Author: Paul Van Metre
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]I don’t know a single CNC machine shop that has an easy time hiring machinists, and would say they have enough well-qualified candidates. The fact is that there is more demand than supply, with not enough young people coming into the industry to fill the positions that are needed by machine shops today. On one hand, it's great news in general, that the demand for machinists is strong. Onshoring seems to be a longer-term trend now and the demand for machined parts in North America is strong, which is fantastic. The shadow side is that it’s tough to find machinists and most shops feel that pain, which inhibits their ability to grow at the pace they could theoretically if hiring was not a problem. Because this problem isn’t going away anytime soon, it comes down to the effort of each shop to tackle this issue themselves. When creative thought is put into the issue, many things can be done to mitigate the problem of not being able to hire qualified machinists whenever a shop wants to. Let’s discuss some of the things that our shop did, and what I’ve seen at the hundreds of shops that we serve.
1.Get Involved with Trade Schools in Your Area
Every state has trade schools or even high schools with machining programs that are constantly teaching basic machining and programming skills to new students. These are a great source of new hires on an ongoing basis. Every year they will graduate a cohort of students who are eager to get into the machining trade and are like sponges looking to learn (and without any bad habits yet!). The quality of the programs vary from school to school, but the great news is that you can get involved in the program and help to make it better, and also making it more likely that you can hire the cream of the crop each year. It’s undeniably a win-win situation. Ways to get involved vary from donating materials, tools, or even old machine tools, to offering tours of your shop as a field trip for the students, to even getting a seat on the advisory board of the program. You might even sponsor a competition to provide some real-world experience and get your name in front of all the students. The more engaged you are, the more your company will benefit from the collaboration. When we ran our shop, we had 2 employees on the advisory board all the time. We donated used but still totally good cutting tools, raw materials, and advised on how they could make their program more current to serve the needs of shops like ours. And we often hired recent graduates - the best and brightest ones too! It is certainly a formula that works.
2. Develop a Robust Training Program for your Own Staff
Whether you’re hiring recent trade school graduates or employees with more experience in the trade, you’ll need to provide more training on an ongoing basis to make the most of your employees. We’d suggest starting with well-defined job titles, with detailed roles and responsibilities, and pay ranges that go along with those titles. Once the basic framework is in place, you can outline what skills and proficiency ratings (try a simple 1-4 system, from basic knowledge to expert) are needed to be considered trained in each position. From there, you can define a set of training topics to teach those skills. Once that is all in place, it should be possible for a new hire to see exactly what they would need to do to get the training they need to progress up to the higher levels of responsibility and pay in the company. Creating videos is a great way to provide the basics for each training that employees can watch on their own time. Identifying who in your company can provide training beyond the basics, will help to spread the load of doing this work. There are also programs like ToolingU.com and NIMS that can be used to provide training to employees. With that and training from software and tooling vendors, along with YouTube, there is almost limitless content that is free or inexpensive to help develop the skills of your team. By providing these segments of training, you’ll be less dependent on finding employees who already have the skills needed for the job. You can focus on hiring people who are a great cultural fit for your company and train the skills you need them to have.
Just like you should always be selling your services to new prospective clients, you should always be selling your company to prospective employees. Build a fun team webpage that highlights your amazing team members, events, volunteer work, benefits, work environment, and more. Most companies call their employees their greatest asset, so shout it from the rooftops to attract more people like them. You’ll stand out from the crowd and be able to recruit more easily.
4. Build a Genuinely Amazing Culture
To have a great website page about it, you actually need to have a great culture! A culture that is focused on the growth and success of your team and your customers. One where people feel safe, supported, respected, understood, and I’d go as far as say, loved. It’s essential to build a company culture like that. Build systems people will love, like training sessions, frequent one-on-one meetings, offer tuition reimbursement, consider profit sharing, open-book management, free food and drinks at work, or whatever else will thrill your employees. The machining industry is relatively small in most regions, and word will get out about your work culture. Machinists know other machinists who work at other shops. When they rave to their buddies about how much they love your company, you’ll find yourself with qualified machinists knocking on your door.
5. Invest in Technology and Systems to Mitigate the Risk of Less Skilled Staff
It would be great if you could hire an unlimited number of highly skilled and experienced machinists that could set up any job, troubleshoot any problem, and make perfect parts, quickly, every day, but that world doesn’t exist. You need to be able to successfully run your shop with a variety of skilled staff, some with medium skills, and many without a lot of skill and experience (yet). This reality relies on systems and technology to get work done and allows a wider variety of employees to successfully execute jobs on budget. This often comes down to eliminating tribal knowledge, providing really clear visual work instructions, easy-to-follow checklists, and other initiatives to allow less-skilled workers to be successful. By doing so, it’s very possible to dramatically mitigate the reality that you can’t find enough skilled and experienced machinists.
How Can ProShop Help?
Some of the ideas listed above will need to come from good old-fashioned ingenuity and hard work. Software can’t help you build a great culture all by itself. But there are several things our clients are doing to dramatically improve their success in this area, and ProShop is central to many of those things.
