30% decrease in WIP with purpose-built software for HMLV manufacturer

    June 28, 2021

    "I've known for a long time that I needed to have scheduling support for our orders. But it's so hard to find the right scheduling software if you are a high-mix low-volume manufacturer," David Cohen, General Manager of Edge Fabrication described the situation before he got to know just plan it (jpi). Today, Edge Fabrication - a customer of the E2 Shoptech ERP system - plans its custom fabricated sheet metal products with the production scheduling software jpi and a specific jpi app called Priority Plus. By this, they achieve a 30% reduction in WIP while their order volume increases.

    A typical high-mix low-volume manufacturer (HMLV)

    Edge Fabrication is a family-owned precision sheet metal company based in Irving, Texas. They are specialized in custom sheet metal fabrication, laser cutting, and assembly – prototype to production. They are well known for high product quality and excellent customer-centric service. Customers come from medical, energy, transportation, DOD, HVAC, automotive, and other crucial industries.

    ERP brings no real scheduling assistance 

    The company uses the ERP system Shoptech E2. But David had long been dissatisfied with the EPR's functionality when it comes to production scheduling :

    "Due date was a big drama in the company. We had a lack of control what was going on on the shop floor. We could hardly predict how long the production of the job would take".

    In practice, the jobs of the individual work cells were displayed via dashboards. They just listed them strictly in the order of the delivery date, from top to bottom. There was no holistic view. Planning interventions were not possible.  Rescheduling, such as bringing a long job forward or starting a job late, could not be calculated with the system. The whole scheduling process was very rudimentary.

    So it was clear that a more advanced and better fitting software-based scheduling solution was needed. First, Edge Fabrication had to gain more control over the shop floor. Second, they needed to become more flexible in scheduling jobs, without losing sight of the delivery date. But it was not easy to find an appropriate solution, said David:

    "There are very few software products on the market that are aligned with HMLV manufacturers' requirements. I am very happy that we found jpi and the Priority Plus app, because this "combo" takes into account exactly our needs." 

    5 key decision reasons for just plan it

    For David, jpi is the ideal software for several aspects:

    Purpose-built: With jpi, he can map exactly the processes that are typical for the individual production of highly customized products in a high-mix low-volume environment.

    Integration: The software can be easily integrated with the ERP system E2 Shoptech via the Priority Plus app.

    Responsive: Rescheduling is easy and they can react quickly to changes.

    Improved internal communication: jpi makes the production schedule transparent. It provides a holistic view, and the impacts of rush orders on other jobs become very obvious. This eases the communication between sales and production. 

    “jpi and Priority Plus brings a very large increase in control and organization. They are like a north star that give us directions: now everybody in sales and production can see what is more important”

    Grow and change with the company:  Even if the company decides one day to use another ERP system, jpi can still be used for scheduling, as it is not tied to any specific ERP.

    jpi and Priority Plus makes integration easy

    The integration of jpi into the ERP system is simple: it is achieved via the Priority Plus app, which is built on the jpi API. However, Priority Plus delivers more than just the data interface: It also provides an additional user interface, which is a bit Excel-style. Hence, this interface is familiar to many users. With Priority Plus, the production manager can manually change the suggested release dates and thus influence the sequence of the jobs. The jpi scheduling engine then recalculates all operations and resource allocations and visualizes them in a graphical planning board.

    Thus, this combines the familiarity of an Excel-style user interface with a powerful scheduling engine and the transparency coming from a visual scheduler. 

    Processes changed

    For David, jpi does not only provide a change of technology but also of processes:

    “It was eye opening: The jpi team showed me that there is a different way to think about scheduling and how to release the work to the floor”.

    Before working with just plan it due date was the only way to decide upon reordering jobs. With jpi and Priority Plus Edge Fabrication now schedules the jobs according to a suggested release date, which includes a buffer to accommodate unforeseen challenges (machine is down, people get sick, material availability).  Working with this buffer helps to improve the flow and hence reduces the WIP. After a job is released, jpi provides a priority suggestion showing which jobs have a higher likelihood of not finishing on time. The users can quickly set priority sequences for multiple jobs and update jpi. 

    “Overall, introducing jpi and Priority Plus have massively increased the value of our Shoptech E2 ERP system”

    Still room for improvements

    An important factor for the success of jpi is the correct building of routings. They determine the sequence and the average length of tasks.  At Edge Fabrication, 80% of the jobs have a rather straightforward routing, but the remaining 20% are very complex and have a lot of independencies. Building the routings in jpi is easy, but doing the same in the ERP system is very cumbersome. David is now looking at ways to also reflect the complex routings in E2, Priority Plus and jpi so that he can achieve the same efficiency gains for his complex jobs. 

    Furthermore, David estimates that they are only using 20% of the functionality of just plan it, yet. The next step is to apply more and more functions to further optimize the production scheduling at Edge Fabrication. With this, David is confident to get even more value (than "just" a 30% decrease in WIP) out of jpi and Priority Plus.

    Further readings

    10 machine shop scheduling best practices

    Which data are essential for production scheduling in HMLV job shops

    What is flow shop scheduling vs job shop scheduling

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