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Method/Software for production scheduling / project management

Method/Software for production scheduling / project management

Method/Software for production scheduling / project management

(OP)
HI all,
there were many topics that are touching the subject of how to organize a team to increase the efficiency and productivity, but none of those topics covered what i have on hand. I am tasked to connect broken links within my organization. I also understand that software help is only valid if set-up system is proper.

So, i work in a small engineering company that is designing ASME Section VIII vessels. Units are following the same logic, but are designed to the specific application - no 2 are alike. If you work/have worked in such company, you understand that there is a stupid amount of data that is flowing in every possible direction (and it is increasing every day). In order to properly understand what is happening within the organization, that data needs to be organized into useful information and forwarded where ever needs to be forwarded. The big issue on hand is that we do not own machine shop, so all work is subbed-out, to several shops, which multiplies our work. AT this point, everything is handled by excel spreadsheets, and relying on human interaction emails and in-person and we do not have any file management system. All files, drawings, etc.. is stored in folders on our server.

Work flow is as follows:
Once order comes from sales, our production guy takes all the info and forwards it to engineering. Engineering forwards info to drafting for drawings. Once drawings are developed they go to customer for approval, and shops for quotation. Engineering also works on engineering submittals that can vary - calculations, flow diagrams, various data sheets and such, which all go out to customer for approval. At the same time QC guy is working on quality requirements (Usually Non-Destructive Tests and various material requirements), working with vendors on procedures and submitting said procedure to customer for approval. In any time of the project, information can flow backwards from shops/customer and relevant information needs to be updated where needed which can affect everything - thicker material due to pressure ratings, for example.

To complicate the problem, we are dealing with project differently based on the complexity. Some can go without engineer's input - drafting takes care of every detail. Some require engineers oversight for months. This messes up work flow, obviously, so you can't create SOP.

Obviously, having this many different aspects complicates our production supervision, as it is hard to tell whether the drawing went out to shop, or if the latest revision has been forwarded. This is also important as all of our larger orders are tied to progress payments, and it happens all the time that we miss to notice that we have reached a milestone for invoicing and do not invoice on time.

Now multiply this with ~900 POs that we have coming in on a yearly basis and many many more going out to our vendors/suppliers. (50% of our incoming POs are simple/spare orders, but some still need to be tracked)

And the biggest problem of all is a 100 year old system with older generation employees who may not be keen to changes, especially if it involves heavy computer use.


So my task is connecting production, procurement, invoicing and QA/QC into one unit, that will work seamlessly and provide our products to our customers on time (current late delivery rate is huge).



In terms of software, I looked at some project management cloud systems - bitrix, wrike, basecamp, and they really do not match our needs. I need something that is quick. We do not have long lasting tasks. I just need to know when document was received and to have it forwarded (or notified) automatically to whoever needs to be notified. It seems that , ion order to properly tackle this, a company wide document management system would be the best for my need. the drawback is that it needs time to implement and time to teach almost retired people on how to use it...


Any help, pointer, anything that can help me is very very much appreciated..



Thanks to all brave souls that were able to read through everything above and reach this point. Due t the length of this post, i may have failed to properly explain portions of my problem. Will clarify if needed.

RE: Method/Software for production scheduling / project management

I personally hate ERP systems but that's just me; I think if you are in control and when doable (your office size is still "small office" category) - then you should keep the system/tool - whatever it is named - you will opt for as simple/pragmatic as possible - key words here is: FIT FOR PURPOSE. Example: Why not an excel spreadsheet with some solid VBA programming behind and "tailor made" to your problem/workflow? When you start digging deep down into big commercial ERP systems, it is an absolute mess/nightmare (my perspective only). I think there are certain people who has less pragmatic and are literally ecstatic (PMP? MBA's?) and will jump at the very first occasion offered to them to have a commercial ERP infrastructure deployed. Its good if you are in charge as you can proactively be ahead of the game in this respect (ps. ERP = Enterprise resource planning).

RE: Method/Software for production scheduling / project management

You might try FogBugz. It was developed for software development and bug tracking, but I think you could use it for your needs. https://www.fogcreek.com/fogbugz It fits your description.

It is essentially a task manager with a very light interface.

The guy who founded and runs Fog Creek Software is Joel Spolsky, who created VBA for the Microsoft Office product line. He left because he wanted to run his own company his own way. He's written a lot about that so you can judge if he thinks in a way your company can get along with. His core concept is his company uses the software they develop as part of how the company works; so many other companies create software based only on what they think will sell.

Best of luck.

RE: Method/Software for production scheduling / project management

(OP)
rotw, thank you for the input. After reading your post, I will looking into something along those lines. Maybe even a completely custom small software (maybe VBA code with MS Access) to work around this problem. We have no one in house that is a coder so it would have to be subbed out...But our workflow is so complex that some data management or ERP software does make sense. Though implementation takes time, is expensive and complex and upper management usually does not like to hear that.

3DDave, looked at the fogbuz, and it's just too busy and not enough of what i need. Thank you for the suggestion though.


Thank you

RE: Method/Software for production scheduling / project management

I'm more manufacturing / operations focused, and not so much design engineering. But your description makes me think you are the poster child for the "I Need Some Product Data Management" club.

Wikipedia Definition of PDM

But then...

Quote (And the biggest problem of all is a 100 year old system with older generation employees who may not be keen to changes, especially if it involves heavy computer use.)


Quote (...the drawback is that it needs time to implement and time to teach almost retired people on how to use it...)


Well, there is that, isn't there? It appears your organization needs a culture change. In my experience that culture change will only come from the top authority level. It's unlikely much can be accomplished from your level down there where the rubber meet the road.

Suggestion: start small, go easy, force some success as a Proof of Concept. Perhaps Boss will see the light and begin the big changes needed.

TygerDawg
Blue Technik LLC
Virtuoso Robotics Engineering
www.bluetechnik.com

RE: Method/Software for production scheduling / project management

You need to create your SOP.

RE: Method/Software for production scheduling / project management

I suspect the root cause of many of your company's issues is the lack of standard process, without it folks cant effectively plan their work nor support others. I would recommend not getting bogged down too much in data/document storage until you have the process straightened out. Long before looking at software or other purchases I would start by getting a small multi-discipline team to put together a process map/work flow chart. To help with collaboration and engagement I like to have team members put each of their department's tasks on a separate sticky note (give each their own color), then place each sticky on a large sheet paper and sketch connecting flow lines between. Some will make fun of the stickies but using them allows easy rearrangement of tasks, keeps everybody involved/engaged/working/thinking, and is much faster for creating a rough draft and implementing early changes than sketching this out in powerpoint or other methods.

Quote:

To complicate the problem, we are dealing with project differently based on the complexity. Some can go without engineer's input - drafting takes care of every detail. Some require engineers oversight for months. This messes up work flow, obviously, so you can't create SOP.

Yours is far from the only custom engineering company to struggle with this, like most I suspect you will find your products don't vary enough to require more than a workflow or two. I would suggest starting with the initial process map created above and virtually run a few past products through it as a team to help find issues and solutions. In many cases simply having a team member give an approval to skip a step in the process is a better answer than creating/using a second process.

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