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Increase Production Tracking, Efficiency with Data Collection Software.

A survey of data collection software illustrates how the systems can optimize a foundry's operational variables and bottom line.

In recent years, the foundry industry's view of computer technology has been changing because of Y2K and a realization by management that software, like a molding machine, is a tool that can help to improve profits. Most foundries are using or are beginning to use software that helps make their operations more efficient. Some common software products are computeraided design (CAD), least cost charge for melting, metal certifications and, recently, data collection.

To most people, data collection means clocking in and out via a bar-coded badge for time and attendance (payroll), which has been the most widely used application to date. A true definition of data collection, though, is the gathering of information to run a foundry. A whole industry has grown from the need for gathering information faster, more accurately and at a reasonable cost. Now it is not uncommon to gather job status, shipping, receiving, current inventories (casting, core and purchased parts), maintenance information and physical inventories via a data collection device. These devices come in many forms with the most common being either fixed wall-mounted or portable handheld types. Some are wired directly to a computer, while others use radio frequency (RV) to connect to the computer.

There are several questions management must answer in figuring out whether or not their foundry should invest in data collection software:

* are employees overwhelmed by data entry (production, inventory, shipping, cost and payroll information)?;

* do inventory control problems exist (castings disappear or reappear)?;

* is too much time spent taking inventory?;

* is the plant's cost information accurate?;

* are track time and attendance tracked manually?

If the answer is "yes" to any of the preceding, then data collection may be a necessary tool for your foundry. Most data collection vendors split or package software that is roughly divided into "time and attendance" and "other." Time and attendance generally deals with payroll and personnel issues. The "other" bracket refers to inventory, cost, job status, job efficiency, shipping, receiving and maintenance management.

Software Capabilities

Both foundry management and data collection vendors know how important production, cost, inventory, shipping, quality and maintenance are to a foundry's "big picture." Depending on the business software and data collection vendor, those transactions already may be available and ready for you to use through your vendor.

Depending on the software and equipment, the benefits of data collection can be realized almost anywhere (coreroom, molding, melt deck, cleaning room, shipping, receiving, maintenance, etc.). Information flows between the office and shop floor in a timely and accurate fashion. With some work and time for training, data collection can become a tool for running your business instead of being a burden. Many data collection vendors are adding value to the RF devices by adding wireless computer hookups and tying into a phone system for paging and calls.

Following are some questions to consider when evaluating software:

* how are your operation's transactions mapped for the business software? Mapping is the matching of each field coming from data collection to your business software, which can be time-consuming and expensive;

* what transactions/functions does your operation require? Some vendors bundle (group software) while others sell by the module or function;

* what equipment does the vendor of the software use? Can it function in a harsh foundry?;

* how long has the software and hardware vendor been in the foundry business?;

* can the data collection prompts be formatted in languages other than English?;

* are upgrades or new releases of the software released to all customers? Are new releases coordinated with your business software? Who installs the releases? Are new releases of your business software coordinated with the data collection vendor?;

* are there hooks provided in the software to allow user-defined transactions to feed a yet-to-be-defined piece of software?

It also is critical to check the customer service levels of software with other foundries, not grocery stores or warehouses. The bottom line is that purchasing a data collection system is as important as purchasing a new molding machine. Don't leave it to just the "computer guy"--involve manufacturing. They must take ownership to receive the most value out of data collection.
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Article Details
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Comment:Increase Production Tracking, Efficiency with Data Collection Software.
Author:Nagel, Gerald D.
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2000
Words:702
Previous Article:Aluminum Foundries: Thriving on Quality and Diversity.
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