Businesses are rarely steady in terms of consistent volume. Then came the virus and all the uncertainty. Most of the cabinet industry has been fortunate to have seen continued strong demand, even while other industries are suffering due to lockdown restrictions.
You probably invest in marketing and promotion to bring in new work. As those investments pay off, new jobs are sold resulting in greater volume in the shop. To meet growing demand, more investments are made in equipment, which increases productivity… to a point.
Faster feed rates and throughput on machines provide only part of the answer. In fact, as individual machines become more efficient, planning and coordination of work becomes more critical. This is the realm of manufacturing execution systems (MES), which help manage the complexity on the shop floor, maximizing those investments in machinery by optimizing workflow.
So how does that work in the real world? How can MES software optimize workflow?
The best way to answer that question is with a real-world example, which is probably familiar to anyone building cabinets. We start with part processing, where machines are particularly good at making high volumes very quickly. But from there, those parts may take multiple paths, only to come together later in assembly. Coordinating what happens between those events is critical to overall workflow.
After cutting, banding, boring, case parts need to be organized (sorted) by cabinet for assembly. That sorting process can be highly automated using MES. More importantly, case part sorting can be synchronized with subassembly processing. Doors and drawers are being made in subassembly areas that feed the assembly process, and we want to coordinate with the cases.
Our goal is not simply to build lots of boxes through the case clamp. The moment the cases emerge, we need to have the doors and drawers ready to complete each product, in the exact order needed. Who hasn’t seen the logjam effect of boxes pouring out of the clamp, but piling up waiting for doors?
MES will not only assist with sorting case parts, doors, drawer parts, face frames, but also coordinate those multiple paths so that everything comes together at the right time and place.
Today we have the software that can optimize workflow at a fraction of the cost of just one CNC machine. Not only is this possible, but we have a proven track record of successful implementations in record time.
by Mick Peters, Automated Application Technologies, LLC