Advice on Software for Job Shops

Recently the manufacturing journalist, Derek Singleton published an interesting article in Software Advice that should be of strong interest to Job Shops.

During his research with shop leaders, three areas surfaced as essential components to consider when choosing software: flexibility of bill of materials, work order features and the ability to deliver real-time, actionable data. We at Memex believe in providing real-time data, automatically from the machine and complementing a flexible work order system on the shop floor. Our customers tell us the same things, as we support them to bring true value to their operations. Below is a quick synopsis of Derek’s article.

  1. A Flexible Bill of Materials Fosters Custom Production – Job shop production requires software that supports a dynamic bill of materials (BOM). As such, it’s important to look for BOM functionality that allows the production team to adjust materials during manufacturing processes. At the same time, there should be functionality to substitute alternative materials in an already defined BOM plan. This is a fundamental building block of job shop production and important feature for the high level of product variation in shops.
  2. Work Order Functionality Maintains Workflow – It’s not unusual for a mid-sized job shop to have 200 work orders floating around at a given time. Managing these manually is a paperwork nightmare – not to mention inefficient. With automated software, however, you can deliver work orders directly to machine operators at their work stations. This prevents operators from having to go to the production manager to ask for their next tasks.
  3. Real-time Data Creates a Proactive Environment – Having a flexible BOM and strong work order functionality does little good if real-time data isn’t accessible for employees to make the best decisions. The laundry list of information that needs to be kept up to date can be dizzying. A shop needs to know what’s being fabricated, what’s being scrapped, why items were scrapped, how many parts shipped and so on. Providing real-time access to this data clearly means gathering information in real time. One way to achieve this is to follow Forrest Machining’s lead: Put computers at or near every work station for workers to input data for analysis.

Beyond knowing which software components are the most important, it’s also necessary to understand how to get the most out of your system. In other words, the software alone cannot make your shop successful – you must also be able to make efficient use of the functionality to maximize your outcomes.