Customer Management

Customer tracking is a fundamental need for almost any commercial entity and manufacturing is not an exception. When tracking you shop and controlling the flow of work orders throughout the shop, an important question will be to which customer and order this one belongs.

In it most basic shop tracking system, you need to track customer name, address, phone and more. To be more comprehensive, a manufacturing execution system, needs to track customer entity as well as multiple contacts per customer with the position and role in buying process. Also each customer may multiple branches like shipping branch and/or billing branch.

It will also be nice to track communications with the customer. This can email communications or say phone calls history. Many manufacturing control systems also support attaching multiple documents to each customer profile such as credit report or mutually signed non-disclosure agreements.

Sample Customer Details Screen

Sample Customer Details Screen

Demand Management and Forecasting

Demand is an essential part of any shop and manufacturing tracking system. Usually demand starts with the finished goods and spreads into raw material, human resources and other entities. In fact, any manufacturing facility deals with multiple layers of demand that lead to one another

Demand for finished goods

This is the mother of all demands and is generated in there ways:

  • Demand forecasting happens when one has a sales history of a given product or similar products or has already analyzed the market demand and hence forecasts how many to manufacture.
  • Back-order. Some companies manufacture only after the customer has placed the order. Many OEM companies fall into this category.

Mixed Scenario. In practice many companies have both type of forecasting and it is usually per part number. Say some of the repeat selling products are manufactured based on forecast and some special ones only after an order received for them.

Demand Layers

The following diagram depicts how demand is generated and how each level leads to the next. It simply starts with finished goods and leads to production work orders, purchase orders and nesting work orders. The latter does not apply to all manufacturing facilities. Nesting work orders mainly apply to metal fabricators.

At the end they will all lead to basic resources such as human resources, equipment and capital requirements in order to run the manufacturing facility.

Work Order and Manufacturing Tracking

This module is the heart of any shop and manufacturing tracking software and is loved by production mangers as well as the top executives. The building block of this module is a work order or production order or simply a job.

Demand Layers

Each work order can have multiple steps and each step may require its own material. Work orders are created based on demand and once created each step will run by one or more than one person using a single or multiple equipment. The result of each step for production work order will move the next station where the next step of the manufacturing process takes place.

The routing of the work order happens either via a printed sheet called traveller or router or via computer screen. It is usually a mix of both. A traveller looks like the one below. As shown, travellers are usually barcoded so the operator can find out what and where it is or sign in or out of the job.

Work Order and Manufacturing Tracking

As explained, each step of a production work order leads to next up until the work orders is completed and received into warehouse for shipping or storing. However nesting work orders are a bit different. A simple nesting work order is when a sheet of metal is punched to produce multiple parts. Then each part is used in a different work order as raw material.

Also, an important part of manufacturing and shop tracking is employee tracking in and out of the job. This helps the facility managers measure the performance of each employee as well as the cycle time for each step of the work order. This helps both boost performance as well as planning for future jobs based on solid information.

Work Order / Job Scheduling

In a very simple scenario, jobs or manufacturing work orders are queued and run in a first come, first served system. However, this is too simple and not always the case. Many times there is a hot job that needs be done before a previously scheduled one or a production work orders needs to wait for the raw material to arrive, so we can push the next job into the manufacturing facility.

That is why a good shop and manufacturing tracking software always has a scheduling module. This module allows one or multiple users schedule each step of a work order per equipment and per employee. That is why, the production and shop tracking system need to know the type of equipment and the skill set, required to run each step of a work order.

A production scheduling system will also create a queue where customer service reps can find answers as when a manufacturing job will finish and ready to be shipped to customer. At the end, a scheduling system can provide a diagram similar to the one below that shows which jobs will be running on what equipment and how much idle time each piece of equipment will have

Machine Dashboard

Shipping, Invoicing & Account Balances

At the end of the day, each company should be able to ship the manufactured goods to customer, invoice the customer and get paid. Once the products are manufactured, they are usually stored in the warehouse or sometimes directly packaged and shipped to customer.

In most cases, the finished goods are directly packaged and put onto pallet. The pallets are moved the finished goods area of the warehouse and sent to customer when needed. If products are mass produced before any order received, then they are stored in bin, shelves or the like and waiting for an order to arrived. In such cases, a pick and pack structure is required from the shop control software.

This structure will tell the operator if we have the given item in stock and if yes, where it is. Then the operator will use a hand-held and usually wireless scanner to pick the item and add it to the shipment from where it will be shipped to customer.

The actual shipping is done either via courier companies like FedEx or Purolator or private trucks. Shipping documents, packing slip and bill of lading (in case of border crossing,) should be produced by the manufacturing execution system and emailed to required entities or printed and handed to the shipment company. Tracking numbers are also a good tool to allow customers to track their shipment if needed.

Accounting and General Ledger

Accounting and general ledger is not a requirement in manufacturing control and shop tracking software, however its existence will allow the users to have a total control over both manufacturing and financials of their business.

If the shop control system also has an integrated accounting module, then many journal entries can be auto-inserted to the books say as products move along the queue or when a new purchase order is received.

Accounting is a wide area and we do not intend to get into details here.

Nice to have: Multiple Location Support

Another nice idea behind any manufacturing and shop tracking software will be its support for multi-location. Many manufacturing facilities are in more than one location or they have multiple legal entities with their own taxation system.

A multi-location system allows user to easily switch in between the locations as well as get reports per branch or per the whole enterprise.