Workflow Management and Scheduling
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  1. #1
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    Default Workflow Management and Scheduling

    What software/processes do you use to manage workflow and scheduling at your shop?

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    there's nothing that can't be done with an excel spreadsheet

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    Excel spreadsheets are great for calculations. However, you cannot create relationships. For example, for each job/purchase order you would want it connected to the part or parts (in the case of an assembly) included, the customer (with instant access to all pertinent customer info), operation details (with multiple versions depending on machines used), photos/videos for visual representations of setups, ability to filter/query specific information, ability to access prints/solid models, ability to communicate with others at your shop, create custom documents (like First Article Reports and Internal Certs) that are dynamic, etc.

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    How do you currently do it.......or are you selling software?

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    We implemented a system I built using primarily Airtable (along with Zapier and coding for automating tasks) for my shop in the Orlando area. I just launch this product - building custom solutions for smaller machine shops. Many the modules are applicable to all/most shops. However, I am trying to ascertain the needs of other machinists/machine shop owners in this regard. I have obtained much valuable information by talking to others in the industry and have added these things to my system.

    For example, a job gallery for customers to view the status of their jobs and delineating not only operations to make a part but also fixturing.

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    I',m working on a similar project, really it will be an ERP system when done. I had to define the workflow to direct the software design, which sort of surprised me just how big a job it as as one my mantra's with it is the system has to make it easy for people, not a pain.....and we have a lot business types - engineered design build, parts, our own products, field wok, service work and general build to print fab work.

    I can have layers of assemblies within assemblies, and what makes up an assembly is commercial parts, parts we make, services (i.e. a weld test) and processes (i.e. paint, sandblast, design etc). Each assembly has a mini gantt chart created by the project manager assigned to that job so the system knows roughly the steps (i.e. might plasma cut, bend, fit weld paint). The PM define the hours for each task and dependencies so it knows whats sequential or what can be run parallel. Knowing for all projects when its due, and the resources needed as well as sequence of steps is the raw material for a scheduler. That and real time feed back as things happen and people spend hours on it.

    Its tied to the quote and order system so effort is not duplicated - i.e. the detail you put into quoting gets refined into a BOM gets refined into a project plan etc so when a shipment of steel arrives the shipper knows what job each piece is for and where it goes to next (stock, plasma, saw etc)- we're fabrication so pieces can be large and heavy and duplicate handling can kill you.

    Anyways, that's the basics of what I came up with, half exists in the really world, half in my head but its coming along. i've a brilliant young software engineering building it in SQL so its all browser based, kiosks around the plant, dashboards on phones etc.

    What did you find with the workflow, any insights or ideas what works/doesn't work?

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    What I built is an ERP system as well. Our database acts as a central hub to manage job scheduling, workflow, inventory, human resources, customer relationships, sales & marketing, finances, quality control and machine maintenance.

    With regard to workflow, a part is uploaded into the base using a form. Here you enter new parts/products into your base with the applicable data
    - Part Number
    - Revision
    - Part Description
    - Print/Solid Model
    - Customer
    - Material Grade/Type (the base includes a comprehensive list of material grades/types to choose from)
    - Material Size (the base includes a comprehensive list of material sizes to choose from)

    Teams can then utilize various views (Grid, Gallery, Kanban and Calendar) to display and/or edit the information. The part(s) are linked to a job. Each job tracks machining time, material costs, fixture cost, tooling (with links for purchasing), etc. This only has to be entered once. Jobs are scheduled using a Kanban. To do scheduling, you simple drag and drop the job's card in the the machine it is going onto next. You can also schedule jobs by machinist. Time data is documented and can be used for future quoting purposes. We can also differentiate between commercial parts, parts we make, services, etc. I also integrated it with our Quickbooks along with other apps using APIs.

    For both jobs and material, we use QR codes in lieu of travelers. By simply scanning the code from your phone, you can update the location info.

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    All of this exists already. Sap, m1, shoptech, job boss, list goes on and on

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    Quote Originally Posted by as9100d View Post
    All of this exists already. Sap, m1, shoptech, job boss, list goes on and on
    sure...and there are endless multi million dollar SAP implementations that go horribly wrong. The complexity between designing a really good system for one type of business and really good system adaptable via switches for any type of business is epic - good ERP software is expensive and expensive to implement and may still only be a so-so approximation of what you really need/want. There's no right/wrong on it I guess, both have merit. For me and what I wanted, I thought it cheaper to build our own.

