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Job shop and machine shop specialties are limited-scale manufacturing, including prototyping and single unit production or “one offs.” Margins can be very thin, so successful firms balance their time spent on manufacturing with time on maintaining inventory and fostering customer relationships.
Job shop software is essentially an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with a limited scope. In fact, it's is often part of ERP if the shop is a small part of a larger organization. Broadly speaking, the system is used to automate many of the tracking and scheduling duties within the company.
A prime requirement for job and machine shops is manufacturing resource planning (MRP), the system that schedules the manufacturing of each customer’s order. Inventory and order entry are important and must be integrated with the MRP system, particularly with the pipeline management system.
Contract manufacturing is a relationship-based businesses. As such, owners should use customer relationship management (CRM) to track sales history and to market opportunities targeted at specific customers. Strictly speaking, payroll is standard. However, one of the resources tracked by MRP is worker time spent per work order. This allows owners and managers to measure the profitability of each employee.
General ledger, accounts payable and accounts receivable are standard. Most job shop manufacturing software is installed on premises. The computerization and networking of tools and the associated costs means that most of the infrastructure to support job shop scheduling software is already in place, negating the hardware cost arguments for cloud-based installations.
In addition to core business functions, it's important to evaluate the following functions to meet the company's unique requirements:
|Pipeline management||Balances jobs against the available resources, checks inventory, and prepares orders for materials. Advanced systems also factor in cost and price, prioritizing the most profitable production.|
|Customer sales monitoring||Compares each customer’s historic sales to recent sales to gauge trends. Also enables supports customer sales incentives.|
|Job estimating||Evaluates required time, materials, machines, and personnel to perform a job. Calculates costs and profit. Advance systems can substitute resources and optimize for time or profit.|
|Make/buy reporting||Applies estimating to subassemblies to evaluate whether it’s more profitable to make or buy components. Advanced systems will factor in time to build or buy as well as cost.|
|Process planning reporting||Helps plan and document each step in fabrication for accurate estimating and job tracking. The process planning reports track the development of the process plan for each contract.|
|Material supplier planning||Assists in the make/buy process by helping material suppliers assign a bill of materials to each subassembly. Allows make/buy decisions to be based on current market prices for material and labor for each estimate.|
|Fabrication scheduling||Supports dynamic scheduling fabrication process, changing as different jobs finish late or early and as materials arrive in inventory. Also allows schedules to be reprioritized.|
|Customer delivery scheduling||Helps streamline flows of shipping/delivery/pick up for efficient fabrication process. Includes transit time and adjustable slack time.|
|Slipped/late jobs reporting||Tracks and reports job status through the entire process from estimation to delivery. Advanced systems will have a dashboard that signals management as soon as a job slips past a defined threshold.|
|Work load planning||Helps managers adjust the work load to leverage the most expensive equipment to depreciate or minimize usage of the most expensive to run. Also helps manage employee work loads, taking into account workers’ preferences.|
|Scrap reporting||Provides efficient tracking to minimize the amount of scrap by planning production to make the most efficient use of material. Also helps tracks recyclable scrap through to resale to the scrap yard.|
|Engineering change management||Tracks engineering changes and their impact on delivery date and profit on the project. It should also be easy to enter the changes into the system so that the changes can flow to other projects and the overall schedule.|
Several vendors recently updated their job and machine shop management software. These updates focus on increasing mobile access to system data, improving financial reporting capabilities and enabling better machine productivity monitoring. These three vendors made recent updates to their job shop system: