What Is Shop Floor Control Software And What Does It Do?

What Is Shop Floor Control Software And What Does It Do?

In an ideal world, a perfect Shop Floor Control System gives management a real time view from both a bird’s eye and granular level of everything that happens to materials as they are converted into a final product. It ties to everything inventory, from original bill of materials, to POs to suppliers, to WIP as it is transformed into a finished product while traversing the manufacturing floor, and then subsequently inventoried, shipped, and ultimately invoiced and delivered. All relevant metrics are recorded and monitored, be they individual worker or group labor rates, counts, and times, work station labor rates, counts, and times, as well as tracking defects throughout the manufacturing process, from beginning to end. A system of alerts is in place so that a manager is notified, in real time, should any process be delayed or flawed as compared to expected benchmarks give or take allowed deviations.
In short, as materials are being produced, the manager knows exactly how quickly they are being produced, defect rates, problem areas, standard/off standard, as well as how much and how well workers and work groups are performing.

Issues with non-productive labor can immediately be identified at the source and corrected. Defects can be quickly identified as they are occurring and likewise corrected.

The Shop Floor Control System ties seamlessly into Accounting and Payroll so that wages and incentives earned can be measured in real time, as well as directly feed the Payroll system so manual time cards become a thing of the past and wages are tallied and paid by the system after a quick review by responsible Accounting personnel. The Shop Floor System likewise continuously communicates with any ERP or WMS in place so that an exact snapshot of inventory and materials levels are known at any time. This helps substantially with materials planning and forecasting, helping speed inventory turnover and the timing and cost of shipping.
The Shop Floor Software is not tied to any hardware so that all information can be communicated via wireless technology, thus allowing for quick setup for changes in product and production flows.

The software allows manufacturing managers to design and test manufacturing models to determine which setup configurations allow for the greatest productivity and lowest defect rates, as well as forecast materials requirements. Resource/labor planning is made easy because it ties to the company calendar and tracks each employee’s availability during any production periods.

The Shop Floor Software should allow several meaningful reports, for example, employee and/or department efficiency rankings, who are my best operators on which operation, excess cost reports by plant, cost center, or department, this identifies quickly your problem areas and/or identify what is working well so it can be replicated. You should also expect the capability of integrating with your ERP to report your Style Bill of Labor for proper costing with the capability to constantly update the BOL for the true cost of labor as opposed to an estimate.

Incentive Payroll and Real Time Shop Floor Control Software

Incentive Payroll and Real Time Shop Floor Control Software

Define Shop Floor Control

Shop floor control is the use of measurement, analysis, management techniques, and technology to maximize the productivity, efficiency and profitability of a manufacturing plant or sewing room. Shop floor control’s components include labor, equipment, the integration of equipment and computer systems, setup methodologies, the preproduction and manufacturing process, work in process inventory, warehousing and shipping, quality control and waste, as well as payroll and piecework incentives.

Shop floor control may involve any and all activities in the manufacturing supply chain, as modern management science recognizes that all activities are connected to ultimate productivity and profitability. A simplified definition of shop floor control is that of maintaining a real-time view of all aspects of a manufacturing process in order to maximize productivity, efficiency and profitability.

Shop floor control may involve any and all types of manufacturing activities tied to a shop floor. All industries connected with manufacturing of any type of product or good may benefit from shop floor control techniques. There are a plethora of terms connected with shop floor control and its definition, including “piecework payroll”, “piecework system”, “incentive payroll” or “incentive payroll system”, however these terms are sometimes limiting and do not always view shop floor control as being completely integrated with the manufacturing or production supply chain.

Shop floor control is likewise known by other names, depending on the industry, including “production line balancing,” as well as terms including the specific industry activities involved. For instance, in the apparel and fashion manufacturing and sewing industries, shop floor control is often described as being “sewing plant management,” or “sewing room management.”

What is Shop Floor Control Software?

Shop floor control software is technology used for maximizing the productivity, efficiency and profitability of a shop floor, including all of the shop floor components and considerations mentioned and discussed above. Shop floor control software is a tool for enabling best manufacturing and sewing floor practices. It provides a bird’s-eye view of what is happening on the shop floor at all times, preferably via managements’ choice of dashboard, tablet or mobile device.

To restate, shop floor control software is a tool for measuring and managing labor, the use of equipment, setup, payroll, as well as materials flow through the manufacturing process. Shop floor software provides complete visibility into the manufacturing and sewing supply chain so that changes and improvements to materials flow, labor productivity, and equipment efficiency may be made in real time.

Software which supports best practices seamlessly integrates payroll and incentive pay, and provides visibility for planning more efficient setup. It helps with making changes to how workstations are architected and interconnected for more enhanced WIP flow through the supply chain. It allows for integration with a company’s ERP, WMS, and its payroll provider. It will even integrate with equipment such as RF guns, printers, shipping and vendor portals, as well as portable devices.

