Investing in any new system for your business can have far-reaching consequences. Apart from the direct costs involved, you will be conscious of the time and resources required to implement the system and whether you will be able to realise the promised benefits for your business.
Many of the so-called ‘shop-floor data collection’ (SFDC) systems on the market today have been adapted from products that have been designed for some other primary use. For example, factory floor modules that have been bolted on to ERP/MRP systems, or time and attendance software that was originally intended for office environments.
Unfortunately, systems that have been designed primarily for some other use and then adapted for the factory floor often fail to realise their promised benefits. Mestec’s factory floor data collection solution has been engineered from the ground up for manufacturing environments – specifically labour-intensive shop floors. Manufacturers that choose to adopt Mestec’s solution are often moving from other systems when they find that they don’t meet their needs.
If you are looking to adopt SFDC, we’ve listed five of the key features that you should insist on as a minimum. Mestec’s solution ticks all of these boxes, and many more.
1. User interface efficiency
Any technology that you put on the shop floor must offer a natural and efficient way for operators to use it. That means the UI should be designed and purpose built for use on the factory floor.
Your SFDC system should promote the use of touch screens and barcode scanners as the primary ways that staff enter data. Operators must be able to complete tasks with minimal effort. There should be no room for confusion, which means having a navigation-free interface that is simple, streamlined and intuitive – minimising errors and the need for training.
In our experience, systems that have originally been designed for offices, which includes ERP/MRP systems, and then ‘adapted’ for factories, don’t provide seamless and efficient interaction for shop floor workers.
Having an efficient user interface is critical if you want to ensure that the data you gather from the shop floor is accurate and highly granular. And data accuracy is the foundation for better decision making.
2. Enable better business decisions
There is no point in collecting data unless it helps you make better business decisions. If you have to export data from the SFDC system and import it into a spreadsheet package or some other analysis software, then your SFDC system isn’t fit for purpose.
To be worthwhile, the SFDC system must have ‘out of the box’ reporting, analytics and dashboards that will drive better decision making in your business without any further work.
3. Rapid deployment
If the SFDC system you buy requires interfaces with hundreds of data services to get up and running, you will incur delays and extra costs before you have a workable shop floor system.
Every manufacturing environment is different, so an SFDC must be highly-configurable and sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of individual factories. The question you should ask is: ‘how easy can we configure the system to meet our needs?’
4. Flexible and future-proof
Your main concern today might be limited to how you are going to measure labour hours with a high degree of accuracy. However, needs change. In the future you might want the system to collect data around the use of materials, quality-control processes, customer complaints, machine constraints and so on. You should ensure that your investment in SFDC is in a system that will support your future needs as well as your current ones.
To be truly future-proof, SFDC systems must be able to handle data relating to labour, material and machines. Most systems on the market today can only manage one or two of this triumvirate.
Insist on the best of both worlds: ensure that the system offers a broad set of capabilities, but that it allows you to deploy only the features you need today. Look for a flexible, comprehensive and modular feature set.
5. Compatible with current systems
The way you collect shop floor data must be compatible with your existing business systems – typically ERP/MRP, including production planning and scheduling tools.
Look for proven, ‘out-of-the-box’ integration with leading ERP environments, which offer two-way data flow with your legacy systems.
Once you’ve collected your shop floor data you will be well prepared to implement production scheduling and planning on your factory floor.
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