ProShop’s modules for Company Positions, Training, Tasks, and others can help to provide a great foundation for structuring a training program in your company, onboarding employees smoothly, and helping them get up to speed more quickly. (One notable client hired a completely inexperienced person from Kentucky Fried Chicken, and had them setting up 5 axis mills within 6 months, using the features in ProShop to make it possible.) And in fact, our QMS Flying Start Package even comes with a library of positions, training topics, and more which can be the foundation of your training program.
ProShop has many features to just make life easier for all employees, who can focus more on the work they love, and less on the clerical paperwork. They won’t need to keep multiple systems updated, deal with lost paper travelers, frustrating tribal knowledge, and more. Many of our clients report that life is much better with ProShop, and general employee and customer friction, crankiness, stress, and fire fighting is much reduced, improving the overall mood in the company. There are also a few features focused on continuous improvement so that people can effectively share their good ideas and see them implemented to improve the process. People genuinely love seeing their ideas help the company improve!
Lack of skilled machinists is a reality we all live with, and it’s not going to improve anytime soon. But with some creativity, hard work, and smart decisions, you can significantly minimize the impact it has on your company, and possibly even make this formula your secret weapon for success in scaling your shop and achieving your business goals.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Author: Paul Van Metre
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]In a machine shop, you’re only making money when your spindles are cutting chips. Any time a machine is sitting idle, it’s a liability, not an asset. It’s costing you money, not making you money. So any shop’s priority should be to keep the spindles turning as often as possible. Despite the importance of this, far too many shops don’t put simple processes in place to keep those spindles turning as often as possible. There are numerous ways to increase spindle uptime, and one important way is by using offline tool presetters.
When making precision machined parts, one of the most important variables is knowing the length (and diameter) of your cutting tools relative to each other and to the machine and program coordinate system - and therefore your raw material. The traditional way to establish these measurements is to load the tool/holder combination into the machine and touch off the length of the tool to a vice surface, or some other known datum. People use everything from a piece of paper, or brass shim stock, dowel pin, to inexpensive contact based measuring devices. While these methods seem very inexpensive, they are in fact the most expensive way possible to measure tools, for two main reasons:
Let’s explore these a bit further. As already mentioned, a machine is only making money when it’s cutting chips. In a typical VMC, in a typical job shop, the average spindle uptime is only around 25% as it is. When setting up a new job, any time that detracts from getting your first good part out of the machine is considered setup time, and isn’t making you money. If a typical manually set tool takes 2 minutes to measure, and the typical part takes 20 tools, then 40 minutes is wasted making manual tool length measurements. If the typical machine is changed over twice per day, that’s over an hour of time that you aren’t cutting chips and making money. Rounding down, in a shop with 10 machines, that’s 10 hours per day, or 2000 hours per year if you only work 5 days a week. At a conservative shop rate of $75/hr, that’s $150,000 of potential revenue that will never be realized because your spindles aren’t turning. And that is only considering the time spent to touch off tools. Next comes the prove-out process which is potentially much longer. When tools are not accurately measured, the prove-out process and dialing in your tools to get a first good part can take significantly longer, wasting time and material. And the lower volumes your jobs are, the more crucial it is to make this process as short as possible. Assuming your setup takes 25% longer with poorly measured tools, and the average setup takes 2 hours, there is another 30 minutes per job wasted which is another $150k in down time per year. Now, those numbers are very generic and the situation isn’t the same in all shops. Some shops run the same job for days or weeks at a time, and some jobs take far fewer tools than others, and some have in-machine tool probes which are faster, so the effect is less. But, while machines with in-machine tool probes are typically faster and more accurate than manually setting the tools machine-side, they still have to be set while the machine is sitting idle not making chips. That is another reason off-line presetting can help drive down costs. Regardless of the specific numbers in your shop, the cost of in-machine tool setting is significant compared to the cost of implementing offline tool presetting.
The cost of offline presetters varies enormously. An entry level machine can cost under $10,000 and more automated machines with lots of bells and whistles, can cost as much as a CNC machine. And often the software used to manage them is a considerable percentage of the cost. What type of presetter makes sense for a shop depends on many factors, including the volume of tool setting that is needed, the tolerances being held on the parts, and many others. Your local representative, and the internet can provide you with many options to consider.
How does ProShop help with this?
ProShop has modules to help manage both the entire tooling library for consumable tooling, and tool assemblies that we call RTAs or Rotating Tool Assemblies. When a job is won, the tooling demand is reflected in the purchasing module to be purchased if current inventory isn’t sufficient to cover the demand. Once the job is ready to be kitted (ideally before the machine is ready), employees can pull the required tools from inventory and transfer them digitally to a tool caddy, along with the tool length offsets that have been measured with an offline tool presetter via the Workcells module. When a tool is measured in the presetter, a serial output can be sent into ProShop where the length is recorded. Once all the tools for a job have been measured and recorded, the preset tools are ready to be loaded into the CNC machine, ProShop can generate an offset file that can be transferred into the machine control. Having the offsets loaded digitally dramatically reduces data entry time and the (extremely) high potential for manual typing errors which can lead to catastrophic results.
Building this workflow directly into ProShop, rather than working with spreadsheets or different off the shelf software packages offers numerous advantages. Clients who embrace this workflow have seen significant improvements in setup time reduction (often 25% or more), reduced spindle down time, reductions in UPS Red shipping charges, and much more.
