One of the toughest parts of total enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation in manufacturing is, perhaps, the efficient collection, storing, and analysis of data. Whether information comes from the shop floor in terms of employee time, work in progress or materials inventory, or from departments such as master scheduling or shipping, the wide variety of operational areas in a plant calls for the centralization of information. Such a notion is at the very heart of Lean manufacturing, and it is one that is important in contemporary “pull production” manufacturing operations.
Of course, the centralization of data collection for use in manufacturing software means there must be centralized data collection points useable throughout a plant. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) terminal is a tool that gives shop employees a centralized port to input and interpret production data quickly and easily.
It is more important than ever that job shops, make-to-order, or mixed mode manufacturers realize efficiencies in production through the elimination of waste—another Lean technique. To maximize value in a Lean system, the manufacturer strives to pull production from the consumer end to eliminate the wasting of resources commonly found in physical processes.
For many manufacturers these processes could include just-in-time production and materials acquisition, scheduling, perfect first-time quality (less scrap), and flexibility. As a data collection and analysis tool, the GUI allows the tracking and continuous improvement of all of these functions as adjustments to maximize their efficiencies.
For example, with an average sized manufacturing operation running perhaps thousands of production events each day, it is important for all personnel to be able to view all jobs in real-time. Thorough and real-time information can help to determine the needs for individual jobs (e.g., scheduling, inventory/materials, set ups, machines, etc.) and as well as the work centers best suited for their production. The GUI centralizes all of this information in the form of interactive terminals that are easy to interpret and to operate.
As jobs are acquired on the shop floor, the GUI is constantly updated through real-time visual displays listing not only all pending work and work in progress, but the finished status for each job. With a simple touch-screen or keyboard input, the GUI user can monitor and manipulate any number of processes (e.g., clock onto and off jobs, materials requisitions, etc.) to facilitate the movement of jobs through the shop.
A robust Lean tool, the ability of the GUI to centralize scheduling and tracking of both the work center loads and the job production processes ultimately helps maintain Lean manufacturing principles. Whether in the form of reducing inventory, eliminating waste, increasing throughput, or reducing machine set-up times, for manufacturing operations seeking to implement a total ERP, the GUI becomes the focal point of system data collection that is vital to continuous improvement in company cost and performance.