My first salaried position in manufacturing after leaving university involved production/inventory control, with some industrial engineering and manufacturing engineering thrown in to keep me busy. Production scheduling efficiently involves juggling many balls in the air keeping people, machines, work-in-process, and inventory balanced and productive.

This was at a department that manufactured a variety of component parts fulfilling the orders of three assembly plants in the organization. This was before widespread use of computers. I managed with a number of hand-written spreadsheets.

Production schedulers for metal fabricators who balance orders from multiple customers processed across many different machines and processes have my sympathy. This is difficult work.

The easiest way is to batch according to order. The problem with this at a manufacturing level is that this may lead to downtime due to frequent changeovers to the equipment to set up for each batch.

A more efficient way to manage this would be to gather the day’s/week’s orders and sort by process type. Then all the pieces processed by Machine A wit a particular process could be processed regardless of whose order it is. The trick to all this is to track the WIP and get all the components sorted by order at the end.

Epicor Software Corp. contacted me about a successful application of its ERP to tackle just such a problem. Anchor Fabrication, a Texas-based one-stop metal fabrication shop. It has improved its productivity by up to 200% through the help of the Epicor ERP solution.

Anchor Fabrication caters to a wide variety of customers with a range of product needs – from plasma- and laser-cutting to machining, welding, and assembly work. Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, Anchor Fabrication has more than 1,000,000 square feet of manufacturing space across six facilities.

“We’ve built a reputation within the metal fabrication industry based on our efficiency and ability to quickly execute on a variety of services,” said Hector Robles, VP of manufacturing at Anchor Fabrication. “During site visits, customers often tell us they appreciate our ability to quickly look up almost any particular part’s manufacturing history along with the number of times we’ve built those specific parts.”

Epicor ERP allows Anchor Fabrication to combine all work order data into a single job without the need for manual human entry – ultimately reducing order planning costs by over $100,000 each year.

“Anchor likes to inform employees with the most concise data and the best information possible for every job that goes to the floor. Epicor really helps to keep all that information together in one spot,” said Jason Davis, VP of sales at Anchor Fabrication.

Anchor Fabrication’s rapid delivery of manufacturing orders is due in part to their ability to perform dynamic nesting, made possible by the Epicor ERP platform, which allows the metal shop team to take work orders and perform them concurrently through integration with Service Connect. The software system examines all orders that are assigned to a certain machine and notifies the Anchor Fabrication team if any orders are a fit for simultaneous execution.

“Many metal fabricators only perform a single service – welding, cutting, coating – but Anchor Fabrication saw an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition. They’ve strategically positioned themselves as an all-in-one metal fabrication service provider, and as a provider that can complete customer orders faster than single-service competitors,” said Terri Hiskey, VP of global product marketing at Epicor. “We’re very happy to see that our vertical industry specialization and product knowledge and capabilities have enabled Anchor Fabrication to work smarter, not harder – making a marked difference in the company’s business, productivity, and revenue.”

“Epicor can tailor software solutions to fit the needs of the customer,” said Steven Pybus, VP of engineering at Anchor Fabrication.

They didn’t tell me who the production scheduling team was, but they should all be the heroes of this story for finding and implementing the wise use of manufacturing IT software to meet many company objectives.

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