5 min read

How to Buy a Manufacturing Software Tool to Manage Your Errors - Part 3

How to Buy a Manufacturing Software Tool to Manage Your Errors - Part 3

We have been discussing the use of technology to solve errors in your manufacturing shop. For years, these conversations have been driven with us and prospects mostly from the perspective of incorrect decisions or actions, false or erroneous information, or other internal issues. More recently, we’re seeing the job market and the supply chain increase the propensity for errors in a shop that was, for the most part, running smoothly.

We know that to manage errors by people, you need to give them the right information; it should neither be too much nor too little for them to do the work. Sifting through a job packet for their instructions, going by memory, or leafing through a binder at the workstation are all the first steps in doing work incorrectly. While you can’t be there to monitor every single employee’s every action, you can ensure that you get as close as possible to that without leaving the confines of your desk.

Technology’s there to help, but only if it knows the job to be done and how to handle it. We’ve shown that both ERPs and MRPs can produce a BOM (Bill of Materials). If customized and programmed properly, they may be able to get you to an MBOM (Manufacturing BOM) but few will be able to ensure that you have the proper instructions each step of the way and most will be out of your price point or unable to be flexible enough to handle new workflows as you grow your business.

Some ERP companies even insist that the BOM is the most important thing you need in manufacturing. We heartily disagree. The BOM is just a list of items you need – without properly trained people, the right resources, and a system that ties it all together, the ERP BOM is a list of items that gets you partially there and leaves you without any idea of what to do.  


manage errors in the process

We defined the “three legs of the (proverbial manufacturing) stool” last week as your people, the materials you have on hand to do the work (including machines and tools), and the recorded process they will use to complete the work. If that’s truly the case, then a BOM only gets you so far.

Your processes are your blueprints for work done correctly. Whether you have an engineer, or a shop supervisor create the list of interlocking steps you need to do to perform the work you have to do correctly and on-time, that process must be followed. The last thing you need is for operators to opt for work done differently – shortcuts, work performed as previous rather than to your specification, or the way they remember or know how to do it. None of these will get you to the work being done correctly.

Things we want you to include in your process are written instructions (separated into specific steps), materials and tools needed in the quantities required to do that work, sketches, diagrams, annotated drawings, a video of the work done properly, safety sheets (MSDS), warnings, notes, data collections, tolerances and whatever else your team may use to let you know, at the end of production, that everything was done as required.

For the largest manufacturers in the world, this is critical for safety. I remember an aerospace company we worked with that built aircraft. The as-built report (work expected and work completed) had to be printed out physically (at the time – I suspect now they deliver the package digitally) and placed in the airship. It stood almost 4 feet tall fully printed. A single missing signature was a reason to scrap the package and the delivery itself. And yes, I did see that happen.

For you, it’s critical because the world is changing. The demands of the current labor shortages and supply chain issues mean that you will have to flex your processes. The only way to do this with the team you currently have in place is to give yourself the aid of a technology that’s built to flex with you. Something that knows the process, how long each part of it takes, what’s needed every step along the way, who can do the work, who’s available today and how it all fits together with the rest of the work you have in-process. Sound tricky? If you’ve tried to do it yourself with your ERP, your Microsoft suite, or whiteboards, you know exactly how tricky it is.


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what can you do today

If you don’t have anything but Microsoft, whiteboards, and an ERP or finance package today, you can make some interim steps to help yourself. Establish a well-written process for process management. A protected network drive can help with this on the front end. Limit the number of individuals that can touch or edit this area, so you know that what you send to the shop floor is the best information you have.

Remove the binders from your shop floor. Old information is going to hang out there. Remove all paper from the shop floor except for plastic-sheeted job packets that you send around. This will ensure that the team does not hold onto to old and erroneous information. It will train your team to read the instructions and follow them for each job. Will this take time? Precious time, yes. Cost more in paper? You bet. And ink. But it will remove a few areas that are rampant with errors in a paper-driven shop.

Train your team to implement and use a name and numbering convention so that files on the network are easily connected visually. That way, they can gather all the documents labeled “Part 12345” even though they may be for various stages of the process.

None of these steps ensure that you will do things accurately, but they eliminate a few of the most common errors we see in paper-driven and ERP-driven shops.


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choose a product to help you do it right

Errors can only be limited by eliminating the opportunity to make incorrect choices and actions. Unless you have two people do each job and check each other’s every move, technology is the very best way to do this. How do you know if a vendor has what you need? Here are a few questions to get you started.

  • What information can I keep in your system to help my operators do their work?
  • How does it get there?
  • Do you have any process(es) for automating the capture of that information by operators?
  • How about for inputting information into the system? Can I set my own defect codes in your system? How many can I set?
  • How do I resolve defects? Is it possible for me to have pre-approved rework?
  • Can I have a supervisor approve the work once complete?
  • Do you have an automated report for defect tracking (number of times per day/week/month) and where it happened (work center/order/type of job)?
  • How do I know how long it took me to resolve the issue and what was done?
  • How quickly do I know when an issue is reported on the shop floor? How do I know?
  • Can you help me to track live information?
  • How do you track that? What do you track for inventory?
  • Do you set aside inventory for work that has been planned but not yet started?

There are many more questions that we will help you with as you move through the process with us, but that should get you started. Being a process business ourselves, we don’t want to give away everything we know to be important in our first conversation.

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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