We are a 7 person Cabinet shop focusing on Residential Kitchen and Baths for a mid to high end market. Our employees are required to track how long they spend on each of the various types of activities they perform, so that we can effectively cost out how long it takes the shop to produce this type of drawer or build a Base cabinet or Cut and edge a fridge gable etc. This information has allowed me to keep accurate track of costs and effectively estimate and price our projects. It does, however, take up a lot of time to manually transfer this information from the written Daily Time sheets to a spread sheet. I'm aware that there are automated solutions that allow the employee to enter this information via their phones or touch tablets. Has anyone had any experience with these systems? Most seem to be directed at the larger production facilities...with a price tag to match. Can anyone suggest an approach to help us "automate" this data collection at a reasonable cost?
We had a manual process just like yours for years, only it was entered manually into our ERP system, instead of a spreadsheet. We only recently switched to entering time directly into the system. It has been amazing.
I understand ERP's are not for every shop, so here's a low cost alternative...Try GetKlok.com I used this for a while tracking my own engineering time on projects, and really liked it.
Someone had mentioned a free app that can be put on your employee's smart phones. They do the data entry there and it will load into the cloud. You access the cloud and the info is all compiled there for you to use.
Don't remember the name but a search might turn it up.
A word to the wise. I have worked for one construction company and two shops that tortured their employees in this manner. If I was working on one to three jobs in a day I did my best but more than two or three and I just made it up as it gets ridiculous. Bet i'm not the only one. So, at the end of the day is it really worth hours of everyones time and effort to collect and examine information that is specious at best?
I agree with Chris in that there's a point when the cost of collecting the data isn't worth the data itself.
It all depends on what you're using the data for, and what effect that data can have on the bottom line.
You can mitigate the cost by reducing the time it takes to collect the data, for sure, but there's still a point at which it just isn't worth it.
Any system you use needs to allow you to adjust the line of value. In other words, you need to be able to track more or less over time. I find that at first, it's worth it to track lots of data. Once flow is improved, and work in process is significantly improved, the data isn't as valuable as it once was. (For example, how valuable would it be to know every step of the process if an order made it through the shop in an hour? It wouldn't, but if it took 3 weeks to get through the shop, it would be valuable to know exactly where everything is.)
The quicker a shop's WIP is, the less it needs tracking in this manner. It's a snowball effect, and the same holds true in so many areas. The good get better faster...
The primary purpose of job costing at our shop is to help us figure out better methods and batch sizes. Sometimes it's just to sell the guys on an idea.
The natural instinct is to regard bigger batches as better batches. What is useful, however, is to see whether or not building ten drawers at one time really generates any savings over building just the drawers you need.
At our shop the machines are already dialed in. We have reduced set up costs to simply turning a switch on or off. As it turns out the per unit time to build one drawer in a batch size of ten is no improvement over building the drawers in a batch size of four. Managing 20 pieces of stock is a lot simpler than managing 50.
We do, however, sometimes cut all the drawers at once. This decision is usually based on material yield.
Understanding how long things take is also a useful clue to evaluating how well someone has mastered drawer construction. After parts have been cut out it usually takes about 10 - 12 minutes to machine and assemble a drawer box.
We get the same time when a veteran does this or when a new person does it. We have the new person record his times per operation on the much maligned laminated SOP sheet. This is mostly to help them dial into the concept of what waste is. The guys like it when they hit the time right, especially the new guys.
We do a lot of flush inset mortised hinges.
Much of the minutes is just putting the door on & off the cabinet while it is being fit to the frame. The on & off part is entry level work. The fitting takes skill. By understanding how these skills distribute we can usually trim some time off this phase of the project. Without this understanding of time the whole project would be done by just the craftsman. A cabinet would take longer to get through this phase and the newbie would spend more time polishing concrete (though they now spend this time practicing fitting doors to a dummy face frame)
Information is power, and while it is great to have all the information in the world. The expense of getting that information needs to be weighed against it's value. Having an already expensive system to purchase that also costs 100's of man hours to get information from so you can have a printout that tells you how long it takes to perform a task is a huge burden on your profit margin. I'm sure you know how long it "should" take to build a cabinet, so all your doing is finding out it's taking longer....not WHY it's taking longer. Let the expectation guide the productivity, not whatever productivity happens to be determine the expectation.
You have got 7 on the floor. I'm assuming 1 or 2 are in leading hand type roles. Why not get them to do focus areas and target an area they have a hunch is a bottleneck and observe and report. You can have a meeting once a day or once a week and discuss how to improve.
This will also empower the staff to do the improving instead of you telling them what they have to do and making them mindless and uninspired.
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