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 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.
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?
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.
Watch the video below to learn how Eversight Vision (an eye bank) uses Standard Time® to track the amount of time cornea tissue is being handled by lab technicians. Every second counts!
Essentially, lab techs scan a barcode when cornea tissue is removed from refrigeration, and scan again when returned. The codes record which procedure is performed. They now know how long tissues are out of refrigeration, how long each procedure takes, how long each employee worked on cornea tissues, and which employee “touched” them last. Ahhh! Somebody touched my eye! 🙂
All kidding aside, that’s a lot of great information, just by scanning a barcode label.
This is especially the same process any manufacturing or assembly operation uses. You must measure before you can improve. How long are employees spending on each product? How long are products in each stage? What state is a given product at any time? Where is it? Who handled it last? When will it be finished? Those questions can best be answered by scanning barcode labels and recording time spent on them.
Watch the video and determine if this type of process would benefit you. Then download.
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:
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.
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 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:
The time each employee spends on the factory floor or the warehouse
The time each product takes to manufacture, package, and ship
The time each task takes
The time you spend on each kind of work
How many items pass through your assembly line, building, department, or whole operation
How many times you touch a single item
The times of day you’re doing most of the work
The materials you’re putting into products
The expenses you’re incurring
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.
Employees on the shop floor now have task status while scanning barcodes, telling them how far long their tasks are, and when they are expected to end.
This is huge! (scroll down the to the video below)
This small “percent gauge” acts as a motivator to help employees move forward and finish up tasks. Each time you start a timer with a project task, you see a percent complete indicator that informs you of the status of your tasks. When it approaches 100% you know it’s time to clean up and move on to the next task. Lingering past 100% is a no-no.
But how else would you know, without this indicator.
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!