Cima optimizes manufacturing of gears, automating its inventory workflow with rugged tablets

Cima, a company of the Coesia group, manufactures high-precision gears for the aerospace, racing, and industrial mechanics sectors. Its operations involve managing an inventory of about 25,000 products, each of which must be associated with a work order tracked throughout all work phases, including those involving contract manufacturing.

Loris Lelli, CIO of Cima points out that “each gear has its own specific design and requires special equipment and tools to be manufactured. The real-time management of such a large number of tools was always a headache for our manufacturing operations. So in 2013 I was tasked with automating the management of our equipment inventory.”

Cima created a new inventory management system using only Instant Developer, a platform for developing high-productivity mobile and web applications. The result was achieved with just 30 man days of work, from analysis to production testing, beating all projected estimates of savings.

A special solution for a unique inventory 

Cima's inventory requires unique management, because the company has to track the location and work performed on each one of the 25,000 pieces of equipment in its stock. The solution had to go well beyond the classic inventory management for finished products, because the system also has to manage around 500 contract manufacturers where the products are sent and retrieved based on the work orders to be produced. Finally, each implement must undergo periodic calibrations and reconstructions, also based on the operations performed.

Loris Lelli admits that the company “evaluated several solutions in the market, including the inventory management component already present in our ERP system. But it would have been necessary to customize these solutions to the point that the cost would have been too high, and the end result would have been a solution that was only partially adequate for our actual management process.”

The mobile surprise 

For several years, Cima used Instant Developer for rapid development of control systems for business processes, such as inspections and claim management. Normally, rapid development tools are not expected to be able to re-create whole management components like complete management of a series of warehouses.

For that reason, Cima consulted Pro Gamma directly. Loris Lelli explained, “Instant Developer has always exceeded expectations, but actually creating a web-based inventory management system seemed like too demanding a task. We had to be 100% sure of the result.”

According to product manager Andrea Maioli, “after seeing the analysis documents we were thrilled! Instant Developer is best precisely in these situations, when complexity is involved. And then we made classic inventory management even better by adding a mobile version based on rugged Android tablets. Even warehouse operators should be able to stay connected at all times.”

The challenge of integration 

After the necessary verifications, development of the prototype began, which was built in just 20 working days, including the mobile version and integration with the Infor Baan ERP system that Cima uses for its integrated management of production and administration.

Programmer Matteo Sirri explains that “with Instant Developer, it's incredibly simple to integrate existing systems, even complex ones like a true ERP system. I can import database schemata or connect to SOAP web services and even Open Data REST services. There is nothing that we cannot integrate in a simple and controlled way.”

Loris Lelli confirms, “we simply had to provide access to the Infor Baan data structure to be able to read all the data used to feed the inventory management system. So the cost to integrate on the Infor Baan side was effectively zero.”

The user test 

As IT professionals well know, presenting the prototype to users is the biggest hurdle when designing a new information system.

Lelli described the impact on users: “when they saw the usability of the mobile inventory application their eyes lit up. It seemed too good to be true that you could just use the tip of your finger with the simplicity that characterizes mobile apps. It was at that moment that I realized that I'd won them over.”

The first user tests revealed the differences between the actual processes and the initial analysis, which are very difficult to detect up front. This is another difficult stage in the project because it doesn't take much to undermine even the most precise analysis, and it is then that the relationship with users can be strained.

Andrea Maioli comments that “Instant Developer is a real ace in the hole when an application needs to be modified, even heavily, and there is not much time to do it. The ability to refactor 100% in real time is the key to being able to make any changes securely and rapidly.” And that's why, after only 5 additional days of work, the system was ready to go into production.

In production 

The final hurdle was retrieval of existing data and importing it into the new inventory management database. And when it involves retrieving unstructured data, this is a very difficult problem.

Here's how Lelli describes this phase: “with the help of an Instant Developer consultant we were able to create programs to import from Excel very quickly. In just a few days of work, at least 10 different formats were perfectly importable, line by line.”

The first moments that a new system is being used are always the most critical. That's because there are always problems and bugs that appear, which must be corrected quickly so as not to waste time for users. Even in this case, InDe was decidedly effective, allowing us to correct all blocking problems in one day.

A resounding victory 

The results obtained from the new inventory management system are truly remarkable. Cima can now track the location of each piece of equipment in real time and optimize its management. According to initial measurements, processing times have been cut to one quarter of the previous figure, thus increasing the efficiency of the process by 400%.

Production manager Fabio Succi concludes, “we never imagined a solution that could meet our needs like this. Thanks to Loris and thanks to Instant Developer.”

Pro Gamma is proud that Instant Developer has helped Cima reach its goals, and will remain by its side for every technological challenge it faces in the future.

Loris Lelli, CIO, Cima Ingranaggi

About Cima Ingranaggi

Cima, founded in 1946, is located in Villanova di Castenaso (Bologna, Italy) and manufactures precision gears for the aeronautical, racing, and industrial mechanics sectors. It belongs to the Coesia group.

From the beginning, it has launched partnerships with its customers to come up with advanced solutions for high-performance gears and transmissions. It also provides co-design, calculations, optimization, and industrialization. Cima is a leader in using materials and heat treatments to manufacture high-performance gears and in mechanical processes that provide the geometry, accuracy, and finishing required by the design. In its constant search for excellence, the company employs more than 140 skilled technicians in industrialization and production.

Web & mobile solution for equipment inventory management

Sector: Warehouse Management
Business Dept: Logistics
Customer benefits: Process performance +400%
Development time: 30 man days
Technology: 100% Instant Developer
RIA Web application: Java architecture
Database: Oracle
Mobile application: Rugged Android Nexus 7
Data synchronization: Direct Access
Alternatives rejected: Eclipse, Infor Baan