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Shop Floor Productivity with iTuple

By on Oct 30, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

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Following up on a previous post, I’d like to preview with you some of the great, new features coming in iTuple for the shop floor, features that will greatly benefit shop floor productivity, efficiency, and accuracy.


What is Enhanced Manufacturing?

Nearly two years ago, we sat down with a customer and drafted the original design documents for something we’ve come to know as “Enhanced Manufacturing” or EM for short.  The concept for EM had come out of years of xTuple use and the customer’s drive for continuous improvement, not to mention the occasional “How did that happen?” moments that every manufacturer deals with.  EM began as a plan to improve quality and eliminate mistakes made on the shop floor.  Today, it is a product and a process for xTuple manufacturers that realizes that plan.

We (together with the customer) observed that the xTuple system was too far removed from the people who worked on the shop floor.  The system had all of the information the shop floor needed, only it was half-way across the room on a laptop or desktop computer.  This condition implied that the system which guided and recorded the shop floor activities was detached from the actual manufacturing process.  Our goal was to close that gap.

A second challenge for the customer was human error.  Too often, incorrect or mislabeled materials were issued during production runs, resulting in the wrong final product.  Sometimes that product made it all the way to the customer before the mistake was discovered, and this condition impacted the bottom line.  A quality control step was imperative.  Again, all the information was there in xTuple, but it was too far away from the materials and actual work.

Already, we had something of a proof of concept with our iTuple offering.  We had put fixed asset tracking and inventory counts into a handheld form with a direct connection to the xTuple database.  With the attachment of a bar code scanner, inventory counts were faster and more accurate and fixed assets could be moved about with ease.  What would it require to adapt this technology to manufacturing?

The answer to that question and the rest of story of how EM came to be is probably the topic of a future post.  Now that we have iTuple EM, let’s take a brief look at its features.

Manufacturing with iTuple EM

Below is a short list of the raw, mobile features of iTuple EM.

  • Select a work order from a work center according to scheduling and assignment rules set up at the back office.
  • Optionally identify a machine at which work is about to take place.
  • View the entire traveler for the work order as a list of operations, materials, and characteristics.
  • Start work on an operation if allowed.
  • Start and stop the work order time clock.
  • Issue materials to a work order or work order operation.
  • Return or scrap issued materials as needed.
  • View item images and PDF documents on the device.
  • Scan just about everything related to the work order, including items, locations, lot/serial number, expiration and warranty dates and machines.
  • View operational requirements and instructions.
  • Post operations (partial or complete), dividing clocked time between setup and run time.
  • Post production on operations where inventory is received.
  • Record incidents that occur on machines during production runs.
  • View real time inventory levels.

iTuple WO

How does iTuple EM improve shop floor productivity?

First and foremost, mobile technology bridges a gap between manufacturers’ enterprise systems and the work those systems record, schedule, and monitor.  iTuple EM provides this essential link in the xTuple system.  Here are some implications of mobility for shop floor productivity:

  • When the system is close to the work, the workers can rely on it.  When the system is too far removed, the workers do not even trust that the system data are correct.  Instead they come up with ways to work around the system.  Mobility makes using the system convenient for the workers, and the workers gain confidence in and with the system.
  • System activities occur in real time where the real work is done.  Issuing a material, for instance, means scanning the material to ensure it really belongs in the work order and entering the quantity to issue at the time the material is actually used.   Often on shop floors issuing materials instead means using the material and recording the fact later…perhaps much later.
  • Mobility makes it much more practical for the system to become part of the manufacturing process instead of an afterthought.
  • The bar code scanner and immediate look-up capabilities help workers verify quickly that they have the right materials.
  • The system can actively help prevent mistakes.

Where to go from here?

Remember that having a system is just the beginning.  Adopting the system, learning good processes, and achieving process discipline are the majority of the battle.  Having a system that is convenient–one in which the workers can readily see the benefits–goes a long way to establishing these process prerequisites.  If you want to bring your xTuple system closer to your workers, consider iTuple as part of your solution.

See additional iTuple resources.

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