Category Archives: Manufacturing

Inventory Management with Scripting

Automate the shop floor by reordering inventory automatically using barcodes. Standard Time® is a time tracking app. Employees can start timers with barcode scans. But they can also add and subtract from inventory with barcodes too. Just scan an inventory item, and the quantity in stock is deducted. (scroll down for a video)

Wonderful! But what’s all this stuff about automatically reordering inventory?

It turns out that after the quantity in stock is deducted, the software can automatically reorder or replenish using special scripts. A script is kicked off when the quantity in stock drops below the reorder quantity. In other words, there a level at which an inventory item should be reordered. And when the quantity in stock drops below it, a script is run that can perform that reordering task.

How to reorder parts with scripts

There are a lot of ways a script could reorder parts. It could simply send an email to a buyer (which is still sort of a manual process). Or, it could automatically contact a website and perform the actual purchase without any human intervention. The script could be given access to an order website, complete with login credentials, and be authorized to make automated purchases. Other methods of automated purchases might include database scripts or inserting database records. All these are in the realm of possibility for automated scripts.

Scanning BOM’s reduces quantities for all inventory items on the list

Not only can you scan individual inventory items, you can also scan a Bill of Materials (BOM). And when you do, all the inventory items on the BOM list are deducted. A BOM may use large numbers of each inventory item. When the BOM is scanned, those large quantities are all subtracted from inventory. For instance, a BOM may use fifty screws. Scanning the BOM would reduce inventory for the screws by fifty, but by scanning once.

Reorder verses Replenish

Some inventory items are not reordered; they are built in your own manufacturing shop. You might refer to this as replenishing inventory rather than reordering. But the same principles hold true when running automated scripts for inventory. A script could create a new work order that requests a certain number of items be manufactured. The script is run when inventory falls below a certain level, the work order is automatically created and sent to the shop floor. Workers fulfill the work order quantity, and scan the new items back into stock.

Scanning new items back into stock

Inventory can also be added to stock, not just deducted from it. There are special barcodes, as shown in the video below that instruct the software to add items back into stock. Once your parts arrive at the receiving dock, or are manufactured on your own shop floor, they can be scanned back into stock using special “ADD” barcodes.

Watch the video and download a copy for yourself.

 

Shop Floor Work Order Status

Barcode scanners start at $20. Get a copy of Standard Time® and a twenty dollar barcode scanner, and you’ll immediately see the status of your jobs on the shop floor.

Right now, you’re probably yelling status across the shop floor, writing instructions on post-it notes, retyping hours into payroll, and only guessing how long your jobs take.

This little video may inspire you to try a better way. Watch the video, and then go here to give this a try.

Things You Get By Scanning Barcodes

Ever wonder what you could get from scanning barcodes on the shop floor? What are the advantages? Would it help your business? Is it worthwhile?

The video below shows sixteen things you get by scanning four barcodes. Here are the four barcodes you would scan to get these things:

  1. Employee name
  2. Task name
  3. Employee name again, after the task is finished
  4. The word STOP

Can I use any of the sixteen results of barcode scanning?

Those four barcodes will give you at least sixteen results. Can you use all sixteen? Maybe. Can you use one or two of the sixteen? Quite likely. Which ones? Watch the video a few times, and write them down. Now you’re on the right track.

So you’ve decided you can use a few of these. Good. But how much time and money will they save? Well, the next question you’ve got to ask yourself is this:

How much of your process is manual?

In other words, can you replace some of your manual processes with automated ones? For instance, could you replace manual handwritten communication with scans? Could you replace verbal communication with a shop floor status window? Could you replace manual payroll entry with exported time logs? Could you replace verbal work order tasks with barcoded tasks?

The list goes on.

If you’re like most manufacturing or engineering shops, you can likely replace a dozen manual processes with automated ones. So… grab a notepad and start writing. Write down the manual things you do now. Then write down the automated results from this video. Now connect the dots. Watch the video ten times if you have to. But make sure you identify all your manual operations.

Here’s the video. Good luck. 🙂

 

Work order and shop floor status

Need up-to-the-minute status on all your projects, jobs, and work orders? What if you had a screen like those airport departure and arrival screens that showed your jobs?

That would be cool!

Well, here it is. This screen updates every 15 seconds, and displays the current status of all your jobs that have activity in the last thirty days. You see who performed the work, when it was performed, and the current status of each job.

Let’s say you’ve got a crew out in the field with Android’s. They are syncing time and materials used on the job. Those synchronizations could occur any time. So, this screen updates constantly, every fifteen seconds to show the latest status.

Or, let’s say you have a shop floor with barcode scanners and RFID. Workers are constantly scanning and entering time and materials used on the shop floor. This airport screen shows the status of every work order on the shop floor.

Or, let’s say you have an engineering shop with engineers entering hours against projects. Want the latest status? You get the idea. This screen does it.

Take a look at the video and let us know what you think!

 

How to Upload Barcode Scans for Mfg

Here’s a tricky new idea: Collect barcode scans on the shop floor, and upload them into your time tracking software. (scroll down for a video)

You want to track time for factory production jobs, right?

But you don’t have line-of-sight to any computer, right?

And you don’t want to lug a tablet, right?

Well, you could use an offline scanner like the Opticon OPN-2001. The OPN-2001 scanner collects barcodes offline, and allows them to be uploaded at a later time. Each scan contains a timestamp so you know exactly when each one occurred. That’s important for time tracking because a timer is started and stopped for each scan. The software needs those timestamps to get accurate time segments representing the actual work performed by employees. You get that with the OPN-2001.