Shop Floor Control Software Setup and Improved Productivity

When architecting a shop floor, there are many considerations to streamlining the manufacturing supply chain. Setup is a very primary consideration. How will materials be processed into a finished good, and how might this process be set up most efficiently? There can be laborers, labor work stations, and equipment for sewing, cutting, finishing or even distribution involved. There are multiple processes involved, and it is both an art and a science to the construction and setup of a manufacturing or sewing assembly line.

Without shop floor control software, the setup and management of a manufacturing supply chain or assembly line can be difficult to manage and implement. Complications involve the manual assignment of hundreds of workers to multifaceted workstations, the design of intricate materials flow from work station to work station, as well as the planning for delivery of hundreds of thousands of finished goods to shipping docks, inventory and store shelves.

Without the right technology or software in place to capture “real time” shop floor data and to convert it into usable information for analysis, a manager must rely on intuition or hunches he may have based on historic work experience. Without the right software or technology, he is required to visibly monitor activities to capture bottlenecks in the materials’ work flow, or to spot a tired worker who may be fatigued or sick. He may have the right manufacturing or sewing productivity information, but only days after the fact. A lot of time must be spent crunching numbers, working with spreadsheets, or going through hundreds of gum sheets and time cards.

With the right shop floor control software in place, the data capture, analysis, and reaction speed of a manager can be improved substantially. He can go from taking days to gather multiple batch reports, to crunch numbers, and to conduct difficult ad hoc analysis to moving at the speed of electronic data transfer. With the right software in place a manager can immediately (in real time) spot an operator or sewer experiencing a slump in productivity. What is being produced, or added to WIP, is completely visible. This method makes a substantial difference when compared to discovering an operator has been non-productive for hours or days, but only after the manager has reviewed and analyzed numerous physical time cards and production tallies.

Historic shop floor control data can give the manufacturing or sewing floor manager a view to how various setup configurations have affected productivity in the past. Historic setup data can be benchmarked. It may help identify which laborers are most productive with particular sewing or manufacturing tasks, how various incentive programs have affected worker counts and the quality of their workmanship, as well as which tasks or work stations are best grouped together. When historical productivity data is available, shop floor control software is a very powerful tool for planning the most efficient and profitable setup formats for a sewing or manufacturing floor. Improvements to efficiency and productivity can be made on a continual basis.

Shop Floor Control Software and Wi-Fi or Portable Device Usage

Shop Floor Control Software that is configured for Wi-Fi and for use with wireless and mobile devices is ideal for many reasons. It is scalable to thousands of work stations and is easy to plug and play. There are many benefits to shop floor workstations each being connected to their own remote devices. Rearrangement of work stations for greater productivity or manufacturing changes is made seamless. There are no wires or cables to be unplugged or rewired. Operators are more efficient because each has his own portal for recording and measuring his productivity in real time.

Next-Gen Shop Floor Control – Time Savings Alone Yields a Positive ROI

Next-Gen Shop Floor Control – Time Savings Alone Yields a Positive ROI

Companies implementing a next-generation wireless tablet-based Shop Floor Control (SFC) solution most often realize a quick payback just by considering the “minutes saved” throughout their cut & sew operations. Of course, other cost-saving benefits such as massive efficiency gains will also contribute to the full Return on Investment (ROI) picture. In part one of this series, I will focus solely on the most obvious time savings that next-generation SFC can yield in a single 8-hour shift.

Scanning QR codes vs legacy barcodes
Scanning a QR code is a much more efficient process than scanning barcodes. This can save up to 1 minute per operator/shift.

Visual communications vs alphanumeric display
Workers have the ability to look at and interact with the “content rich” display on a tablet without having to key special commands or codes; saving another 7 ½ minutes.

Paperless travelers
Large, visual displays can also display a PDF file/traveler to improve communications and reduce errors for all workers and saves 5 minutes.

Clocking in at the operator’s workstation vs waiting in the time clock queue
This saves between 4 – 6 minutes per operator.

Clocking in using QR codes vs NFC or Biometrics
This saves 10 to 15 seconds or .25 minutes per operator.

Email notifications for machine downtime
Automatic email notifications to alert mechanics to machine downtime gets problems solved faster, saving approximately 4 minutes per operator.

Email notifications for other off-standard events
Automatic email notification to supervisors for off-standard approvals saves 3 minutes per operator.

These time savings alone give each operator an additional 25.75 minutes of productive time per operator.

For a 100 operator shop, that is an additional 2,575 minutes gained each day!

As you can see, a significant part of these savings come from the use of a wireless tablet system. But that’s only part of what makes next-gen SFC so great for your business. In my next article I’ll review the efficiencies gained by implementing such a solution and leave you with a simple, easy to understand ROI model for your new shop floor control solution.

Propper Picks Up the Pace With Exenta Shopfloor

Propper Picks Up the Pace With Exenta Shopfloor

Propper International is leveraging a wireless real-time shop floor control solution to boost productivity and gain greater visibility.

Fifty years ago, Propper International got its start as a supplier to the U.S. military, making the iconic white “dixie cup” hats for the Navy. Since then, the company has produced over 120 million garments for the five major military branches, plus many more commercial products for local law enforcement and public safety organizations.

