ERP vs MES : which one provides a fastest ROI?

Labor shortages are plaguing Canada’s wood products manufacturers.

The lack of workers is cited as the number one concern by business managers.

More than 462,000 job vacancies were recently reported at Statistics Canada, up 19%, including thousands of unfilled jobs at cabinetry, furniture and millwork plants.  In British Columbia, one in every twenty-five jobs is unfilled, with similar numbers in Quebec and Ontario.

With sales growing and orders on the rise, cabinet shops are under pressure to find new workers, or even replace staff poached by competitors – an unfortunate fact of current strong market.

Being able to bring new employees on line and up to productive levels quickly is essential.

Noting this challenge, WEB-CAB has adapted its Production Assistant, a type of Manufacturing Execution System, to simplify training and improve productivity, addressing three avenues to solve a workforce shortage:

  1. Enlarge the prospective labor pool using tools allowing the hiring of less experienced workers
  2. Accelerate the learning curve for new employees
  3. Equip existing employees with powerful tools to increase plant’s productivity

1. Enlarge the prospective labor pool using tools to help compensate for lack of experience

Drawing data from original CAD/CAM cabinet and project designs, Production Assistant feeds monitors at each work cell, breaking down work activities into individual steps. It coaches employees visually through their job functions – from sorting nested cuts, to verifying they have properly completed each step in an assembly process.

Allowing lesser skilled workers to perform even more complex roles such as dowel insertion and hardware attachment enlarges the potential labor pool. Using Production Assistant, you can be confident of the success of even less experienced workers.

2. Accelerate new staff’s learning curve

After initial training by supervisors, Production Assistant stands by the side of each new worker, guiding their activities. Options within the application allow workers to view an interactive, 3D image of the workpiece, with directional cues for positioning and fastening to the project.

3. Equip existing employees with powerful tools to increase plant productivity

By delivering interactive project information and guiding workers at their work station, Production Assistant also reduces those time-wasting queries between the plant floor and the engineering staff. This is the surest way to limit the need for hiring.

The opinion of 2 cabinetry owners

“Personnel is a huge challenge,” says Marcel Giguère, co-owner of Moderne Cuisines & Design in Coaticook, QC.” Their factory uses the label-based WEB-CAB Production Assistant program, tracking parts and finished projects all the way through wrapping and shipping.

Sylvain Arel, Giguère’s partner and also a co-owner, estimates, “Productivity is up by 20 percent” since Production Assistant was implemented.

“The shop, which was at capacity before Web-Cab was installed, is now asking for more jobs, so it’s definitely working says Giguère.” Following implementation of Production Assistant, the shipping department was able to reassign a worker to another department due to increased efficiency there.

In addition to reducing labor demands Production Assistant also makes the work environment better for employees and managers.

“It makes it a nicer work setting,” says Giguère. The production manager doesn’t have to run around checking on jobs. We can look into the system to see the exact status of jobs, without having to make a bunch of phone calls.”  

Increasing factory throughput by reducing questions, confusion and lost parts, also cuts down the frustration factor for employees, and improves the working environment.

To learn more about how Production Assistant can address workforce shortages, visit

Woodworking software technology for cabinets making  – WEB-CAB