Computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) is a system consisting of software covering many business processes, including integration of automated assignment and reporting of factory floor operations through machine and material handling equipment sensors and software. CIM covers enterprise resource planning (ERP) modules in a manufacturing operation, including design, purchasing, inventory, shop floor control, material requirements planning, customer order management and cost accounting. Advantages include error reduction, speed, flexibility and a high degree of integration.
CIM systems require higher degrees of data accuracy to run properly. Once part, bill of material, inventory and operational information achieve a very high level of accuracy, CIM can perform functions with minimal human intervention and then report on the results automatically. Humans are still required to monitor systems, but elimination of human error in many assignment and reporting functions on factory floor operations drastically reduces the error rate.
Assignment and reporting in a CIM environment are performed automatically and immediately without any delay involved with people-based transactions. Depending on the environment, this additional speed allows operations to be performed as soon as previous work occurs without any lag time. CIM environments therefore reduce the time it takes to perform manufacturing fabrication and assembly, allowing quicker flow of product to customers and increased capacity.
Once operations are assigned and reported in a CIM system, changes to various operations can also be performed more easily. CIM systems are designed to be entirely paperless, eliminating the barriers to changing operations. This flexibility, combined with the speed it can be performed, allows companies to quickly react to market conditions and then return to previous settings when market conditions change.
Factory floor operations are not integrated in non-CIM situations; manufacturing operations and material usage must be reported by humans who perform transactions. CIM offers a degree of integration that enables the flexibility, speed and error reduction required to compete and lead markets. Integrating factory floor operations with enterprise software enables employees to do higher value functions for their companies.
Bob Turek started writing in 1994 for "The Performance Advantage" magazine. His book "Value Selling Business Solutions" draws on technology industry experiences gained from his position as director of business development for Infogain's cloud CRM for customer support operations practice. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics and psychology from Claremont McKenna College and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Southern California.