Are you unsure of your average production lead times? Which operatives are working on which jobs? And what machines are currently in use? There’s a good chance you have a rough idea of this, but when do you find out if things change? If it’s not until the end of the day, or when someone comes to tell you, then it’s too late. Fortunately, this blog will reveal how tracking live Work-in-Progress makes it easy for you to stay informed of everything that happens on your shop floor and how to implement live WIP tracking in your business.
Tracking Live WIP is essential in any manufacturing business. It provides visibility of what’s currently in production, what jobs are up next, and who’s working on what. Ultimately, live WIP tracking uses production data that’s updated in real-time from the shop floor to both managers and line workers to improve operational efficiency.
If you’re not sold already, we will now look at how live WIP tracking can benefit your business.
Increasing productivity and utilisation is one of the main benefits of live WIP tracking. And, this is an area you probably look to continually improve in your business. Well, fortunately this system allows you to do just that. People utilisation can be measured by noting the time an operative is allocated to work on something. This can increase productivity by viewing the amount of completed work that is achieved within that time. Overall, this makes for a more efficient process and highlights to the production manager work that’s taken longer to complete. As a result, managers can identify areas where an operative may require additional training to increase their productivity times.
Live WIP tracking lets you monitor which operatives are working on each job in real-time. So, you can use this information to make informed decisions. For example, having a clear view of the capacity available before accepting a new job, so you can ensure you’re able to deliver it On Time in Full. Or, by giving you visibility of every job and where it’s up to and if you have any delays or issues, you can react and intervene quickly as they occur to minimise the impact. Ultimately, having the power to control your workflow and capacity can improve the overall efficiency of your whole business.
Additionally, you might be wondering if there is a benefit of this system to your customers? Absolutely!
Your customers can also receive the latest information. For example, a customer might call to ask for an update on their job. When this happens, you more than likely go to the shop floor and ask for an update, right? However, when you have visibility of live WIP, this information is readily available on the screen for you. So, when the customer calls, you can look it up on the computer in front of you and give them an immediate update. Without this system, it creates more work for you to do, especially if you visit the shop floor and get stopped a handful of times – before you know it you’re on the shop floor for a couple of hours and not completed any of your own work!
Implementing live WIP tracking is fairly simple. And, you may already have the foundations of what you need.
An MRP system (Material Requirements Planning) is often the first step for manufacturers to manage production. However, to implement live WIP tracking, you need both a plan of your shop floor activities, and a process to capture information as it’s started and completed on the shop floor.
You can achieve this through adding Shop Floor Data Capture (SFDC) and Production Scheduling modules to your existing MRP or Production Control system.
Let’s take a closer look at what these systems are:
Firstly, Scheduling software is becoming more popular for businesses when looking for an MRP/ERP system. A scheduler enables you to plan in all jobs according to delivery targets and resource availability. So, you can track work-in-progress and see who’s operating on them.
Advanced scheduling systems can also allow you to perform a ‘what-if’ analysis on customer jobs before accepting them. Therefore, you can see the effect the job will have on the shop floor and if you have enough capacity to complete the job to the deadline.
Combining SFDC with your existing production control system empowers your shop floor operatives to perform their jobs effectively. With daily work-to lists, users can log activities as they’re started and completed directly from the shop floor. SFDC supplies regular updates from the shop floor into the system. Therefore, if a customer calls up regarding a job, this data is readily available to share with them if required.
SFDC enables shop floor operatives to log on and off jobs in real-time to facilitate live WIP tracking. All information captured on the SFDC system is immediately visible on your production control or scheduling system. So, you can always know the latest developments, and consider any adjustments required to ensure on-time delivery.
Furthermore, if you have an integrated business intelligence tool, it creates a visual outlook on the data captured from the shop floor. Information such as, how long jobs have taken to complete, compared to the expected duration. Recording information such as quantities completed and scrapped, and inspection problems. This data provides an overview of the overall performance of the business. You can view this through visuals such as bar charts, pie charts and counters.
The Scheduler ultimately works well with SFDC. For example, the Scheduler intelligently plans in jobs according to live capacity availability to optimise resources and plan production to achieve delivery efficiencies and cost targets. This then communicates information to shopfloor engineers via the SFDC, who receive it on their terminals in the form of work-to lists. Then, as they clock on and off jobs or machines, it reports progress back to the scheduler system, so it can continually update and optimise the plan based on progress.
Additionally, SFDC can log machine usage which writes back to the asset management part of the system. This works alongside a preset control for how regularly the machine should be used before undergoing a maintenance check.
Meanwhile, the Scheduler can automatically plan in maintenance activities. So, if the usage captured on SFDC triggers the preset control, the Scheduler will automatically schedule a date and time for it to be done. Also, based on the expected usage of a machine that is planned, it might require a maintenance check in the middle of the month. The Scheduler plans this in around other jobs that are on to ensure it’s completed with minimal disruption to the schedule. This is useful because you might otherwise miss dates for regular maintenance checks which will result in machine downtime. Then, you might have urgent jobs required which makes it difficult to plan in the maintenance. So, a delay in maintenance increases the likelihood of a machine fault. This would take the machine completely out of action until it’s repaired.
So, if you’re unsure of your average production lead times, which operatives are working on which jobs, and what machines are currently in use. Live WIP tracking seems like the way forward to solve these issues, right?
Providing you with a clear picture of the real-time events happening in your factory, will make you better equipped to minimise disruption, improve operational efficiencies, and increase customer satisfaction.
Whether you have an existing MRP system or not, the Scheduler and SFDC together makes it straightforward to implement live WIP tracking. They will assist with the improvement in visibility and traceability, optimise resources and help control your workflow.
At Fitfactory, we help manufacturing SMEs implement live WIP tracking by offering the Scheduler and SFDC alongside our production control system. Pope & Meads commented on the system; “Using our Fitfactory solution has improved levels of efficiency throughout, therefore increasing work productivity. Fitfactory has taken the juggling and the drudgery out of our business, enabling us to get on with what we do best.”
To find out how you can implement live WIP tracking effortlessly, speak to a member from our team.