Articles Written by Thomas R. Cutler for

Articles by Thomas Cutler

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Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., ( Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 7000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 500 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @ThomasRCutler.


Cloud Computing Proves Essential for Engineering Automation Teams

Power plant management represents one of the most demanding applications for engineering automation software. Equipment from different manufacturers must be coordinated, simultaneously using several protocols. Many facilities require the use of up to a million tags, refreshed at sub-second intervals. Click here to read full article...

Product Lifecycle Management in the Food Industry: No Candy Coating

Responding quickly to market trends with profitable, successful new products is the only way to achieve success in the hyper-competitive, margin-thin food and beverage marketplace. New products that drive revenue and meet customer and retailer demands are essential (while complying with stringent regulations.) Even one failed product development initiative is too costly. Click here to read full article...

Cimquest INGEAR Finds Eclectic Customer Base to Assist in Automation

This journalist recently interviewed eight distinct companies about technology, efficiency, and automation trends. While the numerator was different, the technology solution selected by each company, the denominator, was remarkably consistent. Each of thee individuals interviewed performed one act in common, regardless of industry sector, geography, title or function. Each Googled the phrase ".NET PLC driver." Click here to read full article...

Automation and Plastic Bags

The two phrases, automation and plastic bags, may seem incongruous, or even a non-sequitor. It certainly is true that the typical definition of automation usually includes the control of equipment with advanced technology...involving electronic hardware. Others characterize automation as replacing human workers with machines. The rationale for automation, regardless of the implementation, is to increase productivity. Click here to read full article...

ISO 9001: Best Competitive Advantage for Industrial Automation Business

Successful small business professionals understand that to grow their business, they must provide a quality product and outstanding customer service. Many of these small businesses are deeply involved in various aspects of industrial automation and have used certification to ISO 9001 to meet goals, enhance competitiveness, and expand their market share. Click here to read full article...

Pick-to-Light Drives Immediate Lean Manufacturing Automation Advantages

The benefits of Pick-to-Light solutions cannot be overlooked as a best-of-breed, lean manufacturing, continuous process improvement, cost-saving technique. There are extensive benefits of Light-Directed Order Picking; including static shelving, carton flow rack, batch picking carts, pallet rack, horizontal and vertical carousels, and others. Click here to read full article...

Cost Estimating Software Generates Bottom-Line Profitability for Job Shop

Many of the world’s job shops need to identify part cost reduction opportunities throughout the product development lifecycle, leading to millions of dollars in cost savings. Click here to read full article...

The Sound of Music: How Musical Instrument Companies Automate Distribution Centers

Fender Musical Instruments is one of many musical instrument firms that organized and automated their distribution center. This 550,000 square foot distribution facility contains approximately 2 miles of conveyor, a broken case order selection module and a full case picking module. Fender increased throughput by 30% while improving order accuracy, all without adding labor. Click here to read full article...

Pro-Active Safety Management Systems: The Most Important Automated Process

Progressive, best-of-class companies practice increasingly pro-active and less reactive safety management. The best safety management software utilizes a web-based platform so that employees may sign-in from any location with an internet connection. The end result is a completely transparent representation of the organizational safety performance. Click here to read full article...

Cost-Effective Inventory Tracking and Automation for Small Manufacturing Operations

Reducing the processes and steps in manufacturing axiomatically reduces errors. The number of manufacturers that duplicate automation instructions just through re-entering data multiple times is staggering and results in direct loss of productivity, effectiveness, accuracy, and customer satisfaction. Click here to read full article...

On-Machine Probing Central in 2010 Lean Process

On-Machine probing is a great way to reduce costs, downtime and operator error. Although measuring a part when it's clamped into a machining center uses up metal-cutting time, doing so can actually save minutes upstream and downstream of the machining cycle. The whole idea behind on-machine probing is to eliminate variation in a process. Click here to read full article...

Consistency, Compliance, and Capacity: Improving Bottom-Line Productivity

Although modern manufacturing is often assumed to take place in the absence of manual labor and the human element, almost every manufacturing company ultimately relies on its workers contributing their knowledge, observational skills and prompt action to ensure maximum production up-time and product quality without sacrificing safety or compliance with safety, regulatory, and internal standards. Click here to read full article...

The New Lean Manufacturing Enterprise

Manufacturing executives often possess exception manufacturing, engineering, and production expertise, yet lack management knowledge. Many of these manufacturing owners run organizations with 50 to 500 employees; more than half report feeling overwhelmed which leads to the creation of every organization’s largest competitor: Waste. The manufacturing business owners are often shocked to learn, not only how much is wasted, but the real effect it has on the enterprise. Click here to read full article...

