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Client-Server Applications Selected for Our Factory

Given the availability of low cost, powerful PCs and the variety of new PC software applications for manufacturing, our company has been looking for the most cost/effective applications for our operations. The following applications have been selected.

Pre-determined Labor Standards Setting PC Software

This software calculates standard times for various types of human motions based on international industrial engi­neering time standards for human motions involved in performing work. An industrial engineer (or equivalently trained) person codes a sequence of human motions for an element of work and the software documents the motion sequence and provides the standard times for each motion and for the entire sequence.

The advantages of using pre-determined time standards software to set labor standards is that it is faster than other methods, provides documentation of the method and pro­vides more uniform time standards. (The DOD requires reliable labor time standards for most major defense con­tracts and pre-determined time standard systems are a preferred method of establishing labor standards.) Once a library of standards are built for given processes, one can develop new standards very quickly for new parts that use those processes. All the resultant time standards are very uniform in regard to the human speed and effort involved to do the work. Hence time standards set by this technique tend to be very consistent in quality. Methods are docu­mented in detail in the computer files so that changes in methods do not require starting all over again to make a new standard, as is typically the case using stop watch methods to set time standards.

In our factory we videotape operations on the floor, play the videotape on the PC monitor and then code the motions observed on the computer screen. The industrial engineer uses Windows software to flip back and forth between viewing the video tape and the coding screen. In this way the engineer can quickly document a specific method of work and develop its standard time.

One may ask why bother to analyze and develop relatively precise labor standards when direct labor is becoming an increasingly small part of manufacturing costs for most companies? The answer is cost reduction. The biggest gain from carefully analyzing and measuring work on the fac­tory floor is typically methods improvements, i.e., finding a better and more uniform method to do the job. Also measured direct labor performance tends to improve if measured and compared to a reliable standard. Fre­quently, measuring direct labor performance will yield a 10% or greater improvement, but often a 1% improvement will pay for the application cost several times over.

The author is familiar with mainframe software packages for setting pre-determined time standards that ran as high as $250,000 in the 1970s. Our company evaluated two PC based pre-determined time standards packages whose prices ranged from $12,000 to $25,000. The PC based systems are easier and faster to use with Windows type selection menus and good report writers.
New expected releases of this type software will include the ability to store video frames in the same files to more completely document the work methods observed when coding the human motions.

Bar Code Data Collection Systems

Automated direct labor data collection equipment has been in use in factories for years and bar code data reading is not new. What is new is that the low cost, powerful PCs equipped with inexpensive bar code readers are replacing specialized labor data collection terminals. The cost of a fully equipped PC with a full sized screen and bar code readers is very competitive to the cost of a specialized labor data collection terminal. Hence software is emerging as the most important product in labor data collection systems, as it is in all application areas. The advantages of using a PC as the labor data collection terminal is the low cost plus the PC is available to use for other applications on the network.

Another change in direct labor data collection for factories today versus 20 years ago is the trend to collect labor performance data on work groups in work cells, rather than on individuals working alone. In our factory, operators may report their time individually, but they may share a joint work group efficiency for the work performed by all the members of the cell on a specific job.

An important reason for our factory to have a free standing or independent labor data collection system from our central minicomputer is that we cannot guarantee 24 hour up-time seven days a week from the minicomputer. The minicomputer needs to shut down the terminal users daily for maintenance and to reorganize the files. However we need to collect labor 24 hours per day seven day per week, and thus we expect more up time from a PC network solution. Each PC will be able to collect labor even if the network goes down, and selected PCs will have battery back-up in the event of a power failure.

Another cost effective PC data network software applica­tion is the automated time sheet. Engineers or other groups that want to collect actual labor costs by project can "fill out" their time sheets on their PC. Supervisors approve these time sheets on their PC via special passwords and security codes and we have streamlined our project cost collection system in conjunction with the payroll system.

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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