February 27, 2012


Computer Integrated Manufacturing for Fully Automatic Lines


With manual labor becoming more expensive, with quality being given more importance than before and with the surge to produce more in a given period of time, manufacturing companies are increasingly seeking to automate their processes and involve lesser and lesser human capital. In the absence of human capital, it becomes tough to monitor and trend machine, quality and productivity performance. Since these are parameters that need to be monitored, a system to monitor, report and sometimes analyze/control is needed. Harnessing my experience in the design of fully automatic lines, I seek to do a bit of justice in writing a blog on the details of Implementation of Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM).

What is CIM and What Does it Do?

CIM Computer Integrated Manufacturing systems are capable of the following activities.

1. A methodology to understand the state of a piece of equipment or a process and report the related equipment performance, quality delivered and the process parameters for real time continuous monitoring and analysis.

2. Correcting the current state of the equipment/process to rectify any performance degradation caused either in the product quality or the equipment productivity performance. Extending this concept forward, the domain of feed-forward control which basically understands the quality of the product from a process, and modifies the subsequent process to nullify the bias caused in the previous. In short, the scope of CIM is a closed-loop control of the manufacturing process.

Most CIM systems are typically associated with the first set of methodology highlighted. Feedback control and feed forward control are typically used by process industries rather than discrete manufacturing industries. 

CIM Feasibility Study

CIM can be fully appreciated only when its technical and financial benefits are fully known. Below are some of the technical and financial benefits from a working example I have experienced firsthand.

Technical Benefits

  1. Data, whether quality or productivity data, is available immediately, helping in Lean Implementation
  2. Product/batch traceability is a virtue of a CIM system
  3. Occurrence can be easily tracked to kick-start Six Sigma projects
  4. Over 40% time reduction in data collection and aggregation activity

Financial Benefits

  1. Reduction in manpower of over 1man per 2 assembly lines for fully automated lines with manual QC checking and reporting
  2. Traceability can help in recall cost reduction, which can be as high as 80% with some products
  3. Where traditional systems can reach only 73%,  quality enhancement using Computer Integrated Manufacturing systems can go as far as 92% through quick correlation, thereby enhancing productivity results
  4. Downtime reductions can be reduced by over 80% through continuous monitoring and predictive alarms

With these benefits in hand, a company can decide if it would be feasible to implement CIM at their manufacturing site.

CIM – Typical Information Availability

Typical CIM information availability is shown below:

  1. Quality Data 


   2. Production Data 

 3. Equipment Data


 4. Material Movement and Inventory Data

5. Parts Traceability Data

6. Defect Library


In my opinion, the only concern a manufacturing line would have to worry about would be the initial investment needed for CIM Implementation. CIM Implementation requires an intensive hardware installation to existing machines and CIM software for data collection and representation.  However, it needs to be noted that for a precision parts manufacturer or a high-end product manufacturing company like an electronics manufacturer, the return on investment is a few months.


Having installed and used CIM, I see no reason why fully automated lines should not be in possession of an engineering marvel like CIM. Lean projects will benefit greatly from CIM, as would Six Sigma projects.

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