5 Steps to Better Work Order Management

June 4, 2024

Precision Metals Manufacturing is a complex and multifaceted industry that demands meticulous attention to detail, thorough planning, and systematic execution. The success of any shop hinges on a series of operational systems that ensure adherence to quality specifications, on-time delivery, and profitability. The heart of such operational systems is Work Order Management. If you’re looking for the keys to success in manufacturing, an effective system for executing on jobs is a great place to start. 

In order to achieve this success, you need to master the core components of an effective Work Order Management system. Doing so will improve your business performance overall. When jobs are being effectively planned and executed, machine idle time and waste is reduced, throughput and profitability are increased, and production teams are more engaged.  With that, let’s delve into some of the critical aspects of successful Work Order Management that will set up production teams for success:

1. Pre-Production Planning
Don’t wait until the day you plan to run a job to start the job-planning process. This is a reminder that proper planning prevents piss-poor performance. Pre-production job planning is the cornerstone of any successful manufacturing work order. It involves the comprehensive preparation and organization of the manufacturing process before production begins. This process is a collaborative one, engaging key team members from each department that has a role to play in the execution of the work order. Some core tenets of thorough pre-production planning include:

  • Requirement Distillation Process: Reviewing the customer purchase order, part drawings, BOM’s, and other documents to understand the full scope of the project and its requirements. This may also include a discussion with sales to understand the intended process by which the job was initially quoted.   
  • Process Definition: Determine specific operation types (milling vs. turning, welding, assembly, etc). Define a list of routing steps for the full manufacturing process, including operation times and which specific work cell or machine will be utilized.
  • Resource Allocation: Ensuring that all necessary resources (machine tools, raw materials, fixturing, tools, gages, staff members) will be available to meet deadlines.
  • Risk Mitigation and Verification: Reviewing the job to Identify potential issues before they arise. This helps to prevent costly delays and quality problems that arise when these details are missed. 
  • Quality Requirements: Ensure that customer-defined quality requirements are able to be met. Beyond creating an inspection plan, this may include identifying any special inspection equipment or gauges that aren’t currently on-hand. Especially when those gauges have a long lead time. See point 2 below. 
  • Scheduling: Determine the production start date such that all manufacturing operations, inspections steps, outside processing, and shipping times can be successfully completed by the customer due date, allowing for some buffer throughout the project timeline.

Up-front planning requires a detailed understanding of the production requirements, including specifications, timelines, and quality standards. Engaging cross-functional teams during this phase can provide diverse perspectives and expertise, ensuring that requirements are being reviewed and planned for from the perspective of each team.

2. Job-Related Procurement
Job-specific materials, tools, and gauges may have long lead times, meaning they take a significant amount of time to be sourced and delivered. Effective planning and procurement of these items is crucial for maintaining production schedules and avoiding costly delays and expediting fees. These delays can be mitigated by good job planning practices whereby long-lead procurement requirements are identified as early in the process as possible, and subsequently ordered well ahead of the production start date. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Pre-Production Planning: Identifying and queueing up purchase requirements as job requirements are being planned can go a long way in ensuring that ALL of the required tools and materials will be available and prepared for the scheduled work order start date. Failure to do so threatens your ability to maintain on-time delivery.
  • Supplier Relationships: Building strong and healthy relationships with suppliers can facilitate better communication and more reliable delivery schedules. Capturing supplier performance metrics can help to define which suppliers are reliable, and which aren’t.  
  • Inventory Management: Maintaining an optimal inventory of commonly used materials can buffer against supply chain disruptions. Tie-ins between your inventory and work order management systems can allow for better demand forecasting and allow you to allocate inventory directly to a specific work order during the planning phase.

Poor procurement processes will prevent profitability. Identifying job-related purchase requirements early and ensuring they get promptly ordered is your best hedge against frustrating delays. Regularly reviewing purchasing dashboards, and updating inventory levels  ensures that job-related materials, tools, and inspection instruments are available when needed, so that you can maintain customer satisfaction.

