February 19, 2014 at 6:10 AM

Going for Gold on Your Shop Floor

With paperless manufacturing and an effective shop floor solution, finding a competitive edge for your shop floor isn’t as difficult as you might think.

By Kristin McLane, President, and David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

The winter Olympics in Sochi have dominated the news recently, and it’s gotten me thinking – the elite athletes in Sochi have dedicated their life to long hours, sacrifice and competition, and success at this level may be the difference between a microsecond on the clock and a wobble on a single jump. Competitive edge is won through experience and dedication – the hours of work and endless training sessions shape their body, muscles and mind, developing the memory used to perform. When the difference between first and second is so small, athletes need to capitalize on every possible advantage.

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February 11, 2014 at 6:01 AM

What Tips Can You Discover in a Failed Project?

The launch of the healthcare.gov website was marred by technical glitches and multiple challenges, making it an excellent lesson for a manufacturing company launching their own IT project.

By Nick Stonebraker, CIMx Software Developer


Sorry for the delay between posts, but we’re back!  We’re also lining up new posts now, so there won’t be a wait for the next posts.  Today, we’re going to take a look at a few lessons to keep in mind as you plan your next major IT project.

Regardless of how you feel about president Obama’s attempt to reform the healthcare system, the development project for the healthcare.gov site was a well-publicized and technical disaster.  It was over-budget, behind schedule, and lacked much of the promised functionality when it was finally released.  While most, if not all, of the initial problems have been solved, there are information technology lessons to be learned.  Many of the challenges the healthcare.gov project encountered mirror the difficulties manufacturers face as they roll out (sometimes massive) IT projects on the shop floor and in the front office.

We’ll take a closer look at a few of the problems and issues the government encountered during the healthcare.gov project, and identify lessons to give you an advantage as you plan your next IT, paperless manufacturing or MES project. 

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February 5, 2014 at 5:57 AM

Are Your Paper-based Travelers Holding Back Your Shop Floor?

Inefficient, annoying, error-prone and wasteful, many times paper-based work travelers are the source of countless shop floor problems and might be holding production back.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Many times, discussions about paperless manufacturing and MES focus on hard data (35% increase in production and a 45% decrease in quality defects – hurray!), the ROI or the global enterprise (real-time shop floor visibility and control, and sustainable process improvement and enforcement – alright!). We forget to notice the little improvements that have the greatest impact on the shop floor – the things that make everyone’s life easier. They bring joy, increased job satisfaction and improve the shop floor quality-of-life. It may not directly impact the ROI, but it sure makes everyone happy.

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January 28, 2014 at 5:24 AM

Will You Survive the Imminent Demise of Paper-Based Manufacturing?

Still reluctant to explore paperless manufacturing on your shop floor?  Change is happening, and the decisions you make now will shape your future.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Sometimes you can see global change happening from miles away.  The first time I logged onto the Internet I knew there was so much more to this new world than text-based games and discussion forums.
And sometimes global change can surprise you.  I’ll admit, the tablet-craze was a shock.  It couldn’t fit in my pocket, and it didn’t have nearly the functionality of a laptop, yet it’s a craze that doesn’t seem to be fading.  Reality TV was another surprise.  Honestly, how can we explain the Kardashians?
That said, are you ready for the demise of paper-based manufacturing?  Are you surprised that paper travelers and paper build books are gasping for breath and struggling to survive?  How will you respond when the market demands you move to paperless manufacturing?
Still in denial (which, in this case, is not the river in Egypt), then consider this:

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January 22, 2014 at 5:52 AM

What Can We Learn About Paperless Manufacturing from a Cup of Coffee?

The best software tools work seamlessly with your existing process, making the experience better, much like the ubiquitous coffee cup we use every morning.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Every morning, I have a cup of coffee on my desk. It’s the darkest roast possible and I sip it throughout the entire morning. When I pick it up at the coffee shop, I put a coffee sleeve on it to hold the cup comfortably without burning my hands. The sleeve is a common tool for coffee drinkers, an improvement over the days of annoying Styrofoam cups.

Cup sleeves make it easier to enjoy the coffee, keep your fingers from being burned, and are useful no matter the size of your cup. They slide up only as far as necessary – simple, flexible and incredibly useful. You don’t spend a second thinking about selecting one or how improved the coffee experience is with one. You use it because it’s easy-to-use and it works. Now, you’ve trained yourself to pick one up because a cup of coffee is too hot and the sleeve is the solution.