If you realize that your shop spends too much time with the spindles sitting idle, we encourage you to research tool presetters. And we’d be very happy to talk with you to see if ProShop can be a part of that solution to keep those spindles turning more often.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image="5575" img_size="full" alignment="center"][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Author: Paul Van Metre
[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="4418" img_size="full" alignment="center"][vc_column_text]How many times has it happened in your shop that you go to set-up a job, only to realize that you’re missing a special tap? Or maybe a thread gage, or a custom ground tool? Or anything else you might not normally need. Or even the material - which you definitely normally need!?!
For many shops this is a weekly or even daily occurrence. It wreaks havoc on your schedule, your on-time delivery score with your customers, and the profitability of your jobs. You may need to pull the setup off the machine and put on a different job. Or you overnight a special tool for early AM delivery so you can get back on the job as soon as possible. And the machine sits and waits for hours, waiting for that $20 tap which costs $60 to ship overnight. The downtime on your spindle will never be recovered, the $60 shipping fee is straight out of your profit margin, and you’re now a day behind schedule which means you might be late to your customer. Or you’ll have to pay a $100 expedite fee to your anodizer to make up the difference. In short, it’s a bad situation.
This situation is a prime example of a shop that doesn’t have the systems in place to eliminate this problem from happening. And it results in a frequent reactive situation, rather than being proactive. But it’s very common because it’s a complicated process to manage and ERP software tools don’t help with this level of detail. But, with ProShop, it’s entirely avoidable.
ProShop ERP was designed and built on the shop floor of a job shop for 17 years. We dealt with these types of problems every day. We processed thousands of jobs per year and every one of them had the potential to go sideways, be late, and lose money. So we built software solutions to help eliminate those potential problems. One critical tool we call the Pre-Processing Checklist. This is a checklist that helps employees make sure they’re doing the things they need to do, and allows everyone else to know what the status is of the checklist. It’s designed to be checked off, at various stages, by different people, before a job is ready to be processed on a manufacturing workstation.
The checklist is made of several color-coded sections:
As the work gets completed and checked off, the color codes on each job update, as does the schedule for those jobs. It’s easy for people to see the latest status and make good decisions about job scheduling. In the image below, the fact that the job circled in red is scheduled to go on the machine tomorrow, but the bar is pink, is a major problem. It indicates that the CNC programming process isn’t done yet, nor is the job prepped for the machine. The setup is not likely to go well, and it’s plainly visible to anyone looking at the schedule so action can be taken.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="4413" img_size="full"][vc_column_text]Just as importantly, the items on the checklist are customizable, based on the type of job you’re processing. For example, a repeat production job should have a much smaller list of items to do, than a brand new production job you’re running for the first time. There is no program to be done or fixtures to be made.
Here is an example checklist for a first run job:[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="4414" img_size="full"][vc_column_text]Here is an example checklist for a repeat job:[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="4415" img_size="full"][vc_column_text]We don’t want to introduce items to be checked off, just for the sake of checking boxes. The objective is to just do the minimum amount that is necessary and prudent to ensure success and efficiency for the type of job being processed. In addition to the customization by work order type, the entire checklist is configurable for any type of job that can be imagined.
By getting into the habit of using this Pre-Processing Checklist, and becoming more proactive rather than reactive with job preparation, ProShop customers see dramatic improvements in setup time, as well as reductions in those fees needed to respond to last-minute changes. Customers have reported reductions in setup of 25-50% and reductions in UPS Red charges and outside process expedite fees of over 90%. Often more than covering the entire subscription costs for ProShop. With the cost savings typically realized, as well as the reduction in stress from eliminating last-minute fire drills, the Pre-Processing Checklist becomes a beloved feature that shops rely on every day to make their jobs easier and more profitable.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image="5575" img_size="full" alignment="center"][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Written by Proshop customer, David Pannell of Faircloth Machine Shop
I will never forget the day that my production manager, who is a friend as well as an employee, and about whom I care a great deal, came into my office and said, “I am dying a little bit every day.” He said this because of the onerous burden that our so-called quality system and so-called ERP software placed on him. I looked him in the face and knew that he meant it.
We were spinning out of control; our diligence and hard work had resulted in more and more business, business that now threatened to overwhelm us and, ironically, destroy us. Non-Conformances? We didn’t even track them. How much time did an employee spend on a job? We just wrote it on a piece of paper. Inspection results? Just sign a piece of paper saying you did them and everything was alright. Job descriptions and routings and document control? Haphazard at best. Re-approving documents? Please!? Tooling and program control? Employee competence and certification? I’m embarrassed to tell you how random, haphazard, and subject to arbitrary discretion the whole business was. Chaos had overtaken my business and was extracting a terrible and daily price.
All this came upon us because we did good work and I had not planned for the future. We suddenly needed a real quality system and we needed it real fast. We cobbled some ersatz monstrosity together using spreadsheets, an existing document control system, and a home-brewed computer system—and it was awful. It was cheap up front, but man did it cost me every single day we used it.
After extensive research and many demos, we bought ProShop believing it to be our best hope to keep our current customers happy, our business growing, and our sanity. But between me and you, it was a wee bit of a culture shock. And by wee bit I mean a lot of culture shock. ProShop has modules for everything from intake to output and it expects everything to be done. I was in charge of a ten-person free-for-all and had to get everyone on board using the software the way it was meant to be used. Ever seen a train take a right turn? You know how malleable and eager to change machinists with 20 years of experience doing it their way are, right? And that brings me to tooling.
