Basic primer on selecting a fenestration specific manufacturing system
These challenging times present a great opportunity to step back and re-evaluate your policies and procedures in order to put your company on the forward cusp of the economic rebound, better organized and able to take on more work more efficiently. Bear in mind, the end result is tightly tied to the front end research, so do your homework. The right Enterprise Resource Planning system can integrate the key business functions within your organization, boosting the bottom line. The wrong ERP system quickly deplete your IT budget.
In the following article, I will provide a basic primer on selecting a manufacturing system specific for the window and door manufacturing industry.
Breadth and depth of the solution: Research the product's capabilities from front to back and don’t let the overall cost be the deal breaker. The lower priced systems are cheaper for a reason; they miss functionality of the high dollar systems. Unfortunately, many companies miss the whole picture and by the time they integrate third party applications to accommodate the functionality that is inherent of the larger full feature systems, they are well beyond the costs of what they thought was the high-dollar solution.
Order entry functionality: The heart of your business is the ability to accept orders. Ensure the software you’re evaluating has a strong order entry system as well as a flexible product configuration engine. Look for a parametric configuration tool that works with an underlying rule based engine for foolproof order entry.
Once the order is accepted, look for a system that feeds the downstream processes without the need for “double checking.” The system should integrate to the production systems and equipment without additional intervention. In essence, the order entry should create all of the production documentation as well as the files needed to run the equipment on the plant floor such as saws, welders, glass cutters, CNC equipment, etc.
Production scheduling: Look for a system capable of supporting multidimensional production planning, or MPS, tailored to the fenestration industry. Planning based on line capacities, transportation requirements, revenue optimization, equipment availability, vendor lead times and other enterprise specific scenarios need to be accommodated.
Optimized Master Production Scheduling includes scenarios affected by just-in-time inventory methodologies as well as build-to-stock requirements. Equipment changes, line re-assignments and resource balancing are used to provide the most comprehensive MPS. A well-designed system allows planners to draw orders into and out of batches, re-assign sub-assemblies to different lines and batches, or outsource components. Multishift capabilities allow components of an order to be scheduled on different lines at different times in order to converge the entire order at the right time. Supplier-part-pending orders should be dynamically introduced to the MPS when parts arrive, freeing line capacity. Defective subassemblies and repair parts should be included in the MPS.
Workstation throughput and cycle times should be considered by the system when generating the MPS. This allows the planners to re-assign resources to bottleneck points within the manufacturing process. Additionally, financial analysis can be performed down to the product level using materials and labor as discrete components. A properly installed MPS system allows you to manage rather than react.
Materials management: The fenestration industry requires unique functionality for materials management. Ensure that your product components, their properties and specific ordering characteristics fit within the materials management module.
All systems have the ability to create purchase orders automatically as inventory levels fall but also look to ensure that the system also identifies materials that are only ordered when you have a confirmed order for such material. This is used to more effectively manage high cost items as well as low use materials. Look for multiple vendor support for each material item as well with automatic vendor selection based on volumes.
Look for the ability for stock reservation/allocation capabilities allowing materials to be reserved for specific orders or production runs. This ensures that you meet critical manufacturing commitments while not compromising the purchasing methodologies deployed.
The strategic values of a complete materials management system include reduced investment in inventory, better recovery from scrap used in recycling, better product use from yield management reporting, higher plant productivity using just-in-time materials planning, and many other user specific benefits. The bottom line is overall reduced costs.
Truck loading/shipping: If your company utilizes its own fleet of delivery trucks, see if the system you’re evaluating has a trailer/truck loading module. Loading vehicles with finished product, sub-assemblies and service parts should be accomplished using weights, volumes, destinations, and planned and unplanned routes. After the products have been scanned onto the vehicles, some systems can even produce a set of directions for the driver.
The final selection: Implementation can be a daunting prospect when company-wide integration is at stake. Check the vendor’s track record and ask to speak to some of their clients about their implementation experience and support.
Don’t hesitate to put the burden onto the company to prove itself. Let the company prove to you the features that seem important to you.
As a useful tool for the reader, an example model for comparing different software is provided below. Do the following:
Step 1: Define your categories of importance and rate each on a scale of 10 according to their importance to you.
Step 2: For each software package under consideration, put a check against factors it rates highly on.
Step 3: Aggregate the corresponding factor weights to find the software score.
Step 4: Compare the scores and choose.