3. Planning Checklists
Planning checklists are invaluable tools for ensuring that all necessary steps and components are accounted for in the manufacturing process.  They serve as a comprehensive guide, ensuring consistency and completeness in the job-planning process. Some of the benefits include: 

  • Standardized Procedures: Checklists help standardize the planning processes across different jobs, job-types, and teams. Checklists may include responsibilities for different members of various departments who have a stake in the planning process.
  • Error Reduction: Planning Checklists minimize the risk of overlooking critical requirements. This ensures that even the little details are accounted for and places accountability on the person who signed off on that step.
  • Efficiency: By providing a clear framework, checklists can streamline the planning process and save time. This often results in increased throughput and equipment up-time.
  • Readiness: Checklists help to ensure that jobs are kitted for each operation in advance before they reach the next work center. This reduces machine idle time. 

Checklists should be dynamic documents, regularly reviewed and updated to reflect changes in processes, technologies, and requirements. Involving team members in the creation and maintenance of checklists can enhance their relevance and effectiveness.

4. Proactive Scheduling
Effective scheduling is crucial for managing timelines, resources, and teams in manufacturing. Once you learn the secret to better shop-floor scheduling, you can ensure that all production activities are coordinated and executed in the proper sequence and in advance of deadlines. Some important features of an effective Work Order scheduling system include:

  • Production Timeline: Developing a detailed list of routing steps with associated set-up and cycle times to outline all stages of the production process and keep Work Orders on track. This includes deadlines for each individual step so that individual teams are clear on their priorities.
  • Resource Allocation: Scheduling ensures that materials, tools, and personnel are available when needed, preventing downtime. Effective scheduling also ensures that resource utilization is maximized for optimized throughput.
  • Flexibility: The schedule should be able to accommodate unexpected issues or changes in priority without disrupting the entire production pipeline. This includes reordering Work Orders as required.
  • Prioritization: Jobs and individual operations must be listed in rank order so that production teams are clear on which are the correct tasks to be working on at a given moment.

Advanced scheduling tools integrated with your work order management system can provide real-time updates and facilitate adjustments, enhancing responsiveness and efficiency.

5. Detailed Paperless Work Instructions
Clear and precise visual work instructions are highly beneficial for guiding production staff through a job. When you level-up your work instructions, you ensure that each step of the manufacturing process is performed correctly and consistently, contributing to overall quality and efficiency. A paperless work order also serves as a project management tool, outlining job progress in a way that all team members can see and respond to. A paperless work instruction system should incorporate the following components:

  • Detailed Documentation: Instructions should be detailed enough to cover all aspects of the routing step, including setup, tooling and fixturing requirements, operation instructions, and quality procedures.
  • Data Input: Beyond reading information, production staff should also be inputting important work order data from the shop floor. This includes part counts, time tracking data, and quality measurements. Beyond work order requirements, shop floor staff ought to have a means for recording process improvement suggestions when opportunities for improvement are identified.
  • Visual Aids: Uploaded photos and videos can complement written instructions, making them easier to understand and follow. This may also include flow charts and checklists.
  • Time Targets: Setting realistic time targets for manufacturing steps helps to provide accurate scheduling. Having staff members record their labor time against time targets helps to understand job costing, performance, and profitability. 
  • Work Order Documentation: When an order is complete, all quality requirements, material certs and quality documents should be complete.   Ensure at each production step that specific work order requirements are being flowed to relevant team members ensuring that all job requirements are met and don’t need to be dealt with retroactively, causing friction with the customer.

Work instructions should be easily accessible to all production staff and regularly reviewed and updated to incorporate process improvements. Providing detailed paperless work instructions helps to ensure that shop floor staff are equipped with the latest most relevant job information so that more jobs can be completed in less time (with fewer mistakes)

Conclusion
The success of manufacturing operations hinges on meticulous planning and execution. Pre-production planning, Job-related procurement, planning checklists, effective scheduling, and visual work instructions are all critical components that contribute to highly efficient work order management. 

By adhering to these best practices, manufacturers can enhance efficiency, reduce risks, achieve increased on-time delivery, and ensure the production of high-quality components. Emphasizing these areas not only improves operational performance but also fosters a culture of continuous improvement and excellence in manufacturing.

If you’re looking for a software solution that integrates all of these functions and so much more, consider booking a call with ProShop’s sales team to discuss your needs. We’ve helped 100’s of manufacturing businesses increase their profits by dialing in their Work Order Management system. 


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