April 2010 / Volume 62 / Issue 4|
By CTE Staff
For years, John Housholder relied on accounting-based software to track the progression of jobs at his company, Sunrise Machine & Tool Inc. And for years, he was all too aware of the technology’s limits.
“Jobs that went to the floor would first run though my desk, where I would make a spreadsheet for it,” said Hous-holder, SMT president. “And when you run a machine shop, that process can become very labor intensive. Also, we always wished we had better capability to manage and gather our costing.”
Courtesy of MIE Solutions
Founded in 1972 as a tool and die company, SMT, Detroit Lakes, Minn., started to focus on making lift devices for patients with limited mobility in 1988. Today, it’s comprised of two divisions, SMT Health Systems Inc., which markets lifting devices and wheelchairs, and the SMT job shop, which handles contract manufacturing (80 percent of which is for its health systems counterpart).
Last fall, Jeff Friesen, a business consultant for the job shop, advised the company to consider more sophisticated production control software. “What really prompted the need for the ERP (enterprise resource planning) software was that key information, such as part design, photo process and control plans, was sitting in the office when it should have been on the floor. It was bogging down the operation. [A machinist] might have to leave his workstation 14 times or so a day to get job information.”
Friesen suggested that SMT try the MIE Trak package from manufacturing software developer MIE Solutions, Garden Grove, Calif. The ERP software, designed to streamline oversight of shop operations from front to back, incorporates shop floor data capture, bar coding, job costing, quoting and estimating, material resource planning, scheduling, inventory control and shipping data.
“The majority of our MIE Trak customers are in the metalworking job shop environment,” said Don Clutter, MIE Solutions’ vice president and CFO.
Aside from the software’s various tracking features, it can also be customized. “Many shops have their own way of quoting, calculating run times and determining what they charge for different operations,” Clutter said. “All they have to do with MIE Trak is input their formulas and then they can consistently quote. For example, if a customer were to call and ask, ‘you quoted me a price at 25 parts, but what would the price be if I needed 40 parts?’ Well, all a shop would have to do is plug the number 40 into the software for that part and it would have the new price.”
The software also enables manufacturers to quickly calculate production times. Say, for example, that a customer telephoned a shop and wanted a job delivered a week or so earlier than scheduled. Without hanging up the phone to check spreadsheets and consult with foremen, a shop manager could look on the computer to see where the part was in the production cycle, how many hours of work remained and, if needed, whether other projects could be temporarily sidelined to make way for the request.
Just 1 month into MIE Trak’s trial run at SMT, Housholder decided to purchase the software. Among the technology’s advantages, he noted, was its ability to speed up the task of job estimating. “It makes it very easy to quote, especially for similar products,” he said. “If it’s a laser part, for example, you could quote another laser part that’s a lot like it by using the price of the first one as a baseline and then adding to the calculation whatever additional work—painting, more production time—was needed to make the second part. MIE Trak sped up my quoting process by three or four times. And I’ve been able to increase the number of quotes I’ve sent out.”
After its success with MIE Trak, SMT also acquired MIE Kiosk job and labor scheduling software. “We’ve just trained on it, but haven’t had a chance to use it yet,” Housholder said.
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