This morning, CDC Software released CDC Factory, which the company calls "the first packaged manufacturing operations management solution that integrates finite factory scheduling, MES, real-time performance management, quality, maintenance and analytics in one application."
In a briefing this morning CDC's Mark Sutcliffe, general manager for CDC Factory, emphasized that it is not a platform, but a finished product. It contains nine modules, covering scheduling, performance management, quality control, business analytics, continuous improvement, maintenance, asset management, safety and integration. Companies can install some or all of them. Their virtue is that they can be installed essentially out of the box, with little or no alteration of code.
"The term configuration has been used synonymously with the idea of changing the code," says Sutcliffe. "Configuration for us means non-programmers can go in and, through menu-driven processes, personalize their screens to get the information they need, but never need to touch the code. We have packed all the functionality inside."
One of the key strategies driving CDC Factory is deeply involving operators"”the people on the front lines of the process"”in process improvement and doing it simply and automatically, without a lot of training, thereby reinforcing a company's process improvement strategies. "CDC Factory has been many, many years in the making," says Sutcliffe. "We have taken those rich and deep applications developed through years of experience either of our own or that of companies we have acquired, and on top of them layered best-practices from the agile and lean movements and designed them around role-specific jobs, including the production operator. It's the Japanese technique in plain English."
The solution has simple-to-use and intuitive "consumer-type interfaces" on the HMI screen, Sutcliffe explains. He uses the example of California-based Nelson Neutriceuticals to explain why that simplicity is so important. English is the second language of 90% of Nelson's workforce, so the company designed its operator interface to look similar to those its operators might encounter when buying lottery tickets or prepaid phone cards. They don't need familiarity with PCs, spreadsheets or other software languages. That simplicity makes training easier and gives the workers an investment in the system.
"We treat them as true knowledge workers," says Sutcliffe. "We design the system so that the interaction with it benefits them and they want to use it. Operators have to fill in paperwork from which they get no feedback in real time. They have to create reports and touch dozens of pieces a paper daily and in return get day-old information which is of no use to them. We take the information and give it to them in real time. Now they get the right information in time to act on it. By giving people feedback, we help them do a better job, instead of coming back two or three days later and telling them what they did wrong. This unlocks the power of the workforce and makes a huge difference in productivity."
Toronto-based frozen dinner maker Marsan Foods installed the CDC Factory performance management and continuous improvement module and tied its bonus structure to measurable improvement. The line employees immediately embraced the system. "They actually enjoy using it. They feel part of the change to a culture of improvement. They see their role in improving problems on the line, and they know they'll be rewarded," says Kristoffer Soderlind, Marsan's director of operations.
Soderlind says Marsan increased capacity by 15,000 dinners per shift and cut changeover times by 40% using CDC Factory.
The CDC Factory solution is ERP- and platform-agnostic, says Sutcliffe. It can be integrated with a dozen different ERP systems, including Ross Systems and SAP. It also can ride on top of automation platforms from other vendors, although he says such platforms are not necessary.CDC Software has laid down the gauntlet to manufacturing platform providers. I asked Sutcliffe why a company that has already invested in an automation platform should invest in CDC Factory as well.
"We offer benefits the platform layer can't," he says. "Companies have already invested six figures [in those systems], and they still don't get what they need. They have an enormous amount of data poured into a dashboard, but it isn't particularly useful. The operators have given up on it."
It's your move, automation platform vendors.