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Volume 6   Issue 9               October  2005

Investment Savvy

Investments in Technology and Profitability
by Craig Yamauchi

In the current door and window manufacturing market, comprehensive, integrated applications are needed to be competitive. These systems take into consideration the way business is done in the window world and the requirements of each role within the overall business flow. Systems can reduce orders errors by up to 80 percent, reduce head count in order processing and customer service by up to 40 percent and increase the efficiency in your manufacturing process by leveraging lean manufacturing methodologies. 

Tangible Benefits
In addition to reducing the administrative costs, today’s systems can help reduce order cycle time by integrating all operational and technical aspects of the complex make-to-order window environment. It facilitates in building strong strategic relationships with dealers and distributors by effectively supporting an electronic quoting and order management process. Efficiencies are gained across the entire extended organization so the manufacturer and its partners can grow without proportional increases in staffing, labor and overhead costs. Because configurations and specs are captured, validated, managed and distributed electronically, cost savings and cost reductions result from more effective material control, less scrap and rework, better resource scheduling, shorter lead-times and fewer returns and customer complaints.

Product Configurators
A key aspect of the current vertical door and window manufacturing systems is the product configurator; an expert system that incorporates engineering information for your products. Through the configurator, dimensions and other product attributes are captured and formulated to provide all required downstream information; material requirements, labor operations, cut sizes, cart/slot logic, material optimization, machine interfaces and product costs. A powerful configuration engine supporting dimensional variability will greatly reduce the number of windows that are treated as “special.” 

This reduces cycle time in preparing production data for dimensional changes to windows and eliminates engineering involvement (saving engineering labor and further reducing cycle time). Drawings are generated from the configurator specifications. Additional benefits include quicker introduction, setup and rollout of new product lines by leveraging the centralized configuration data and logic where applicable. 

This streamlined specification and ordering process reduces the risk of errors dramatically, provides definitive information to the customer immediately and ensures that the factory gets complete and accurate order details. There are significant labor savings for the plant by eliminating the re-keying, interpretation and analysis of the specification.

Just In Time “Demand Pull”
Just in time “demand pull” manufacturing requires immediate visibility to the full complement of order demand. Effective production scheduling requires access to a wide variety of business information: line load vs. capacity, product mix and specific product attributes, customer delivery information, material handling specifications and machine and shipping constraints.

Information-based scheduling increases throughput and efficiency, reduces late schedule changes to accommodate ‘rush’ expediting and helps optimize machine setups/changeovers. Production sequencing techniques ensure that all work-in-process flows smoothly from cut parts through final assembly, packaging and shipping without the build-up of stock queues. 

Product configuration logic, integration to material optimization, layout algorithms can be utilized to maximize material utilization and visibility to true material yield. Each component part is automatically assigned to a specific material handling cart location and ultimately to the final customer order. 

Investing in modernized technology will help ensure that the manufacturer remains financially competitive in the challenging market that may lie ahead, providing for significant opportunities to decrease labor cost and increase the manufacturing efficiencies. The reduction in labor costs and the improvement of manufacturing processes are two variables that will increase the manufacturer’s profitability directly, without having to increase revenues constantly and market share into the future. 

Craig Yamauchi is the president of Friedman Corp. in Deerfield, Ill. He may be reached at cyamauchi@friedman.com.

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