When T. C. Scott Machining Inc. (Wilsonville, Oregon), a 15-person prototype shop, experienced a dramatic increase in business volume last year, a potential crisis loomed. The small company had 200 customers and 60 active jobs, many of them multi-component prototyping jobs with tight turnaround. The increase in business was leading to unpredictability and potential problems.
The shop provides a range of milling, turning and contouring operations tailored to the requirements of industrial companies in the Northwest. It specializes in prototypes for high-tech model shops, short runs of critical parts for military applications and long runs of parts made to close tolerances. The shop runs two shifts daily and relies heavily on its versatile CNC machines.
In late 2003, owners Chris Allender and Rick Eilers agreed they needed to increase productivity quickly or risk losing valued customers. They decided to invest in a high-precision horizontal milling center capable of quadrupling production. But first, the company had to jump some hurdles. "In order to have a machine like this on the floor, we needed scheduling software to keep it fully loaded, organized and running at all times," Mr. Allender says.
Although the shop was already ISO 9000:2000 compliant and had quality controls in place, it lacked the ability to schedule, and its homegrown ERP system was slow and inadequate. Mr. Allender explains, "I needed reports showing who was running our workcenters, the number of parts manufactured per day and their cycle time performance—basic information to accurately determine profits on a job-to-job basis."
Other improvements were also necessary to ramp up productivity. Mr. Allender and Mr. Eilers had responsibility for different customers and, therefore, they needed to stay in close communication, yet oversee separate pieces of the business. They also hoped to eliminate the time consuming re-entry of information that plagued their current system. Also, bar coding needed to be implemented for time collection. The company's office manager used to spend half of a day entering time against jobs. When issuing invoices, she had to manually track down records showing labor, outsourcing, material expenses, tooling, drills, fixturing and so on, and then enter the information on a spreadsheet.
In December 2003, the owners selected a fully integrated business management system—Exact JobBoss from JobBoss Software (Minneapolis, Minnesota). Their initial goals included fast, accessible live data, single-time entry and implementation of scheduling by the second quarter of 2004, when they planned to order the new milling center.
Implementation went well, and employees adhered to a strict timetable and trained on the Web. Less than 6 months later, T. C. Scott is 100 percent make-to-order, handling 80 percent prototype work and 20 percent repeat production runs. The system makes it easy for Mr. Allender to access job history and profitability data, then quote repeat jobs with precision, giving customers the best deal possible. The team can look up jobs online and access notes, instructions and special requests on job travelers without having to track Mr. Allender down.
Also, jobs no longer get sidetracked. "JobBoss moves complex prototype jobs through the shop on schedule from quoting through production, inspection, shipping and automatic invoicing. Outsourcing, such as anodizing or silk screening, happens on time and is strictly monitored to adhere to the schedule," Mr. Allender says.
"In just 4 months, the system has made it possible to increase productivity 40 percent on the shop floor while still maintaining our 100 percent on-time delivery," he continues. "We wouldn't have been able to target the new horizontal milling center without it."
Mr. Allender believes the company has already paid for the system in that it has solved its purchase order problems and eliminated double entry of information. We no longer have to track down purchase orders, assign them to a job and then re-enter the information. "Now, when I make a purchase, I fill out my purchase order and attach it to the job, and at the same time, I'm on the phone with the vendor. Then it's done. The system is fully integrated, so information is reflected throughout the reports we run."
Mr. Allender and Mr. Eilers look forward to expanding their use of JobBoss as they expand the business. "With the system fully implemented and the new machine running 24 hours a day, we expect to quadruple our business within the next year or two, solving our production problems and retaining all of our customers," Mr. Allen explains.