One manufacturer finds a cool scheduling solution
The challenge we faced at Technical Glass Products was to provide realistic shipping dates to customers. In the past, when a schedule changed and dates slipped, it became difficult to get back on track. After searching for the right tool, we came upon User Solutions’ planning, scheduling, and tracking suite Resource Manager-DB (RMDB).
RMDB provides credibility in communicating production schedules and eases frustration. It gives users the data they need to convey to others that, while some jobs might be late, schedules can be manipulated to lessen the overall impact on customers. With a single screen, production can be reprioritized and rescheduled based on critical parameters, such as number of days early or late, customer priority, and material shortages. (See Figure 1.) RMDB even can determine if jobs can be paused midstream without major ramifications.
The software suite gives us an overall view of the shop floor, answering questions about whether a shipping date is realistic for a new project. If a manager needs to be informed that shipping is going to miss a deadline, RMDB can provide the answer to the follow-up question, “how late?” This is a much better situation than explaining to the project manager and the customer, “I’ll get back to you in a week.”
With RMDB, it also is much easier to negotiate delivery dates with customers
before a project gets released. It allows us to run what-if scenarios on planned jobs and inform customers exactly when it’s possible to deliver.
The system was installed on Windows XP and Windows 7 machines running Microsoft Office and connecting to a shared database on a local server. Within a couple of weeks, installation was complete and the system was operational. RMDB integrated with many existing functions, including our enterprise resources planning system and custom tools for scanners and time clock functions. RMDB automatically receives information from the time clock system, giving us a real-time view of employee scheduling. Feedback from the production floor is combined with job creation tasks to generate realistic capacity schedules. (See Figure 2.)
The software is quick and responsive, but performance depends on the number of projects running. At Technical Glass Products, we put a fair load on the system: About 100 jobs are scheduled over four months, and each contains around 12 steps. We are pleased with the speed at which RMDB provides us needed data.
For 25 years, Technical Glass Products has manufactured fire-rated glass products, including doors, windows, and curtain walls, at our two facilities in Snoqualmie, Washington, and Milton, Ontario. Our goal is to provide a single source for fire-rated glass, framing systems, and specialty architectural glass products. The company also offers continuing education, project consultation, product specifications, computer-assisted design, and rapid-response quoting to help customers find the right materials for their construction and remodeling projects.
Recommended server operating environment
Shared drive for multiuser database (Jet Engine/Access or SQL). Hosting options available through Go-Global or equivalent.
RMDB’s interface is intuitive and easy to learn, and we have not had any trouble with navigation. While the system came with documentation and tutorials, we have not needed those resources very much. User Solutions provides free, customizable training. After only a few online meetings, our questions were answered.
While RMDB uses Microsoft Excel for reporting (see Figure 3), one of the product’s shortcomings was the difficulty in condensing long reports into one printable, readable page. And some of the error messages could be more informative; although User Solutions was very responsive in fixing our problems.
Another benefit of RMDB is the ability to make suggestions for improvements and see them implemented quickly. For example, we asked for a way to create a graphical flag for rush jobs and mark completed steps based on updates from the tracking system. User Solutions listened to our comments and made the changes at no cost in less than two weeks.
The system has built-in flexibility for many varieties of user customization. For example, either forward or reverse scheduling—or both—can be selected. We also can interact with the schedule on the fly and add steps for tracking rework, queue times, and materials. The system has many ways to adapt the software, and User Solutions has been great to work with. Their representatives are always prompt to answer questions and fix problems, and they are more than willing to take our suggestions and improve the software.
Overall, my colleagues and I at Technical Glass Products have been very pleased with RMDB. It was easy to install, easy to transfer our information into the system, and easy to navigate. It allows us to point out production bottlenecks and illustrate when we cannot get a certain amount of work done with limited time. It is a visual tool for displaying available capacity; managing current workloads; and, most of all, creating understanding.
Mike Colvin is production manager at Technical Glass Products, a manufacturer of fire-rated glass and framing systems. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.