Moving from Manual to Automated Handhelds: Driving Out the Cost

Beverage Control, Inc., has been supplying soda, juice, Co2 gasses, water, energy drinks and ice machines to companies in the Southeastern U.S. for more than ten years. Beverage Control uses a fleet of trucks and vans to deliver beverage products and provide services to customers. The use of automated handhelds allowed them to reduce costs and improve customer service in three areas of their business. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Diamonds Are Forever, So is Real-Time Data

Software products make it easy for jewelry organizations, large or small, to acquire process data from any source, analyze that data in real-time, and instantly notify process owners of variation. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Top Truck-Parts Supplier Deploys Electronic Kanban for Faster Turns, Reduced Inventory

An aspect of automation is electronic kanban's seamless integration with a company’s existing ERP system, enabling the company to provide any authorized user with an accurate and comprehensive real-time view of parts and inventory. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Avoiding the Danger: Technology-Driven Innovations Improve Safety and Productivity

Employees working in or around forklift equipment are statistically exposed to one of the most dangerous work environments in industry. While forklift trucks are involved in only 1% of all industrial accidents, these accidents are responsible for ten percent of physical injuries. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Direct Selling Firms Look at Warehouse Automation

Due to lia sophia's exponential growth, management recognized that the manual system in place at the Bensenville, Illinois, distribution center was unable to support its needs. In 2006, the company opened a new 200,000 sq. ft. facility in Roselle, Illinois, and took the opportunity to reconfigure its current distribution environment and automate to prepare for the future. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Best-in-Class Impacts Defined

Installing software by itself will not transform a business. A company seeking Best-in-Class status must align these technology solutions with strategy and culture to transform a business. The right system with the right implementation strategy can have a powerful impact on the ability to move to Best-in-Class. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Small ETO Manufacturers Double Output with Same Staff

Success in a competitive market is forcing every manufacturer to make their business more responsive to client demands. The pressure is constant for better, faster, and cheaper solutions. This is particularly difficult for engineer-to-order businesses. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Improved Labor Productivity Through Traceability

Traceability provides production and plant managers a new toolset for realizing value and boosting profits as well as addressing labor issues - cost, productivity, and labor-related quality. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Returnable Packaging - The Next Phase of Lean

As industrial automation continues down its lean manufacturing journey, the area of packaging waste has taken center stage. The way to reduce this packaging waste is returnable packaging. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Nesting Heuristics Less Effective than Vision Emulation

Previously, most nesting algorithms were simple heuristics, and did not consider the alternatives; Vision Emulation combined with Multi-Dimensional-Combinatorial-Nesting technology guarantees the highest efficiency while insuring that production schedule and priorities are optimized. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Regional Manufacturing Expos Prove Most Valuable

Deciding which conferences, webinars, and expos are worthwhile for manufacturing engineers and buyers to attend often feels like a dangerous yellow brick road, never knowing quite what to expect. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

OPC Drives Overall Equipment Efficiency from 65% to 75%

"Supporting OPC creates great new opportunities for collecting data from production equipment in real time, performing statistical analysis on the data and then feeding information back to operators, engineers or to the equipment itself," says Byron Shetler, Chief Technology Officer for Hertzler. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Two Years Later: A Look at the Demand Driven Supply Chain Technology

In a Demand Driven Supply Chain (DDSC) there is instant availability of real-time inventory data as well as an automatic calculation of proper replenishment levels. Much has changed about Demand Driven Supply Chain issues and technology in the past two years. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Automation Professionals Seek Missing Link for Transactional Six Sigma

Many manufacturing organizations fail to achieve the full benefit of Six Sigma efforts because their tools lack connectivity to the business systems generating the data. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Food Automation Operations Face Increasing Rigor

Automation is the only solution for problems in the food processing industry. Labor issues, the increasing need for traceability, food safety, and competition from low-cost global manufacturing fuel the growing trend toward increased automation in the sector. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

European Exporting Boom 2008

While consumers just added thousands of dollars more debt to their credit card balances and bears and bulls at the stock exchange take turns predicting gloom or boom times, the U.S. economy trade data at an annualized rate is nearing 20% improvement. Strengthening the demand for U.S. goods are the powerful overseas economies combined with a very weak dollar, which has dropped a corresponding 20% over the past five years. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Follett Ice: Three years of Demand Driven Supply Chain Efficiency - Still Part of Continued Process Improvement