In the world of software packages for your business processes, a tool like a coffee sleeve is very useful. If that tool could manage your shop floor, improve quality and increase production, it would dramatically increase your profits. Many tools on the MES market sell themselves this way. If you Google “paperless manufacturing,” you will find close to a million records (at last count). Some of these tools will run various parts of your shop floor. Some will improve quality. Some will increase production. A few manage the shop floor. But the thing about the simple cup sleeve that works so well is that it dramatically improves the coffee experience, it works so well with the cup, and it’s so simple to use it doesn’t require a change in behavior.

That is the flaw in most shop floor tools. When you explore the universe of paperless shop floor software packages, it’s difficult to discern the difference between the highly effective “sleeves” versus the complex software packages that demand you purchase and consume coffee in an entirely different way (or even make you drink tea or water down the coffee – the villains). These systems halt shop floor progress as your team works to integrate an invasive tool. You struggle with a solution that is too costly or too time-consuming, and as you struggle, all progress you might make from the solution is swallowed in the process.

As you research paperless manufacturing solutions, don’t forget the long-term costs such systems might require. Consider our cup sleeve analogy. It’s as if you found a tool that protected your hand from the heat, but only if you get a new size cup. If the market begins offering new cups, you’ll find that sleeve no longer works. This happens all the time in software – we call it obsolescence.

CIMx Software guarantees customers will never struggle with a solution that is obsolete. Our carefully architected system protects your investment. The CIMx system provides a continuous upgrade path without the expensive services bills other software vendors charge. It’s a benefit we’ve designed and built into our system.

People go for coffee every day because coffee offers them a benefit that makes their day better. For some, it’s the heat of freshly brewed java. For others, it’s the flavorful aroma, or the caffeine pick-me-up. Maybe a cup of coffee is just a habit or instinct. In manufacturing, you have the problems to solve. For example, your production might be slowing or your quality decreasing. Perhaps you’ve not been able to increase throughput as the economy turns. As you search for a solution, consider the cup of coffee for your desk – discover a manufacturing program that injects heat and caffeine into your organization with a tool that won’t require a new cup size or a change in your drinking habits. Look for a solution that’s ready to help you right away. Read More
January 15, 2014 at 5:45 AM

Four Paperless Manufacturing Predictions for 2014

We take a look at the manufacturing topics and trends you’ll be talking about in 2014, and offer hints and tips to help you get a leg up in the New Year.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

This year, I began thinking as 2013 rumbled to a close and 2014 burst on the scene in a polar vortex, considering what to expect in the New Year.

Manufacturing is in a pretty good place right now, with six straight months of growth according to ISM, and reports predicting continued growth and confidence in manufacturing for 2014, but there are still concerns and risks. This week, we’ll highlight for manufacturing a few 2014 trends, and look at ways your business can turn a challenge into a competitive advantage.

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January 8, 2014 at 5:39 AM

Simple Tips for New Year’s Manufacturing Resolutions that Make a Difference

Each year, many of us in manufacturing make resolutions focused on improvement. Too often those resolutions fail to deliver. This year, make a resolution to fundamentally improve your business.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

As one year ends, people begin crafting personal resolutions focused on improvement. We promise to exercise more, eat better, write more letters, read more, slow down, or lose weight. Businesses build strategic plans much the same way, perhaps using a SWOT analysis to start the process – before resolving to sell more, retain more customers, keep employees engaged, or grow the business.

There is a fundamental flaw to both of these approaches. It’s a flaw that many times leads to resolutions that fade away as Spring rolls around. Think of it as Kryptonite for your best intentions.

Many times, our resolutions don’t fundamentally change the trajectory of our current path. Albert Einstein quoted insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Yet, each year we collectively seem stricken by a New Year’s case of insanity. We examine the steps we have taken to reach our current status, and use it as the basis for the future plans. We make resolutions to, “do better,” “increase sales,” “improve quality,” or “reduce production time,” without making the fundamental change necessary to position ourselves for success. It’s as if the act of making the resolution has imbued us with the magical powers necessary to improve on the results of the previous year by doing nothing different.

Then, a few months later we all wonder why we couldn’t meet our goals for the New Year.

The secret to a successful resolution isn’t making a smaller resolution, it’s making a bigger one and having the courage to make the fundamental change necessary to make it happen. I had lunch this week with Mary Miller of Jancoa. Mary was instrumental in the founding of the Dream Manager program, linking people with what they want to do by asking them to stretch far beyond where they currently are to see where they want to be. These questions the program asks are independent of the individual’s current position or success in life. By helping employees to think big and by tapping into their passion and dreams, the Dream Manager program delivers tremendous success by helping people make fundamental improvements to help them reach their goal.

