Are your staff sufficiently skilled?

How do you define skills? The ability to perform a role well is perhaps what springs to mind first and foremost. But progressive companies know that the most valuable employees are also accomplished in interpersonal skills such as communication; decision making; time management; the ability to work under pressure; adaptability; and negotiation – all of which are required to succeed in the Industry 4.0 environment.

Most companies recognise the importance of a structured and methodical induction process; if only as a framework to advise a new employee on what’s expected of them during their probationary period. All too often however training for staff who have been in post for some time falls by the wayside. A common barrier is that it’s seen by factory owners as taking a significant number of man (or woman) hours from the day job.

Done well a robust approach to training can create an environment where the team is adept at contributing more: from an intuitive approach to problem solving to getting things done through more effective relationships.

So what does ‘done well’ look like?

Like the factory owner, the team may be reticent about participating – particularly if it means workloads mounting up in the meantime. Staff need reassurance that the training they’re receiving isn’t just as a box-ticking exercise (which can often be the case with compliance training). There are a number of ways of achieving this:

  • Relevance: making the training applicable to the roles.
  • Professionalism: a professional training course will have a clear agenda, outcomes and practical exercises. Even better, a certificate of attendance – whilst a seemingly small gesture – can help staff to recognise the training as meaningful. The CPD Certification Service is the UK’s leading independent continuing professional development accreditation and can offer some guidance in this area.
  • Internal champions: creating a core team of internal trainers is not only a cheaper alternative to hiring external contractors, it’s one of the best ways of quickly championing a new approach to training.
  • Personal development: there’s no better way to get staff commitment than to align learning to career progression. Working together to agree a training plan with an individual during their annual appraisal creates a shared responsibility between manager and employee to make that happen.
  • Acknowledgement: building a knowledge bank not only celebrates the achievements of those most committed to their own personal development; it sends out a very clear message to the staff and investors of today and tomorrow that yours is a company with a very tangible commitment to its workforce.

Invest in your staff and they will invest in you for many years to come.

To find out more about Cimteq’s own work in this area, please email Katy Harrison, Marketing Manager, Cimteq, [email protected].

Calling all women!

Calling all women!

Women continue to be an untapped resource in manufacturing. According to 2018 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than a third of the US workforce in this sector is made up of women. Other countries report similar imbalances.

For the cable and wire factory of the future – where skills such as communication, teamworking and analysis are becoming increasingly important – a business that is not reaping the benefits of a diverse workforce will surely fall behind.

Addressing this gender gap needs a multi-pronged approach:

  • Recruitment: for many women, their employment needs to accommodate looking after school-aged children. Positions that allow for homeworking are of great appeal but are not always practical for the factory industry. Flexible or part-time working is appreciated by all, regardless of gender, and businesses offering more flexible arrangements will often find that input increases as a result.
  • Progression: like their male counterparts, female employees want to know that there are opportunities for progression. That there may be a gender pay gap is, for most women, an understandable (if disappointing) product of historically male-dominated industries. More important, once this disparity is identified, is that companies take sincere and tangible action to address it.
  • Recognition: initiatives such as the Manufacturing Institute’s Step Ahead acknowledges the work of women in the industry.
  • Mentoring: of course, the earliest point of intervention is within the school environment. Whilst it’s the responsibility of governments to ensure that the curriculum promotes manufacturing and engineering (for both girls and boys), prominent female leaders or rising stars in this sector can make a difference through talks in schools and mentoring programmes.

To find out more about Cimteq’s own work in this area, please email Katy Harrison, Marketing Manager, Cimteq, [email protected].

Bridging the cable industry’s skills gap

In 1982, the total number of jobs in UK manufacturing was nearly a quarter of the working population. Fast forward to 2002 and this figure dropped to 12%. Recent statistics show that this figure has now dropped to 8%. This is not unique to the UK – in fact, all industrialised countries with the exception of Brazil have seen manufacturing jobs decline since the 1990s.

Over the last 20 years in particular, factories have automated many tasks on the production line which have to some extent replaced jobs. Compared to the 1980s, there are a staggering three million fewer jobs in manufacturing in the UK. Government focus turned to industries which were seeing an increase in the value of GDP output. As a result, funding for and interest in STEM education dropped. This perfect storm led to only one outcome – the creation of a workforce with a stronger interest in other sectors.

