Like it or not, the global economy brought higher pressure and thinner margins right to your doorstep. Nobody feels this as keenly as the production managers and shop foreman in the small manufacturing operation. These key individuals must constantly pace the shop floor to eyeball the process and look for problems, shepherding workflow and throughput through a mix of first-person viewpoint, second-hand information, and a variety of tracking systems. These methods can include disconnected spreadsheets, phone calls, emails, face-to-face conversations, and the good old scheduling whiteboard, which is frantically updated as demands and challenges change.
Tracking money, time and materials from work order to a finished, shippable product takes a lot of time. And while you may work courageously and diligently to stay on top of it all and also ship quality parts, sometimes that far-flung, cobbled-together system of reporting and your intuition leaves you vulnerable to costly mistakes and delays.
How much stress and cost could you save just by removing manual steps, such as those that require double-entry of critical production data or removing second-hand information with its associated errors? Would it be valuable if you had one integrated solution that would convert quotes to sales orders and auto-create work orders based on demand? Would it be helpful to see work center loading, employee utilization, or time-phased material planning based on that? If you are like a typical production manager, it’s all about the ability to see and correct mistakes (such as those overloaded work centers) before they snarl your workflow, jeopardize quality, and cost your company money and customer goodwill. Plus, as you are more than well aware, no job ever goes quite as planned. Do you have an easy way to see the impact of adjusting production to accommodate rush orders, errors or other unforeseen factors?
Not having that single picture of what’s happening on the floor — or a seamless way to connect it with processes like quoting or material planning — is one of the main reasons that being production manager at a small- or medium-sized manufacturing company is so stressful.
Regardless of how you choose to overcome the challenges (obviously we would like to help), the idea is for you to spend less time tracking down information and more time keeping operations on track. This will result in fewer rush jobs, fewer unplanned gaps in production and a more efficient operation overall — as well as a lot less pacing the floor and tracking down data from your team, plus the various documents and your overworked white board. Life is much better when you tame the complexity of your manufacturing operations.
Ralf Suerken is Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing at KeyedIn Solutions, Inc.