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Pushing paper into the cloud

By Nick Wright

Ryan Zimmermann, director of business development at VKS, on how cloud-based production software benefits manufacturers

FFJ 1115 face leadNovember 2015 - Q: What is VKS, and how did it get started?

Ryan Zimmermann: Visual Knowledge Share (VKS) is a cloud-based software company that was commercialized three years ago. The software VKS was created about five years ago by a sheet metal fabrication company that wanted to streamline the manufacture of its high-mix, low-volume parts. They wanted to create and share work instructions quickly because they could be working on thousands of parts at any given moment, and the jobs could change every few months. The software lets companies create and share text, video and image-based work instructions on a tablet, laptop or desktop. Our customers use it in many ways: for in-process training—say, if a worker is preparing to mill a new part, he or she can use VKS to learn how to set up that CNC machine for the job—instructions for repair, maintenance, and process monitoring.

You could say that fabrication shop wasn’t only a creator, but an incubator for VKS. They build sheet metal enclosures, which entails machining, welding, assembly and finishing. That represents a range of manufacturing operations, and the software was thus built to reflect these variances in production.

Q: How does cloud-based information sharing software help fabricators?

Zimmermann: It benefits them not only by offering a fast, intuitive way to give employees on the shop floor clear instructions, but by standardizing best practices. For example, by using VKS, a fabrication shop can capture the tribal knowledge of its seasoned workers who might know the most efficient method for setting up a fixture for a welding job. The shop can then program those steps into VKS so another worker, perhaps a new guy, can accomplish the same job by following the instructions. The increase in productivity helps improve operations and streamline processes, resulting in higher levels of profit.

On the other hand, many VKS customers need traceability for parts going into regulated industries. Consider industries like aerospace, medical and automotive, where the instructions, specifications and supply chain traceability are required. With VKS, lots of companies need to track all of those details. We’ve seen instances where some of our customers have saved money, and can protect themselves because of the traceability. If an OEM has an issue, they’ll figure out where it came from and try to pinpoint it on their suppliers. However, the suppliers have recourse because they’ve traced their manufacturing and captured their data with VKS.

Q: Why is it important for companies to consider cloud-based software?

Zimmermann: Typically, what we see in many companies is lots of them have some format of paper instructions. This becomes problematic when they need to be changed, quality standards need to be revised, or maintenance procedures need to be updated. Plus, a company might have some other software that’s monitoring productivity, and depending on the industry, they might have quality checklists. It’s hard for these companies to maintain these processes as is. Instead of having workers flip through cumbersome instructions and deal with multiple softwares, they can have one interface with all the documents and inspection cues they need. And of course, all of the job data is captured live into our reporting section. Depending on the IT preferences of the customer, VKS can be used in the cloud or on the company’s local server.

Software like VKS can monitor productivity and send emails to a manager if someone falls behind in their production time. Instead of interacting with loads of paper, all the operators need to do is to follow the instructions in VKS, and our software will prompt them on what to inspect, and will record all the details of the job progress. The process control, in turn, can impress customers of our customers down the line. FFJ

Sources

  • Visual Knowledge Share
    Chateauguay, Quebec
    phone: 855/201-4656
    www.vksapp.com
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