Build-To-Order Manufacturing Software Plays A Key Role For Precision Manufacture

Manufacturing software that works well in both build-to-order and build-to-stock modes has played a key role as Penn United Technology (Saxonburg, Pennsylvania) doubled sales during the last three years, according to Darrin Grove, CIM Manager.

Manufacturing software that works well in both build-to-order and build-to-stock modes has played a key role as Penn United Technology (Saxonburg, Pennsylvania) doubled sales during the last three years, according to Darrin Grove, CIM Manager. Penn United got its start making progressive stamping dies, but it has grown, the company has expanded into production stamping, plating, automated assembly, prototype tooling and carbide manufacturing.

The company's progressive stamping dies and automated assembly equipment are custom orders, while its production stamping, plating, and assembly products are made to stock. The progressive die side of the shop operates like a job shop, which requires use of finite scheduling methods to provide an accurate production planning picture. On the other hand, the stamping and plating sides of the business generally build product to stock, a business model that normally requires an MRP II system.

In the past, Penn United used a custom-manufacturing system that it had developed in-house. That system was driven by the needs of the accounting system and impeded growth because it didn't provide the information needed by manufacturing. The inventory module was not as effective at alerting management when it was running out of material for a build-to-stock job. The company also had several other stand-alone applications, including a quoting system. The use of unconnected applications meant that a considerable amount of data had to be entered multiple times in different systems. Management had made a decision to replace the old system with a standard product that would give the software vendor the responsibility of keeping the program up to date. The company recognized that no system would meet all of its needs out-of-the-box; it wanted a package which could be customized to handle its special needs.

The company heard about a new Windows-based manufacturing software package that was designed to handle mixed-made manufacturing, including make-to-order, assemble-to-order, and make-to-stock. The package, VISUAL Manufacturing from Lilly Software Associates, Inc. of Hampton, New Hampshire, provides finite and infinite capacity scheduling with the ability to test unlimited "what if" solutions with drag and drop. The management decided to purchase VISUAL manufacturing, which has an integrated environment to handle planning, estimating, costing, capacity scheduling, material usage and financial accounting.

The software applies available resources to the job and quickly highlights any shortages in components or manpower. Resources are listed down the left side of the screen while the time horizon is presented across the top. Orders that are behind schedule are highlighted in red.

The system automatically keeps track of all the materials and time that are expended in producing custom orders. Each job can then be analyzed and discussed by the manufacturing teams. When a quote or order for any item is entered, the system immediately provides a cost breakdown. The graphical presentation makes it easy to determine the status of any job at a single glance.

Any problems highlighted by the schedule can be quickly investigated by clicking with the mouse on the manufacturing operation of interest. This makes it possible to investigate the reason for the bottleneck, such as whether it is a materials shortage or a reduction in efficiency of a particular operation.

At the operation level, the user can quickly drill down to each shop resource to see how each one is doing. With the new system, teams are able to identify quickly which jobs are in trouble and where the bottleneck is. This makes it possible to take immediate action to deal with the problem. By focusing on the information provided by the system, Penn United has increased its on-time delivery rate by 25 percent. Penn United can also provide customers with the status of most jobs within a few seconds, even as a customer is on the phone seeking information about its order.

The software integrates the company's manufacturing operations and financial recordkeeping into a single environment. This eliminates the need to re-enter data into multiple applications. With the new system, all manufacturing data automatically flows through to accounting, which saves a tremendous amount of time and reduces the possibility of mistakes.

The team environment, which was adopted at the same time as the new software was being implemented, has made an even greater contribution to improved manufacturing efficiency. VISUAL Manufacturing plays a critical role in the operation by providing the team with an easy-to-understand graphical depiction of how it is doing in meeting scheduling and cost bogies. It has provided management and employee teams with much better control over production flow, and it has reduced the amount of time required for production planning. Having a fully integrated software package that tracks all jobs and summarizes manufacturing information in a graphical format has been essential to team development and has played a key role in Penn United's continued growth and success.

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