Author: Paul Van Metre
I haven't talked with a single shop that loves having job travelers, but so many of them can’t imagine running their shop without them. It’s hard for them to imagine a different way because they’ve done it for so many years, or they believe that trying to eliminate travelers will not be well received by their employees. In the meantime, enormous costs are being incurred every day because of their paper travelers. These costs are not obvious and aren’t on top of people's minds.
What functions do job travelers serve? Let's clarify what I mean by a “job traveler”.
Most ERP systems create a job router based on the information that is in effect at the time the order is processed. That information is a snapshot in time and the printed router becomes the controlling item that moves around the facility and triggers people to do things and tells them what to do. The router identifies what material to buy, what rev of the drawing to build the part too. It will also be the document where signatures or quality stamps will be recorded, creating an audit trail of who did what to ensure the part was made properly. There is no doubt that the information contained on the router is vitally important and every shop (at least QMS certified shops) needs to capture and retain that information.
The fact that all this crucial information is conveyed and recorded on a piece of paper in so many shops in 2021 is mind-boggling. To try to make the point, imagine this: You want to see how the big game of your favorite team is going, so you walk to the corner market to buy a newspaper? Of course not! By the time your newspaper publishes the score, the game will have been long finished.
Why then do shops keep insisting that paper job travelers are so important to their business? There are huge numbers of liabilities inherent in paper travelers. Let's just list a few:
1. The information on the traveler is highly likely to change. More in some businesses than others, but it happens all the time. When information changes, people need to chase down the traveler and replace it or mark it up with the latest information. If that doesn't happen, people can and will make mistakes and parts can be scrapped, late, made wrong, or any number of other bad outcomes.
2. Paper travelers slow down the process. People in planning, purchasing, quality, and programming don't know that they need to work on something until it lands on their desk. What if it gets stuck at the bottom of a pile? Material or tools aren't ordered, programs aren't created and work doesn't progress on-time. It can lead to late jobs, expedite situations, and worse. Or what if they need to work from home because of a pandemic?
3. Travelers get lost. All...The...Time! This causes all sorts of waste like waiting, motion, transportation, overprocessing, scrap, and more. Probably all 7 wastes identified by the Toyota Production System. It has ramifications for the current job in the process, and also for future jobs of the same part number. Crucial notes that shop workers scribbled on the back of drawings or scraps of paper get lost which means the next time the parts are made, that information is lost and needs to be recreated. It's a snowball effect of waste. See fig 2.
4. Jobs often need to get split up into multiple batches. Hot jobs need to have partials sent ahead of the rest of the job. Parts need to be re-worked and catch up to the main work order later. What do you do with the job router? Photocopy it? What about all those supporting documents like work instructions and inspection sheets? There are no great answers.
5. Penmanship and legibility can be big factors on paper documents. Someone jots down a note, a quantity, an inspection result, and someone else misinterprets the information. This can cause many problems.
6. Traceability is suspect when relying on people to enter their initials for signing off crucial steps. Even unique rubber stamps can be “borrowed” by someone else who signs off on work not done by the person in question.
7. If a job traveler package makes it through the shop unscathed, it then needs to be filed or scanned. If filed, managing a year's worth of old travelers is a huge headache and expense. Filing cabinets fill up, rooms fill up, storage units fill up. Some customers require job records to be held for 10, 20, or 30 years to retain that audit trail of who made what, out of what, and inspected it with what. Having to go look up records for an audit can be a monumental undertaking. If they can't be found, that's a major liability for a shop facing a customer or ISO/AS audit!
These are just a few of the liabilities inherent with paper travelers. We've identified that the information contained on the router and traveler is crucial. So then our goal is to retain and enhance the good parts of those documents and mitigate the liabilities of having paper versions of that information. We are advocates for 100% paperless, digital-only versions of the information contained on that paper.
The biggest obstacle to going paperless is the fear of change. It’s human nature to resist change, especially when it’s such a dramatic change. People are uncertain about how it will work, and how their job will change. We’ve seen that time and time again when employees are first introduced to a paperless environment. Almost without fail, the clear and obvious benefits start to reveal themselves quickly and people realize how much they’ve suffered from the waste they didn’t realize for so many years.
The second biggest obstacle to going paperless is the actual technology used to make the transition. Until recently there hasn’t been a practical way to easily manage the data needed to run a dynamic job shop environment, with less labor investment, without paper.
With ProShop ERP, we’ve been running paperless and highly effective job shops for over 20 years. We have helped hundreds of other manufacturing companies become more efficient, save cost, save trees, take their company through a true digital transformation, and reach the pinnacle of going paperless. We’d encourage you to watch the accompanying video and reach out to us if this sounds like an interesting consideration for your shop.