What do we mean by “Off-the-Shelf” Paperless Manufacturing?

For manufacturers searching for an Off-the-Shelf (OTS) software solution for the shop floor, but the truth is, you may be surprised what OTS for different vendors.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

It’s easy to see why an Off-the-Shelf (OTS) paperless manufacturing software is an appealing option for manufacturers.

Custom software solutions may be designed specifically for your shop, but it’s expensive – both in money and resources. Upgrades and changes will be equally expensive. Systems take years to build, and are risky. Many projects never even make it to the shop floor.

An OTS system costs a fraction of a custom system, and can be installed and working in significantly less time. Most OTS systems offer more functionality and an upgrade path, and are supported by the software vendor. It’s less risky, and project success is easier to achieve.

Researching OTS solutions on the market will quickly reveal a strange truth. Some companies say they are OTS because they use a library of “modules.” They design a solution using modules to shave a few months off the implementation. Other vendors purchase a company (or three), and mix and match functionality to create a Frankenstein-like solution. Perhaps OTS means they use old code (you know… code written 15-20 years ago) for the foundation of your new solution, then customize the rest. Some call this “custom off-the-shelf,” as if they have discovered a magic bean offering you the best of both worlds.

To alleviate doubt and questions you might have, here’s some of what you’ll find in our off-the-shelf solution:

  • A Complete Software Solution

CIMx offers all customers their complete software solution, not individual modules or functionality thrown together to design a “custom” solution. Our solution is completely integrated, built entirely in-house, and is designed to offer all the functionality and tools manufacturing will need.
However, if you don’t need all that functionality, you can easily turn off parts of the product, paying for only those sections you need. In the future, expanding the solution is as simple as turning on features already installed.

Installation takes a day of work. When complete, you have a fully-tested, functioning software solution, with a clear and easy path for upgrades, updates and patches. Support is simplified. You won’t struggle to adapt and integrate custom code in your system. Offering customers a complete solution simply makes sense, and lowers the initial cost and overall TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).

  • Behavior-based Solution

When looking at MES or paperless manufacturing software, there are two types of systems: behavior-based and template-based.

A template-based system requires specific screens of information and sequences of data input. The system utilizes forms to guide work through highly formatted templates. Templates are a structured format that drives consistency, but the system struggles to adapt to changing processes. A template-based system might be marketed as “OTS,” but it will require significant time and effort to format to your needs. Some companies call this “configuration,” when really it is customization of the solution and a redo of all your existing planning and specifications.

A behavior-based system, such as the one CIMx uses, adapts to shop floor processes and behaviors, offering tools to improve your current manufacturing work flow and shop floor processes, rather than dictating an entirely new process or workflow. Users configure the screens, and attach the information they need, including their current work instructions. The system adapts and supports behaviors that produce an efficient and productive shop floor, and doesn’t require extensive configuration, delivering true OTS functionality.


Because CIMx utilizes a behavior-based system requiring minimal initial configuration and installs the entire system implementation is a quick and easy process. If you have the necessary hardware on your shop floor, the system can be installed and set-up within a few days. Since your existing work instructions can be attached to operations within the system, the planner can begin creating work plans almost immediately. You can slowly add data collections and other elements, building a library of approved planning. Training can be completed in a few hours on the shop floor.

Most customers have the system up and running within a few weeks, depending on the amount of work instructions that need to be loaded into the system.

That’s how we define Off-the-Shelf. Next time a vendor tells you they offer an off-the-shelf solution, take a moment and ask a few questions. Discover how “off-the-shelf’ their system truly is. You’ll be surprised at what you discover. As always, let us know if you have questions. We’re happy to help.

Topics: How can you evaluate shop floor software?, How can you implement paperless manufacturing?, What can software product support do for you?

Written by David Oeters