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Machine Scheduling software, not quite ERP?

Liberty_Machine

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 28, 2017
As my shop grows and more customers are added to the workload, I'm struggling to maintain accurate expectations on delivery, when I need programs and tooling ready by, or when material needs to be in the building. Furthermore, I have customers that will line me up with 5 months of work, and then (on occasion) move stuff in or out, completely shuffling my schedule around. They pay well and it's a good relationship, so I just carry on doing what I do.

I need to get a better grasp on the capacity for each machine, for each job, for each employee (I have 3 machines and employees now). I feel that I should step into an ERP system like JobBoss or ProShop, but they offer a lot of "stuff" that I don't think I need.

Current system: simple Excel sheet, calculator and constant reference to a calendar.

Feedback/Comments/Suggestions?
 

barratt

Aluminum
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Location
West Yorkshire
We've been using Project libre for the last couple of years.
It's an open source alternative (Free) to Microsoft Project.
We split the jobs into operations, estimate a time and allocate to different machines.
The schedule then appears as a Gannt chart. It's helpful for estimating delivery dates.
It's not me that uses it, though I did when we were first setting it up.
It's quite complicated but might be worth a look.

ProjectLibre - Project Management download | SourceForge.net
 

DanASM

Hot Rolled
Joined
Mar 11, 2019
I have been using Gantt Project. Its free and with a little customization can be very helpful. Anything with a Gantt chart works great. Excel has them for free as well.
 

CarbideBob

Diamond
Joined
Jan 14, 2007
Location
Flushing/Flint, Michigan
With only 3 machines and employees a white or magnetic scheduling board may be just the addition you need.
Sometimes simple is better and too often in these days we want to use a computer because computers must be the better way.
Gannt charts are great but you can spend a lot of time just inputting and updating information. KISS.
The schedule changes every day depending on what got done. JobBoss or this ilk takes in the days run, shuffles and hopefully warns. The price here is complicated setup of a job and the must have of real time progress.
Gannt charts also will not function unless told what has been done.
Who inputs this progress data? How to stay on top? You may order the material or tooling on time but what if the delivery late?
A top dollar rush job tossed in the middle? Is there room? What can be pushed out?

You do not say how many individual jobs you are trying to balance at any one time. With a 100 or more jobs in the queue a white board not a solution.
I'll bet that you thought life would be easier and better with more work flowing in.

Here is to hoping that you will grow to have 100 to 500 open POs at any one time and the pain that goes with scheduling such.
Bob
 

Liberty_Machine

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 28, 2017
I typically have between 10-20 jobs in the queue, so it's possible that a whiteboard is the best solution.
I've been getting prices on ERP systems and....they ain't cheap. I'm not saying they're not worth the money, but they aren't looking (atm) like the fit for me. I'll continue my searching. Ultimately what I want is to be able to say to my customer: Alright, at this date here, I have capacity. And, have that date be based more in fact than in optimism. So yes, tracking % completed on current job, any vacation time or machine maintenance that arises, etc etc.
 
Joined
Apr 14, 2018
Location
Airstrip One, Oceania
I've been getting prices on ERP systems and....they ain't cheap. I'm not saying they're not worth the money, but they aren't looking (atm) like the fit for me.
Another one in the free category is dotProject. We used it a little because it's pretty straightforward and easy to modify, but Bob's got a good point, except for the coolness of computers, a white board most likely works better.

If you want to drive yourself crazy, here's a list :

Comparison of project management software - Wikipedia
 

The Dude

Hot Rolled
Joined
Oct 19, 2010
Location
Portland, OR
I'm not writing this to convince you of anything, but just an option to consider. If you go from quote to invoice, here's a possible reason why a more capable system would be well worth the investment:

1. Your quoting should go directly off of how the parts/assemblies are processed (steps, cycle/setup, material, etc.).
2. If you get the order, your work order is essentially complete with pressing a few buttons.
3. For scheduling, the work order (each step has machine/process, cycle time, set-up time, tools required, etc. You can then easily set up an inquiry (that will make a report) "you've good too many parts of this machine" (i.e. you'll have to work overtime). It can even group parts together based on "similar enough" operations although, ideally, setup times are so low that you can process any parts on any order (like a restaurant that can cook any meal at any time in any qty).
4. So many other things are "easy or free" (invoicing, knowing if certain tools aren't in use anymore, estimated/billed vs. paid hours, etc).

Getting a system like this should have the same effect as going from manual operations to CNC (enter data, the rest is done automatically). Here's what's important: THE SYSTEM HAS TO MEET YOUR NEEDS! That a "one-time" hard thing that takes work but is so beneficial if done correctly.

If anyone wants to waste their time arguing against me, go for it. I've done this enough to know that it absolutely can make shop management super easy (the systems I've designed need virtually no training). Anyone who disagrees just hasn't had the right system. Anything less than this just means you have to spend more time on things that don't earn you money.

One thing I forgot to add
: doing just a scheduling system doesn't mean that it won't improve your operations. I'm just confirming that, to really get "maximum" efficiency in your operations, you should have a system that "glides" orders all the way through. If you do start with just a scheduling system, try to confirm that you can upgrade (make the system wider & deeper) by using existing data (export & import).

The Dude
 
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Mcgyver

Diamond
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Location
Toronto
If we're making green plastic solders, scheduling is easy. In our worlds though, every single job takes different quantities of different resources in different sequences, requires materials with different lead times and of course has different due dates.

The optimization of that, is complex. Meeting all delivery dates, what do you slot where so it gets done on time. Ideal system would except all the inputs - jobs, material lead times resources needed, sequence, etc and spit out what to run on resource when. Then when the unexpected happens, a machine goes down, big rush order comes in, material is delay, the system reacts and suggests a new schedule.

Its my understanding, meaning from a wee bit of exposure I think this is true but not sure, that even the high end ERP/MRP systems don't do a very good job this and essentially require a full time people or team to keep the schedule singing along.

Bit of a rephrasing of the OP's question I suppose, are there schedulers that do that? Optimize, react to changes, suggests allocations etc?
 

Liberty_Machine

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 28, 2017
Just so I make myself clear; I'm not looking for a free solution (although will investigate all links suggested) and expect to pay a nominal fee. "Owned" software is preferred, I'm renting enough software as it is.....Of course, the straight "buyout" packages are sounding like in the 10s of thousansd of dollars. Monthly fees are ranging from $150 up to $500 (or more).....that's 30% of the way to another machine payment :nutter:
 

LimeyinTX

Plastic
Joined
Jan 18, 2021
I would recommend taking a look at E2 Shoptech. After initial setup the per-seat price is reasonable. You want it for the visibility it will provide, but with proper implementation, you'll gain in so many other areas as well. Any management software requires buy-in from all staff, and the sooner you do it the better long term gains. Done right, it will have a positive effect on every cnc and employee you have.
 








 
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