Reasons to have project management software on your side when it comes to manufacturing companys

Software for Manufacturing Companies to Streamline Processes

Changes in economic and environmental conditions have spurred many manufacturing companies to streamline their production processes. This is in order to maximize resources and purge out the elements of wastes in their production lines. They make use of information technology by way of process solutions software, aimed at aligning the improvements according to what is relevant, competitive and cost-effective for their businesses.

Basically, the program adheres to lean manufacturing principles and techniques, in which the length of time devoted to produce a product can be shortened, and requires only a specific level of inventory to satisfy production demands, in order to minimize, if not eliminate the occurrence of wastes. Although there is a number of sophisticated software to choose from, the difficulty lies in determining what is relevant to the manufacturer’s needs and limitations, and what could make then globally competitive.

In order to address these concerns, management should have at least an idea of what is involved when manufacturing companies streamline their processes:

Analysis of the Work Processes and Flows

In a manually devised system, a process map or a process flowchart is often used for this purpose, as this enables the analyst to visualize how production takes place from start to finish. It serves as a map, since the flow of raw materials from one processing station to the next, will be depicted on a simulation of the actual layout of the plant area. The time it takes for a piece of material to move from one station to the next, the duration by which machineries are used and the number of workers assigned to handle a particular processing station, should all be indicated as part of the flowchart.

The objective of this is analysis is to pinpoint the activities that create value and to identify those that do not. The latter will be the object of the streamlining process because its elimination can shorten the length of time it takes to complete a product, without sacrificing the quality of the outputs. Streamlining strategies can be manually drawn-up and analyzed, but it takes time and may require reworking. Bear in mind that the results have to be evaluated and tested repeatedly, until a workable solution has been achieved. Hence, software that provides a tool for creating a process map is one of the criteria to consider.

The Process Modeler – This tool enables the analyst to put together a cost model of an actual process, and makes use of data pertaining to manpower requirement, time allotment, plant layout and utilization of machinery or equipment. As a business solutions tool, it is capable of distinguishing the value from the non-value activities being performed at each stage of processing. Moreover, its capability includes tracking relevant data, such as:

  1. The real time spent by each worker to perform a particular task;
  2. The duration by which a machinery was set into motion, and
  3. The downtime or idle time of these process elements in each work station.

Process Simulation – This software capability allows a more in-depth analysis of the work process, as it permits the simulation of different process models under diverse scenarios. One such scenario makes use of elements based on relevant industry standards. Other scenarios are those that make use of “what-if” presumptions, such as the elimination of non-value activities, the exclusion of manpower idle time and ruling out of equipment downtime, or even the re-arrangement of the activity stations.

Each stage of processing is modeled and simulated, and will be used to build an enterprise process model. That way, the analyst can easily compare and determine the most favorable paths in which the work process can flow, as well as identify the critical paths where a bottleneck condition may take place.

Critical Path Analysis – This software capability is essential in creating an enterprise process model in which all the process flow diagrams are combined and jointly analyzed, to generate a broad view of the entire manufacturing processes. Here, the elements of timing overlaps and interdependency of each work activity will be revealed, as a way to identify the causes of bottleneck occurrences.

All these features, however, merely deals with streamlining the processes of a manufacturing company, as far as the aspect of production is concerned. Yet, keep in mind that a manufacturing business comprises diverse actions, which make the streamline process more complex. Even if an enterprise process model has been successfully put together, there are other factors that can affect its effectiveness upon actual implementation.

As examples, consider the availability of raw materials, as this can be influenced by the timeliness by which they are delivered; or by existing governmental regulations that limit certain procurements. There is also the matter of meeting customers’ demands, and the time it takes to deliver the goods and convert the delivered goods into cash. Moreover, there are the competitors who have already made milestone improvements as they have streamlined their processes ahead of the others. Actually, most of these manufacturers already have the ability to deliver goods even on a short notice.

This denotes that in choosing software that can effectively streamline manufacturing operations, the company should consider those that can achieve other objectives aside from attaining the benefits of lean manufacturing. In effect, if the company’s sales performance does not create an increased demand for the manufactured goods, the matter of shortening production time and eliminating non-value activities to cut down on costs, can be perceived as a mere strategy for downsizing the work force.

ERP Systems

Most middle-sized manufacturing companies have adopted a system that is supported by enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, since it goes beyond providing solutions for streamlining the manufacturing processes. Here, the software shares and processes data to, and from one department to another. It also connects to other operational processes such as inventory control, logistics and customer relations management. This is to ensure that the scheduling of the manufacturing processes will complement the level of demand for the product, as the materials requirement and the production deadlines are based on actual orders placed by customers in real-time.

Inasmuch as streamlining a process is based on the principle of adding value to a work procedure, the financial data coming from the production sector are likewise linked to other back-office functions, particularly in the accounting and human resource departments. A good example is the man-hour utilized based on time log entries, which can be easily extracted by the accounting department for determining direct labor costs; while the same information is readily available to the human resource department for payroll purposes.

Since the system simplifies the process of disseminating accurate and uniform information throughout the organization, implementing, monitoring and evaluating the processes and procedures, takes less time to carry-out. Management can immediately address operational and organizational concerns, including those coming from customers, because any feedback or complaints received by the customer relations department are fed directly into the system.

The remaining issue to contemplate on is the matter of cost-effectiveness. This refers to the potential ability of the manufacturing company to recover the costs incurred, because the investment will bring in financial gains by way of increased sales. Investing in proprietary software is regarded as cost-intensive and recovering the amount invested tends to take longer.

However, most vendors of ERP software for manufacturing companies give their customers the option to choose between having software installed in their system, or by subscribing to the vendor’s web-based ERP applications. Still, the matter of deciding which option to choose should likewise be evaluated based on the value added by the streamline process in transforming its business into one where the operating costs are reduced and the revenues are likely to increase.

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