Shop floor efficiency is vital for controlling costs, finishing jobs on schedule and operating a profitable manufacturing business. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provides a powerful tool for achieving these outcomes. When properly implemented, it helps simplify shop floor processes while generating significant cost reductions in labor, inventory, purchasing, materials and overhead.
An ERP system generates significant improvements in employee efficiency primarily through its ability to track, organize and digitally display real-time data on every aspect of the production process. When shop floor personnel have access to this data at their fingertips, their performance, production and efficiency can’t help but improve.
The right data
Employee efficiency starts with what many users consider to be ERP’s most valuable feature – shop floor data control. With ERP, managers can track time, attendance, labor costs, inventory and other shop floor performance metrics with superb precision and ease. More importantly, they can track the information as it happens on the shop floor rather than after a job is completed. For machinists and other shop floor personnel, an ERP system provides real-time status of work orders, jobs in progress, changes to scheduling and more.
One of the biggest reasons for shop floor inefficiency occurs when employees stand idle because they don’t have the materials or information to do the job, or they don’t know what to work on next. ERP minimizes unnecessary red time by providing access to shop floor data and especially so when it’s accessible via Shop Floor Data Collection screens from Global Shop Solutions installed in various locations. These screens, which are often displayed on a computer monitor, connect directly with the ERP system, providing instant access to job and performance data with just a few keystrokes.
When everyone on the shop floor has the right data at the right time, production flows in a smooth and efficient manner. Live dispatch lists ensure shop floor personnel know exactly on which job they should be working. Machinists don’t waste time going to a board or looking for a supervisor because that information is instantly available on the Shop Floor Data Collection screens in a machine dispatch list. They can also digitally log on and off all jobs, eliminating the need to manually fill out timecards, job logs and material usage spreadsheets.
Another important Shop Floor Data Collection software feature for metal fabricators is the ready access to drawings, job instructions, customer revisions and other information to ensure jobs are correctly performed. Global Shop Solutions’ Shop Floor Data Collection software can be set up so drawings and work instructions are automatically displayed when machinists log into a job. This not only ensures they’re working on the right job, but it also provides the information needed to build parts to exact customer specifications.
At the manager and supervisor level, an ERP system provides a rich and detailed overview of what is happening on the shop floor, allowing them to make in-the-moment adjustments based on live data. For example, the Global Software Solutions’ ERP software tracks labor and material costs at every step of the job. This enables managers to see when actual labor and material costs are exceeding estimates while jobs are in progress. Parts or material may be late arriving. An employee may be making parts incorrectly. Machines may need maintenance. Whatever the problem, the Shop Management module provides the data to keep jobs on track and on schedule.
In today’s low-cost manufacturing markets, small time savings achieved every day can have a big impact on efficiency. Shop floor display screens do an excellent job of reducing employee idle time. However, depending on where the screens are located, machinists and other shop floor personnel may have to leave their workstations to access the data needed to perform their jobs. At the end of the day, these small amounts of red time can add up to significantly lower employee efficiency.
The obvious solution would be to install shop floor display screens at every work center. It also helps to install TV screens or large monitors throughout the shop floor. Having employees see on-time delivery, shop performance and any other metrics helps them understand how things are running.
Large TV screens on the shop floor serve as customizable dashboards that prominently display real-time data pulled from the ERP system. Without leaving their workstations, employees can access digital dispatch lists and view the status of work orders in progress, hot jobs that need immediate attention, important dashboards and anything else they need to know. Global Shop Solutions’ real-time TrueView Data Display software and TV screens provide up-to-the-moment information about what’s happening on the shop floor as well as a preview of what needs to happen next.
The ability to customize dashboards is essential for maximizing efficiency. Our customers generally set up their dashboards by department – one for CNC, one for welding, etc. – so employees at each work center receive the exact information they need. Imagine having a dozen dashboards throughout the shop floor all displaying real-time information to the people who need it most. The results can be prodigious, and often go beyond merely boosting efficiency.
Within 30 days of implementing TrueView, a precision metal fabricator customer increased productivity by 20 to 25 percent. Another example comes from a wood product and component manufacturer. Despite averaging nearly 500 hours a month of indirect time, management thought the business was operating at full capacity. After installing 18 TrueView screens around the shop floor, indirect time plummeted to 50 hours per month, creating the capacity to schedule more jobs, increase margins and pay employees more.
Designed to display all labor and work in process on the shop floor, TrueView makes the information visible and readable while replacing paper-based reports for schedules, efficiency and more. After the initial setup, TrueView doesn’t require man hours to support and cuts down on the cost of paper floating around the shop floor.
Cover all aspects
ERP injects added efficiency and accountability into virtually every aspect of the business. Other areas include:
- Material transfers. Inefficient material movement can slow down entire production lines. ERP software allows shop floor employees to print material pick lists and issue materials from their shop floor screens for fast efficient transfer of parts and materials. It is tough to issue when the parts location and pick list do not match. Now we are working for parts.
- Scheduling. Accurate scheduling is vital to efficient production. With features like forward and backward scheduling, machine calculators and finite machines, ERP software makes it easier to schedule equipment and employees and accurately estimate job completion times. Shop floor personnel can access accurate dispatch lists directly from their shop floor screens to see what’s scheduled for today and tomorrow.
- Tracking parts and move tickets. Shops often need to re-engineer or change processes in the middle of a job. ERP software simplifies the process of tracking parts already made by printing and attaching move tickets so the parts are properly identified and tagged and the manufacturing process is always up to date. This feature is especially useful for shops where the certifications require the material to be tracked and identified every step of the way until it is shipped.
- EDI integration. Another way an ERP system can save time and money is by using electronic data interchange (EDI) software to facilitate the exchange of business data between two companies. Electronic transfer of purchase orders, invoices, inventory levels, shipping notices and other data speeds up the order entry process while eliminating the need of communication between the two companies. Everything is automated.
- Nesting software. The ability to interface with nesting software enhances shop floor efficiency by reducing setup time and material waste. It allows the ERP system to share information with the nesting software, including work orders, inventory levels, work center details and other data, to optimize material usage. When the job is completed, it sends the labor applied, material drops, scrap and material issued back to the ERP system.
Ultimately, ERP creates a culture of performance and accountability on the shop floor. Employees know their production efficiency is being tracked. Managers know who’s getting it done and who isn’t, and they have the data to support it. Armed with this data, they can reward top performers for their hard work and identify less efficient employees who might need more training or coaching to improve their performance.
Manufacturers that rely on ERP to improve employee efficiency find it easier to respond to short lead times, handle last-minute changes to jobs in process and get jobs out the door on schedule. This, in turn, enables them to compete more effectively in their respective markets and build long-term relationships with customers who trust their ability to ship quality parts on time every time.