Minute-To-Minute Costing Helps Shop Work Leaner


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Established in 1994, Pattern Technologies, Inc. (Hartland, Wisconsin) employs 60 people and serves the OEM, casting and injection molding industries. The shop specializes in rapid product design, engineering and development, as well as production tooling and molds.

When the company decided to implement JobBoss from Exact Software (Minneapolis, Minnesota) in 1999, it had numerous goals in mind. The company wanted to deal with the increasing volume of changes; enhance service to its customer base; and achieve total integration. It was also essential to ensure that changes could be entered once so that all shop employees would be able to work with the same up-to-date information.

JobBoss is shop management software for job shops. Developed specifically for contract manufacturers, the system provides work flow management, including quoting, order processing, flexible scheduling, purchasing, labor tracking, real-time data collection, quality control, shipping, job costing and integrated accounting. This enables users to be aware of how much jobs cost so that they can compare the estimated to actual labor, material and outside service costs. Users can also isolate problem jobs during the process.

Having experienced success with the previous version, the company purchased the software's redesigned Data Collection bar coding module this year. The shop's workload is comprised entirely of custom jobs—some of which are due in 6 months; some in 6 hours. Because of this, the module has been valuable for the shop's up-to-the-minute costing features. Ease of use, single-server convenience and good security were other deciding factors.

Terry Moon, president and CEO of the company, notices a difference between JobBoss 8.1 and prior versions of the system.

"In the past, we relied on manually entering time cards," says Mr. Moon. "Using Data Collection's automated time and attendance, the office manager and her assistant now save 8 to 12 hours per week.

"With the new module, we stay in touch with the job on a minute-to-minute basis versus every day or two, which is a huge advantage," he continues. "Our tooling has product life cycles of 5 to 10 years. Most of our products are related to automotive, marine, small engine, recreational, agricultural and construction."

Mr. Moon explains that after his company makes a product and delivers it to the customer, Pattern never sees that product again. "Our jobs typically range from $10,000 to $1 million. Some have a half-year time frame, while many are in and out in a day. Diversity like that makes real-time costing invaluable."

Employees also rely on Data Collection's tracking and receiving of goods and services. After materials enter the shop, they are put into the system in minutes rather than hours. They also hit the books faster.

"Sooner rather than later, I know the cost structure on the job and whether it's going to do well," says Mr. Moon.

According to the company, another favorable aspect of the system is its ease of use. Implementing the latest release went smoothly, and within 1 week, the shop was using the system without errors. Data Collection terminals are situated at four general locations on the floor, and designers and engineers have the module loaded onto their computers.

Using a single server for all JobBoss modules eliminated potential transfer-of-data problems and lock-ups. As system administrator, Mr. Moon values the intuitiveness of the security features. Employees can now log into a job and enter a couple of numbers to display the needed information.

The company's supervisors take advantage of the scheduling feature and anticipate using it in the future. "The functionality allows a supervisor to arrange work schedules the night before or morning of an employee's workday. This means that he/she can locate the job on the floor and get right to work the next morning," says Mr. Moon. "This is something our supervisors will definitely use down the road."

Overall, the JobBoss Data Collection workstation driver and minute-to-minute costing have enabled to company to work leaner. "In addition to improving customer service and internal communications, we are controlling costs," concludes Mr. Moon.