Enhancing shop floor data collection for peak factory performance

Case Study - Martin’s Rubber company

About Martin’s Rubber

Martin’s Rubber is a specialist manufacturer of elastomeric products including seals, gaskets and bespoke rubber mouldings for engineers and manufacturers worldwide. The business was founded over 150 years ago in Southampton, UK, where it still has its headquarters.

The challenge

ERP systems play a critical role in many manufacturing organisations, especially for materials and labour planning, and as a means of maintaining financial control. According to recent analyst reports, ERP takes the lion’s share of the manufacturing IT budget today. But as Adam Hooper, Operations Director for elastomer specialists Martin’s Rubber explains, ERP systems often don’t address the basic needs of the shop floor:  “ERP supports resource planning for the business,” states Adam. “But it’s a league away from what MESTEC gives us, which is the ability to manage the whole shop floor experience.”

“I don’t believe that any manufacturing ERP system has a suitable all-encompassing platform to effectively run the shop floor,” claims Adam. “If you have a continuous, repeatable production run then you might survive with just basic ERP capability, but otherwise, in a dynamic environment with often bespoke work, you will be putting garbage in to your ERP and you will get garbage out revealing no useful insights to fuel continuous improvement.”

The company invested in ERP several years back with the intent of creating a standard platform to support the business’s increasingly complex supply chain. While the ERP system addressed the business planning and procurement processes, its deployment left a gap on the shop floor.

Martin’s Rubber manufactures hundreds of different parts with variable batch runs and lead times that vary from ‘while you wait’ to over a year for products for the defence sector. The complexity of its operations is one of the reasons why having accurate and robust data collection from the factory floor is so critical to improving manufacturing efficiency.

The solution

Improving capacity

“Fundamentally, we now have confidence in the data we are collecting. Improving data accuracy from the factory into the ERP system has enabled us to get a handle on stock, labour and materials reporting. Because we can accurately measure actual values against expected, we can assess where we are against our plan and, if necessary, do something about it.”

Martin’s Rubber has integrated MESTEC with the Access ERP system, including its Advanced Planning and Scheduling module (‘APS’). “APS gives us visibility of all the jobs that we have in the system, including the time that those jobs should take and the resources they require in terms of machines and people. It juggles those various constraints and comes up with the most effective manufacturing sequence. MESTEC then sends work-to lists to operators’ portable tablets in this priority order at a work-centre level.

“Operators record their activities as they happen including the time they start and complete operations via simple touches on the tablet screen. A sub-set of this information, including the progress against each job is fed back into the ERP. When we re-schedule, which we do several times during the day, APS takes the next snapshot from the shop floor and updates the plan. The system lets us know where we are and what capacity we must fit in further work during that day/week/month.

Streamlining shop floor data collection

Martin’s Rubber had moved away from paper-based shop floor data collection some 20 years ago, having developed its own business software systems. However, the company felt that continuing to support this in-house software was not a core strength and presented too much of a risk to its operations in the long term.

“We had already looked at MESTEC’s solution about five years ago and in the meantime, we hadn’t seen anything better. Because we had been familiar with the solution for some time, we had a lot of confidence that it would address our needs. One of the key benefits for us was how intuitive it is to use for shop-floor staff, ensuring operator engagement and accuracy,” explains Adam.

The business sees its use of MESTEC as part of an on-going evolution towards the ‘digital factory’, enhancing its ERP implementation. “MESTEC manages the shop-floor experience – it closes the loop with our ERP and the factory, and enables accurate shop floor data collection,” says Adam. “As an interface, the information flow is two-way. As well as collecting data, we use it as a way to communicate back to the shop floor. We share work-to lists, send drawings and give real-time feedback to operators. Being able to present that information electronically enables us to keep everything relevant to the shop floor in one place, and in real time.”

“We like the fact that MESTEC is a tightly-focussed product that does what it says on the tin. Accurate shop floor data collection is critical to us and to the success of our ERP. MESTEC gives us that, with the added benefit having a human interface that our operators find easy to use.

The results

Martin’s Rubber has significantly improved key aspects of its operational performance since adopting MESTEC to collect data from the shop floor and issue work instructions back to operators.

“As far as our business is concerned, MESTEC helps us control costs and it’s enabled us to improve our performance on several levels,” explains Adam. “As a result, capacity utilisation has gone up significantly. We have an easy way to communicate information back to the shop floor and if we see a production bottleneck or slippage in the plan, MESTEC gives us the means to investigate it and do something about it.”

“Furthermore, its advanced planning & scheduling and its dashboards and performance analytics has become core on our path to world-class factory performance. Since we went live a few months ago, we have already seen an increase in labour utilisation of some 15% and we predict that this will double as we continue to use the insights MESTEC offers. That will result in a ROI presenting a return that is many times our monthly MESTEC subscription.”