If you can name a sewn product used by a military service member, chances are Propper makes it. Across six plants in Puerto Rico, the company produces boots, tops, bottoms, body armor, bags, pouches, accessories and sleep systems. Many products are engineered with special performance features for the modern soldier who is a tactical athlete. The St. Louis, MO-based company also operates factories in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

One of Propper’s latest achievements has been the successful implementation of innovative shop floor control (SFC) technology. The new software has led to double-digit efficiency gains and brought heightened operational visibility to both managers and production workers. “The system has really paid for itself and is helping us be more responsive to our customers,” says Anderson Ward, Propper SVP Global Supply Chain Operations.

Even with half a century of experience, Propper found itself facing a plateau in plant efficiency. Its skilled workforce was adept at making diverse products, and its plants were accustomed to scaling up and down to meet fluctuating demand from military contracts. But traditional processes for tracking work-in-process (WIP) and piece-rate payroll had locked Propper into a pattern in which unproductive time was taking a measurable toll every single day.

“It’s helping us be faster and more accurate with everything we’re doing right now…
instant feedback motivates workers to achieve higher performance levels.”

For example, the company had invested in a biometric time-clock system, whereby employees scanned their fingerprints to clock in or clock out to start and finish their workdays and take breaks. But even with multiple stations across its factories, inevitably lines would form, and the average associate might spend five minutes or more waiting for their turn at the clock. Moreover, if an operator’s sewing machine went down or there was another off-standard situation, a supervisor would need to use a special code at the time clock to acknowledge and authorize the operator’s shift from working on standard to being paid for the off-standard time.

Propper also used gum-sheet and bundle tickets to track each operator’s piece-rate production. For each bundle they finished sewing, operators added a sticker to their sheet. At the end of their shift, operators submitted the tickets to their supervisors, who reviewed each one and manually approved any off-standard time. Operators spent about 15 minutes per day managing the bundle tickets and gum sheets. Then Propper’s payroll department would take all of this information, plus readings from the time-clock system, and after scanning and inputting the data, calculate payroll payments and generate production reports. All told, this process took about three to five hours for every shift worked. “For practical purposes, we were almost always looking at information two to three days after the fact,” says Victor Acosta, Propper’s IT lead for business analysis.

Tangible Results from Real-time Visibility

Propper saw a path forward to eliminate a lot of this unproductive time and glean faster access to actionable information. The answer: a new shop-floor technology from fashion and sewn products supplier Exenta, Inc. The company’s solution is designed to work entirely over Wi-Fi networks and standard, off-the-shelf tablets and Android™ mobile devices, and so Propper knew it would not need to add any hard-wired infrastructure to use it. Instead, Propper installed about 850 mobile touch-screen tablets across workstations at two Puerto Rican factories. One of these factories includes a “plant within-the-plant” specializing in boot production, and so there are a total of three unique operations running the SFC software.

In addition to the tablets, flat-screen monitors are mounted on the walls of each factory, highly visible to all managers and employees. The tablets and screens are wirelessly connected to the Shopfloor software, which provides real-time visibility into productivity, order tracking, payroll, off-standard time and other metrics. Sewing operators and other workers quickly learned how to use the Shopfloor app and navigate the touch screens. It took approximately two weeks per sewing line to fully implement.

“The information is always at their fingertips whereas before
they only got visibility to data the next day at best”

Operators and supervisors now have badges with QR codes and can “clock in” right at their workstation tablet. Propper’s work bundles also contain QR codes, and they too are scanned at the tablets, automatically notifying the system about the bundle’s location and how quickly it is moving through the factory. Each operator can track his or her own efficiency through the tablets, up to the minute. Operators use this real-time feedback to pace themselves to meet standards and increase earnings. They also can use the tablets to access image-rich construction instructions and other visual product information.

Team leaders have visibility into individual efficiency and overall line performance, enabling them to offer constructive coaching and help associates improve their output and earn higher pay. Associates and supervisors also can handle off-standard events directly at the workstation, with minimal waiting. The SFC solution synchronizes with Propper’s ERP system for payroll and other information management purposes.

On average, sewing operator efficiency has improved 15 percent since the SFC solution rollout. “It’s helping us be faster and more accurate with everything we’re doing right now,” Acosta says. “The instant feedback motivates workers to achieve higher performance levels.”

In general, the Shopfloor solution has given Propper much greater control over production management. Propper’s managers have instant visibility into WIP across multiple sewing lines. The factory flat screens show real-time dashboards of WIP and order status, including any emerging bottlenecks, so that leaders can identify and take action to resolve issues right away. “The information is always at their fingertips whereas before they only got visibility to data the next day at best,” says Larry Barber, a member of the IT department who took responsibility for managing all SFC implementation and training.

Propper’s SFC implementation strategy is to go live one plant at a time. Given the success of the first three plants in Puerto Rico, Propper expects to roll out the Shopfloor solution at its Haiti and Dominican Republic factories by year end. Leveraging this new technology, Propper continues to earn its stripes as a high-quality and reliable supplier of top-notch military apparel and gear.