As our trainer showed us all of the ProShop functionality during the initial training, we asked about the tooling module. He described it, and the amount of work required seemed overwhelming. Then he explained RTAs (Rotating Tool Assemblies) and it got much, much worse. You can also define your tool holder, pull stud, collet, and out of holder length! This was simply out of the question--too much work for too little benefit. I told my production manager that we would never do tooling in ProShop and would most certainly NEVER, EVER use RTAs.
And then, everything in my shop got better - except tooling. I found this out earlier this year when I had to come out of my office and help a newer machinist set a job up. It was a disaster. We had been doing this job for years, but what tools were we supposed to use? How far were they supposed to stick out of the tool holders? Am I the only one with more than one type of 1/2” endmill in the shop? Which 1/2” endmill is appropriate for this job? Which one was it programmed for? What does it look like? How much does a broken endmill cost? These are not trivial questions. As everyone knows, if an endmill doesn’t stick out far enough you could have a machine crash. If it sticks out too far you could have chatter. Trying to decide these things during a setup wastes time and money. It sows confusion and chaos.
I realized that this bad setup was being repeated, job after job, day after day, week after week, setup after setup across my entire shop and across every job we did. It dawned on me that had I invested in defining tools and RTAs in ProShop, with pictures and unique identifiers, this would not be a problem. It occurred to me that an inexperienced machinist could have done this setup without me at all - if the tools had been defined properly. It occurred to me that I had a choice: I could pay once, up front, to define a job correctly and manage my business well, or I could pay over and over again every time I run a job in longer lead times, non-conforming parts, and frustrated employees, but I could not choose not to pay. I decided to start paying up front.
My planner resisted this change. This was more work for him and he did not like it. He made it clear that he did not like it. But I forced him to start defining all of our tools in ProShop and to document the correct tools in properly formatted RTAs for every repeat job anyway. I had come face to face with the demon of chaos and I was determined to exorcise it from my business.
So this goes on for a while. We do the hard work of getting our tools in ProShop with pictures and accurate descriptions. We key our tool matrix to the ProShop number so that the employee types in the ProShop number to get the correct tool. We make sure every part has accurate tooling called out in the description. And it is a lot of work; I’m not saying it isn’t.
But one day my planner stops by my office to admit that he not only had resisted defining tools in ProShop, but also THAT HE HAD BEEN WRONG. He likes doing it now. Employees know which tool to use so they stopped asking him questions. He got glowing feedback from the employees on the floor about how much easier it was to setup a job. Our setup times have decreased so our throughput per man hour is coming up. People are happier and less frustrated and it feels like we are a professional shop. I wish I had started earlier because I am reaping the benefits of ProShop tool management every day.
The moral of this story is to use the features of the software you bought! ProShop was written to solve problems and it will help you if you actually use it the way it was intended to be used.
I have a guy here who does not like anything—typical dour, cranky old machinist. But he can’t say enough about how much of an improvement defining the tools has been. Seeing him give praise to anything makes you think you are in the twilight zone. And it reinforces that choosing ProShop and going 100% all in, was the right thing to do.
- David Pannell - Faircloth Machine Shop
Author: Paul Van Metre
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Here are three indisputable facts about manufacturing employment in 2019:
This is a triple whammy that has the power to significantly affect the ability for companies to grow and thrive. Clients of ours have confided in me that they are scared to death of essential employees leaving their companies. It would have devastating effects on their businesses.
The manufacturing economy has been expanding since the financial crisis of 2008-2010. According to the National Manufacturing Association (NMA), as of the end of 2018 there were nearly half a million unfilled manufacturing jobs in the US. And 73% of manufacturing companies site the lack of available workers as their #1 concern. According to a 2018 study by Deloitte by 2028 more than 2.4 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled.
Baby boomers are retiring at the rate of 10,000 per day from all sectors, taking their institutional knowledge with them. More than 25% of all manufacturing workers are over 55. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the manufacturing industry has the highest tenure compared to other sectors. Those factors combine to a pretty steep uphill battle for today’s manufacturers.
There are many efforts afoot to improve the situation. Investment in STEM education is exciting to see. New programs to get young kids interested in manufacturing are everywhere – Robotics, 3D printing, maker spaces. There is a new resurgence of apprenticeship programs similar to what existed decades ago, and still is strong in Europe. And retraining of displaced workers has gained significant traction. Even as these all these initiatives have success, and you are able to find workers to hire, there will still be a big gap between what they know when you hire them, and what they need to know to be fully productive. Employers need to take things into their own hands and assure their own destiny. These are difficult problems to solve, but are entirely doable with some creativity and work.
Here are a few things that manufacturing leaders can do about this.
