Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Scheduling system boosts CNC machining advantage

Subcontract machinist increased its sales turnover by some 30% helped in part by the installation of new high specification machine tools, which are now backed by production scheduling system.

During the first half of 2005, UK specialist subcontract machinist Kenard Engineering increased its sales turnover by some 30% helped in part by the installation of new high specification machine tools. But it is a new manufacturing and production scheduling system by Seiki Systems of Brighton that is proving critical in controlling day-to-day events on the shopfloor to maximise production and deliveries. As there are now some 320 different components, most of which are high value and require up to 38 operations on the 'Work to Do' list at the company's Dartford site, accurate and detailed control and monitoring is paramount.

Not only has the new software built confidence right through the company in its ability to control production, but it has also improved machine utilisation and, by reducing work-in-progress times, has set the business well on its target of giving customers a 40-day turnaround from enquiry to delivery, Says director Keith Ellis: 'We hear so much about the importance of the 'knowledge-driven' economy well we have a 'knowledge-driven' production operation where management and customers know exactly what is happening and should be occurring.' He follows on to describe how Kenard has invested over GBP 1 million at Dartford in two of the latest mill/turn centres, one capable of very complex production cycles involving simultaneous five-axis milling with its 120- tool capacity and the other, a mill/turn centre, is able to produce parts up to 1000mm diameter by 2000mm long.

'As a result, we are far more competitive, having the ability to combine five or six separate operations into one or two very specialised 'one-hit' cycles, and we have almost doubled our capacity for large work,' he maintains.

But Ellis points out that even with the new capacity, it has been the installation of the totally integrated manufacturing system iMES from Seiki Systems that has enabled the company to control work flow and respond to customers, reduce work in progress and make the best use of the production resource of 15 CNC machines.

The Seiki Systems software, installed in the first quarter of 2005, had an immediate impact in creating extra capacity by increasing machine utilisation, but as Ellis insists: 'All information regarding work in progress is held within the company and not by individuals.

We work to factual information and no longer rely on someone's instinct.' In fact, even prior to the installation Ellis maintains Kenard was quite 'switched-on' for production control but it took a fully employed person, a highly paid graduate, all day to monitor and check the workflow.

'In comparison it now takes half-an-hour to perform this housekeeping,' says Ellis.

'The beauty of live information is at any time we can see on the screen not only if any problems are looming but most important, the effects on delivery or other planned operations of any delay caused, say, in setting, machine loading, inspection or tooling problems.' Kenard Engineering employs 55 people at Dartford offering subcontract machining services on mostly high value components for the aerospace, oil and gas, telecoms, defence, medical, motorsport, sub sea and mechanical seals sectors.

It has another site in Tewkesbury where 18 CNC machines are installed including a GBP 2.5 million, five-machine flexible manufacturing system involving four-axis horizontal machining centres and Fastems automation.

There is also a sheetmetal, sub and final assembly facility serving mainly defence, oil and gas and aerospace sectors.

Prior to installation of iMES at Dartford, Kenard used its in-house developed and award winning, Kenard Integrated Database Scheduler (KIDS) which imported data to a Preactor scheduling system that in turn exported lists of jobs to do.

The system, originally installed in the early 1990s had progressively evolved and, as systems do, became more complicated and cumbersome where as iMES is much faster, easier to use and genuinely 'real-time'.

Ellis explains, there was also the issue of reduced lead times which was becoming the driving force of the operation, especially with such a significant level of added value work available in the UK.

'To win these contracts you must be able to respond and deliver parts to the level of quality demanded and strictly to a tight schedule.

We have been able to generally reduce our lead times from 12 to 16 weeks of five years ago to under four weeks now and we are well on course to hit the 40-day enquiry to delivery target.' A typical higher added value component produced by Kenard is qualified by one particular aerospace contract where the machining alone of each part is valued at more than GBP 6,500 and involves 38 different processes on its route card.

'This is not the type of work you want gathering dust around the machine shop and we have a fair number of parts where material values alone are worth over GBP 1,000,' says Ellis.

Thus with the new mill/turn machine installations replacing existing machines, Kenard knew it had created additional capacity to help reduce lead times but: 'We had to improve machine utilisation across the board if we were going to move the business forward,' he says.

'The iMES installation achieves this,' he maintains, 'Giving absolute 'in-your-face', feed-back of what is happening in real time - with live dynamic graphical predictions of workloads on each machine.

This is backed up with projected completion dates and performance reporting in a totally paperless environment.

The iMES system provides us with planning, a real-time scheduling display of all stages of relevant manufacturing data including subcontract processes right from material order to final despatch.

However, we also have the bonus of immediate automated management reporting.

We no longer have to wait to see how we performed, it is on the screen in front of us,' he says.

