Author Archives: raywhite

Task Linking for Engineering

Project managers have to juggle jobs – what a concept! Many of the jobs have to be linked together. One job can’t start until another is finished. Sorry, that’s just the nature of engineering.

Wanna watch a video? See below.

Finish-to-start is the most common link dependency. It means, when one task finishes another can start. Or, another way of saying it is, one task cannot start until the previous one is complete. This kind of link dependency models real life. A roof cannot be put on a house until the foundation is laid and the framing is complete. That’s only natural. This kind of link dependency occurs in engineering all the time.

Standard Time® is a time tracking app for engineering. Not only does it have tasks and links, but it also has a timesheet with lots of ways to enter time. One of those ways is with barcode and RFID’s. Time gets entered automatically using devices like that. That’s usually done on the shop floor, for manufacturing applications. But you can enter time manually against your own tasks. Managers define those tasks, and they magically show up on engineer’s timesheets for manual time entry. It’s a pretty good system.

Now back to dependency links. When you set up a “finish-to-start” link, you are using task dates. This kind of link means that the starting date of the second task is linked to the ending date of the first. If you move the first task, it’s ending date changes. And, that automatically moves the second task because it’s start date is dependent upon the first task. Again, this models reality in no may ways.

This is perfect for scheduling tasks. You simply set the dates for the first task, and successors follow along like cars on a train. They get pushed and pulled automatically anytime a predecessor date changes. Let’s say you are building an electronic circuit board. The circuit schematic precedes the board layout. And both those tasks precede fabrication and assembly. You could represent this natural link dependency with several tasks, each having finish-to-start links.

Now that you have some tasks, and the dates are linked, you could begin entering actual hours for employees. Or better yet, have them enter their own hours, and in some cases, create their own tasks. The whole plan takes on a life of it’s own. Now you’ve got a real engineering scheduler and timesheet!

 

 

Employee Project Status

“My manufacturing employees work hard. But I really don’t know what they are doing! How can I find out?”

What a great question!

Consider using the “Employee Status” window on a big screen. It’s resizable and configurable enough for a 75″ big screen. Hang a big TV on the shop floor and display current status of every employee. That tells everyone what everyone else is working on. Or, if that information is secret, you can view it yourself in your own office. But again, consider hosting it on a separate monitor where you see status all the time.

And… as it turns out, there a similar screen for job status. As with the employee status screen, you can resize the job status window and set the font for viewing at a distance. You could also hang a big TV out on the shop floor just for job status.

So with the “employee status” and “job status” windows, you get two views of the same information. One is from an employee perspective. The other is from a job perspective.

 

Work In Progress Shop Status

Wouldn’t it be nice to just look up on a big screen and see the current status of all your work in progress? Sort-of like the airport “Arrivals” and “Departures” screens. Those screens are intended to inform you instantly, and then let you move on. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a screen like that on your manufacturing floor?

Watch the video below for an introduction.

Once you catch the vision for a screen like this, consider downloading Standard Time®. ST has a screen just like that. It has configurable columns to display just the information you’re interested in. Here are some to consider:

  • Job name
  • Started date
  • % Complete and % Status
  • Employee
  • Department
  • Is the timer running for each job?
  • Hours spent so far
  • Cost incurred so far
  • Estimated duration
  • Current status
  • Last activity
  • Programmable key performance indicators

Put the WIP window on a 70″ LCD screen, so it can be viewed from a distance. Now everybody has shop floor status and can see the progress on their relevant work orders.

 

Project Management for Manufacturing and Engineering

Engineering and manufacturing go together, as shown in the video below. You can’t do the milling and molding without the up-front planning. So what tools do you have for that?

If you want a project management tool for both engineering and manufacturing, consider Standard Time®.

Not only do you get task lists, task planning, project management for the engineering side, you also get the manufacturing execution software for the actual product production and assembly. Design engineers plan their projects, track their time, and complete the product development phases. Manufacturing engineers plan the execution. And finally, operators on the shop floor track the actual hours consumed in each task. Now compare what you’re actually getting on the floor with expectations.

Barcodes and RFID’s collect actual manufacturing hours, which show up on your project planning dashboards. You get instant feedback from the floor.

Call us and ask how it works!

 

Timesheet Hours in Excel

“You can’t use a timesheet and a spreadsheet together!” That used to be the old saying…

Not anymore. (see video below)

Timesheets and spreadsheets have finally made up. They’re friends again with the new Excel® Add-on named XLST. XLST pulls timesheet data directly from your Standard Time timesheet and puts it into your Excel spreadsheet. This video shows how. Essentially, you’re using Excel formulas to query the ST database, and putting the results into cells. Each cell uses one formula. The results of that formula come from the ST database. You supply parameters for each cell formula, which results in different data for each cell.

For example: Cell A1 might use employee ‘Buzz’ while A2 might use ‘Fred’. Since you’re supplying different data to the same formula, the results will change. That means you can build tables of data in a spreadsheet. Use those cells for pivot tables in Excel.

