September 24, 2019 at 10:03 AM

Decision-Making Model Part 1

We’ve talked before about decision methodology.  In brief, the theory we follow for manufacturers is that to stay competitive, you must always make your decisions based on the information currently present.  Collecting more information could be helpful, but spend too much time here, and you have analysis paralysis

The basic tenet of the model is this: review the current landscape of the situation and make a decision based on prior experience and present details.  This is a delicate balance.  Rely too much on experience and you may be blind to what’s currently sitting in front of you.  Ignore the past and you may repeat something you’ve tried that doesn’t work.

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August 27, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Weather You Need Production Control (And We Did Spell That Correctly)

Update 09/03/19: today, as we post this blog, Hurricane Dorian is sitting over the Bahamas.  Little is yet known about how much damage has been done at this time.  Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected. 

 

Whether you believe in global warming or not (we do try to make these blogs historically relevant without being political statements), it’s difficult to watch or read the news without seeing stories about smaller icebergs, deforestation and shifting weather patterns.  We’re not going to talk here about what’s causing those.  We’re more concerned with the idea that things are always changing, even those things that you rely on for stability. 

What do you do when the things that you count on being constant shift?  

Weather is one of those constants in our lives.  Depending on where you live, you expect the patterns of the seasons, water and temperature, to be consistent from year to year.  Everything you buy and do depends on it.  At work and at home, you rely on the weather to be relatively even from day to day, week to week, season to season, year to year.  It would be safe to say that you probably never have created a plan for what to do when the weather shifts dramatically from its current pattern.  It’s something you count on.

What do you count on in your business?  What items are there that you assume will be the same from period to period?  Do you always assume that your sales will be stable or rise?  Do you figure

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August 20, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Curiosity in Manufacturing

As people, we are inherently curious.  Even as we age, that yearning for something new causes us to travel, meet new people, maybe even wander a bit.  Curiosity is a part of human nature.  We all read studies (and see the evidence) of how curious children are when they are born.  We also see the results of traditional educational models in curiosity.  Driving children to conform to a single norm of sitting in straight-line desks and file in lines works for teachers in that in helps to control the chaos of the classroom, but if you were like me and many other entrepreneurs, conforming naturally bucked the curiosity you felt about issues that weren’t on the schedule for the teacher today. 

In a recent Harvard Business Review article on Why Curiosity Matters, Francesco Gina explores curiosity and its results on business specifically.  While most breakthroughs come from curiosity, she cites all the ways that business kill it in their workers.  Critical to this center of thinking is the notion that “it will increase risk and inefficiency.” 

Ms. Gina lays out the benefits of curiosity in work.  Confirmation bias is first on the list.  We’ve talked about this before.  Expecting what you’ll see and seeing it, whether it’s there or not.  This shows up in manufacturing all the time.  We hear it called “tribal knowledge.”  Many companies tell us that their workforce just “knows what to do.”   That only works if you never want to change how they do it. 

In training your workers to “just know,” you are eliminating the possibility of anything new.  My mind immediately goes back to the days of early automation.  Whether that conjures a picture of Lucy trying to wrap chocolates on an assembly line in “I Love Lucy” or assembly workers at the early days of Ford, this is not the way work is done today.  In the era of click and swipe, no one wants to do a job the same way all the time. 

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July 30, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Why Pictures Matter in Manufacturing

Pictures solidify messages.  Science tells us that we forget most of what we read.  (This doesn’t speak well to what you might remember about this blog, so be sure to come back and read it again.)  We remember context.  That could be the place you were when something happened.  Smells.  Visual elements of the world around you.  The writing on the page. 

The last time that you went to a bookstore (you have been to one recently, yes?), do you remember picking up a book because you liked its cover?  Maybe a magazine’s front picture drew you in?  These are images that recalled something in your mind.  They caused you to have an emotion which made you lean in.  If you opened the book, do you remember liking the text, the way it looked on the page?  Or not?

These emotions related to what you see help you to remember the content as well.  Without a connection between seeing something and an emotion, chances of you remembering it shrink drastically.  Studies (and Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience) show that 10% of people remember what they read but 90% of what they do. 

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June 11, 2019 at 10:00 AM

Why Manufacturing Will Never Live in the Cloud

You wouldn’t allow your competitors to walk your floor and rifle through your files, so why allow strangers to access your data by placing it in the cloud?

Last week SalesForce, one of the most widely-used CRMs on the planet, inadvertently opened access to its Pardot repository leading to a full shutdown. This locked out thousands of users, for more than 15 hours. Not only did this failure result in private data being made available to the rest of the user base, it meant sales teams around the world were hamstrung from doing their job for multiple days.

The amount of potential revenue that was lost is incalculable, but many businesses feel so locked into their contracts and sales processes that they wouldn’t dream of moving onto a new platform. Mistakes happen and Salesforce will learn from this glitch making it even stronger moving forward… right?

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August 30, 2017 at 10:26 AM

What Can Turnkey Manufacturing Software Do for You?

A manufacturing software solution is only as good as the data that fuels it.