Over most recent years, there has been a renewed recognition of the importance of STEM to the national economy. The Government’s Industrial Strategy has at its core a number of policies to help manufacturing ‘build a Britain fit for the future’. At the same time, the Industry 4.0 revolution has led to an evolution of employment in manufacturing. The Industry 4.0 workforce will increasingly focus on managing new operations; as well as managing, programming and maintaining robotics.

Cimteq was one of the first manufacturers to recognise the need for this new generation of skilled staff.
The automation offered by Cimteq’s CableBuilder cable design software means fewer repetitive, tedious tasks for design engineers and more tasks that require greater levels of judgement. These highly-skilled professionals can then get back to designing cutting-edge cable and wire. Similarly, CableMES’s manufacturing execution dashboards and reporting demand greater levels of judgement from operators.

For both roles, access to such advanced technology significantly increases job satisfaction. And for the factory owner, motivated long-serving staff equals fewer recruitment headaches and a product roadmap way ahead of the competition.

Find out how Cimteq can bridge the skills gap in your company: https://cimteq.com/bookdemo/

How to bring about successful implementation of cable design software

The majority of good ideas fail because of improper implementation of the ideas rather than the idea itself being flawed. Take, for example, implementing a new software system.  A company purchases some high-end design software; rightly, it is expecting to use it to its fullest potential to get maximum return on investment.  The company employs its best experts and brightest brains to plan and start the implementation of the software.  The team calculates how much time it saves an individual design engineer and how it would speed up the design process. A grand presentation is made to the top management of the team’s intentions to automate the existing process.  The plan passes, because it is perfectly aligned to the business objectives.

However, it is crucial that software implementation plans are aligned with the process rather than just the objectives. The cable manufacturer in our example, had an objective to deliver quality product design service at the lowest possible cost, and the quickest possible time.  The company put a new process in place twenty years ago that involved the recruiting of an army of design engineers to work tirelessly to produce very high-quality datasheets to a very high level of completeness.  The process worked very well, and the company gained good market share because of the quality of customer service it provided.

However, few years later, the cable industry changed.  The cost of design engineers increased dramatically, which also increased the design engineers’ mobility, and increased the cost of their recruitment.  This fact made the model above highly inefficient, which also made it highly misaligned with the business objectives.

Due to the high turnover of engineers, the quality of the customer service reduced.  The inexperience of the new engineers lead to design and datasheet errors. Each design had to be checked to eliminate engineering mistakes. This increased the design department’s costs as well as the length of time it took to produce a design.

This scenario is a clear example of how, on presenting to the board of directors, the automation of the process will appear to be the correct solution.  However, in this case, the correct solution would be to realign the design process to the business objective with the aid of automation.

By improving the process, the benefits of the software are much greater.  It is not only able to cut down quotation time, but it will reduce maintenance time, improve the professionalism of the datasheet, and reduce mistakes that can lead to very expensive scrap.

Let us look at the solution. The existing process needed to be simplified.  Only a small fraction of customers require all the calculations currently being presented in datasheets.  Each calculation requires time and therefore costs.  Reducing the complexity of the datasheets, reduces the amount of time needed to check and maintain them.  Customers who require a full complex set of calculations on their datasheets, a drawing, or special instructions are less than 5% of the general market. Therefore, their cases will be treated as exceptions, and extra effort will be needed only for these customers.  The calculations can further be automated with software to reduce the engineering effort in making new designs and maintaining old ones.

A solution is also needed to retain engineers in order to improve consistency and maintain long term relationships with the customer.  Engineers are inherently creative.  Using automation, engineers are freed from the mundane hand, or Excel calculations.  Their talent can now be channeled into value-adding activities, such as product development and improvement, which must surely be high on the business objectives list.

The example above also highlights an important fact.  The circumstances, and sometimes the objectives, of the company are very likely to change.  This fact needs to be taken into consideration when selecting and implementing a software system.  A software system that gives you the greatest flexibility should be selected, and an implementation approach that takes into account the changing nature of the process would be ideal.