The data is always hot. You simply open the Excel spreadsheet and the Add-on pulls data in from the Standard Time database.

Go ahead and take a look at the video. It’s pretty nice.

 

Billing Clients for Work Orders

How are you billing clients for the work orders that pass over your manufacturing floor? In most low-performing companies, it’s a loose informal process. They sort-of know how much time was devoted to each work order, and billing occurs on the sparse information at hand. Maybe that’s a good guess, or maybe the operators on the floor are writing down (most) of their time, or maybe it’s just a flat fee agreed upon earlier. (Check out this YouTube video below.)

That’s the low-performers. How about you?

That’s not you. You are using Standard Time® and pulling actual time records off the shop floor using barcodes. You’re getting exact time and materials. Each time segment is timestamped four times, and contains the employee, job, and task. Each inventory item is also scanned and deducted from inventory, and included on the client invoice. Your invoices are about as precise as they can be. That means you are collecting all the revenue due you.

Serious… it all starts with a simple barcode scanner. Once you start scanning work orders on the shop floor everything changes. Your whole outlook on client billing changes. Your processes change. Your inventory and ordering changes. The progression from low-performer to high is natural and simple.

Get a barcode scanner and change how you bill clients from the shop floor.

This video will get you started.

 

Track Time and Inventory

Everyone knows that Standard Time® is a time tracking app. But did you also know that it tracks inventory and bill of materials?

It does!                (see the video below)

And it does it with barcode scanners. You’re probably familiar with the barcode time tracking capabilities. You scan usernames, projects, and tasks. A timer starts, and you track manufacturing hours. Easy. But you can do the same thing with barcode labels and inventory items.

Create a label for the inventory SKU. Scan that label, and the inventory item is automatically deducted from stock. You can also scan the manufacturer’s SKU or the vendor SKU. Any of those will work the same. And when the quantity in stock is reduced below a preset value, the parts can automatically be reordered using scripts.

Scanning BOM’s are similar. In that case, the BOM lists all the inventory items for an assembly. When you scan the BOM label (or SKU) all the inventory items on that BOM are reduced from stock. And again, any inventory item that falls below the “reorder quantity” is automatically reordered using a script.

You may be wondering about reorder scripts. Those are special user-programmable scripts that send emails or contact websites for reordering inventory. You must program these reorder scripts yourself, which often involves the IT department.

Automate your Manufacturing Shop

Even the simplest manufacturing shops can be automated with a few simple additions. Those additions start with these items:

  1. Barcode labels on everything
  2. Barcode scanners
  3. Tablets on the shop floor
  4. Standard Time® time tracking software

If you slap barcode labels on everything, then you can scan them everywhere. Scan raw materials to subtract from inventory. Scan bill of materials when kitting parts. Scan products as they begin the build process. Scan them again as they pass each stage of improvement. And finally, scan them as they are boxed and shipped. Now you have just collected a huge amount of information without expending any extra human effort.

Congratulations! You have just automated your manufacturing shop!

Here’s what you can now expect:

  1. Know when and where your work orders were started
  2. Know who worked on them last
  3. Know how much time has been spent so far
  4. Know how long entire jobs take
  5. Know where the bottlenecks occur
  6. Know what waste to cut

Seriously? I get all that from a few barcodes? Yup!

 

Task Status from the Mfg Floor

The boss wants to know where the project is that was started last week.

What job? I don’t remember a job!

Ummm, look up, dude. It’s on the big screen!               (watch the video below)

The big “airport” screen shows the status of all jobs on the manufacturing floor. Just scan a job with a barcode scanner, and it instantly shows up on the big screen. You’ll see the job name, the last time something happened on it, and who worked on it last. You’ll see project status, percent complete, and hours worked so far. You’ll even see how many hours are left before completion.

Turns out, the big airport-style screen can be helpful to a lot of people in the manufacturing organization. It’s really big for the guys on the shop floor, true. But also just as big for supervisors and managers. And, even sales folks who need job status they can communicate to their customers. They can just look up on the big screen, get the current status, and tell clients with the job is expected to finish.

  • No more yelling across the shop floor.
  • No more hand-written notes
  • No more blown delivery dates

It’s all on the big screen now!

 

Barcode Inventory and Bill of Materials

Automatically reorder inventory using a barcode scanner. Watch the video below, and then try these steps on your shop floor:

  1. Place a barcode label on your BOM (bill of materials)
  2. Scan the BOM when you start work
  3. Each item in the BOM will be deducted from inventory
  4. Optionally scan a task to start tracking time to the job
  5. Complete the work
  6. Scan STOP to stop the timer

Step #2 and #3 (which are really the same step) may kick off automate scripts to reorder inventory that has fallen below a predefined threshold. Those inventory items may appear at your receiving dock as a result of that reorder. Scan them to add them back into inventory.

Is it really that simple?

Yep!