1. Capture the knowledge before it’s gone. Those experienced workers hold the keys to your business in their heads. They know the essential tricks to setting up difficult jobs, where to look to find the right tools and information, and the process to ensure that you get the desired outcome of your proprietary processes. If they leave, the company will scramble to fill the gap in knowledge that left with them. It’s essential to provide tools, time and systems to allow those workers to record what they know, and to train the next generation of workers. A formal system and software to allow this knowledge to be easily documented, organized and distributed is very important. This includes not only general company business processes, but also specific details, processes and information needed for individual jobs, part numbers and customers. This can take many forms, from simple paper documents, to complex Learning Management Systems (LMS). The essential part is to formally launch initiatives to systematically collect, aggregate and store that knowledge. Most companies have a mish-mosh of paper and electronic records which are not well organized and are often incomplete out of date. It’s an investment of time and money to document all of this in a way that can be easily accessed and shared with others, but the alternative of putting your head in the sand and hoping it works out is a recipe for disaster.
2. Develop formalized training systems to share that newly captured knowledge with your younger workers. One suggestion is to think about it from the perspective of organizational structure. Draw out your org chart. Write down the essential functions of each position. What are the roles, responsibilities and performance metrics for each roll in the company? Document in detail all the tasks that each role performs. And then develop series of training documents, photos, or videos for each task.
And make sure to include both the formal, and informal things that people do – like what is the process when you realize you have an order that will be late. You likely work through a series of logical steps like seeing what you can do to recover so you won’t be late, moving jobs around, asking for overtime, expediting an outside process, shipping it faster, etc. If those won’t be enough, then you let your client know that there is a risk of a job being late (I hope you let them know in advance!). While that process isn’t likely a formal one that is written down, it’s part of how your company works and it’s important to train your newer staff, so when the people who perform that function retire, you can have a smooth transition.
When this organized structure and system of learning based on company position is in place, it becomes much easier to hire employees and have them successfully ramp up to speed and be productive. Hiring less experienced employees and training them yourself becomes more feasible. Especially when paired with point #1 and providing the documented knowledge from your experienced workers.
3. Focus on building the best culture you can. One of the keys to hiring and retaining workers is having a create company culture. All employees care about working for a company they believe in, can feel good about their work each day, and get to work in an enjoyable atmosphere with coworkers they respect. Millennials will make up about 50% of the workforce by 2020, and they care deeply about making a difference, having a good work/life balance, and a strong company culture. And for the newest generation of workers that are just about to enter the workforce (those born after 2000 – Gen Z, iGen, post-Millennial…), who have grown up in a digital world, upgrading your digital culture is essential. Paper forms, or antiquated software isn’t going to cut it for those who are used to finding out anything they want to know about in a few seconds.
4. Focus on diversity and inclusion. According to the US Census, in 2017 women only made up 30% of the jobs in manufacturing, while men made up 70%. And the trend is on the decline.
That’s a huge pool of talent that you’re missing if you don’t focus on diversifying your workforce. Women make up 47.5 of the working population, so are definitely underrepresented in manufacturing. Plus it’s better to have more women on your team anyway. Consider the fact that companies that have higher percentages of women on their board of directors far outperform those that don’t. According to Harvard, those companies in the top quartile of highest number of women on their boards had 42% higher return on sales. Your company may not be big enough for a board of directors, but you still have a lot to gain from making your workforce more balanced. With the recent focus on STEM education, there are lots of young women who are coming into the workforce excited about technology and manufacturing. Ensure you’re making your company and culture as open and accepting as possible to them.
It’s a very exciting time for manufacturing in North America. Most companies are growing and are optimistic about the future. But many can’t grow at the rate they want because of challenges in hiring enough new people. Let alone backfilling the baby boomers who are retiring in droves. Those companies with a solid plan to retain their institutional knowledge and get it passed to the next generation will fare better than those that don’t. Make sure you’re doing what you can to be prepared.
How does ProShop help with this?
1. Capturing Tribal knowledge - One of the tenents that ProShop was built around was capturing tribal knowledge. Being a paperless system, and eliminating paper job travelers and setup sheets requires that all job information is ProShop. When you can capture video, photos, text and attachments onto specific operations on each part, it’s easy to provide visual work instructions (VWI) in the software and allow employees to add to that knowledge base as they work. No longer are work instructions and setup notes in people’s heads and on pieces of paper which can get lost.
ProShop also has a continuous improvement feature built into it, which allows employees to quickly capture details about jobs that need improving. Those items can then be assigned to employees and worked through to resolution. ProShop will keep reminding employees until a solution has been provided. With a single click, you can browse through or search for a complete history of the problems that have been solved by employees in the past, which allows your team to leverage that knowledge for solving current and future problems.
2. Training – ProShop has a complete set of modules for documenting every work instruction, business process, and task in the company and provides a corresponding training document. This feeds into our Company Positions module which allows you to define all the roles in the company, what training is needed to be in that roll, and visually display in an org chart who is in which roll, and what percent that they are trained and still need training in. It’s never been easier to see the big picture of who needs to be trained on what. When an employee does get trained, they will be assigned a proficiency rating which can correspond to the minimum requirements needed to be considered fully trained in any roll. Those new trainings can also automatically unlock new features and capabilities for each employee in ProShop.
