Plastic processors often experience delayed product shipments caused by errors, obsolete production schedules and material shortages. Aside from inconsistent performance and confusion this creates a general lack of customer confidence.
Should we just accept the status quo?
Can anything be done to change this?
The answer is absolutely yes! This is completely reversible but you must first understand where and why you are falling short and get serious about committing to implementing proper procedures and controls to drive accurate reporting.
The largest contributing factor to falling victim to the above scenario is the lack of timely actionable information. In most cases when plastics processors experience this issue, it’s due to relying on far too many time-consuming manual processes that are error prone and fail to deliver critical data that alert your team to issues when there is still time to react.
Imagine if your enterprise had access to real-time production scheduling, inventory and performance tracking… wouldn’t this mean better material allocation, improved machine utilization, and increased production throughput?
Might this change empower your management team to make better, more informed decisions on everything from scheduling incoming raw materials to guaranteeing on-time delivery of customer orders?
The lack of centralized, real-time data reporting means compiling material and labor costs, material usage, production volumes, and profit by order, is both a time-consuming and laborious affair. In some cases, the company’s results can only be verified days, weeks and or even months later. That delay is costly.
To eliminate this as an ongoing concern, your team’s focus should be to:
Do away with cumbersome reporting methods and instead implement best practices that allow you to compile time-critical production data by shift and by end of day. The end result is a reporting structure that will help you maximize your production capacity, minimize machine downtime, increase efficiency and improve your bottom line.
Among some of the areas to consider include the following:
Becoming Proactive Instead of Reactive
Bar-code scanners and simply to use touch screens allow producers to capture real-time production data. That data summarizes all the performance parameters of the assigned work order. Management can easily reconcile information pertaining to material and labor costs, material consumption, quantities, downtime, and manufacturing cycle times, all from a single point of entry.
They can also decipher information pertaining to machinery performance, machine-specific cycle times and overall machine throughput. This information is easily accessible and readily available through a central database, thereby empowering your production and management team to make better decisions concerning current and future capacity.
Understanding the Impact of Data Entry Errors
It’s not the single data entry or key entry error that anyone should worry about. Instead, it is how that single error propagates across every internal department and singlehandedly fractures your production plan. It’s how that error impacts your production packages, your bill of materials (BOM), your work orders, your production schedules, your machine and your material allocation, your quality control review and finally, your shipments of finished plastic goods.
Data entry and or key entry errors are costly. They are often associated with employees and operators who are pressed for time and unable to make educated and informed decisions due to a lack of verifiable information. These employees aren’t in a position to continually question the information and work orders in front of them. Their job should be to minimize downtime, report rejects and whenever possible; increase throughput.
A central database eliminates the impacts of data entry errors by taking human error out of the equation. Company-wide data such as mold or die efficiency, setup times, alternate recipes, waiting purchase orders and delivery times can be combined and extrapolated in order to help you better plan future machine utilization and material allocation.
Focusing on Productivity Rates
Do you find it difficult to focus on increasing production throughput simply because you spend too much of your time in continuous “catch-up” mode? You want to get it to the point where your team is maximizing melt flow rates and optimizing molding or extrusion parameters by machine and resin type. Ultimately, the goal is to begin each new shift with the right material allocated to the right machine, with the right settings so you can begin full-scale production the moment the shift starts.
Today’s injection molding machinery comes complete with programmable logic controllers (PLCs), allowing you to immediately pull up previous run lots, sizes and batch parameters. Your customer service / order entry, planning and scheduling people will have direct access to this data when prioritizing customer orders and production runs, empowering them to make stronger decisions, while helping your company to avoid costly delays.
Production Delays Have a Cumulative Effect
Rushing material onto the shop floor and assigning it to whatever machine is available is often the last resort of companies relying upon manual production planning. Ultimately, success is dependent upon having the right material, in the right quantity, for the right job. This is often difficult for companies that rely upon a series of nondescript excel spreadsheets and timesheets, ones that are never live and never updated in real-time.
Scanning your production entries allows you to define current machine availability while comparing it to future capacity. Bar-code scanners and touch screens allow users and operators to compare current production data against upcoming work orders, current machine throughput and current and future material volume requirements. These tools are far more accurate and timely when compared to a set of paper processes, each one less reliable than the next.
Customers Losing Confidence
Customers stop buying when they feel they’ve been let down. If your current manual processes don’t allow you to be proactive and avoid ever having to advise your customers of potential delays, then it’s more than likely that they’ll eventually move away from you as a vendor.
The inability to provide up-to-date, real-time order statuses sends a message to your customers that you are ill-prepared to handle time-critical production and urgent orders. This could forever position you as the secondary or tertiary supplier, one your customers call upon when their primary and incumbent vendors aren’t available or are booked solid. However, a central database allows you to be proactive and plan accordingly. Instead of advising your customer after the fact, you’ll be able to advise them of any potential delays and give them viable options to work with.
Improving customer confidence goes hand-in-hand with improving results on your shop floor. Doing away with cumbersome manual processes, timesheets and excel sheets means that you’ve decided to rely upon a single point of reference, one that takes into consideration everything happening now and everything you need to succeed in the future.