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January 10, 2017 at 9:25 AM

Manufacturing Software and Paperless Manufacturing in 2017

We regularly review the manufacturing software market.  Last year, we were twice caught off-guard by references to the “death of Manufacturing Execution Software” (MES) by both a major analyst firm and a competitor.  

Manufacturing software isn’t dying.  With the changes to our industry, the growth of technology, and the need for companies to better manage resources and production, there has never been more need for strong software tools to support production.  Paper, a modified spreadsheet, or an ERP modified with some shop floor functionality, simply can’t provide the capability manufacturers need.  There is no magic bullet, super-system to solve all your enterprise problems and replace manufacturing software.  Predicting the “death of MES” flies directly in the face of what we see every day. 

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December 7, 2016 at 12:12 PM

Overcoming Failure: Simple Steps to Improve Manufacturing Software

Not long ago, I wrote about a concept known as “sunk cost.”  The Sunk Cost Fallacy is a cognitive bias that compels us to cling to an investment even after there is little to no chance of a beneficial return. We feel an unnecessary commitment to decisions of the past, even where we’ve lost our initial investment, and so we keep pouring more resources into it.  For example, continuing to invest in a failed business or clinging to a relationship even after it's gone bad.

I’ve heard Annie Duke, a World champion poker player, discuss the Sunk Cost Fallacy, and I’m fascinated by her lessons on sunk cost, loss aversion and Decision Science. She recently wrote a blog about supermarket lines and sunk cost.  There are valuable lessons for manufacturers in her blog when you consider the amount of money you spend on infrastructure.

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October 4, 2016 at 4:15 PM

Unravelling the Truth of Manufacturing Software Implementations

Software companies are quick to make claims about their implementation process, but the answers often lead to more confusion than actionable information.

What’s a reasonable schedule for an MES or Paperless Manufacturing system implementation?

When I started in this business (years ago), two years was average. Anyone who claimed to implement a full system, configured for the customer, in less than a year was either fudging the truth or delusional.

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September 27, 2016 at 9:19 PM

Managing the Speed of Change in Manufacturing

Manufacturers are continually looking for ways to improve, but are reluctant to actually embrace change, leading many businesses to become stuck in a vicious planning cycle.

Not long ago, I spoke to a Quality Manager at a job shop about Paperless Manufacturing. He loved our software, and recognized it could solve his problems and improve production, but he wasn’t sure if they would implement. “We know we have to do something,” he said. “But, I don’t know if we’re ready to change.”

It’s a line I’ve heard too many times.

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September 7, 2016 at 9:28 AM

The Waiting Game, MES and Paperless Manufacturing

As manufacturers decide to wait to implement a modern manufacturing system, they fall further and further behind their competition.

Not long ago, we started working with a manufacturer still using paper to manage the shop floor.

They printed 80 pages of work instructions for every order. Some days they would have 30 or 40 orders on the shop floor at once – 2,400 to 3,200 pages a day they were managing. They collected data using paper. Afterward a clerk typed the data into a spreadsheet. They tracked orders using email, and as-built records were assembled by hand.

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June 21, 2016 at 9:20 AM

The Curious State of the MES Industry

Manufacturers shouldn’t expect MES projects to be late and over-budget, but many do. They should expect exceptional customer service and successful data migration, but that’s not what many suppliers offer.

Recently, I was in a Verizon store trying to transfer information from my old phone to a new device.  This is not rocket science.  We should know – our software has helped put the space shuttles, the Delta Rocket, commercial aircraft and satellites into the air. 

This is a simple data transfer, moving my applications, names, numbers and other information from an old device to a newer, smoother, faster device.  After a few minutes in the store, I began to doubt Verizon could finish the job. 

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May 17, 2016 at 10:06 AM

Why Do MES Implementations Fail, and What You Can Do

An MES Implementation can be a high-risk project, but there are steps you can take to minimize risk and improve success.

Companies may not talk about it, but there are MES and manufacturing software implementations that fail. There is risk with any major software implementation. ERP and PLM implementations will sometimes fail (even more than MES), and while there is no magic formula for implementation success, you’re not helpless against trouble.  There’s no magic 12-step process for every project, but there are warning signs savvy manufacturers can use to avoid trouble, and steps you can take to help protect your company.

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March 29, 2016 at 8:19 AM

Get Started with Digital Manufacturing Today

We offer an easy way to start a paperless manufacturing project today, giving you a kick start on modernizing production.

For many manufacturers, the decision isn’t which digital manufacturing system to use. It’s whether they should even start a project or not.

These companies struggle. They aren’t working toward process improvement. They wonder when the next disaster will hit because their systems aren’t working.

They know there are problems:

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March 22, 2016 at 9:20 AM

Phased Implementation: A Guide to Getting Started with MES

Companies with a critical production need will wait on implementing an MES, believing it to be a labor-intensive and expensive project.

As we discussed in last week’s blog, many companies are nervous about taking a first step toward digital manufacturing.

Even though technology, need and price of a system may line up neatly, companies are waiting.  They fear the complexity and risk involved in purchasing, implementing and rolling out the software. A phased implement will overcome those fears and mitigate the risks holding up the project.

Some MES implementations are complex, and pose a significant risk. “Big-bang” implementations, in which all operations switch over to the new system at once, are the most complex and risky implementations.

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