Use ERP to Capture Tribal Knowledge?

September 12, 2022

McCormick Industries chose cloud-based ProShop ERP, which the software maker refers to as a "digital ecosystem" that combines ERP, a manufacturing execution system (MES) and quality management system (QMS) to meet the specific needs of machining job shops.

[Product Machining - September 2022 Issue] - ProShop was originally developed in-house by a job shop to serve its own specific needs. Van Deraa notes that this is one aspect of the platform he appreciated. According to ProShop, it's paperless digital operating platform (DOP) integrates all departments in the shop - from estimating to shipping. The goal is to replace multiple software programs so data can be accessed from only one. The integrated MES system can track tooling, fixtures, work cells, personnel, part programming information and more in real-time. The QMS function features various modules pulling data from the ERP/MES systems which then can be used to create reports reflecting preventive and corrective actions, and generate audits - capturing all aspects of the manufacturing process for complete quality reporting.

"The ability to access data within the system with just a few mouse clicks really is a big benefit for us", Hermsen says. In fact, he notes that this capability was very helpful during a recent ISO audit as the shop was able to find and present a wealth of documentation within the ERP system to the auditor as requested.

ProShop is available to shopfloor personnel by way of computers at every machine tool and in other departments. Presenting information about a job, such as material availability, to those on the shop floor often eliminates the need to ask questions of a manager.

But one unexpected benefit McCormick Industries discovered is the ability to capture tribal knowledge of its experienced shopfloor employees. It actually learned this the hard way in the following two examples.

One is packing. For a number of years, one man handled all the shop's packaging duties. When he unexpectedly left, he took all the knowledge of the packaging processes with him. It's not something that others couldn't figure out, but there were nuances with regard to protecting products in certain ways, for example, about which others might not know. Having detailed instructions with photos in the ERP system (and continuing to add them for new jobs) now enables any available person to properly package completed jobs.

Another is assembly. McCormick Industries offers mechanical assembly for some customers, which is more of a value added service rather than a huge profit center. Still, similar to the packaging situation, for five years one man handled all assembly work for the shop. Perhaps it was a form of the job security in his mind, but he was very secretive about the processes, where fixtures and tools were located and so on. Management realized the need for proper documentation of the procedures for assemblies that the shop had been creating for years. While doing that, the processes were photographed and documented, and entered into the ERP system so that others could be more easily cross-trained. This is helpful because there's not a sufficient amount of assembly work to dedicate a full-time person to that department. It's nice that now a variety of employees can step into that role when needed, Hermsen notes.

"We're not using everything that we can use ProShop for at this point," Van Deraa says. "However, like the packaging and assembly examples, we're starting to capture a lot of shopfloor tribal knowledge and adding it to the system. We also are empowering our employees to add to this type of centralized knowledge base. It's a work-in-process, but we're on our way."

To read the rest of the Product Machining September 2022 Issue, click here.

About ProShop
ProShop is an ITAR compliant, secure, comprehensive, web-based, and paperless shop management system for small to medium precision metalworking companies. ProShop provides real-time insight into every detail of a manufacturing company and is best described as a Digital Manufacturing Ecosystem (DME). ProShop combines the features of ERP, MES, QMS, CMMS, and other software for machine shops, fabricators, job shops, and contract manufacturers. It serves manufacturers in regulated industries who need tight controls on their process and want exacting and timely information to make the best and most profitable decisions.

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