The success of many businesses comes down to accountability and efficiency. Every manufacturing or maintenance and repair organization (MRO) is faced with similar challenges to job and work order status tracking – lost orders, incorrect builds and delays are all typical results of an inferior tracking system. Having a robust Work in Process (WIP) system in place will help you meet compliance mandates, be prepared for any potential recalls or issues and increase efficiency to provide better customer service.
With the right WIP software and scanning hardware you can provide your business with the means to track vital manufacturing data in real-time. Improve build accuracy and reduce labor costs by providing your employees with all the information they need with no paperwork and less procedural steps. Start making more strategic decisions based on the status of every phase of your production process.
What are the Key Benefits of a Work In Process System?
A work in process system provides the cost saving benefits of:
- Efficiency – Automate aspects of your process while eliminating paperwork.
- Accuracy – Reduce errors from manual or missed input data.
- Traceability – Know what stage every item is at in your facility with real-time information.
- Productivity – Accomplish more throughout the day with a streamlined and automated process.
What is Work In Process?
Work in process (WIP) is a common tracking function found at any manufacturing facility as well as repair centers to manage items as they move throughout a facility. The core concern behind a WIP system is making sure you have the ability to collect and track specific details of each stage in your production process. With the use of barcodes and scanning technology, a system will reduce unnecessary steps while providing an accurate view of the state of everything in your facility.
In a WIP system, each item is tracked uniquely as it is fabricated, manufactured or processed in some way. Normally, there are several steps to the process the item goes through, each with a set of data that will have to be captured. At each stage of the process the item will be scanned and whatever actions are done to it will be recorded. This chain of scans and data provide a very accurate trail of the items existence from assembly to a finished product. With this information you also have a line of accountability when there are defects or production issues.
Each business will have specific points of interest they will want to track but in general you will be collecting data related to:
- What the item is. A product, repair or job.
- The current state or location of the item.
- The operations are being done.
- Who is working on the item at each stage.
- The time it took to carry out each function.
- The type and number of resources used for the item.
- Production quality control history.
- The total output of the system. Completed items as well as defects.
Along the way you would use barcodes to identify items and even processes for quick and accurate data entry. It is very common to utilize scanning to track employee IDs, processes, machines or tools used and part numbers of raw materials. Scanning a barcode is much faster and drastically more accurate than having employees manually enter data into the system. Most WIP systems will be tracking everything in real-time, on a network and will use different scanning devices that best fit their situation. Whether you have fixed terminals with basic gun scanners that are wired to the network or mobile computers roaming freely, having network infrastructure that can manage your data and number of users is instrumental for an effective system.
Regardless of the number of steps or complexity, a well suited WIP system provides a degree of accuracy and detail into your process that will allow for the growth of your business through greater efficiency and tighter control over your processes.
What Should You Address When Making a Work In Process System?
When putting together an effective and suitable work in process system there are a few key questions to answer:
- What is your process? Manufacturing, repair, etc…
- How many steps are there to your process?
- Will you need to track raw material or tool usage?
- How many concurrent users will you have?
- Do you need to track the time each operator takes for each task?
- Will you need fixed or hand held scanners?
- Do you have any wireless infrastructure in place already?
- Are items labeled already with a unique barcode?
What are the Components of a Work In Process System?
All work in process systems consist of these 5 components:
- WIP tracking software – Your software will drive the entire system and determine how you track your process. Depending on the complexity of the data that is being recorded and how detailed of a view you need, different applications will provide varying compatibility with your production process.
- Barcode Scanner – Each item needs to be scanned throughout your process to have a clear account of where it is and what has been done to it. Fixed scanners will allow for a fully automated process while hand held scanners are an easy, cost effective means to get scanned data into your tracking software.
- Mobile Computer – In cases where your process requires full mobility, a mobile computer that supports your WIP application is needed. With the ability to connect to a wireless network your WIP system can stay up-to-date is real-time regardless of where action takes place.
- Wireless infrastructure – The true value of a WIP system is its ability to provide an accurate picture of your process in real-time. Having an adequate wireless network is crucial to supporting your workforce and getting data updated and processed at every stage of your process.
- Barcode Printers – Every item that you manufacture or process needs to be identified unique to have full traceability. A simple label printer makes sure you are making easy to read barcodes to quickly identify each item.