BUSINESS CONSULTANTS ADVISE ENGINEERS ON CRITICAL COMPONENTS TO JOB SCHEDULING
Working smarter; that’s what it’s all about. NZ Engineer News has approached three of the most experienced business consultants working in the New Zealand engineering space to advise us on job scheduling for engineers. Here’s what they had to say:
IAN FEATHERSTONE, OWNER OF GLASS HALF FULL
I advise on the importance of accurate scheduling, using software. Most of the businesses in the engineering sector are adding value with time and materials. The service and profit risks from estimating and managing materials is reasonably straight forward, especially for those with an engineering mind.
Managing time and tasks is another matter altogether. We can all calculate or estimate the expected time a task or a group of tasks should take for a particular job, however it gets more complicated when the business grows to a size were multiple jobs are happening at the same time, with shared resources and limited available working hours. Add to this the constantly shifting timelines, job variations, non-workdays and inevitable rush jobs, the task of organising and matching the right people to the right job, with minimum downtime can, become overwhelming and time consuming.
I have found that people with a logical or engineering mindset can quickly understand and implement scheduling software to help them plan and manage people, tasks, capacity and most importantly make promises to customers that they can keep and minimise downtime so the business can maximise the amount of “billable hours” it can charge out to increase the bottom line.
If you are considering scheduling or time management software, then I recommend you look for a system that has a demonstrated track record of working effectively for the engineering sector where 100% of the clients using the software are engineers and other custom manufacturers, where by default the software has all the necessary functionality to cope with all the complexities that occur on factory floors. The latest scheduling softwares use tablets on the factory floor, where factory staff start and finish their jobs on their tablets which enables automatic updating of job status and live and accurate scheduling. The software needs to be easy to use, provide clear, simple information and reports to your people, is accessible from anywhere and capture budget to actual time data that can be used for payroll and job costing, thus giving you feedback to improve your processes. Some provide excellent reports from which you can give your team feedback to help them keep improving.
DAVID LAWRENCE, OWNER OF LEAN MANUFACTURING
I consult to over 140 engineers and other jobbing manufacturers throughout New Zealand and Australia on scheduling, shop floor productivity and lean manufacturing. I can say that the substantial majority of engineers still schedule manually using spreadsheets and do not schedule well at all.
My short hand advice to owners, production managers and management teams of engineering firms that I consult to is six fold;
1 Stop using spreadsheets to schedule work. Spreadsheets are very time consuming, job status must be assessed and recorded manually then entered by staff or management manually, and in most case sequencing of tasks and capacity of tasks is not considered so the forward work schedule is not accurate
2 Invest in tablets for your factory floor and labour management and scheduling software to track daily and weekly downtime and manufacturing time
3 Use only scheduling software that where jobs and tasks are updated live from factory floor tablets and where individual staff register task started and task finished in real time
4 Use only scheduling software developed solely for engineering and other custom one off manufacturing businesses
5 Four minimum requirements of scheduling software; task/process capacity reporting, Job list viewable on calender, drag and drop of Tasks and Jobs on the calender and Gantt charts
6 Factory floor Job and Task status is ideally viewed live on 50 inch TV monitors on the factory walls and office walls for all factory staff, administration staff and management to see continuously throughout the day
I use ‘Empower Factory Productivity and Scheduling Software’ developed here in Auckland, NZ
WARWICK RUSSELL, OWNER OF SMETRIC INSIGHTS
Smetric Insights helps make driving business performance easy. Our focus is on developing software and interfaces that enable custom reporting for Engineers, custom product Manufacturers and other businesses. We provide owners and management teams with tailored, high-quality reporting which includes accurate figures that provide greater visibility of work in progress, job and task requirements, scheduling, true manufacturing time and true labour costs.
I have also owned two engineering businesses with over 100 staff. So, I know and fully appreciate all of the challenges around scheduling to meet changes in customer demands with quantities, timing and variations. Then there are all the challenges to manage breakdowns, unexpected downtime and jobs taking longer than expected.
Historically, in an attempt to try and schedule jobs, the Engineers used manual job cards on planning boards and Excel spread sheets. These were all a bit of a nightmare with different versions of the truth, no good visibility across the shop on where things were at and the challenges of rescheduling the jobs manually on the board.
To work out job times and job costs, at the end of the working day, the Engineers used to have factory staff fill in manual job sheets with their job start time, job end time and job duration time that they “guessed”. We then had administration staff re-enter those job times into our job cost system. This was a poor system and poor reporting; times on jobs were recorded highly inaccurately, the information was too late for management to do anything with, not good for basing future quotations on and they did not make factory staff accountable to their job times.
Software such as Empower Factory Productivity & Scheduling is a game changer for engineers. By using touch screens or tablets on the workshop floor jobs, factory staff and time on jobs are tracked in real time and there is visibility across the entire business; where teams and individual factory staff are at, where jobs are at, where the capacity constraints are and what conversations are needed with clients on priorities ahead of time, not after a late delivery.