Many businesses would be scared to ask people their dreams. It’s a “touchy-feely” exercise, and business is more comfortable focusing on hard reality or problems, which is too bad, because employees are much more determined and successful when you tap into their passion to reach a goal. The Dream Manager program supports goals that “stretch” beyond the current situation to explore what is possible.

The reluctance to “stretch” is not only holding you back from your goals, it is also holding back shop floor improvement. With paperless manufacturing, electronic shop floor tools transform the way production works. They provide a new structure, a vector off the current path, and support targeted improvement. By introducing a simple tool, paperless manufacturing, you benefit from instant access to all orders on the shop floor – fundamentally increasing your efficiency, improving your accuracy and driving profitability. Complexity and customization isn’t necessary to reach the goals. You can use your current work instructions, and you control the pace of change through phased implementation. Time and again, we have seen paperless manufacturing as a catalyst for growth.

Your strategic plan may have increased sales or volume goals, but the growth may be already threatened by the current culture and external pressures. You may have built your goals on a SWOT or on input from the prior year’s results. A plan built on historic information will most likely deliver similar results. Dramatic growth requires external stimulus and a new approach. Paperless manufacturing provides the stimulus to inspire dramatic growth.

Make 2014 different. Enable catalytic change and fundamentally improve your manufacturing shop floor. As always, send us a message if you have a question. We’re happy to help.

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January 2, 2014 at 5:33 AM

A Look Back at Paperless Manufacturing in 2013

At the beginning of 2013, we made a few predictions. Looking back, the results were surprising, and enlightening. Here's why...

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Each year there is an inevitable flurry of predictions and lists – speculation on the New Year and analysis of the old. I’ll admit, it’s fun – the predictions and lists have become an annual tradition much like holiday cards and champagne toasts.

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December 18, 2013 at 5:29 AM

Don’t Be Fooled by an MES Demo – Get the Truth Here!

Flashy demos have fooled many into hasty purchases that lead to buyer’s regret.  We’ll bust through the chicanery and peel back the curtain on MES and paperless manufacturing demos.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Have you ever seen an incredible trailer for a new video game – full of flash and action and scintillating graphics, only to purchase the game and discover it to be a clunky and awkward, with tech-backward gameplay designed to annoy more than amaze? 
If so, you must have missed the tiny message at the bottom of the last screen of the trailer that mentions how the flashy marketing ad DOES NOT contain or represent in-game graphics.  It’s easy to miss, especially with the sleight-of-hand companies utilize so effectively in advertising.
Unfortunately, MES and paperless manufacturing providers are under no obligation to offer even a cleverly hidden message during their demos.  This is why a company might select a computer system after a demo, and discover the system they purchased isn’t what they thought it would be.  It might require a major shop floor process change (one that your team isn’t prepared to make), or expensive service charges and customization just to match the promised functionality.
Here’s why – many companies “build” a demo for a presentation to illustrate how a product will work, instead of just showing you the product.   Companies that require long implementations (measured in months or years instead of weeks) or use products that require customization (or configuration as it is known now) are notorious for this.  If it’s going to take 6+ months to get your software ready for installation, do you really think they will knock out an honest demo before you’ve purchased anything?
Here are a few tips to help you cut through the demo hype: 

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December 4, 2013 at 5:28 AM

How You Can Make Manufacturing Collaboration Work for your Shop Floor

Knowledge-driven enterprises are using collaboration to successfully solve problems, but manufacturing struggles to use collaboration in the modern production environment.  Here's how you can make manufacturing collaboration work for you.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Sometimes, you come across articles on the Internet you just have to investigate.
Here’s one.  It involves robots, stolen gold, missing treasure, NASA engineers, world-renowned oceanographers, and manufacturing.  A man named David Lang wanted to investigate the legend of missing gold deep underwater at the bottom of a well.  He recruited Eric Stackpole, a NASA Engineer, to create a sea exploration robot, known as OpenROV, to search for the treasure.  They offered free step-by-step instructions on building the robot on their website, and used crowdsourced modifications to improve the design.
Crowdsourcing and manufacturing collaboration have vastly improved the original robot, and lowered the cost.  “That’s what actually makes the project so successful: rapid iteration,” one of the inventors said. “We can build one for the same price as a 1,000 (robots) and change on a dime.”
Think about that… two treasure-hunters have tapped into a problem-solving resource and found benefits that would be the envy of discrete manufacturing shop floors across the world.  Customer modifications and change orders are simplified without raising costs.  Quality and production improves.  Best practices are collected, and overall cost drops.
Yet, manufacturers struggle to create a collaborative work environment.  In fact, according to the latest estimates, manufacturing is growing less collaborative, as knowledge silos build and employees and their best practices retire and are lost.  Customers are demanding custom orders that manufacturers can’t meet.  Rapid iteration is difficult, if not impossible.  How can a shop floor work collaboratively when they can’t even be sure if the paper-based work instructions are correct?
I read the story of Lang, Stackpole and their hunt for missing gold and recognized a few lessons manufacturing should consider in the future:

