This week, a neighbor's landscaping project got me thinking about how important it is to have the right structure in place to complete work correctly and efficiently the first time.  But first, I have to give a shout-out to all of you who wrote in that you had no idea garage door openers had backup batteries and that they might ping you like a smoke detector. True story. I even heard from someone who did the exact same thing I did and thought their car was pinging. If you missed that story, find it under When an Alarm is Not an Alarm. And I hope I’ve saved a few of you the hassle of going to the auto shop complaining about your car.  Now, back to my neighbor's project.


My neighbor just had huge rocks delivered to their driveway. We live on a street where the backyards fall away down a steep hill. It makes for a nice view. It also makes some of the yards where the drop is steep not very usable. Our neighbor has decided to cut down most or all of the weeds and undergrowth to plant some grass and needs to put in a retaining wall. We have a front-row seat to the magic that is landscape engineering. And if I ever thought I wanted to build one of these myself, I’ve been cured. Quite simply, if you don’t know what you’re doing, all of your efforts can come to naught with the first major rainstorm. And that, for my neighbor, made them rethink their strategy. So earlier this week, a landscape company delivered 4 huge rocks to their driveway to shore up the hillside where they’re clearing.

It got me thinking of the people we speak to who simply don’t see the need for yet another system. Why do they need a manufacturing software tool when they already have an ERP or MRP? They build their own systems with Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Access. They use whiteboards, bulletin and magnet boards. They have morning huddles and job packets. Everything but the tool for the job.


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Evaluate your shop structure 

The structure of your shop and the speed at which information, people, tools, materials, and goods are moving around it need more. Whiteboards won’t help solve problems. Excel wasn’t meant to function in printed form. Magnets don’t prevent you from posting the wrong information.

Structure is really about control. If you don’t have control, you can’t have structure. Or at least, you can’t have a structure that lasts. The first issue (rainstorm) can be the end of the systems for the day or even longer.

So what does control look like on a shop floor? Ask yourself these questions with a simple yes or no. Only mark a yes if you can answer an absolute yes without thinking about it twice. We call that a "Boaz yes" and we learned that from Boaz Rauchwerger.  

  1. Do you know how many orders or jobs you have on the shop floor right now?
  2. Can you tell me how many of those jobs will finish and ship on time?
  3. Are you aware of how many operators have an issue or a question and still do not have a resolution?
  4. Are you sure that all of your jobs are being done to the right specification, instruction, dimension, or other measurement?
  5. How efficient are your jobs or people?
  6. Do you have a daily report on quality provided to you with metrics?
  7. Could you find a specific job on the shop floor that is less than 30 seconds if we picked one randomly from your WIP?
  8. Can you tell us if you have enough raw materials, inventory, people, and machine/work center capacity to fulfill the work you want to or need to get done today?
  9. Do you know if all your tools are maintained and/or calibrated on the schedule that they are meant to be?
  10. Could you tell us within a 5% range of how you’re performing when compared with last year, month or week?

Score less than an 8 and it may be wise for you to look into a system for manufacturing. Score between a 5 and an 8 and there are some significant issues that a system could help you with. If you’re less than a 5, don’t bother reading the rest of this blog. Go instead to How and Why to Buy a System and get started. You need help.


provide the structure for control

Structure is not easy to build yourself. You can get the building blocks for it, as my neighbor (literally) did. But in software, that’s not so easy. Microsoft Excel can do great formulas but struggles to have interlocking work requirements. Word can tell you everything you need to know but fails to perform a calculation. You can put all of the tools you already have together. We’ve seen that at customer sites and here’s what it looks like.

The operator gets a plastic sleeve with a job packet in it. On the top is a sheet that labels the job, and provides the routing and some other pertinent information. In their case, they required initials next to operations (steps) when work was complete. Beneath that was a fat, stapled packet. On the top, is a printed copy of a PDF file of work instructions done in Word. Below that, a series of pages of images to show the operator what was expected. (Note – don’t forget to calculate ink costs for printing when you’re looking at a digital system. You would be amazed at how much you can save by not having to print job packets). At the bottom, are some pages of safety instructions and a quality check sheet with over 100 different checks.

Operators must thumb through these packets to find their instructions, associated images, tool lists, check sheets, and even data collection pages. It puts the burden on the operator to ensure that they have all the right information to do their work. It puts the responsibility on you to provide them with all the right information, to begin with, and that is one tricky task.


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Structure takes an expert. We feel so strongly about this that we’ll talk a little further next week about this situation. What doesn’t your ERP have that you need? What are the key pieces of structure you need? How should these pieces be built? By the end of this conversation, we may spend a few weeks together. Hopefully, we give you just the information you need for your shop. If not, reach out.

Ready to move forward faster? Engage with us to talk more about providing a solution to put in the structure needed on your shop floor to enable complete production control. We’re only an email away,

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

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