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Trane improves data-handling.

Trane improves data-handling

The Trane Co's Commercial Systems Group manufactures a broad line of equipment for commercial heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration. Early in this decade, a study of the company's old, computer-based production control systems revealed numerous, serious problems.

For instance, the Manufacturing Information and Engineering Management departments each generated their own separate bill of materials (BOM) for batch orders. Data for BOMs were updated only once a day; further, data were difficult to retrieve and often obsolete.

Shortcomings in the old computer-based system sent negative effects rippling through Trane's factory operations. An inability to locate parts contributed to numerous shutdowns, inefficient use of labor, and wastefully high safety stocks of parts. At one point, Trane's plant in Fort Smith, AK, employed up to five bicycle-mounted clerks who had the sole mission of chasing parts needed in assembly.

On top of that, confusion on the shop floor had a negative effect on labor/management relations. "It was tough to get workers to believe you were giving correct instructions when the parts plan got changed three times before lunch," says Bob Orf, production control supervisor at Fort Smith.

To help straighten out its information-handling systems, the company sought assistance from Andersen Consulting, Chicago, IL. This company recommended a new, computer-based system that would not only improve methods and operations at Fort Smith, but also integrate that plant electronically with sister plants in Tyler, TX, and Trenton, NJ.

In July, 1983, Trane began training employees in the use of Andersen's Mac-Pac manufacturing management system. A year later, Trane launched a pilot program, running the software on several Tyler assembly lines.

By Sept, 1985, the basic system and six software modules were operational. In July, 1987, Trane completed installation of four additional modules plus several custom application packages.

At Tyler, Mac-Pac runs on an IBM 3081 mainframe. This supports 17 IBM 3274 controllers, which in turn are the links to 400 terminals throughout the factory. An IBM 3725 communications controllers is networked to IBM 9370s operating in Fort Smith and Trenton. Each 9730 is fed data by 160 factory terminals.

Also tied into Tyler on separate, dedicated nets are three sales and distribution centers, Trane's parent company (American Standard), and other manufacturing divisions in Trane's Commercial Systems Group.

To date, the Mac-Pac system has provided a number of important benefits. For one thing, a unified BOM for each batch order allows Trane to introduce new products more quickly, and to accelerate changes in existing product lines. For another, better data-handling has helped the company improve inventory management.

"We've been able to improve inventory turns from 13.4/yr to a high of 22/yr," reports Gary Gilmore, a systems analyst at Tyler. Over at Fort Smith, inventory turns increased from 6/yr to 12/yr. Inventories of raw materials and work in process were reduced by over $1 million.

In addition, indirect labor costs as a percentage of total costs dropped 5 percent. And customer satisfaction--based largely on absence of defects in delivered products--improved 90 percent.

Says Luane Weir, production control supervisor at Fort Smith: "Now I can concern myself with planning. In the old days, I might spend 14 hours trying to solve problems on the shop floor, and never be able to analyze why they were happening."
COPYRIGHT 1989 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Trane Co. Commercial Systems Group's production control system
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Oct 1, 1989
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