3. Culture – We can’t help directly with culture too much, but employees who use ProShop are considerably less frustrated at work compared to their old systems. We’ve been told time and time again that going to work is more fun after switching to ProShop, because it’s easier and more productive. People are spending less time searching for or manually aggregating data, can quickly find what they need, and are more focused on throughput and doing a great job for clients. That reduced amount of daily friction helps to elevate how people feel about performing their jobs every day. And of course, people want to succeed, so when your company is making more profit and delivering jobs on time, it’s amazing how that positivity permeates into how everyone is feeling about the company in general.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image="5576" img_size="full" onclick="custom_link" link="https://pages.services/adionsystems.com/proshop-erp-whitepaper/?ts=1592939208722"][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]A friend of ours, and ProShop customer Joanna Boatwright recently sent us an excerpt of a paper she wrote for a Change Management class. In the paper, she outlines how a fictitious company - Parker Manufacturing, can evolve itself from a traditional organization to a learning organization. We've had many clients choose ProShop because of the ability to capture their company's intellectual property, leverage and grow it. There are some great takeaways and advice. How well does your organization align with these best practices?
Joanna describes how ProShop would be used in that process in the section about Systems:
Leadership - Parker Manufacturing’s Leadership team will be the sustaining force in maintaining the change. They will use their expertise to strategize ways to keep the momentum going within the learning environment that has now been created. In addition, Leadership will coach and mentor individuals, teams, and departments to keep the new systems in alignment and working well together. They will also guide the company as it responds to internal and external changes, preserving the focus of the company on the vision, casting aside frivolous distractions. Ultimately, the leadership team will begin to develop and teach those under them to be the next set of leaders for Parker Manufacturing.
Strategy - Parker Manufacturing has positioned itself as a variety-based company, providing a limited variety of products to a large variety of customers. In order to maintain the competitive edge, Parker will rely on the new learning organizational structure to make good use of all employee knowledge for changes in the market and especially for efficiencies and continuous improvements in operations. All employees have the opportunity to participate in creating Parkers strategic plans, which distinguishes the organization as a creative change maker.
Culture - Parker Manufacturing’s culture will include the attitude of open communication, a willingness to always be open-minded, an encouragement for create thinking and sharing new ideas or conflict, and to support the value of lessons learned from mistakes. Parker will stress the importance of working together toward a common goal, and will be dedicated to recognizing accomplishments to inspire innovation. The organizational structure at Parker will be flat so that communication at all levels is transparent and collaboration is not interrupted by hierarchy. All of these attributes combined will support Parker Manufacturing in successfully facilitating change in the long term, maintaining the competitive edge in the market.
Structure - As noted above, Parker will have a flat organizational structure. This will allow employees to communicate freely, share knowledge in real time and work and problem solve cross-functionally. Due to the company culture that encourages creative thinking, the employees are confident their talents are being used at the highest capacity to support the company’s drive for continuous improvement. Processes and technical systems will be in a state of perpetual motion, meaning they will be modified to suit the ever changing needs of the organization. Interestingly, employee engagement increases as they are part of the process of identifying problems or sharing ideas, then learning new things, making the change happen, and finally reaping the rewards. This flat, integrated structure will make Parker an incredible place to work.
Systems - As part of the change management project, Parker has elected to purchase a new ERP system to replace the antiquated system in use. They have chosen a cloud based system called ProShop by Adion Systems (ProShop). This system is web based and can be accessed by top management and select employees from anywhere. The most powerful function in ProShop is the Communication systems. Employees communicate within the organization with instant messaging, and intranet email. ProShop also features automated prompts per job title, and authorization prompts. For example, when a job is ready to be issued to the floor, a prompt will automatically be sent to the appropriate employee. In addition, if a customer specification or drawing has changed, once the document has been scanned into the holding tank a prompt will be sent to the document control person for approval and distribution. The communication systems go further out onto the shop floor. As an operator is setting up a job and discovers a problem or has a new idea, the operator will make a note in the work order which will then be distributed to the appropriate person to either help with the problem or charge the implementation of the improvement. This is also a helpful feature as Parker moves toward eliminating tribal knowledge. Parker can encourage all operators to make notes and upload photos or videos into the manufacturing order so all operators can have access to their tricks and tips for each job.
Another powerful function of ProShop is its ability to capture data in real time. For example, Work-in-Process. Parker can see the schedule as it is happening and as its forecast. This is helpful in determining not only workforce needs, but also capacity. ProShop tracks individual machines including the minutes allocated to each operation needed to complete a product as it travels the shop floor. When changes are needed due to a hot job or a delay with parts out to processing, Management can easily visualize how to fit the change into the schedule with little to no disruption to Work-in-Process. Cost of goods is also calculated in real time. As material is purchased and entered into the system, as details are issued to assemblies, and finally as time accounted for manpower, Parker can easily see if the company is on track, if there is a problem or need for additional mentoring or training.
Inventory of all products are controlled in ProShop as well. Each part that comes off the shop floor is accounted for as it goes out the door or is put on the shelf for later sale. All commercial off the shelf (COTS) items are also controlled, along with tooling and material. Any item, from a rivet to a complex assembly, is tracked in ProShop. Items or tools that will be issued to a job in process are accurately accounted for. When an item or tool is out of stock or getting close, the system will send a prompt to purchasing for ordering, so the job is never waiting.
Another impressive feature of ProShop is the Quality System. Both ISO 9001 and AS9100 standards are embedded into this system. Meaning, documents are controlled and records are kept automatically to accommodate the requirements of each standard. In addition, Internal Auditing and Process Improvement modules support Parkers goal of continuous improvement. As opportunities for improvement are discovered, ProShop tracks and notifies all interested parties of changes. If training is needed related to these changes, the Training Module sends prompts out to those affected by the update and training can either be completed individually or is scheduled for a group.