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November 13, 2013 at 5:30 AM

Simple Tips for Adding Shop Floor Visual Work Instruction

Many times, a solution is much closer than you might think.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Face it, in an era when shop floors and manufacturers struggle to break information silos, ensure new employees are poised to find success and processes aren’t employee-dependent, and break down the information gap between engineering and operations – visual work instruction is an important piece of the solution.  For many, the thought of creating videos and pictures for the shop floor seems daunting.  I’ve listened to engineers complain about the cost of hiring a production company for machine set-up instructions.  They aren’t sure where to begin, so they don’t do anything.  They wait to implement the visual work instructions, and their shop floor problems grow.  But, the truth is, the solution is much closer than they think.  Here’s how:

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November 6, 2013 at 5:56 AM

Make Your Shop Floor Data Work for You

Smart businesses have discovered data is a valuable asset, but struggle to deliver shop floor visibility, letting manufacturing data slip away.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software 

Last week I went to the grocery store and bought dog food and lunchmeat.  The next day I received e-coupons for new dog food brands, sandwich bread, and condiments.  You know what… I ended up buying that sandwich bread.  It looked good, the coupon had value, and the bread was healthier than what I had.  The grocery store turned my shopping data into another sale.
The fact is – data is a valuable asset!  Businesses realize this, and are putting in place new systems to capture, store and use data.  Amazon.com is a MASTER of using data to tailor the online shopping experience.  Using data (the user’s online searches, previous purchases, and online habits), Amazon can customize the shopping experience for each user, and that drives sales and profit for Amazon.  None of that would be possible without quality data.
Even with the obvious benefits of business data, many manufacturers haven’t made an effort to capture shop floor manufacturing data.  They build a robust CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system or put in an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), but haven’t implemented the shop floor visibility offered by an MES (Manufacturing Execution System) or Paperless Manufacturing.  They still see manufacturing as a place where orders go in and products come out.  Manufacturing data is valuable in a number of areas, such as: 

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October 31, 2013 at 9:51 AM

Secrets to Selecting the Right Hardware for your Shop Floor Solution

You have more hardware options than ever before for your paperless manufacturing software, and it’s critical you select the right solution. CIMx Software offers insider tips for IT looking to deliver benefits during an implementation.

By Nick Stonebraker, CIMx Software Developer

Selecting a paperless manufacturing or MES (Manufacturing Execution System) software solution is a critically important investment for manufacturers, delivering shop floor visibility and control with a proven return on investment. Hardware is also an important piece of the solution. The goal of IT and the implementation team is to select hardware that will maximize value, prevent software obsolescence and create an easy to support infrastructure for IT staff.

We’ll consider hardware options on the market today, and what is fueling the hardware revolution. We’ll take a closer look at the shop floor and how conditions there should influence your decision. Finally, we’ll consider how the software and hardware should be matched to ensure a sustainable, adaptable solution that won’t slowly degrade to a legacy system hindering operations and using excessive IT support.

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October 9, 2013 at 5:01 AM

Overcoming Invisible Stop Signs Holding Your Shop Floor Back

An MES and an ERP are very different systems, and if you don’t understand the role each play, you may be hurting your shop floor.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

We’ve gotten a lot of feedback recently on our discussion of the differences between MES and ERP. Obviously there is a real need for information out there, and some confusion on the topic.

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September 17, 2013 at 6:03 AM

Feeding the Upgrade Need for Your MES or Paperless Manufacturing Software

Do you have a plan in place to capitalize on the latest technological breakthroughs for your shop floor?  If not, does your competition?

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

My brother has a new cell phone, and I have a case of tech-envy.

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