Lean thinking in manufacturing has always been a practical means to that most desirable end: A better quality product produced in less time at lower cost. For the past two decades, manufacturers have constantly striven for tight integration of shop floor activities, hopefully resulting in a streamlined environment capable of achieving this Lean sense of “perfection”.
In more basic terms, at its core Lean thinking is informed by the goal of shop waste minimization through the elimination of those activities that do not add value to the product. Simultaneously, the use of scarcer resources is maximized, such as capital investment and personnel. However, while capital investment in tooling and infrastructure (i.e., building, land, etc.) is encumbered by a sense of being “fixed” with regards to improvements in efficiency, the human side of the manufacturing process (i.e., personnel) has much greater flexibility in terms of being able to make immediate adjustments in process toward a better way of doing things.
As a production resource, employees (both production and management) have the capacity for revealing and solving problems at the source, as well as making instant alterations toward “a more perfect” manufacturing process. However, these decisions are–must be–driven by relevant, reliable, real-time shop data entry. Constant process analysis as a Lean principle must involve empowered employees who participate in the collection and dissemination of real-time data; this empowerment always results in improving efficiencies in the shop floor system.
Built as a single point, multi-purpose shop floor/work order management tool, the paperless Touch Screen Data Collection system (TSDC) is designed to be a central collection point and rapid analyzer for important shop floor-generated data. In a Lean production environment, where the need for data is constant, it is paramount that a single integrated system of total shop floor activity tracking controls exists, including costing, purchasing, scheduling, materials management, tracking, inventory control, and labor management (both direct labor and indirect labor).
TSDC provides real-time shop floor control in all aspects of the system, creating the maximization of efficiencies and reduction of waste that are the values at the heart of Lean production. However, any good enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing tool must depend upon the human variable – shop floor personnel – to provide the input of data through the system. Without accurate and consistent attention to data entry, error margins increase to the detriment of reliability. This is why it is important that employees feel not only empowered and vested in the ERP system, but that they are comfortable enough with the technology to include the data entry process as part of their production routine.
Without a personnel commitment to total integration of the ERP data collection and the inputting of data into the job flow, analysts are faced with incomplete, if not error-filled, data. This mandate of shop floor data entry is especially important in job shops, make-to-order, make-to-stock, and mixed mode manufacturers where budgets prohibit the addition of a dedicated IT person or staff.