errors in production

Eliminating errors in production (or really any issue at all) requires you to know enough about them to recognize them before they happen. A well-trained operator may be able to get you there at one work center, but we find operators are often incented to work quickly but safely to get work out the door as soon as possible. They may have a weekly goal (posted, even) for defect rates, but are helpless to get there without the tools to stop defects in their tracks.


production control for defects

We want to focus the conversation today on defects. A defect in manufacturing often happens in a repetitive fashion. You recognize the type of defect and may also have a pre-configured workaround for solving it. This is one of the simplest things to solve with a system.

Let’s talk about production control without a system first. In order to get control of defects in your shop, we want to see you have a pre-arranged list of common defects with codes (alphanumeric standards to identify them and track trends) and the pre-approved list of steps an operator or supervisor can take to address each one uniquely. We expect more advanced shops to also have a signature process for the rework being done properly, and a complete audit trail of planned and unplanned work done back to the point of purchase for your customer.

If a manufacturer has all of this, we are then looking for trend lines on common issues – how often they appear, the periodicity pattern (last Friday of the month, when a changeover happens, with new employees), resolutions steps, and times and projects to identify the cause and eliminate them.

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Defects in the ERP, on paper, and on boards

If you are tracking these issues via your financial system, with Microsoft files on your network, or by posting them on huddle boards, your information is costing far more than you can imagine and may lack any degree of accuracy. We can say that quite comfortably because we’ve seen the information but we’ll explain further for believability.

Let’s say you have a person on your staff (full-time no doubt) that tracks and reports defects. It may be a common report that they prepare for your monthly or quarterly meetings. Quite simply, if you are tracking defects weekly, you are almost surely in desperate need of a system to help. Proceed directly to vendor selection, as a system will reduce your error load and you need that more than you need trend analysis.

We’ve met this person on so many different shop floors. Let’s call her Beth. Beth is a hard worker. She is constantly absorbed by data on spreadsheets, from production floor reports, in notebooks, on huddle boards, and even from the finance system itself. She is tracking, slicing and dicing your data any number of ways to report defects. Beth probably knows off the top of her head exactly the type of issues that you have. She knows how often she sees them and often feels that a ton of time is wasted in solving them but doesn’t know what to do about it.

Mike is your shop supervisor. He sends the information to Beth and may even get rated on the number of issues that are noted and solved each month. At some point, Mike may be tasked with finding out how to reduce the overall number of issues. He puts together a task team to discuss the issues and problem-solve or he starts to press the daily team on being more careful.


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Defects handled by an MES

Mike is missing the power of a software solution to really help him do his job. If he knew that a defect was noted at Work Center 1 (WC1) exactly 2 minutes ago (almost impossible in a shop running via one of the tools above), he could resolve it more quickly, provide the answers that his team needed, and know that today, he had that specific issue. When it comes back up tomorrow and the next day as well, Mike is going to get suspicious as he knows his shop and remembers things like this. Even if Mike didn’t see the pattern, his MES would (or should) automatically report it to him.

So he knows exactly what’s going right and wrong on a day-to-day, minute-to-minute basis and has every tool he needs to fix the situation. At the end of the month, the plant manager requests information on how Mike’s team fixed the issues and Mike pulls that out of the system in a matter of minutes. Better yet, with a system, Mike can also show his management that the number of defects is decreasing over time. Let's look at how.


How a manufacturing software tool reduces defects and risk

It’s hard to generalize this topic as defects happen for many reasons, but the strength of a manufacturing software tool is that it gives you access to the information you need to get a job done. Whether that job is something your team regularly does or you’re asking them to do something new or custom, a system should eliminate any confusion in the work to avoid mistakes. These would be the gimmes of the software.

Getting a little deeper into the weeds, how do you stop a hard defect, like one caused by a machine? Well, a system ought to track your tool usage and let you know the number of times that piece of work has been completed. It should warn you when preventative maintenance is due and help you schedule and complete that work.

Defects caused by actual operator error are somewhat trickier. If you see a trend of how often that happens on one job or type of work, you might assume that the work itself is not set up properly. If the trend shows that a particular operator does it incorrectly, the issue might be training. And, if you notice that it happens on a particular day or with a certain regularity, you can look to inventory storage and other more nuanced reasons for the failure.

Beth may be able to provide one or more of these data points for you but at what cost? Will it take her a day to track it down? Does it mean hours of combing through data entries? Can she write the proper formula that shows her there’s a pattern?




What you need for defect management

We’ll get into this deeper next week when we go through the list of items you should be looking for in a solution to help you with production errors and defects. At the top level, you need information at your fingertips and you need it to be accurate. Data should be entered one time only and you need immediate access to it to make it relevant.

Now I’m not knocking Beth or that person in your shop that does this work. They are vital to your organization and, in my experience, can usually find the answer to just about anything you might ask. If you give that person a tool built just for manufacturing – not an ERP that says it is – they will be able to guide your shop forward to the zero-defects rates that so many manufacturers are keen to achieve.  

As always, we’re here to move the conversation forward with you. If things we’ve said pique your interest in what’s possible for your shop, reach out and ask us the questions that you have. We’ve been doing this for more than 25 years and we’re happy to share our insight with you.

Over the course of this project, we will identify critical issues we see, what’s causing them and what you can do to stop them. We’ll go through almost 20 areas before we end this series on how to buy a system. These pieces should serve as a step-by-step guide to get you there.

Anxious to get the information faster? Engage with us for a Process Gap Analysis of your shop. We’re only an email away, info@cimx.com.

Contact CIMx Software to see how a Manufacturing Execution System can improve production control for you.

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