Due to its capability to integrate with other software systems, iMES takes the original 'work to' listing from the Kenard KIDS program and links into the Seiki Systems Networked Manufacturing Software (NMS).

NMS monitors in 'real-time' the operational status of each of the 15 CNC machines to provide a continuous flow of information.

On the shopfloor, the operator and supervision view the same job queue and are informed that material, programs and tooling are available.

This at a stroke eliminates wasted time searching for tools, material or parts that have been pre-machined.

If the job is not ready to run, the system automatically feeds back information and when the next job is taken in preference, the system immediately updates the re-scheduled works order and highlights a problem if it has an effect on the final promised delivery date.

Meanwhile, the progress of the job currently in production is featured on the electronic job card that is 'stamped' on screen as it moves through its planned production routing, thus giving immediate updates on the system.

The installation has proven to be so successful that Kenard is currently expanding its use by installing it at the Tewkesbury site.

There will also be a live link back to the headquarters in Dartford to provide a totally transparent, capacity, work-in-progress (production inventory), production analysis and management reporting system.

In addition to the 18 CNC machines on the site, bench working, painting, sheet metal production and assembly are also being integrated to provide full site coverage.

According to Ellis, the Dartford operation set up has already impressed customers.

He said: 'What has pleased us is their feedback of growing confidence in our operation and comments that what we are doing seems to be so simple, they are amazed that other production based suppliers are not doing the same.'

Powerful production control software released

Latest release of manufacturing and production control software provides a powerful and comprehensive business management system that is also intuitive and simple to use.

Jobshop manufacturing and production control software's ability to reduce operating costs and increase profitability will be highlighted by HRS on Stand A29 at the forthcoming Southern Manufacturing Show; which takes place at the Thorpe Park Exhibition Centre on the 8th and 9th February. Jobshop 9.2, the company's latest software release, builds on the ability of earlier versions to provide manufacturing organisations with a powerful and comprehensive business management system that is also intuitive and simple to use. It is particularly strong in the areas of shop floor data collection, MRP, scheduling, reporting and financial management; enabling organisations of all sizes to harness the full potential of their manufacturing resources.

Jobshop's unique Return On Investment (ROI) calculator - recently launched on the company's new website: www.planit.com/jobshop - will also be featured by HRS at Southern Manufacturing.

The easy-to-use tool enables visitors to estimate for themselves the levels of cost savings and increased profits they can expect to achieve through implementing Jobshop in their own organisation.

The calculator requires only minimal input and produces results in a matter of moments, based on information supplied by customers from across the Jobshop user base.

'British companies are facing increasing competition from low cost sources in Eastern Europe, the Indian sub-continent and the far East,' says Peter Roost, managing director of HRS.

'Jobshop helps them fight back by providing the tools to take full control of their processes - in order to reduce lead times, cut costs and improve cash flow.

What is more, the system's powerful analysis and forecasting capabilities enables them to accelerate their transition to leaner and more agile manufacturing methods.' Designed and developed using a powerful 4GL programming tool kit, Jobshop is a true Windows application, providing users with an intuitive and fully definable desktop environment.

'Drag and drop' commands and Windows Explorer type Treeview BOM displays ensure the fast and accurate creation - and checking - of all levels within the product structure; as well as instant updating of Bills of Material to accommodate customer-specified options.

Jobshop also features hot key searches, rapid 'drill down' tools for instant access to required data, and the power of Crystal Reports to enable analyses to be customised quickly and easily to individual user requirements.

* About HRS - HRS, along with Planit International, Licom, Radan, Cabinet Vision and Cabnetware, is a member of the Planit Holdings group of companies - a London Stock Exchange listed business operating in global industrial and retail markets, with software products encompassing design to manufacturing applications and business management solutions.

Planning/scheduling software enters cyber factory

UK machine tool builder Yamazaki Mazak is using Preactor as the OEM heart of its Cyber Scheduler module, one of four components of the Mazak Cyber Center production management system.

Preactor International, the UK's leading specialist planning and scheduling software company, extends its proven planning and scheduling capabilities to customer Yamazaki Mazak's production control software. Mazak is using Preactor as the OEM heart of its Cyber Scheduler module, one of four components of the Mazak Cyber Center production management system. Working with the other three modules, this helps provide real time visibility of every element of the production process.

Having recently installed the system in Czech based sub-contractor, Frencken, based in Brno, Mazak now has now more than 75 implementations including their own factories around the world.

Mike Novels, chairman and managing director, commented on the strategic nature of this partnership.

'We are very proud to be working with this prestigious company.

Their clients understandably endeavour to get more from their investment in hardware and software to improve profitability and obtain a fast Return On Investment (ROI).

By teaming up with Preactor, Mazak is now offering them the opportunity to acquire a proven production scheduling tool used by more than 1,600 companies around the world to do just that.