Question: How do you organize and report on manufacturing projects? That is to say, what criteria groups projects into working buckets? Do you put them into portfolios so you can see which portfolio performs best? Or set the status of projects to report on stages or phases? How about assign them to assembly lines to see slots where new projects can go? Those are all techniques described in the video below. Plus, there are a few more.
Did you know you can try these project organization techniques today? Download a copy of Standard Time® and try them for free. You might become inspired to learn more about your own projects and find that organizing them simplifies the monolithic list you have now.
Use your “stuff” the best way possible in manufacturing. Haha, that’s one way to put it! This is just a quickie video to help introduce and explain resource allocation. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, this little video might help. And, it’s always worth hearing another perspective if you’re an “old salt” in the project management industry.
Manufacturing resource planners, like Standard Time® make light work of this kind of project management. And, they’re not bad at collecting actuals from the factory floor. E.g. actuals like time, materials, inventory usage, machine hours, and tool usage. Consider taking a look.
The video below shows a quick overview of task link dependencies. In other words, one task is dependent upon another. When the first task is completed, the next one can start. What the video, then scroll down below it for more information.
There are four types of link relationships in this video:
As the names suggest, these link relationships are associated with task dates. Start and Finish dates affect other tasks. When a predecessor date changes, a successor task will be moved to reflect the link relationship.
Now you can get job status on your phone. Introducing the Work In Progress Android app, by Scoutwest, Inc.
Want to track progress of jobs and employees? Try the new Standard Time® Work In Progress Android app. The video below demonstrates.
You just set it up to pull data from the Standard Time Web Edition or Windows Edition. It syncs every 15 minutes. You have up-to-date info on the status of every job and employee working on them. Find out which jobs are taking too long. See when employee timers are not running, or running too long. And get a list of every time log in the system. Keep track of jobs right on your phone. Get notifications when project events occur.
Events the app shows notifications for:
Employee timers are not running
Employee timers are running too long
Projects exceed a specified percentage
Notification: Employee timers are not running
This notification helps make sure everyone is working. If an hour passes, and employees are not tracking time, the app notifies you. (You set the threshold) You see the last time they worked, and the job they worked on. You can check in with them to determine status, and encourage them to restart the job.
Notification: Employee timers running too long
This notification helps catch cases where employees forgot to stop a timer. You can go into the Standard Time desktop or web app and stop the timer, and reset the stop time. That helps ensure hours are correct.
Notification: Projects exceed a specified percentage
When jobs get out of control, you sometimes want to be notified. You set the percentage to be notified at. The app watches for too many hours, and pops up a standard phone notification when the percentage exceeds your setting. Now you can jump on the problem and make sure things get finished up and moving forward.
Don’t be tied to a terminal
This is another way to disconnect you from the desktop. Check project status anywhere, and be notified when something goes wrong.
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!
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.
Have you ever wanted to pull your time and expense data into Excel for analysis? Now you can, with the XLST Excel Add-in. (scroll down for a video)
XLST is a new Excel add-in that pulls timesheet and project management data from your Standard Time® timesheet, and puts the results into Excel spreadsheets. It uses Excel formulas to extract timesheet data, and places the results into a single cell. In fact, the XLST functions act exactly like any other Excel function. They take “parameters” from other cells and use that data to get results.
What kinds of results can you get?
You can query the Standard Time database for all the actual work entered by employees. Or, you could query for all the expenses. Or all time off taken by employees. Or the hours available for time off.
Here is a partial list, which might spark your imagination:
Just click in an empty cell and then click the function icon near the formula line. Then choose XLST as the category. You’ll see all the functions listed above. Each one takes different parameters. Many parameters are optional, so you can quickly get results right away.
You must start by downloading Standard Time from the stdtime.com website, and then connecting it to SQL Server. XLST requires SQL Server or SQL Express. Once ST is connected to SQL, then you can download and install XLST.
Here’s a persistent problem project managers face: Their project schedules are obsolete within a week of completion. So what is your solution to that?
(scroll down for a video solution)
One solution is to get input from the boots on the ground. Get the actual employees doing the work to enter the tasks they are working on, and updating estimates. If you combine that with getting time and material “actuals” from employee timesheets, you have just about everything you need to fix this issue.
Getting input from the boots on the ground
Employees may not know the full strategic direction your project is going in, but they do know the tactical maneuvers to get things done. So let them have that input into your schedule. Let employees input their project tasks and update estimates based on their understanding of the conditions on the ground. That may be entirely different than your 30,000 foot birds-eye view.
Both perspectives help.
The video below shows how to sync project tasks with your timesheet, which lets employees on the ground have their input. Give it a watch, and let us know what you think!
Do you want the actual end-users of your MS Project plans to have input?
After all, what’s a project plan without input and adjustments from the boots on the ground? It’s static and lifeless. The project manager creates the plan, and minutes later it’s out of date. Why? Because the project manager doesn’t know the actual conditions on the ground. Only the actual employees know that. So you need their input.
This video describes getting input in the form of materials and costs that are synchronized with MS Project. Get a look below!
There are actually three types of resources in MS Project
Work resource — human resource, or equipment rented by the hour
Material resource — consumable materials used on the job
Cost resource — misc. expenses used on the job
Building a Microsoft Project with resources is much more than just human resources. It’s more than just Jim and Bob assigned to tasks. There are other types of resources that all have costs impacting the project.
The video below shows all three resource types. Scroll down and watch.
Work resources are usually human beings. They have a standard rate for each hour of work. But Work resources could also be machines that cost you a certain amount to use for each hour. A trackhoe that costs you $10,000 per hour is a work resource. You assign it to a task for a specified number of hours. When the task is finished, you own $10,000 times the number of hours. Ouch!
Material resources are normally consumables. You use up these materials on the job. The video describes buckets of nails as an example. You use a certain number of buckets for each task. When the task is done, you have cost the project the number of buckets times the cost for each bucket.
Cost resources are miscellaneous expenses your project incurs. Add these to your project so you know the total cost, including all the items used.
It turns out that all these MS Project costs come down to Standard Time during synchronization. Not only do your tasks come down, but so do all the resources and their costs. Of course you can send actual work back up to MSP from your employee timesheet, which lets you compare estimates with actuals. But this video describes resource costs.