In many assembly and fabrication businesses, one of the biggest challenges is knowing where product is as it moves through production. This is especially problematic when the product is complex, takes multiple shifts to complete, and involves a lot of people. This results in:
- Unplanned expedited orders – everything is moving through the assembly process according to schedule until a customer calls to ask where their order is. You run out to the assembly line to find out exactly where it stands. As the customer screams in your ear, the whole team goes into panic mode. Of course, expediting one order puts another customer’s order at risk, and you can end up with cascading problems.
- Partial shipments – Maybe you had a truck scheduled to pick up the order, but not all of it was ready. Since some is usually better than none, you went ahead and shipped what you had hoping it would tie the customer over. Your shipping costs go up as your credibility with your customer goes down.
- Chronically high WIP (Work in Progress) costs – one mid-sized assembly company realized this was their problem when the 2008 recession hit. They were assembling large units that would get moved off the production line if, say, a key component was missing. Sometimes these units would fall completely off of everyone’s radar until somebody noticed the order hadn’t been shipped. Meanwhile all of this WIP sat on the books. It was the accepted way of doing business.
- Increased stress – even panic – when any of the first three of these occur.
Whatever the experienced pain point, the underlying reason is the same: leaders lacking visibility into the true state of the progress of units through the assembly process.
System design considerations
Data acquisition considerations:
- Make sure you get the data you need from the people who are closest to it.
- Instill a culture that values bad news and rewards people for speaking up. Give people positive recognition for truth telling, even when that truth is not something you want to hear.
- Make sure data is easy to capture so that people find it easy to use.
- Collecting the right data is critical. You might think of this as the Goldilocks Problem: Too much data is costly, both in time and effort. Too little data can leave you without the ability to extract valuable insights into your business. You want the Baby Bear solution – not too much or too little, but just right.
- Fundamentally you’re after the status (Active or Stopped) of every unit at every gate. If something is Stopped or Incomplete, you need to know what is incomplete and why. Frequently your ERP system knows additional information about the job, the customer, and suppliers.
- Creating an automatic integration point between these systems and GainSeeker can eliminate the cost of getting that critical data into GainSeeker for further analysis. If you can get this information for free (and without imposing a burden on the operator) do so. It will have a profound, positive effect on the usability of the information at a low cost.
A rich repository of information can be used a number of ways:
- Inventory – Stage gate information provides a better handle on inventory bottlenecks. You’ll be able to predict what suppliers and components cause the most issues and proactively address underlying problems.
- Production Scheduling – With better knowledge you’ll be able to make better scheduling predictions. This information can be easily transformed into cycle time data, making it far easier to see shifts in on-time delivery. And when significant contextual information is provided, it can point to the root cause of bottlenecks.
- Regulatory Compliance – You can document compliance to your own build and content specifications. This is especially important in assembly situations with lots of component parts sourced from internal and external suppliers. There is overlap here with lot genealogy. The side benefit of knowing where stuff is, is that you also know what went into the product. This gives you a strong leg to stand on when you need to show you did what you said you would.
- Customer Service – Better tracking and accountability of workflow and inventory has a huge positive impact on customer service. Having this accurate, timely information available to customer-facing staff helps them be far more proactive. Reaching out to a client as soon as a problem surfaces can give you valuable time to plan together to find workable solutions.