Automating any business process using software should be a task that is undertaken with the aid of the software supplier.  The supplier will bring fresh thinking into the procedure, which can be especially valuable when considering the automation of traditional processes, like cable design, sales, logistics, etc.  It is therefore important to pick the right supplier, or implementation partner, who is able to bring this insight to help align the process to the business objectives and the software system to the process.

To find out about the implementation of Cimteq’s design and manufacturing software, please email Katy Harrison, Marketing Manager, Cimteq at [email protected]

Training

Who will succeed in your business?

Succession plans do not usually feature highly on the priority list for small businesses. Yet failing to plan in this area can have a seismic impact on a business – particularly where the business owner’s departure is through unexpected illness, or worse.

The benefits of planning in this area are numerous. For staff, it provides a clearer vision for the future. For investors, it provides reassurance that there is contingency in place for when the business owner steps down. For the business owner him or herself, passing the reins to other trusted members of the team – albeit slowly – can help to address a work-life balance with which so many struggle.

Business owners can often find it difficult to let go; after all, their business is literally part of their DNA. However, any growing business cannot rely solely on the leadership of one or two individuals, and implementing a staged plan need not be daunting:

  1. Identify those key areas and positions that, where vacant, would have the most detrimental impact on the business’ ability to achieve its objective
  2. Compile a list of required capabilities of successors. Whilst it’s tempting to consider this solely according to department or function, the softer skills that help the business to function efficiently should not be overlooked. An individual’s ability to get things done by building upon their informal networks across departments, hierarchies or with external stakeholders is as important as any product, company and sector knowledge.
  3. Identify interested employees and assess their knowledge, skills, ability and experience. It is natural in small businesses to look first and foremost to long-serving members of staff, particularly when they are family members. But if the skills for both today and tomorrow are not present (and nor can they be coached), the contribution of incoming successors will pay for their onboarding costs many times over.
  4. Develop knowledge transfer plans so that the business owner’s years of experience can be harvested, allowing others to build on his or her legacy.
  5. Evaluate effectiveness. Succession is not a linear process; it is a collective process that requires buy-in across the business.

Succession plans need to be implemented slowly and methodically to ensure all are committed to making them work. The business owner needs to have confidence in his or her successors and empower them to succeed; and the team as a whole need to accept the new boss. Done well, succession planning is an opportunity to sow the values of the founder for many years to come.

To find out more about Cimteq’s own approach to succession planning, please email Katy Harrison, Marketing Manager, Cimteq, [email protected].

Cimteq to showcase Industry 4.0 capabilities at international conference

The Cimteq team are exhibiting at the IWCS 2019 Cable and Connectivity Symposium, which is taking place at the Charlotte Convention Centre in North Carolina next month (29 September – 2 October).  The company will also be part of the Symposium’s poster presentation, with a paper – ‘Applying Industry 4.0 to the Cable Factory Environment’ – prepared by Yufei Du, Cimteq’s Software Implementation Manager.

The presentation, based on Yufei’s paper, examines Industry 4.0 and explores its application to the cable industry at every level – from the shop floor through to product design, R&D, sales and finance – forms part of the wider conference.  In addition to the presentation at the symposium, accepted papers will be available in the symposium proceedings book and in the IWCS online archive.

IWCS is viewed as one of the premier events for exploring new technologies in cable and connectivity materials, products, processes and applications.  Delegates can explore the latest technologies within a symposium format and there is the opportunity to attend professional development courses with tutorials on basic and emerging technologies.  There will also be the chance to speak with leading industry suppliers at the exhibition and network with other industry professionals.

For over 20 years, Cimteq has been the world’s cable design and manufacturing software provider of choice, with customers spanning Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe and Australia.  Its presence at the show (stand #502) gives visitors the opportunity to meet Sales Director Richard Cotter and Account Manager James Concannon to find out more about how their businesses can take full advantage of Industry 4.0.

Cimteq’s CableBuilder software manages the complete cycle of cable design and manufacture through typical workflow milestones of Design, Customer Quotation, Ordering, Production, Quality Assurance and ERP system.

Customers across the globe renew year on year to derive the following benefits: accurate costings through consolidation of all relevant systems and applications into one application; waste reduction through digital twinning; and the automation of labour-intensive tasks. Quite simply, rapid design allows for rapid customer response, and with all the benefits of such a sprint to market.