Follett wisely identified the key variables when selecting a demand driven supply chain three years ago. They needed a commitment from management to support lean manufacturing and supply base that is open to change. They also recognized that if the method of ordering changed, order quantities and lead-times would be reduced, yet needed people available for implementation and had to generate enough savings to cover start-up and monthly fees. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Mobile Warehouse Automation Optimization

By Thomas R. Cutler
Effective warehouse automation systems can navigate, lookup, and validate entries with the scan of a single barcode. No longer will the lot number accidentally end up in the location field. By Increasing the visibility and accuracy of warehouse operations, lean efficiencies can be realized. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Woodworking Automation: Manufacturing Execution System Solutions

Engineer-to-order is a style of manufacturing rather that one specific industry grouping. For such a style, and MES solution should included parametrics and dynamically change bills of materials, bills of labor, labor routings, costs, selling prices, as well as the ability to schedule. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Leveraging Everyone's Contribution: Vendor Relationship Management and Impact on Automation

Vendor Relationship Management or VRM is the reciprocal of CRM (Customer Relationship Management). VRM provides manufacturing enterprises a wide range of technological tools for efficient vendor interactions that benefit both the manufacturer and the vendor. VRM improves markets by providing mechanisms that equip automation-based manufacturers to be independent leaders rather than lagging participants in relationships with vendors and other parties on the supply side of the marketplace. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Architectural Millwork Manufacturer Tracks Productivity

Brunt Associates is an architectural millwork firm based in Wixom, Michigan. The company experienced significant growth and needed to upgrade its software system yet required a solution that could address the unique issues facing a company in the woodworking industry. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Why Most ERP Vendors Stay Away from Process Manufacturing

Process manufacturing is a relatively small market compared to markets such as discrete manufacturing, retail and professional services; the size of the market is commensurate with the few quality software solutions for process manufacturers, whereas discrete manufacturing, retail and professional services have hundreds of software solutions, from entry level through Tier One. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Local Technology Selection: To VAR or Not to VAR

Among the thousands of software firms selling their goods, there is a wide divide based on those which utilize VARs (value added resellers) and those with “corporation-only” salesforces. There are pros and cons to each management scenario. Those companies which avoid the VAR methodology argue that inconsistency in quality among VAR consultancies, lack of product knowledge and expertise, and lost margins negate the advantages of using these “outsiders.” Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

All American Seasonings' Growth: Focus on Flavor and Efficiency Through Technology

All American has recently invested in a brand new production facility with over 40,000 sq. ft. It was clearly time for an upgrade in tools and procedures which captured all pertinent operations data and supported instant decision making throughout the enterprise. After an exhaustive search and performance shootouts between candidate systems, All American selected BatchMaster Software Inc. and has begun implementation of the Food ERP system. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Document Searches = Waste

Among North American manufacturers more than half of the company information is not centrally indexed and searchable; organizations employing a thousand knowledge workers wastes nearly $3 million per year due to an inability to locate and retrieve information. Knowledge workers spend a third of their time searching for information. All this time searching for documents is negatively impacting the productivity, bottom-line, and lean operations of most North American manufacturers. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Answer: An Enterprise Business and Facilities Planning System

A machine at a manufacturing plant has just gone down. The estimate of the engineers is between two weeks and a month of down time on the machine. How does a manufacturer minimize the impact of the outage on the ability of the organization to service its customers, while maintaining at the least possible cost? Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Plant Automation Issues for Dairy Manufacturing

Homeland security often suggests that the nation’s dairy supply may be a target for future terrorism. The results is a need for technology solutions which provide real-time operations intelligence to provide dairy processing plant management and staff with visibility of product loss, wasted energy, or other inefficiencies, allowing them to take timely corrective actions. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

From Lot Traceability to Compliance Issues: Process Manufacturers Face Unique Technology Challenges

Process manufacturers require the ability to operate their businesses more effectively with less effort and at lower costs. This is particularly true for small to mid-size process manufacturers including the following industry sectors: Food and Beverages, Paints and Coatings, Cosmetics, Pharmaceutical, Chemical industries. Comprehensive formulation management with version tracking and rollback capabilities are essential for the process manufacturer. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

ETO Automation Transforms the Business Process

Engineer-to-Order (ETO) product designers face challenges to provide "mass customization" of their products better, faster, and cheaper than their competitors. An ETO automation system allows many or all portions of the ETO process to be automated, thus providing quicker turnaround, lower engineering costs, and consistent adherence to product rules and standards. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Industrial CRM: General Practitioners Need Not Apply

With up to ten years of continued process improvements on the plant floor, back office, and distribution operations, manufacturers have finally arrived at the front door of customer relationship management (CRM). Still engineering and operations focused, many senior manufacturing executives are strongly resistant and visibly uncomfortable in approaching lean CRM. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Arbonne International Automates Distribution Center

