A software maker has developed a new tracking product to help manufacturers improve visibility, traceability and efficiency on the production floor.
Work in Progress, or WIP, Tracker by Workpack Solutions in Marne, a business systems software developer, is a set of hardware and software that collects data on the production process that can be accessed remotely by smartphones and other mobile devices.
Kristie Vos, Workpack Solutions president, said WIP Tracker also features dashboards that provide manufacturers with greater context than they typically have when reviewing data. She said that contextual data is particularly beneficial in helping manufacturers improve future runs.
WIP Tracker connects to manufacturing equipment electronically, either with an electronic eye or by connecting to an existing counter on the machine.
Vos said WIP Tracker allows a worker to check machine speeds and current statuses from anywhere, which can be particularly useful for connecting with production facilities in other states or countries.
Thus far, the company has primarily targeted the product at the print packaging and food production industries, but it said manufacturers in any industry can benefit from the tracking software.
The product also improves overall efficiency.
“WIP Tracker is a multi-faceted tool that looks at data, so your manufacturing process is no longer subjective,” Vos said.
Vos said WIP Tracker is being introduced at a time when manufacturers are particularly interested in overall equipment efficiency, or OEE.
“OEE is a hot topic in manufacturing right now. It is becoming a metric within lean organizations,” she said. “WIP Tracker is a supporting tool for OEE and lean manufacturing, because it compiles all that data for you.”
Recalls and bad lots
Vos said the improved traceability is particularly important when it comes to a recall or an issue with a product lot.
“WIP Tracker allows someone to trace a product back to the barcode on the raw material,” she said. “For example, you can trace it back to the exact roll of paper or the exact bag of chili pepper. If there was ever a recall, you can go back and find out exactly what material and people were working during that at a specific time.”
“The smaller you can make your lot size, the less exposure you have,” he said. “Say you are running something in your facility, and you find a problem in the product — and you know it is taking place in this lot. Basically, you are unable to sell that lot. You have to throw it out. The smaller that lot is, the less expensive it’s going to be when that takes place.
“If you don’t have traceability and you run all day on Thursday, and then you find out on Thursday you had a problem, it would be a shame if you have to throw out all of Thursday's work. It could be very expensive. We’ve seen facilities where the entire warehouse is the lot, because they don’t have traceability.”
Scranton said increased traceability allows manufacturers to isolate problem products more efficiently.
“You can say okay, that pallet, that pallet and that pallet have to be thrown out and everything else is good,” he said.