Cimteq’s portfolio also includes its CableMES Manufacturing Execution System, specifically designed with the cable industry in mind. Customers of CableMES report an almost immediate impact to bottom line through maximising plant production, improving product quality, reducing inventory and ensuring on-time delivery.

Cimteq recognises that the cable and wire industry is fast-paced and increasingly competitive and seeks to reflect that in its own growth. The expansion of its senior management team and launch of the online Cimteq Academy are some of the initiatives launched so far in 2019.

For further information on Cimteq visit stand #502 to meet the team and learn more about how your business can reap the benefits of joining the growing Cimteq community, view Cimteq’s presentation on ‘Applying Industry 4.0 to a Cable Factory’ or email Katy Harrison, Marketing Manager, Cimteq, [email protected]. To arrange a personal demonstration, click here

Creating brand authority to secure investment

You know your business offers cutting-edge products, competitive pricing and quality customer service. But when your competitors are matching you in this area, how else can you differentiate your brand?

In a highly-engaged world, the creation of relevant and informative content can set leading businesses apart – setting the scene for interest and ultimately investment in your business.  When producing a content plan, it’s useful to break it down into the 5Ws and 1H of problem solving:

  • Who are you producing content for and why should they be interested? As a cable and wire manufacturer, your audience can typically be segmented into the following:

 

  • Customers who are looking for their ‘problem’ to be addressed
  • Investors seeking to add a high-growth business to their portfolio
  • Funders who want to achieve their own policy aims through funding innovative or employment-creating projects
  • Press and influencers within the sector who can quickly build credibility on your behalf
  • The Board whose personal integrity is very publicly aligned with your business
  • Staff whom you wish to retain in your business
  • Suppliers with whom you want to build a strong working relationship

 

  • What are they interested in? As you’re seeking to build up a picture of a well-rounded business, writing about topics that resonate with your audience will reassure them that your business knowledge extends to their wider issues

 

  • When are you expecting them to digest content? Publish your content at different times to find out what works for your audience

 

  • Where do you expect them to access your content and how does this dictate their attention levels? At their desktop or on the move?

 

  • Why are you producing this piece of content and why should your audience be compelled to action?

 

  • How will you present this content/ what form will be most successful in getting your message across? Examples include blogs, whitepapers, video, elearning courses, quizzes, workshops, infographics and speaking engagement

 

Cimteq itself is adopting this approach with its new Cimteq Academy where its many years of experience and expertise will be openly shared with the cable and wire community. Learn more at: www.cimteq.com

Cimteq’s energy efficient factory checklist

Improving your factory’s efficiency not only supports your reputation as a responsible business, it ultimately improves your bottom line.

Here’s Cimteq’s handy list on how to implement some simple changes:

Lighting

  1. Capitalise on natural light by maintaining clean windows and skylights
  2. Where possible, relocate staff and most regularly employed machinery to areas enjoying the most natural light
  3. Educate the workforce on turning off lights. The Carbon Trust offers downloadable posters in English to promote this practice
  4. Switch to energy-efficient, low-maintenance LED lighting
  5. Introduce occupancy sensors to take advantage of downtime and in discrete areas such as rarely-occupied overflow bays
  6. Employ daylight sensors to capitalise on additional light in Summer months.

Heating

  1. Set heating to be used only during occupancy
  2. Separate heated workspaces and offices from unheated storage areas
  3. Improve cavity and loft insulation
  4. Maintain thermostats and boilers for optimum maintenance
  5. Introduce de-stratification fans to recirculate rising heat from machinery from the top of the building back to the shop floor
  6. Introduce solar panels or wind turbines.

Beyond the factory

  1. Encourage staff to use public transport, car share or use bikes. There may well be tax incentives or grants to support these green transport initiatives.
  2. Introduce homeworking for part of the week for staff who don’t always need to be physically present in the factory (eg office staff) for zero commuting impact on those days

Whilst effective in immediately reducing carbon footprint, the impact of the changes outlined above are hard to better year-on-year. Not so where production software is concerned.  The flexibility of cable design software CableBuilder and cable management software CableMES allows users to implement new modules as and when needed. For each module implemented, there’s the opportunity to enjoy even greater efficiencies.

