Making Shop Floor Automation Accessible to Manufacturers

Making shop floor automation accessible to manufacturersEvery week, I’m involved in a conference call or meeting where a customer presents another interesting idea to IQMS’ Automation Department as an opportunity to extend our EnterpriseIQ manufacturing ERP system. In my first years at IQMS, anxious excitement would precede these types of calls, as well as a certain level of doubt as to how the project would come together, combined with little knowledge of how the other system worked and always a target completion date of yesterday.

I know I’m not alone and everyone in some way or another has had this same feeling. Automation projects aren’t easy, or every ERP company would offer them. But over the course of the past several years and dozens of successful projects later, my doubt has been replaced by a sense of pride in my team as they time and again think outside the box to truly help our customers. In fact, the IQMS Automation team prides itself on delivering successful solutions with the anticipation that every project will gain our customer national recognition and increased profitability.

Throughout the years, several of our automation projects have done just that. For example, in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Progressive Manufacturer 100 awards were presented to IQMS customers: About Medical won for IQMS’ signature capture application, Tessy Plastics Corporation for IQMS’ automated palletizing application and Double H Plastics for IQMS’ portable warehouse optimization and automation applications. Tessy Plastics Corporation has taken repeat advantage of our Automation Department and just recently won the highest achiever honor at the Manufacturing Leadership 100 awards for collaborating with IQMS on an automated component identification system in its assembly processes.

From smaller, five user systems to large systems with hundreds of users, EnterpriseIQ customers are taking advantage of IQMS’ Automation Department. Through automation projects, many customers have bridged the gap between the shop floor and our ERP system. EnterpriseIQ is now driving their PLCs, validating labels, ensuring the correct materials are loaded during production and extracting data from machine controllers using toolsets that allow flexible configuration of our software and low cost development for customization.

Many of our customers are able to eliminate a repetitive, labor intensive process or one prone to natural human error. Many are recording critical information for further analysis right from the shop floor. This type of automation provides a huge labor cost reduction as well as increased accuracy, timeliness, product quality, data accuracy and historical tracking information. There are several benefits to automating your processes:

  • Accuracy of data input can be increased by reducing manual data entry: Data entry can be tedious, time consuming and costly when mistakes are made. Automation of a repetitive data entry process via direct integration, data import or reduction of user interaction can alleviate this issue.
  • Reduction in defects by eliminating human error: From scanning barcodes to reading machine controller data, automating data entry is a necessity for some processes and can quickly show returns for others.
  • Earlier detection of failing processes: Applications monitoring error conditions or trending data can provide charts and/or alerts to notify personnel of a problem.
  • Increased customer satisfaction: Automating processes can yield higher on time delivery, reduce defects, improve accuracy, reduce labor expenses and help improve delivery time between order placement and customer delivery.

The Automation Department at IQMS is very unique. In fact, we are finalists for a 2012 American Business Award for Product Development Department of the Year! Results will be announced in September (wish us luck!). Unlike other ERP vendors, IQMS has a dedicated department that strives to solve our customers’ automation challenges every day, regardless of the size or scope of the company or project. I bet you can easily think of some area of your shop floor that you wish was automated. Give us a call sometime with your idea – we look forward to collaborating on it with you.

Jason Slater, IQMS Vice President of Development, oversees IQMS' award-winning development team responsible for the design of emerging technologies for the shop floor. Jason holds a bachelor of science degree from California Polytechnic State University.