Small Manufacturers: Fix Bad Processes without Breaking the Bank


Have you ever felt stuck with a process that was clearly not working, but feared the solution would be too expensive? With a fresh set of eyes, the right analysis process and a dash of creativity, the solution may be more attainable than you think.

A recent client, a small, private manufacturer, was producing parts for several regional and national customers. While their product quality was superb, their order fulfillment process was inefficient and prevented optimal utilization of machine capacity.

Small Manufacturers: Fix Bad Processes without Breaking the Bank

Ideally, an order would be received, processed and then correctly assigned to a machine based on the size of the order and the capability of each machine. This would occur within the quote or order dashboard screens in Epicor.

In reality, because standard Epicor setup does not include the auto-assigning feature, the production engineers did not know the correct order size attributes as they set the machines to run. The customer service team used Epicor quote and order dashboards to receive and process orders. Customer service then processed orders and sent them to the production engineers without either the order size or the correct machine included in the order. This required them to evaluate each order as it came into the floor, and they were assigning orders based on their best estimates of the order size.

As a result, machines that should have been running continuously were put on halt each time the engineer manually assigned a job from customer service to a machine. Also, order sizes were not corresponding with the ideal machine use. Small orders were being assigned to the machine with the longest set up time and delays were occurring as the larger orders were put on hold.

Possible Options

The ability to auto-assign is available through two options:

  • Product configurator: This feature is typically added by larger manufacturers or those with more complex production processes. These manufacturers typically implement the product configurator or advanced planning and scheduling modules as well. This robust add-on was a great fit for another of our clients, a furniture manufacturer, because their products have extensive variations.
  • Advanced planning and scheduling: Advanced planning and scheduling, as an extension of scheduling, offers visual drag-and-drop scheduling and drill down for multi-level assemblies. This feature is often used for multi-plant communication as it ensures interdependent plant schedules are coordinated.

However, while great for other manufacturers, these out-of-the-box add-ons were too expensive and complex for our client’s needs.

The Path Forward

Through our detailed process we mapped their business, compiled a specific use case and arrived at a straightforward, yet powerful solution to auto-assign parts to the correct machine. Using a simple customization of their current Epicor implementation, we added a “get revision” button to the existing sales order and quote entry screens. (A revision is simply a variation on a part. In our client’s case, revisions are primarily defined by the quantity of the order, but also include shape and part size.)

Now, when an order is received by customer service, they press the “get revision” button to update all their records. Epicor assigns the part order to the correct machine. Going forward, customer service and production teams will have confidence that the correct machines are being assigned to the correct orders, requiring less coordination, delays and ad hoc decision-making.

And, better allocation means better use of existing machine capacity. We expect this relatively straightforward customization to make an important contribution to our client’s overall efficiency.

Your Take

Have you felt stuck in a process that was clearly not working, but feared the solution would be too challenging or complex? Share your story in the comments section.


Subscribe For More Content