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Managing job-shop data.

Managing job-shop data

Several years ago, Essman Screw Products Inc, a 21-person job shop located in Bryan, OH, found itself with a peculiar problem. Business was good and growing, and owner-president John Essman had secured a base of loyal customers who order long, repeat runs of screw-machined parts. These are mostly brass and steel fittings for application in plumbing, refrigeration, air conditioning, gas, and lawn-care products.

While the company's sales curve was angling upward nicely, their profit curve wasn't. Gradually, since their founding in 1976, Essman Screw Products had lost contact with their true job costs.

"We realized what the problem was, and knew we had to gain a more complete, accurate picture of costs," relates Bill Essman. John's younger brother, he manages the company's plant and office operations.

In addition, John wanted to spend more time on other projects. Trouble was, he carried a lot of knowledge--including job-costing methods and data--in his head. This was knowledge that Bill, a relative newcomer to the screw-machining business, hadn't yet acquired.

Enter a computer

Somewhere along the line, John and Bill Essman heard about a type of computer system that seemed to promise a solution. Called a job shop management system, it consists of a set of interrelated software modules for typical job-shop business functions. These include not only job-costing but also order entry, labor data collection, scheduling, purchasing, inventory, cost-estimating, bills of material, financials, and others.

After evaluating several leading products (there are over a dozen on the market), the Essmans settled on one called Shop Control System from DCD Co, Minneapolis, MN. Now installed in over 1500 companies, Shop Control System comes in versions for IBM System 36 and AS/400 minicomputers, and for IBM PC, PC/XT, and PC/AT microcomputers.

In Essman's part of the country, sales, training, and support service for Shop Control System are provided by AKTion Associates Inc, Toledo, OH. This company serves metalworking job shops and small manufacturers as far north as Detroit, and as far south as Cincinnati.

Purchase of the computer system was made in November, 1986. The Essmans bought software modules for job-costing, payroll, inventory/purchasing, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and general ledger.

Running the software is an IBM System 36 minicomputer with 1 MB RAM and 80 MB hard-disk capacity. By means of simple cabling (not networking), the System 36 is connected to two IBM PC/XTs and a dumb terminal. Each of the two PCs is cabled to a dot-matrix printer. Total cost of the system--including hardware, software, installation, and training--was $35,000.

It took only a few weeks to bring the system on-line and up to speed. "Shop Control System is a powerful yet simple system," says Bill Essman. "It's very easy to set up and learn. With help from AKTion Associates, we moved from zero to productive operation very quickly."

Too quickly, it turned out. "The old burden rates we loaded into the system were 'way off," he says. "As about everything I need to know to run a job profitably is available here in computer memory."

Further, by using their computer system, the company now does a better job of charging for costs of machine repair and tool network. "We either put these costs into overhead against the burden rate," says Bill, "or we prorate them against specific, long-run jobs and charge the repair and rework costs against production."

Possible additions

In the future, Essman Screw Products may add two more terminals to the computer system--one in the tool crib, another at the dock. "We'll use a terminal in the crib for tool inventory management, and to obtain more accurate charging of tools against jobs. At the dock, our shipping and receiving supervisor will use a terminal to post material receipts and lot shipments.

"All in all, installation of the computer system has been a good move," Bill concludes. "We're doing a much better job of data management than we were three years ago."

For information on Shop Control System, write to DCD Co, 1601 W River Rd North, Minneapolis, MN 55411. Phone (612) 588-0551.

PHOTO : An assortment of brass part shapes and types made by Essman Screw Products Inc.

PHOTO : Secretary Anna Hancock enters data on the IBM System 36 minicomputer.

PHOTO : Bill Essman, plant manager, adjusts operation of the J S Mannor tumble-type parts washer.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Quinlan, Joseph C.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:May 1, 1989
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