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  • Planification de l'atelier tôlerie, mécano-soudure ou chaudronnerie
    MES-ERP Technical article

    Planning: how to reconcile client satisfaction and the realities of a sheet metal industry?

Nom de l'entreprise
AMADA Schweiz
Submitted by benoit.cantin on Tue 10/09/2019 - 11:31
  • Industrialists, and a fortiori in the sheet metal industry, are subject to production time constraints that affect all the departments in the company in a transversal way: sales representatives, currency traders or business managers, production, accounting, etc.

    However, planning is still often the weak point, even for companies equipped with CAM and ERP

    Planning systems are often very rigid, and tools such as Excel or a simple table are insufficient to manage the production flow.

    Indeed, a rigid schedule is not able to evolve in real time, nor able to adjust itself according to unexpected events, such as a machine failure or the arrival of an urgent order.

    Beyond the company's internal consequences on the process and production flow, planning issues have a direct impact on client or prospect satisfaction: late delivery, lack of visibility, providing a deadline which is too vague when giving a quote, etc. Thus, some companies lose clients because they cannot respond with certainty and precision to a delivery schedule. They are thus competing with other subcontractors, who are better organized and able to provide a delivery time slot.


    • In this context, how can we plan various production operations in such a way as to meet deadlines?
    • How to propose realistic production deadlinesto be able to attract new clients?
    • How to share production information and make it accessible to everyone in the company, and also to the client?

    To produce this article, Metal-Interface relied on the experience of Fouad Benayad, the sales director at Lantek France.

  • How to have planning that takes into account the actual current production?

    The objective is to havean accurate view of production at time T, so that the schedule can be readjusted in real time. Thus, every unexpected event is managed immediately in order to optimize its impact on the deadlines and workload of each production station. Fouad Benayad adds that "this conception of planningalso makes it possible to maximize the daily rate of machine use"

    Planning is a theoretical estimate. It takes into account the known elements at the time and can then be readjusted according to new events. And it is the readjustment that is the delicate part since it is necessary to be able to collect and manage many information flows.  For example, "the operator may have a problem when cutting or bending parts, which results in longer production times. In this case, the planning system must not only readjust the production schedule, but must also take into account the production times for future POs for the same part."

    Thus, planning management involves controlling information flows and events upstream, storing them and then analyzing them, as for example:
    The measurement and recording of production times of the different stations: cutting, welding, bending, etc.
    The comparison of the production times of a part or a PO compared to the provisional schedule,
    Stock control, especially on the different sheet metal grades, thicknesses and formats,
    Traceability, if the data includes each production area, and all the company's systems are connected, planning is much simpler and process automation becomes possible
    Digitization to capture the workload, efficiency and actual capacity of each line.

    And Fouad Benayad adds "Once the data is available for planning, it is essential to be able to use it to allow for a permanent readjustment of the production schedule."

  • How and why a realistic deadline starting from the estimate?

    The relationship between the client and their sheet metal subcontractor has long been based on trust and the notion of service. Indeed, a satisfied client often used the same supplier/partner.
    Today, buyers do not hesitate to consult much more widely, especially on new projects. Production time is therefore a differentiating aspect, which can even counterbalance a higher rate.

    For example, Fouad Benayad reports the comments of an industrialist in the fine sheet metal industry,"we sometimes have clients who tell us that our offer would have been accepted if we had submitted our estimate 24 hours earlier, or if we had been able to propose a shorter deadline for the production of parts. Price is sometimes secondary!"

    Thus, for subcontractors in sheet metal work, mechanized welding and boiler making, getting new clients requires special attention to 3 points:

    • the submission of an estimate within a short period of time,
    • the calculation of an exact costing,
    • and an adjusted proposal for a deadline.

    To solve these problems, the subcontractor can rely on quotation software, but must also be able to manage a schedule that is adjusted to the actual situation.
    Thus, the estimator and the sales representative are able to provide their clients with a precise deadline, which is not based on a “ feeling"but on the analysis of the company's multiple data: production feedback, machine load rates, stocks, etc.

  • Better communication at all levels

    Most of the planning problems encountered by companies are related to poor communication, both between employees and between the machines and different computer systems.

    Planning must serve everyone in the company and clients to:

    • provide the right information, to the right person at the right time,
    • be able to monitor the progress of a production in order to provide a precise response to the client,
    • have tools that allow for flexible consultation (mobile phone, tablet, computer, digital control of machines, etc.).

    And Fouad Benayad explains:"Let's imagine the manufacture ofa part with a range in three steps: cutting, bending, and welding.  If the operator at the bending station is notified when the previous cutting step is completed or if there is a delay, he will save time and be able to anticipate another production. "

    This increase in reactivity is necessary in a production context that can change during the same day.

    "Real-time planning improves the flow of communication for the entire information system. From the people present at the foot of the machines, to the design office or even the sales representatives in the field: all these actors are able to respond at any time in a very precise way on the status of a client's order. And in the event of a delay, the subcontractor has the information to propose an alternative solution, such as a partial delivery for example. The workshop manager will be immediately informed of any delay and will be able to react quickly."

  • To conclude

    Planning allows you to organize the manufacturing process in order to produce every PO within the specified time frame. Without a permanent questioning of deadlines, on the basis of the company's production data, planning becomes a "theoretical" basis, further and further away from what is actually happening in the workshop.

    To avoid this pitfall, planning must be based on efficient and real-time management of production data. This makes it possible to ensure a permanent readjustment of the production schedule (reorganization of the POs in case of delay, direct information to the client, via the design office or even the sales representatives in the field, etc.), and thus to be in phase with the plant's reality.

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