Collaborative production planning tool
March 5, 2020
Every factory needs to produce a certain amount of volume in order to cover expenses. For some factories this can be really tricky, specially in these days where there is so much uncertainty about the market. However, sometimes the economic situation is so good that the problem is how to keep production levels in control.
When sales people are killing it, production might turn into a kind of a mess. Orders get more difficult to manage as missing material is the new standard, change management becomes a nightmare and factory buffers are just gone. Even remembering the location of the finished products can be really challenging.
In these conditions, it's very likely that production managers spend countless hours checking the planning as they are the ultimate responsible for what happens on the factory floor. Even though they might not be physically in the plant, the phone won't stop ringing until the last order is shipped.
This does not end up right there. The ones that must be present in the factory are the team leaders. They check every order in the planning but work can get really stressful as more and more problems arise. At the end of the day, they have almost everything under control, but many small details can be forgotten on the piece of paper where they wrote all the orders updates. Papers can get lost.
Finally, production engineers must keep up with the pace and follow-up back and forth every update from either purchase, quality, engineering, etc. It's not surprising that changes appear at the very last moment of production, and a whole new procedure has to take place on the factory floor. This is a killer.
I think you get my point on all this. We all have been in this situation and can relate this is quite stressful. However, some tools might help us to solve part of these problems. We are in a digital era, where a tablet costs as low as $100 and there are plenty of apps to improve our daily habits. Why don't we try to include them into our business? Let's make a short example.
Instead of using a physical board to track the orders, we could use a digital one. Just making this small change can save the planning engineer quite a lot of hours per week for updating the stickers (or whatever method you use for the board). Best-case scenario would be every worker has a tablet for updating the status of all the orders, so that information is accessible in real time. Worst-case, only few workers have tablets and information is updated every 30-60 min. Not that bad, uh!
Issues could also be tracked in the factory floor with the tablets, and information wouldn't get lost on papers. White collars would be able to check the status of the orders and lots of mails could be saved. Something as easy as knowing where the orders are physically located could be solved, and there would be visual alerts in case of any change occurs. Everyone could have this information across the entire organization, easing the process of manufacturing and helping sales department to get more orders.
Sounds like sci-fiction? Actually it's not. This can be easily done with technology already developed and minimal setup-time. This is being used in many factories at this very moment. Below you can find a simple example of what can be achieved:
Managers, team leaders and engineers could have a better and more controlled time at the factory. They would only need to focus on solving problems, not tracking papers. This would definitely be a better use of their time. If you want more information about how you could implement these tools, feel free to drop me a message :) It's really a game-changer.