Airing Dirty Laundry

A manufacturer we recently profiled plans to enable customers to track their jobs through the shop floor in real time. Will the benefits of such a policy outweigh the potential pitfalls?


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Customers will be able to track movements of parts, such as this locomotive engine,
through the various stages of manufacturing.

Imagine if your customers could remotely monitor the progress of their work through your shop—with little or no input from you—simply by entering part ID numbers into a computer from the comfort of their homes or offices. Imagine if they could obtain a real-time picture of the manufacturing process, including which workstation a particular part occupied at the moment, which operations were being performed, how long those operations would take, where the part would go from there, and so on. That might be great from the customer’s perspective, but how comfortable would you feel exposing your operation to such scrutiny?
One company that’s not afraid to air any potentially dirty laundry is Bley LLC (Elk Grove Village, Illinois), a contract manufacturer that is working to implement the scenario described above. Internally, the company already tracks jobs in this way, primarily through an ERP system from Epicor Software that seamlessly integrates with another application to collect real-time data from machines on the shop floor, says manager Krishna Rajagopal. (Read how the Epicor ERP system has affected Bley’s operations.)
Providing customers access to much of that same information could have some negative consequences, Mr. Rajagopal admits. Nonetheless, he maintains that such unprecedented transparency will pay off by instilling a sense of pride in employees, ensuring that data is reliable, improving trust with customers, and ultimately, bringing in more business.

Has your company taken any steps to become more transparent, or have customers pressured you in any way to do so? Alternatively, have your expectations for transparency on the part of your own suppliers changed in recent years? Comment below or e-mail me at mdanford@mmsonline.com