Lastly, to support the flat structure of the organization an instant messaging tool is available for all employees with a computer to encourage open communication at all levels. Parker wants everyone to share new ideas and support each other in developing a creative work environment.
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Author: Paul Van Metre
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]As Jim and Jason always say on the MakingChips Podcast, “If you’re not making chips, you’re not making money!” We all know it’s true, yet precious few shops have formal systems for increasing uptime. The corollary to that is reducing spindle down-time. An important component to that is to reduce the downtime between jobs – that is when you finish the last part on the job you’re just finishing and when you make your first good part and start running the next job on that same machine. That’s what I want to focus on today. There are a few barebones things that need to happen when you finish a job.
1. Remove the fixtures off the machine, or take out your softjaws, etc. (unless you have modular tooling that will be used on the next job also.)
2. Take any cutting tools out of the machine that you won’t be using on the next job – don’t remove them from their holders unless you absolutely need to.
3. Clean off the bed or table.
4. Download your programs (and save them) or delete them off the machine.
5. Sign off that you’ve finished that operation on paper or in your ERP system. Ideally document your setup somewhere.
6. Wheel the cart or pallet to where it’s going next.
That process is generally fast. If you’re lucky enough to be on a horizontal, you might even be able to change out your fixturing while your other pallet is still running. Or maybe you’ve designed universal tooling so changing over doesn’t require taking out your fixture, or only takes seconds. There has been much study and books written on SMED! Google it if you’re not familiar.
Generally, the next step of the process is getting your next job set up on the machine. This is where most of the savings can be had and where many companies need a lot of help. Here is how it often looks:
1. The machinist goes to find out what is next on the machine and get the paper job traveler.
2. They go and look for material and hopefully find the right stuff.
3. They start collecting some cutting tools and holders from the setup sheet which match the general description of what they are looking for (e.g. ½” EM - but may not be exactly the right tool at all).
4. They try to find the fixtures needed for the job which may be lost, damaged, or misplaced.
5. They bring these things over to the machine.
6. They review some incomplete set-up instructions on an old set-up sheet or they try to remember it from last time.
7. They load tools into the machine, and manually touch off the tools in the machine or with a machine probe.
8. They mount fixtures or vices. (hopefully the fixtures are dialed in with pins or you use zero-point fixtures. If not, then they need to find a dial indicator and dial in the fixtures or vises.)
9. They upload the program into the machine controller.
10. They wander away from the machine several times to go find things they didn’t collect at first.
11. They put some raw stock into the fixture or vise.
12. They turn the feed and rapids down, maybe put it on single block, and show “distance to go” on the controller.
13. They slowly step through the program and prove it out, being careful to not crash until the entire part is machined
14. Go find measuring instruments to check the part.
15. Check the resulting part against a paper drawing which may be dirty, ripped, old-rev, and check a bunch of dimensions to see if they think the part is good.
16. Once they have a part they think is good (which might take several tries), they submit the part to the QC department and wait (sometimes a long time).
17. Once they have received approval from QC, then they can start making parts. This is when the timer stops, and the spindle is “Up” again.
As you can see, this is a lengthy process and can contribute to vast amounts of downtime where you aren’t “MakingChips”! And the description above is still somewhat of an ideal case. Plenty of times the things they are looking for aren’t there, can’t be found, or aren’t ready yet. It can go south quickly, and setups can take many hours or longer! So much lost opportunity for revenue and throughput! There must be a better way!
ProShop ERP can help facilitate and guide shops to dramatically reduce this downtime between jobs. We studied this problem for years ourselves at our own shop. We applied lean principles, concepts from franchise-type businesses, and decades of our own experience and those of our employees. We built the best practices into the software we were developing to run our own shop – ProShop. Here is how the process looks using ProShop – 100% paperless and web-based.
1. Before the last job is finished, ProShop guides the employees through a checklist to ensure all the necessary items required to ensure a fast and repeatable setup have been prepared in advance and are sitting in a queue area, or are digitally prepared and ready to go.
a. The proper cutting tool ID numbers are collected, loaded in the proper holders and extension lengths as defined by the programmer. Offline tool length presets have been measured and stored in ProShop. A G10 offset file has been automatically generated by ProShop and is waiting to be upload into the controller. This tool caddy is loaded on a cart.
b. A well-maintained fixture is pulled from the well-defined storage location and loaded on a cart. (ProShop will show you if it was overbooked)
c. Ancillary items like inspection equipment, packaging materials, deburring equipment, etc. have been specified and collected and loaded on a cart.
d. A proven G-code program which has been stored in a secure file location managed by ProShop
e. The proper material is pulled from a specific storage location defined in ProShop. Traceability is guaranteed to be right.
2. When the prior job finishes, ProShop quickly guides the employee through a breakdown checklist and the machine is ready to go for the new job.
3. They start tracking their time on the new job with ProShop’s fast Time Tracking interface.
4. They load the fixtures, tools (and only the ones that need changing), raw material, tool offset files and G-code programs into the machine, following the digital work instructions with videos, photos, etc.
