Improving Workflow Efficiency on the Shop Floor
Shop Floor Automation frequently allows a company to improve its throughput without the addition of extra people or equipment.
The existing systems of paper workflow prevented further growth of the company, keeping lead times lengthy (only one work center at a time could work on jobs), resulting in lost orders from time to time and making it impossible to know the status of any given job. In addition, capacity management was not possible because the salespeople had no visibility into the amount of work in the shop and the manufacturing team could not see all the orders at one time.
Automate a paper-based, shop-floor workflow to allow the company increase throughput without the addition of labor or equipment.
The company approached SDS with a seemingly well thought out overview of what the system needed to do. The existing systems of paper prevented further growth of the company, keeping lead times lengthy (only one work center at a time could work on jobs), resulting in lost orders from time to time and making it impossible to know the status of any given job. In addition, capacity management was not possible because the salespeople had no visibility of the amount of work in the shop and the manufacturing team could not see all the orders at one time.
When SDS signed on to custom develop the “Shop Floor System” their initial step was to assemble a cross-functional group of users and work through a process to gather all the necessary requirements. Once requirements were agreed upon, the team developed a project path. SDS began designing the layout of screens and describing how the system would work. As they progressed through this process, there were frequent updates discussions and modifications with the original requirements team. When the final product was released to production, not only were there no surprises to the users, but the system had been thoroughly tested so the system operated as expected from day one.
Upon implementation, the “Shop Floor System” enabled the inside sales desk to see current loading at each discrete work center in the plant. Since they could see the expected completion dates for every order, it was possible at the time of order acceptance to notify the customer of a realistic expected-ship date (on-time delivery jumped from 30-40% up to near 85% ). Lead times for items dropped from 4-5 days to 2-3 days due to the ability to start multiple items concurrently (Shop Floor could schedule individual parts, not just overall order). Each item to be produced was now color-coded. The majority of parts, which required ‘normal’ tolerances and had no special handling were white. IF there were other requirements for the parts, they would show up in various colors, all indicating to the production personnel that they needed to look for further instructions. All instructions were included in the system, so with a simple click or two on the touch screens located at each machine, they would know exactly what to do.
An unexpected and originally unplanned benefit of the system turned out to be a significant quality enhancement. With the paper system, the operators had to do the math to calculate the exact size to cut or mill parts to be within the customers’ ordered size/tolerance. The Shop Floor system was coded to perform that calculation for the operator which eliminated a common source of rejected product. In addition, the system was able to electronically feed the CMM (Coordinate Measuring Machine) and Laser measurement system so that final inspection could be performed and compared automatically to the customer order.
Once parts were completed, they changed color again and were moved electronically to shipping. Once all parts for the order were complete, shipping was notified that the order was ready to chip complete. The capability was added so that if a partial shipment was requested, shipping could easily locate the completed parts and ship said partial.
The ultimate benefits of the system were, reduced Lead times (nearly 50% reduction). Improved On-Time completion (100% improvement). Improved communication with customer (up front ship dates and real time status of orders). Quality improved from an average of 18-20 complaints per month to 2-3. The company was finally able to break through the previous volume barrier and went from being a $15M company in 2016 to a ~$25M company in 2019. This would have not been possible with the paper system.
In addition to the Shop Floor, it was identified that the inventory management system which had been written by the corporate IT group was severely lacking in accuracy and functionality. SDS rewrote the inventory system with the ability to integrate with Shop Floor and legacy order management (quoting, purchasing, order fulfillment) system.