Do you need an Opticon scanner? Not really. Any scanner that collects timestamps with each scan will work. But we like the little OPN-2001. It fits in the palm of your hand and goes anywhere.

It all sounds dreamy, right? Well, consider these possible issues. Without a line of sight to a computer, operators can make mistakes. If you forget a critical scan (like a username) the timer will never start. You may think it started, but won’t find out until you upload the scans. That’s too late. You could miss multiple scans just because you didn’t have visual feedback from a computer. Sure… you can hear the bleeps when you scan, but the scanner doesn’t know when you have missed critical information.

Forget a username, and the timer won’t start.

Forget a project name, and the timer won’t start.

That’s a big deal. So make double-sure you scan everything exactly has it should be. And then this little scanner can work nicely for you.

Give it a try!

 

Track Time and Materials in Manufacturing

Fact: If you don’t know how long it takes to manufacture your own products, you’ll be eaten.

Somebody is coming along to eat you.

Whether it is China or an upstart in your own country makes no difference. Technology is coming that will make your manual processes obsolete. That is, if you don’t improve your own first. Take a look around. Is your shop floor still largely human-powered? If so, you’re burning needless hours and keeping costs higher than they should be.

Why not try barcodes and RFID?

Scanning barcodes and RFID tag make time tracking quick and easy. Plus, it gives you new information you can use to improve. Do you know how long your products take to produce? How many employee hours are involved? Which processes are slow? Which ones are killing productivity?

Why not?

For a few bucks you can measure those things with a barcode scanner. Now you know. And now you can change. It’s really not that hard.  🙂

Here’s a video for inspiration.

Once you’ve watched it, go out to amazon and buy a cheap scanner. Then download “Standard Time” and try it out. Within a day, you’ll start seeing time records you can use to improve.

But yeah… start with the video below.

Track Manufacturing Time with RFID Tags

Put an RFID tag on every product. That will allow you to track it through the production process. (scroll down for video)

RFID tags cost about ten cents in volume, and one cent in really high volume. That makes them affordable enough to stick onto every product on the shop floor. Or have you already done that? In any case, now that you have them, you can track the time each product spends in production.

  • Scan once to start a timer
  • Scan again to stop the timer

Guess what? Now you have timestamps for every time you touched that unit. Add them up and you know the exact handling time. Here are some thing you could track:

  1. Track manufacturing time
  2. Track handling time
  3. Track employee time
  4. Track shipping and receiving

Watch the RFID video below and then download Standard Time®.

How to Save 1% in Manufacturing

Some smart guy said, If you can measure it, you can improve it. So if that’s true, you should be able to measure the amount of time employees spend on the shop floor, and improve it, true?

scroll down for the video

In other words, just by knowing how long things take in your manufacturing process could lead to clues and ideas about how to shorten them. But how do you know how long things take? You could ask each employee to write them down. Then another employee could type in that information. Then another employee could compile the data into reports.

Or, you could use a barcode scanner.

You may be surprised to find small areas you could trim. And then you could measure your time again. And trim again. Until you trimmed one percent from your manufacturing time.

One percent? That’s peanuts! That won’t help us!

True. One percent is small. But do that ten times, and you have ten percent. Do I have your attention now?

That’s the whole point of this video. It asks you to shoot for one percent… and hopes you’ll end up at ten or twenty. It’s all about continuous improvement. Continuous measurement. Continuous time savings. Sure, that may mean new investments in manufacturing automation, but in the long run, time is money. You will save money if you save time. That is a virtual guarantee.

Grab a barcode scanner and give this a try.

Order Status with Single Barcode Scan

Follow the steps in the video below to collect order status throughout the manufacturing process.Once you do that, you can find the location of any order on the shop floor, and the employee who touched it last. (scroll down for video)

Here’s how it works.

Employees scan order numbers (just once) at each workstation on the stop floor. Those scans go into the Standard Time software in real-time. Managers can then type in an order number and know exactly where it is.

This all happens because each barcode scanner has a unique prefix programmed into it. (Consult your user’s guide) The prefixes contain several user-defined values that indicate where that scanner is located in the organization. You set which building, department, assembly line, workstation, or stage the scan originates from. When employees scan order numbers, all that information is available to you. You now know exactly where any order is.

This order status feature is not related to time tracking. You could also track time if you wanted to, but that is optional. You could simply track order status, as a minimal effort, and then later begin tracking time for each scan.

Barcoding in Manufacturing is Easy!

Barcoding is easy. Just slap a barcode or RFID on every box. If that box holds materials, you’re tracking what’s used in manufacturing. If that box holds a product, you’re tracking time spent manufacturing and developing it. Easy. Scroll down for the video below.

Barcodes and RFID tags let you collect these ten things:

  1. The time each employee spends on the factory floor or the warehouse
  2. The time each product takes to manufacture, package, and ship
  3. The time each task takes
  4. The time you spend on each kind of work
  5. How many items pass through your assembly line, building, department, or whole operation
  6. How many times you touch a single item
  7. The times of day you’re doing most of the work
  8. The materials you’re putting into products
  9. The expenses you’re incurring
  10. The percent complete each product is currently at

Wouldn’t you like to have that information? If so, watch this video and then go out to www.stdtime.com/barcode.htm.  You’ll find resources to help. To start, you’ll see the very basics of time tracking with RFID and barcode labels. Then, you’ll step up to more advanced techniques that let you collect time and materials, and use percent gauges to motivate employees to finish up jobs quickly.