5. Run the proven code on the first piece.
6. Inspect the first part and record the results in ProShop’s FAI form using the specified instruments and only the dimensions which require checking per the requirements. ProShop will instantly tell them if the part is good or not (And it will format the FAI in the AS9102 if you need it to). If the part is good, then:
7. Check off the “Certified to Run” checkbox (which prompts you to update the setup and cycle times) and log out of “Set-up” and into “Running”.
You have good parts off the machine and the spindle is running again much faster than the first scenario. You’ve increased throughput and have higher revenue on your machine.
The important takeaways are that the setup was highly choreographed, the employee didn’t need to leave the machine, and it took a fraction of the time. It’s also important to note that a less skilled employee (ProShop will manage all their training by the way.) was needed given how much information was available to them. Shift leads, or managers would get automatic notifications if the setup exceeded its time budget, so they can provide support. Also, any out-of-tolerance results that were generated would have prompted an NCR which would also alert managers through our messaging system. Your employees are more supported and successful, increasing engagement and satisfaction.
When you go buy a hamburger at a fast food restaurant, they don’t figure out how to make the burger each time. They follow a very well documented process to make it as fast and repeatably as possible. Producing a highly complex and high precision engineered component is at least two orders of magnitude more complex than a burger. So why would you make your employees do it without a concise and bulletproof plan? It’s because your legacy “one-size-fits-none” ERP system has none of the functionality required to walk employees through the process. You’ve been given a set of tools with a bunch of the tools actually missing. It might be time to upgrade your toolbox. Let us know if you’d like to discuss upgrading your tools.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image="5576" img_size="full" onclick="custom_link" link="https://pages.services/adionsystems.com/proshop-erp-whitepaper/?ts=1592939208722"][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Author: Paul Van Metre
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Tribal knowledge can be a killer. For a smaller, stable company not on a growth path, it probably isn’t the worst thing ever – unless you lose one of your long-term employees who is the only one that knows how to do a lot of things. Certainly for any company that is on a more dynamic path for growth, adding new customers, more employees, or is concerned about losing that knowledge of a key employee it can be a major problem. Having your companies’ processes and procedures be locked in the brains (and only the brains) of your employees can be very difficult when you lose someone. It is also a major barrier to growing quickly in a sustainable way.
There are a few key steps that can be taken to eliminate or significantly mitigate tribal knowledge. We practiced these in our machine shop, Pro CNC for over 17 years and it allowed us to grow at 30%-100% a year for many years.
1. Eliminate paper job travelers. Make all work instructions digital, and empower employees on the shop floor to update and augment those work instructions with text, photos, videos and more (please include a review and approval process). When employees are empowered to do this, you’ll be amazed at the level of detail that will grow and the richness of the data that will develop. This will allow people to download what they know about specific jobs out of their heads and share it with less experienced employees. Once this culture is established, it flourishes and makes great strides to eliminate tribal knowledge. Virtually anyone with basic skills can successfully set up complicated jobs.
2. Catalog and organize all tools used in the company. Having people work out of their tool boxes with non-company owned tooling, or non-organized company tooling can be a major problem. Whether it is cutting tools, shop aids, gages, inspection equipment, or any other critical tool, there are numerous problems that can be caused by working with tools that are not standardized. Non-calibrated and traceable equipment is a major problem for quality. Shop aides which go missing when an employee leaves or is out sick can cause big issues for set-up times and throughput. Non-standard cutting tools can wreak havoc on set-up times, throughput, quality, and eventually delivery performance. All jobs should have a well-defined BOM of controlled items that are prepared in advance of a job getting set up. If an employee has a piece of equipment that the company doesn’t own, that can be just fine. Assuming they are okay with letting the company use it, just give it an equipment number, calibrate/control it and specify that it is stored either the employees tool box, or in a location acceptable to the employee and company.
3. Catalog and organize all purchased items. Tools, consumables, hardware, maintenance items, materials all should have information about approved vendors, prices, lead times, catalog numbers, etc. and ideally internally generated part numbers. When this is done, employees that do purchasing will have a way to record everything they do so it is easy to keep product flowing when they are on vacation, sick or leave the company. Nothing is worse for shop throughput than trying to pick up the pieces if your purchasing agent is gone and attempting to figure out everything they did. Also develop a standardized way to submit purchase requests so data flowing into purchasing can be as smooth as possible.
4. Develop storage systems for everything – fixtures, tools, consumables, raw material – all of it. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard of companies who have tanked on the success of a job – both profit, and on-time delivery – because they couldn’t find the fixtures or tools they needed to do that job. There is no excuse for losing track of an important fixture when the solution of storing it in a logical place is so easy. If you see employees walking around looking for things, this is a red flag that you have a problem in this area.
There are lots of other things that can be done to eliminate tribal knowledge but this is a great start. These types of organizational steps can be implemented with little cost in Excel, Google Docs or some other free or inexpensive system. Some ERP and MES systems may also have these features. Our product ProShop certainly handles all of this in a 100% paperless and web based system. I’d love to hear your thoughts or discuss how we can help your shop improve.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image="5576" img_size="full" onclick="custom_link" link="https://pages.services/adionsystems.com/proshop-erp-whitepaper/?ts=1592939208722"][/vc_column][/vc_row]