Next time your organization closes a sale, pay attention to the amount of paperwork and paper travel generated by that sale. Bid Specs, Quotes, Work orders, Engineering Prints, Bill of Materials, Change orders, Printed Pictures and many "Trees" worth of paper more. Ironically, technology has not helped this, with the increase in amount of data coming to us every day, we print and then throw away more than ever before.
Be a 3-D shop
How many Engineering prints are circling through your organization on any given day? 100's of pages? 1000's of pages? Quite a few. And one thing you can be sure of, there is at least one document in your shop that is out of date and Wrong! As your engineering or customer changes revisions and adds detail you will be constantly battling out of date prints. Instead, use technology to your advantage and stay in the 3-D world. Ask your engineering department to dimension in 3-D and use these 3-D models at your terminals and assembly stations. Computers are cheap, Employees can rotate models on iPads, and data sharing is instantaneous.
Use PDFs to stay current
If not 3-D, why not digitally transfer 2-D files. CAD software can easily convert 2-D prints into .PDF format which can be opened at any terminal, any smart phone, and easy to zoom in, mark up, and share. The advantages to .PDFs over a .DXF or .DWG is that you need no CAD software to view the document. There's no chance an operator can change a dimension or delete a feature because they will not be able to.
Product Data Management (PDM) and Product Lifecylce Management (PLM) is critical in a high mix shop. Keeping files up to date, tracking which engineer is working on what, securing data and keeping old revisions...all lifesavers in a progressive Engineering department. Most CAD software companies will have a corresponding PDM software that you can buy and utilize. However, new products on the market offer Cloud Based solutions that might better fit your needs.
What's your current method of job scheduling? Is it easy to access and keep everyone informed and up to date as changes happen? If not, it could use some tweaking, and those tweaks don't have to be expensive. In fact if they are expensive it probably means your process is not well defined and "shop flow" is not happening. Try to simplify and see if you can create a schedule in a single sheet Excel file...that way your employees can easily pull up on any device, and quickly see changes as they happen. Be wary of expensive ERP software, these will promise easy scheduling but result in complicating your process and hindering flow...and we all want flow.
Keep the Paper!
Not quite ready to leave the paper world, there's something comfortable about that piece of paper to hold in your hand, mark on, and keep. The trick is the keep, if you do print a piece of paper, make sure you actually will keep that piece of paper. Then make sure your filing system is one you can find that paper again. Look to ISO standards on good ways to track paper documents similar to a filing system in a computer. Also look to programs like Evernote or OneNote to scan and file those paper scribbles you make during the day. Programs like these even look for key words in your hand writing so you can search for them later.
The Key is to Do It!
Keep looking for ways to eliminate waste and easily update your team, technology is progressive and there literally hundreds of ways to use it to this advantage. The trick is to pick one direction and try it, if it doesn't fit your model try something else. If you need any help with efficiency in your engineering/design process, please give us a call @ (918) 212-4954 or E-mail us. We would like to come out and assess your operation as it stands, then offer advice on how you might make it better. Keep Experimenting!
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