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    We use shoptech E2 online and it set us back $12,000 with a $2600 a year maintenance. Works great for us and I would rather be making parts and money than spending that tiny bit on a full blown REAL ERP

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    The ERP system that I created for our shop uses API connections to communicate with each other. As a result, our system can be integrated with other applications that many shops use such as other API friendly applications, including but not limited to Quickbooks, Xero, Google Drive, PayPal, Stripe, Microsoft Office 365, Gmail, MyHub, HubSpot, Pipedrive, all social media platforms, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Defiant CNC View Post
    The ERP system that I created for our shop uses API connections to communicate with each other. As a result, our system can be integrated with other applications that many shops use such as other API friendly applications, including but not limited to Quickbooks, Xero, Google Drive, PayPal, Stripe, Microsoft Office 365, Gmail, MyHub, HubSpot, Pipedrive, all social media platforms, etc.
    We're looking at the same with quickbooks and the timeclock....but quickbooks scares me a bit. They seem heavily invested in future offerings being subscription and on the cloud with no way of exiting. We currently use a QB networked version installed locally. I recently acquired a small business and as part of that process tried to download that companies cloud version of QB. It was not possible despite what the web page says. My controller even tried with an accountants copy and spent a lot of time on the company support line but it was a complete fail. We printed out lists and it was an asset deal so don't care that much, but I'd like to move away from them and their 100% lock in.

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    That is the impression I get from Quickbooks as well. They are trying to push Quickbooks Online exclusively. Xero is subscription based as well.

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    There are programs for scheduling the flow of a project. One of the terms to search for is Gantt Chart. A Gantt Chart is a flow diagram of a project which shows dependencies so a task that depends on one or more prior tasks or events having been accomplished will always start when the last of those prior tasks/events has been completed. There are a number of programs available for such scheduling; some free and others can cost many dollars. I have used a few of them.

    I was going to list some that I had used, but I found that there are so many available that they are almost impossible to find with a simple search. No, I do not remember the names. The one that I used the most was an independent program that allowed me to enter each task in a project along with it's dependencies and estimated time frame. It only allowed times to be entered in days so it would probably not be good for shop work anyway as some tasks may only take hours or even minutes. While others could take days or even weeks. The times that can be entered would be an important consideration.

    Some of these programs are oriented toward particular types of work, like the construction industry. Others are more flexible. In a shop it would be desirable to be able to manage multiple projects (parts) at one time so that would be something to look for. Another thing would be ease of use: you don't want to need a new employee to handle the scheduling. Finally, you would want one that allows the designation of the equipment used for each task. This can be handled in different ways and would interact with the ability to handle several projects (parts) at the same time.

    One other feature is the ability to present the projects (parts) in other forms: other types of charts and simple printouts of the tasks, usually in a chronological order.

    An internet search will yield a vast number of possibilities. I would suggest that the ones that are Excel templates are not necessarily the best choice as Excel has it's limitations. And free vs. paid is not an indication of it's value or ease of use. The one that I found most valuable for my purposes was free. Some examples:

    free gantt chart - Bing

    https://www.conceptdraw.com/diagram/scheduling-process-flow-chart


    Of course, YOU still have to make the actual entries and manage them.

    Side story: a Gantt Chart can go a LONG way toward impressing upper management. At least until they take the time to actually understand the process.

    A caution: If many projects/parts are involved, each with multiple events, then a large format printer may become essential. I would up using a 24" wide plotter so the length of the printout could be unlimited. But there were still limits on the number of projects/parts as that had to fit in the 24" width of the print.

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    That's not completely true. There are Excel templates that do that to one extent or another. Most of them use macros to provide the functionality. But I have found that separate, Project Planning software generally is better at it then the Excel templates.



    Quote Originally Posted by Defiant CNC View Post
    Excel spreadsheets are great for calculations. However, you cannot create relationships. For example, for each job/purchase order you would want it connected to the part or parts (in the case of an assembly) included, the customer (with instant access to all pertinent customer info), operation details (with multiple versions depending on machines used), photos/videos for visual representations of setups, ability to filter/query specific information, ability to access prints/solid models, ability to communicate with others at your shop, create custom documents (like First Article Reports and Internal Certs) that are dynamic, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by as9100d View Post
    All of this exists already. Sap, m1, shoptech, job boss, list goes on and on

    Ahh!! Don't mention SAP here!!


    Quote Originally Posted by Mcgyver View Post
    sure...and there are endless multi million dollar SAP implementations that go horribly wrong. The complexity between designing a really good system for one type of business and really good system adaptable via switches for any type of business is epic - good ERP software is expensive and expensive to implement and may still only be a so-so approximation of what you really need/want. There's no right/wrong on it I guess, both have merit. For me and what I wanted, I thought it cheaper to build our own.
    OMG the horror stories I could tell (were I still employed there )

    .... ANYONE wanting any type or management system/ERP/whatever run away from SAP (if it is even on your radar)...

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