Network marketing is a distribution system, or form of marketing, which channels goods or services from the manufacturer to the consumer through a "network" of independent distributors or consultants. Arbonne International uses this effective system to cut out the "middleman" found in most industries. Just as Arbonne worked to eliminate the “middleman” in their selling process, the firm recently revamped their entire shipping, packing, and distribution system, finding extraordinary efficiencies through their new technology solution. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Product Costs: The Conflict between Engineering and Finance

Manufacturing in North America today is under siege as companies struggle against increasing challenges to deliver quality products, on time, and at the required price. All these functions must be performed while managing the profitability and growth requirements of a very demanding public marketplace. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler and Frank V. Azzolino.

Supply Chain Management Software Impacts both Distribution and Manufacturing

Distribution software is a key element in the automation of supply chain management (SCM) functionality for small to medium size companies. From customer relationship management to inventory control and transportation, finding the best SCM solution ensures superior customer satisfaction for distribution companies across a number of industries. Increasing manufacturing and distribution has become a blended operation. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Business Process Management Workflow and Quality Workbench

Many difficulties in business process management relate to “off-system” manual tasks, such as notification, investigation, authorization, and follow up. The ability to automate business process through the use of workflow templates make it easier to control and administer stated processes through the necessary steps. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Medical Device Manufacturer Increases Machine Productivity and Lean Efficiency

The introduction of a system that keeps track of utilization and productivity for any production machine, tool, or process on a shop floor is a revolutionary development in the lean manufacturing toolbox. The ability to differentiate between running time and down time is critical in the elimination of waste. For the benefits of lean to be accomplished the solution must keep track of the real-time distribution of parts being produced. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Plant Floor Automation Requirements for Food ERP Systems

The plant floor automation issues unique to the food manufacturing sector are significant. Finding an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system which addresses the idiosyncratic nature of food manufacturing is not easily accomplished. Despite claims, promises, and elements for success, few ERP vendors are comprehensive in providing the full spectrum of needed functionality. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) Reduction by 1%

Cost information in most organizations is fragmented throughout the enterprise. Critical pieces of cost information are spread across independent silos within an organization in different functions like engineering, planning, manufacturing, sourcing, and finance. This situation typically results in estimates that do not include all relevant information required to make accurate and predictive product cost assessments. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

ERP and CAD Integration in the Engineer-to-Order Environment

To most design engineers, an ERP system is either irrelevant or it is perceived as something that requires additional time and effort, often providing little or no value. One reason for this perception is that most ERP systems are not integrated with the design engineer’s drawing tool. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

The Lean Initiative: Linux and Digital Kanban

Most manufacturers have not achieved the performance improvements possible with lean manufacturing. While some steps in applying lean manufacturing principles have been taken, most manufacturing firms have not made significant progress in implementing lean manufacturing. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

The Small World of Aerospace and Defense

The aerospace and defense industry is a small manufacturing community. Most OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) rely on the same suppliers. In many cases, suppliers to multiple OEMs are wholly owned subsidiaries of one OEM. It is quite common to see multiple product teams from various OEMs at the same time, but in general, they all work well together. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Energy Management Impacting Automation and Business Operations

Manufacturing business leaders report energy management as one of the top threats to business growth; this fact augers the value of Cadence Network which provides a competitive advantage to multiple site organizations. Cadence Network CEO, Jeffrey Hart, recently announced that the firm has brought over 200,000 sites into its watch. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

e-Kanban: A Key to Lean

Kanban is a visual signal that something needs to be replenished. Lean Manufacturers today use Kanban to drive a process to make, move, or buy the appropriate parts. Thus, Kanban becomes one of the fundamental building blocks of a pull (or consumption based) replenishment system. No card? No Replenishment. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

PEER™ Provided Mustard Miller A Lean Automation Process

GS Dunn, dry mustard millers since 1867, used the analytical process PEER (Process Evaluation Executive Review) to capture the values of Lean Manufacturing throughout the enterprise. This functionality is accomplished utilizing an innovative process modeling and automation toolset helping manufacturers and distributors realize continuous process improvement and profitability. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.

Staying Competitive: Strategies for Engineer-to-Order Manufacturers regularly references "automated equipment & machine manufacturers." These manufacturers are ETO (Engineer-to-Order) companies. Today, ETO manufacturers, as opposed to repetitive manufacturers, are required to use technology to stay one step ahead of foreign competition. Read full article by Thomas R. Cutler.