Production software

  1. Analyse your current manufacturing operations, outputs and reporting to identify which machines and processes are experiencing the most faults and could benefit from automation
  2. Create a baseline for improvement by calculating the costs of scrap and rework of the following:
    1. Cost of the scrapped raw materials
    2. Machinery and staff running cost of the re-run
    3. Delays in schedule of re-run
    4. Re-scheduling shipping
    5. Reputational damage where customers have experienced a delay
    6. Opportunity cost of designers working on labour-intensive tasks and not on product development
  3. Introduce design and manufacture software to not only reduce scrap and rework but to bring cost efficiency to every stage of operation.

Identify efficiencies for your business through Cimteq’s ROI calculator. Contact Katy Harrison, Marketing Manager, Cimteq, [email protected] for more information.

Powering the offshore winds of change with Cimteq

The benefits of wind energy are mainfold. Wind is a reliable and endless renewable which dramatically cuts carbon emissions. It is creating millions of new jobs across the world and creates an energy independence for those countries relying heavily on imported gas, coal or oil.

Offshore ambition

The UK’s offshore wind industry is still the largest producer of offshore wind energy in the world. Last year it announced its 2030 vision, with the ambition of powering an impressive 30% of all energy in the UK by this date.

Offshore wind is however an expensive business. The Carbon Trust estimates that 80% of insurance claims in this industry are made up of cable-related incidents alone. Cable suppliers are expected to produce the highest-quality cables that can perform well in the harshest of conditions. Achieving this without increasing the costs of production is however no mean feat.

Improving offshore wind productivity

The good news for offshore cable manufacturers is that Cimteq’s CableBuilder and CableMES software suite can significantly increase productivity through streamlinnig process:

  • Supporting cable design including cable length variation to ensure it’s entirely fit for the environment in which it is being used
  • Helping engineers construct a cable cross-section according to the diversity of the offshore wind operator’s requirements
  • Simulating the manufacturing process using rules to determine the lengths, material losses and the number of joints needed. CableBuilder3D provides an additional dimension on construction and performance
  • Monitoring the manufacturing process from start to finish. Every measurement taken is recorded against a point along the length of the cable, including any cuts and repairs. These precise calculations ensure the most accurate final prototype is produced.

The result? Streamlined design and manufacture of fit-for-purpose cables with optimised performance at installation.

Learn more about how Cimteq can power your offshore ambitions: https://cimteq.com/bookdemo

What’s keeping cable manufacturers awake at night?

Cable and wire manufacturers are facing unprecedented global challenges. Strong competition in particular is growing from countries with access to lower raw material and labour costs and greater Government subsidies.  Protecting market share against such aggressive pricing is at the forefront of every factory owner’s mind. Cimteq has shaped its software over some 20 years to help address the four key issues keeping cable manufacturers awake at night:

1.          How can we react to growing costs?

A staggering 80% of cable cost can be attributed to raw material alone. Any cost reduction in this area can have an immediate positive impact on bottom line.  The creation of a ‘digital twin’ is fully supported by Cimteq’s CableBuilder software.  Put simply, design engineers can quickly and accurately cost various models           before committing to the product line. The result? Time, cost and raw material saved.

2.          How can we avoid product failure?

Understanding any quality issues as soon as they arise significantly reduces the likelihood of wasted material. Cimteq’s CableMES’s automated quality recordings allow immediate response to any non-conformance issues at the earliest stages of the production process.

3.          How can we better react to machinery breakdown?

Machine failure is inevitable in a busy factory. However, every minute lost in production is a loss to profit. CableMES’s Supervisory system provides real-time visibility of the shopfloor, with the ability to manage production from a single screen. Real-time alarms ensure that machines are up and running quickly thereby limiting the impact to production schedules.

4.          How can we avoid losing our best people?

In order to stay ahead of the competition and bring new products quickly to market, design engineers need to live and breathe innovation. Yet too often they find their time spent on tedious tasks. Cimteq’s software effortlessly automates day-to-day tasks freeing up design engineers to accelerate product development and reclaim their job satisfaction.

 

How can Cimteq’s software benefit your bottom line? Contact Katy Harrison, Marketing Manager at Cimteq, [email protected] to arrange a personal online demonstration.