If you were traveling by air in the U.S. on Wednesday, January 11th, you may have learned what the Notice to Air Missions system (NOTAM) was. This system delivers air messages to pilots to support safe air travel. While the air traffic control system is a pilot’s primary safety system, NOTAM is important enough to end all flights when it went down last week for several hours. This problem caused a lot of chaos, unhappy customers, and expense. Uh oh.

 

This was the first time that NOTAM failed since 9/11, more than 21 years earlier. The problems started overnight and recent reports point to an engineer replacing a file with a wrong replacement as the cause. One action delayed more than 10,000 flights and canceled more than 1,300. Two weeks earlier, we saw the issues caused by major storms and the failure of one airline in particular, Southwest, to catch back up.

These events were significant enough for us to interrupt our blog series on Knowing Your Numbers. Why? Because NOTAM is like a digital system for your shop and news stories like this remind me why we are so critical for manufacturers.

When was the last time one or more areas of your shop had to shut down from an issue? If never, good on you for that. But my experience tells me that, at the very least, a job or two stalls in process, inventory is short, someone doesn’t show up for work or something happens that ruins even the best-laid plans. And you have to solve it while everything else is in motion.

 

Learn how visibility can increase your capacity and profit

 

 

What is "notam" in your shop?

In the case of both the NOTAM outage and the Southwest Airlines issues, news reports are pointing to old technology as the heart of the issue. Old technology and the inability of humans to solve the issues quickly enough to avoid an outage. Technology is only good when it works. When it doesn’t, you need a procedure to get it back up and running and to operate while it’s not.  

If you are not using technology on the shop floor, I’m looking around for whiteboards, job packets, and huddle rooms to see your “tech” updates. I can’t remember the last time that I talked with a manufacturer that didn’t use some kind of tech on their shop floor – even if only a Microsoft Excel or Word file printed out and put into a plastic sleeve to make its way through production. That said, I have seen people handwrite their daily schedule because it changes often enough that a permanent record is not possible. This is another story for another day.

NOTAM in your shop is the series of reports, systems, people, meetings, and communications you use to notify people how work is progressing, what’s next for them, and what to watch out for. It’s the guard rails for your production process. I can think of countless examples, here are a few:

  • You walk by an operator and notice their materials are running short. You tell them you’ll bring more.
  • Your team meets in the morning to talk about yesterday and what to be aware of for today’s jobs.
  • You warn a team member of a pending shortage in materials, people, or time to finish a job on time.
  • You flag an order or job because it’s off-track.

In your shop, NOTAM is the system that reports on the health and safety of your shop. It provides you all the information you need to run your operations with optimal quality, safety and control. It’s important enough that, when you don’t have the information it provides at your fingertips, work stops.

 

what are you using?

NOTAM-type communications are not optional for you. You need these messages in production if you’re producing anything other than a process that runs for hours or days uninterrupted. In all other cases, unless you want to just live with the results of every day no matter what happens, you need to be more agile. You need to know what’s:

  • working and not,
  • on-time and late,
  • ready and waiting,
  • moving and stalled,
  • short and available.

 

Rate a system for notam worthiness

I’m taking a little bit of time here to talk about live demos. A demonstration of a product is critical in assessing its NOTAM worthiness for your shop. Well, it’s 2023 and I still hear about canned demonstrations of digital products – software – that you are going to rely on to run your productions. This is completely unacceptable. Customers, prospects, partners and analysts tell us we are unique for our ability to demonstrate live to anyone, anytime, and that is simply unbelievable to me.

Quite simply, if you cannot get a demonstration of a software tool on-demand and in front of the product itself without the use of videos, slides or pre-determined pathways, you should not purchase the tool. It signals one of three major issues that you do not want to deal with. If a software company cannot do a live demonstration (a person with the software in front of them, walking you through the product and what it does) for you when you ask, I worry about:

  • personnel that are not experienced enough to talk to you about specific production issues you have so they do a practiced demo. Worry about that team supporting you later.
  • software that is unreliable and cannot be showcased without issues. Worry about that software running your production shop reliably.
  • software that requires so many services to set it up / connect it, that they can’t show you what you want or need. Worry about the massive costs of implementing that and the ongoing demand on you to make payments anytime you want to make a change in your process.

Learn more about a data-driven shop

 

You need a system to flex with the situational dependencies on your shop floor. You need a tool that can adapt with you and your work. It seems logical to me that if the tool is not flexible enough to demonstrate that way (be sure you ask a few questions like “how does that work” or “can you show that to me” when they’re moving the system through its paces), it is surely never going to handle what happened on your shop floor this week. Similar to NOTAM, you need something to report on and move with the changing conditions.

If you want a system to reach NOTAM worthiness – something that can reliably report on everything that’s happening and everything you need to be actually worried about – you need to push it through its paces. And the team that sells it, too.

 

I'D LIKE TO SEE QUANTUM

 

How prepared are you to quickly solve a problem in production? If you are uneasy answering maybe it's time to move to a solution for the agility and data you need to quickly get back on track. We'd love to show you how Complete Production Control can help with this, and of course, within a live demo catered to your needs. We look forward to meeting you.

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

 

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