The hard part of job shops is that everything is different, every single day. A job shop can be medium to low volume, but medium to high mix, creating an environment of constant change.

Some job shops do run production where they produce thousands of the same things, but a lot of job shops are totally custom and everything is engineered to order, meaning they never make the same thing twice. So, you see why it could be perceived as difficult to use manufacturing analytics software in a job shop.

  • There are specific requirements and metrics for a job shop, much of which is traditionally manually. There is a better way.
  • No, Excel or an ERP will not fix these problems, but will probably make it more complicated.
  • Job shop software like manufacturing analytics will provide visibility into a job shop, despite what many believe.
  • Job shop scheduling is the #1 benefit. Read the blog to find out why.

What is a Job Shop Process and Where Does Software Fit In?

There are unique requirements for a job shop. Each machine, each person, each work center, each cell could be doing something different every day, which makes planning for that is really, really difficult.

It is much easier to schedule, understand capacity, order product, do quotes, develop cost projections, all of those things you need to run a factory when you’re making the same thing every single day. But, if every day is different and every time you make something, it’s different, how do you plan and predict?

And, on top of that, performance metrics are not the key metrics in a job shop. The plant is not asking, “How many parts were produced on a machine?” But, instead, it’s the changeover times and run times that matter most to the plant operations team. They’re asking:

  • “What’s an estimate for how long it takes to set up a machine and changeover from one job to another?”
  • “How long should a job take to run? ”
  • “Is the job close to that time?”

These are all local optimization numbers. “Is this machine or this operation running the way it should?” And, when you have those numbers, you can begin to look at the more holistic view of the plant by asking:

  • “How much capacity do we actually have?
  • “If we got a rush job today, where could we actually fit it in?”

So, no, unlike a more traditional manufacturing environment, performance doesn’t matter nearly as much as the metrics needed to understand changeover and run time.

Also while on-time delivery is something that matters to any manufacturer, a job shop places greater importance on the need to track, not only on-time delivery to the external customer, but on-time delivery to the internal customer. Which basically means that from one operation to another, what does that look like and how is it tracked. “So, if we’re supposed to make these parts today and finish them today, did we do that? Yes or no? Why not?”

Let’s not forget about quality, either. In a factory that produces the same product every single day, quality is easily automated. In that highly automated, high volume, repetitive company, you have most of those check processes built into the equipment already. But, in a job shop, measuring quality is typically a manual process. Sometimes, a job shop has tooling and machines that will measure and check parts, but more often than not, the process of monitoring quality falls to job packets or job travelers and humans.

Because everything is different every time, these job packets or job travelers “travel” around the shop for detailing and verifying each step in the production process. The problem with this is the fact that these travelers are paper that can get lost, be torn, spilled on, etc.

Compare that very manual process, prone to error and strife with complexities, to the automated process at a low mix manufacturer and it’s the same 5 or 6 widgets made on the line every day. The bottom line, you don’t need a job packet to tell you the quality requirements of a specific product. You already know these requirements, or there’s one source of truth displayed in the factory no matter if you’re making 10,000 products today, 12,000 tomorrow, and the following day, 8,000. It’s all the same.

The fact that the process in a job shop is different every single day, measurements are very specific, and that high mix of product and high mix of variability make it hard to plan in a job shop. This is why many believe the software side of a job to be incredibly complex and difficult.

So, how do job shops keep up? How do they begin to take advantage of the visibility and accountability that comes from having a job shop software, without the complexities? 

Well, there’s an answer.

No, Job Shop Scheduling Excel or ERP Will Not Solve Your Problems

Of course, there is software intended to make the lives of manufacturers at a job shop easier, but it rarely delivers the intended promise of actually making things less difficult. There is a lot of ERP software today that is built to solve those issues, but it tends to be really, really complex, and maybe even too accurate. The scheduling is too accurate. It doesn’t take into account all of the different variability that is so common in job shops.

Note: Variability on the floor is referenced so often in the book, The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. If you haven’t yet read it and work in the manufacturing world, we highly recommend it.

Let’s talk about an example to really understand why traditional ERP software doesn’t fulfill its promises to job shops.

Between each step in the production process, the product has to move from one place to another and some may be taking longer than planned or required. This follows the whole idea of dependent events, which is actually what happens in a job shop. So, scheduling becomes very, very difficult and complicated because of the many, many dependent events. When this happens, job shops fall into having people manage that whole process in Excel or on whiteboards or with Kanban boards, things like that. And, as we’ve learned, manual processes are convoluted and difficult to track.

There is a Better Solution for Job Shop Software…. Manufacturing Analytics

So, what is a job shop to do? How do you create organization and calm in the plant if the ERP software that claims to solve your problems, well…. doesn’t. There are other solutions that actually do solve these issues.

The most common misconception about manufacturing analytics software is that it won’t work because of the variability in a job shop. Everybody assumes that when you talk about manufacturing analytics and software like ours that it’s all about performance and throughput, and if we’re being honest, it’s just not.

You can measure utilization, planned versus actual changeover times, and planned versus actual operation time. You can import your schedule and track against the jobs at an operational level to be able to give you that granularity of knowing if you’re running ahead or behind. You’ll get lots of visibility that you wouldn’t otherwise get without the software.

The other one misconception is that manual operations can’t be tracked. A lot of times in these types of companies, there are machine-based operations with machine tools, like mills, lathes, saws, press brakes, etc. but, there could be a lot of manual operations as well. Hand assembly, welding, and so on, that aren’t practical to measure through a piece of equipment, or maybe it just doesn’t matter.

With manufacturing analytics, you can collect the data from people, too, not just the machines. It covers all of the bases by giving an entire view into the plant, not just the machines that make the product.

Really, it’s the understanding that manufacturing analytics will work for a job shop because it can give you the visibility you need into the plant, through machines and people, without too much complexity. If you don’t believe us, believe Tacony, a manufacturer of many, many different products.

The Benefit of Manufacturing Analytics = Job Shop Scheduling

When the myths are debunked and job shop manufacturers recognize that manufacturing analytics solutions can help solve many of their biggest problems, the benefits will be invaluable.

The biggest benefit is the scheduling feature – tracking against the schedule, looking at machine utilization, and understanding if you have bottlenecks. Using the scheduling tool, you can also see where you might have excess capacity to see where you may be able to slot something in today if you receive a rush order. Or, you could use the schedule to understand if you’re ahead or behind, as well. You could even see your capacity, historically, over time.

It’s all very important. And, while we’re here to help you get visibility into the plant, first, we want you to understand it’s all very achievable in your plant.

Visibility doesn’t have to be impossible. It’s not a myth that manufacturing analytics can and does work in a job shop. So, when you’re ready to take the leap, we’ll be here.