Many Roads Lead to Quoting and Costing, in Multiple Units of Measure
Most (if not all) of the plastics producers mentioned in Differing Plastic Flavors desire simplicity of estimating costs by using the system's manufacturing tables. This means the ability to quickly run a variety of different cost scenarios by indicating the quantity breaks and factoring in the data on multi-cavity and family molds, the percent of planned time expected to be used, the percent of regrind allowed in the process, and tooling within the tables.
Part Three of the series The Tricky Enterprise Applications Needs of Plastics Producers.
Once the initial quote or bill of materials (BOM) is constructed, users desire the ability to immediately view the level costs for every layer of their BOM structure for each item, and even to be able to track lower-level costs for work-in-process (WIP), subcomponents, or parent-child items. Such capabilities aim at increasing the productivity and accuracy of estimators and engineers by giving them the ability to make quick and accurate price quotes or pricing revisions, since they can thus generate multiple quotes per customer, customize quote letters and reports, create items in inventory and the BOM, run "what if" scenarios, and reuse or modify existing quotes. Although this is a necessity in almost all other manufacturing businesses, and although these capabilities have been well-supported by most enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, plastics producers especially benefit from a faster turnaround on quotes and more accurate cost comparison data, whereby the team can easily re-quote BOMs when additional orders are received for the same product.
Changes in material prices, overhead, and labor or machine rates often also have to be factored into the re-quoting process or considered actual or standard costs, and users should be able to selectively update quote prices within the system or use mass update features.
Bag and Film Quoting
Related to some of the plastic processing methods detailed in Differing Plastic Flavors is DTR's Bag and Film Quoting capability, specially designed for film extruders, flexography printers, gravure printers, extrusion laminators, adhesive laminators, coaters, metalizers, slitters, bag and pouch makers, and other similar processes. This feature was designed specifically for companies requiring a detailed quotation tool that can accurately combine the processing costs of blown extrusion, slitting, printing, and other associated operations with the various ratios of raw material blends and bag dimensions. It takes into account material density and bag dimensions, including headers, lip, gusset and trim, and so on, together with any reinforcements or artwork required, and a detailed cost per bag, roll, or weight unit is calculated. The system automatically applies three predefined margins to the quantity breaks selected (again based on bag, roll, or weight) to create a detailed pricing matrix. Selected values can then be automatically pulled into a user-definable quote template, and virtually instantly e-mailed, faxed, or printed.
A bag and film processor feature should enable users to use the quoting application to quote from the market price table, build quotes by process (extrusion, printing, slitting, and the like), and capture the costs by process. They should also be able to incorporate such factors into their quotes as mill, width, length, side trim, header, lip and side or end gussets, and more. Additionally, they must have the ability to convert rolls to bags; ensure the correct selling price by using "high/low" order margins; see an instant view of calculations of weight and area, based on their specifications; and make selections for artwork, for terms on the order, and so forth. This capability helps improve customer service with quick and accurate quoting; easily retrieve quotes for multiple items, by customer, or sales representative; and create sales orders, inventory, and customer records.
Real-time Shop Floor Production Monitoring
Another common need of plastics producers is real-time shop floor production monitoring. This serves many purposes, including tracking cycles on tools or machines, data collection, precision measurement, analysis and reporting, gage management, material usage and labor tracking, downtime, scrap and statistic process control (SPC) data gathering, run or trend alarming, machine process profiling, and so on. Such monitoring capabilities help users automate the recording of correct production quantities for each shift, and eliminate manual data entry errors, since they can thus automate the (real time) collection of such shop floor information as good items, rejects (and cause of rejects), production hours, efficiencies, and downtime by reason.
The software should make it easy for users to find out why machines were down, and why items were rejected in summary (or drill down to details per shift). It should additionally allow them to identify machine status using a color-coded display system; quickly find yield, cycle time, or production problems (either for the whole floor or for one particular machine); gain visibility over tool conflicts and impending setups; generate standard reports or design their own; and create summary reports at the end of each shift. Other associated capabilities would be the ability to make or track raw material (blends), assembled WIP items, finished goods, and the like.
While some plastics-oriented ERP systems might feature native plant execution and production monitoring capabilities, most of them typically have to interface to a variety of applications that provide production and process monitoring and cavity pressure control systems for injection molders, extruders, blow molders, blown film processors, and metal stampers. This helps users leverage production and process monitoring solutions to export part information and production schedules to each machine interface unit. Some potential benefits thereof would be the ability to analyze for downtime and rejects; monitor machines in real time to defuse problems before they adversely affect quality and productivity; and schedule preventative machine maintenance. Other benefits include the ability to automate production reporting, scheduling, and job tracking; analyze manufacturing process variable performance; implement continuous business process improvement plans; and create summary reports at the end of each shift.
In a nutshell, from real-time process monitoring and alarms to machine maintenance, downtime reporting, and SPC, users should be able to analyze their data against established processing parameters, and then review these measurements to ensure that processing variations stay within acceptable production limits, all with improved productivity of their machine-based manufacturing operations.