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This presentation will discuss what the author believes are surprisingly affordable client-server network and/or PC based software applications that a medium sized factory (less than 500 employees) is implementing and/or plans to implement. (This paper will not discuss client-server MRP systems, CNC, CAD, or machine automation applications.)

Cost reduction, improved quality, and other enhanced competitive advantages, such as shorter and/or more reli­able delivery times, are the cost and technical drivers for implementing the client-server applications selected. The factory discussed in this presentation manufactures re­lays, switches and power control devices for the aerospace and transportation industry. Factory operations include machine shop fabrication, electro-mechanical assembly, electronic assembly and hybrid circuit assembly operations.

The PC client-server software applications to be discussed in this presentation include:
• Pre-determined labor standards and line balanc­ing software
• Bar code labor data collection for factory direct and indirect labor
• Automated SPC data collection and monitor­ing—direct computer input from quality measure­ment devices like micrometers to automatically plot SPC graphs and warn of violations, including central monitoring stations for all SPC chart activity at the various terminal PCs
• Production simulation software for mixed-model line balancing and other production modeling applica­tions
• Finite scheduling software to augment MRP to discover realistic dates for new orders and to optimize production schedules
• Bar code lot traceability data collection so that parts from any production lot can be quickly traced to the shipment lots that used the parts.
• Shop Documentation Software—The software dis­plays drawings and manufacturing instructions in­cluding single video frames or pictures on computer screens. Users have the ability to zoom in and out of drawing detail. The software enables one to prepare manufacturing instructions very quickly with Win­dows "cut & paste" operations using marked-up por­tions of video pictures and CAD drawings.

To implement the above applications, our factory is replac­ing its dumb terminal network tied to the central minicom­puter with a client-server PC network. In other words, PCs will replace the dumb terminals on the factory floor. The minicomputer which now hosts the MRP and accounting systems becomes one of several server computers on the network. Most of the server computers that will host the data files and host software for the various applications will be powerful PCs.

To establish our client-server network, we are installing new cabling for higher data transmission speeds and capacity. We are using an optical cable "backbone" between our two main buildings to reduce the amount of cable required.

Two years ago, the author of this paper thought all the above described applications on a client-server network were either futuristic fantasies or too expensive for a medium sized factory. Today, the author is convinced that the applications described above are very profitable appli­cations for our factory today. If the trends for more power­ful hardware and software at lower costs continue, the cost justification for implementing these type of applications will only improve.

The Computing Revolution—Opportunity for Manufacturing

The magnitude and scope of the computing revolution and its potential application in the factory has progressed more than most of us realize. The following paragraphs provide some general background information on the emergence of inexpensive and powerful PCs and client-server networks.

To be Continued

For balance of this article, click on the below link:

Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 01


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