I would like to know if anyone (smaller shop - 5-6 on the shop floor) frequenting this forum uses JobBoss (Exact), E2, J-Mos, Tractivity, Sage AccPac, or another business management software package. After that, I'll see if I can figure out what questions I should be asking!
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor T:
It may not matter how many people you have on the shop floor, depending an what your primary needs are right now. What do you do, and what do you need the software to do?
In fairness, I don't know what you do or what your needs are, so it is difficult to make a firm recommendation without more information.
Basically I only use JB for tracking time and material. I don't use it for scheduling.
I would look at Tractivity or Filemaker Pro. Short money and more customizable, at which point you can decide if you want to go further with the erp thing. Truthfully I doubt you will want to get into something like Trackware or similar. The reality is that it doesn't have the return on investment. From what I see, guys who are successful with erp are big and more product oriented, i.e. not job shops.
Filemaker Pro: I'd like for someone to expound on this. How is it compared to MS Access? Why do I hear people talk about Filemaker Pro and not Access? I have been using Access. I'm a lot better at "programming" this than I was three years ago. But time on task has been very difficult to find. I'm slowly freeing up some time (passing hats) where I could devote more time. But I wonder if I wouldn't be better off investing that time setting up a package that someone else has programmed more power into. What do you think?
Erp is usually big bucks and I'm not sure it will give you the bang for the buck that something like Tractivity or Filemaker will. In reality I think you will find you only use it for labor and material. You may want to start with a cheaper solution first.
Are you using any estimating software or just your pen and paper? I have used a program called Easy Est. Not bad once it is set up. From what I understand, the Trade Soft package has an estimating module, along with having similar modules to what has been discussed here. Anyone using Trade Soft?
The sharing of information between the estimators, CAD guys and purchasing has worked fairly well. Accounting pays bills (automatic check printing and recording) after the purchasing man has checked them. The accounting portion is automatic from there on. Every other Wed. we meet and go over the jobs that have shipped using the reports from JB and that's where the shop foreman gets his input heard. At the end of the day Thursday, Vicki prints me out a balance sheet so I can tell where we are headed. If I were to do it again I'd look for a less expensive program that had fewer bells and whistles! We have 5 shop terminals for the employees to log in and out of jobs. The server automatically collects the information and puts it into report forms for looking t job costs, and for payroll. The day before pay, Vicki prints out everyone’s hourly report and gives it to each employee. If there are things that need changed, they are done before checks get printed. It's nice having all the times stored electronically so we can look back at jobs and see where we had the right guess and ---.
The system works but requires significant input effort. Once you have decided on a system it will be hard to change later because of the learning curve you've already put effort into, and all the records that get generated in one system won't work in the next. The failure of the scheduler is due to the way we work more than anything. The input of the assumptions about overlap in scheduling is tricky at best. It is nice to be able to both forward and backward schedule. (To see how soon a job could be finished or how late you could start a job and still ship on time.)
Part of the shop makes parts. When the parts get to assembly we are making fixtures. You can't separate the part times for an individual fixture since they are being cut, routed, doweled, banded, etc. all in a big group not by fixture. Assembly times are easily tracked if the benches have enough of the same fixture to work for a couple of hours making 13 of them, but if they are making only one of each simple fixture it takes too much time to record each one's time spent. We also found that tracking finishing time by fixture took too much time. Since there are usually several jobs going through the shop at once even keeping the jobs separated in sanding/finishing is difficult.
Before you buy new software decide what you are willing to spend in time to learn and use the modules you buy. Also note the annual fees they will want to keep you up to date (and fix their bugs.) You may need to update your computer system, put in cabling, a new server and software, backup system, uninterruptible power supply, network switches, etc. Trying to figure a ROI on the whole mess is not easy! Will you have to hire a PT geek to maintain the system?
My reasons for getting into this initially were self defense. I'd hired four different programmers over time to help me with these initiatives, but I couldn't get any traction out of the investment. I came to conclude that in order to leverage these guys' time, I would need to know how to talk with them. I figured that I would do a better job of articulating viable scopes of work if I understood the language. What moved me from Access to Filemaker was that I wanted something that would run in the Mac environment. While that consideration is moot now, it was a big deal to me at the time. In the process I have found Filemaker to be very simple to learn and very robust in its abilities.
I'm not so sure that database development is the best thing for everybody. If you are using MS Excel on a regular basis you would probably prosper from converting to Filemaker. If you want to develop a full blown ERP, you would probably do better to go with something like Tradesoft.
I enjoy the mental acrobatics of things like database and Lean manufacturing. I'm wired this way. I don't like managing people. Database calculations do what I tell them to. You've heard the expression that when all you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail? Every time I see a problem or successful moment I tend to lay the Lean thinking template over it and compartmentalize my analysis. Lean is all about pull systems, and so is database.