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Is Your Shop Floor Control Software Keeping Up?
by Bernard Goldband, mfg/erp software consultant, NY

Manufacturing plants that have no, or poorly, installed Shop Floor Control (SFC) systems may experience these types of issues:

  • Problems with manufacturing cycle time associated with increase in work-in-process
  • Need for priority or expediting lists to move work orders on the factory floor
  • Difficulty capturing material and labor costs at an appropriate level
  • Increase waste, unallocated labor or long setup times
  • Lack of understanding of your plant’s constraint capacity

Most companies obtained their Shop Floor Control system module when they purchased their ERP system. Associated with the SFC module are: Bills of Material, Inventory, Purchasing, Scheduling and Capacity Planning modules. These modules are tightly integrated to form the manufacturing portion of the ERP package. Considering SFC’s tight integration with the other modules, it is definitely better to fix the SFC system than to replace it.

ERP Database

The database is the foundation for the ERP system and it must be complete and accurate. Slight variations in accuracy can become significant as the information is used to control shop floor movements. All of these items can have a major impact on the utility of your SFC application:

  • Insure you have a properly indented bill of material with all assemblies clearly visible; an Engineering Bill or parts list will not provide effective information.
  • Be sure the routings are accurate and are matched to the indented bill of material.
  • Work centers on the work order must be carefully defined indicating all associated operations and indicative cost data for material, labor, and overhead along with processing capacities.
  • Purchasing needs to define order policies pertaining to each inventory part such as safety stock, inventory levels, etc.
  • Inventory must be accurate with a locator file directing personnel to stored locations.

Operating Practices

SFC systems can’t operate successfully without trained personnel on the shop floor and in the scheduling function. Wherever possible, procedures need to be written and distributed to assure everyone knows their jobs and how to use the SFC:

  • Production scheduling personnel should not only be educated on how the overall production scheduling function should ideally work but also be trained in the software.
  • Processes need to be documented on the timing of releasing and launching work orders to avoid over committing the shop floor.
  • Advanced technologies such as real time reporting via shop floor collection devices and bar coding need to be employed wherever possible to insure accurate and timely data collection.
  • An alarm system should be employed to notify managers and employees when critical manufacturing processes are no longer within acceptable limits.
  • Reporting on each operation may not be required and can be limited to significant operational events. This way unnecessary interruption to manufacturing activities is minimized. Keeping performance standards for labor and work center capacity up to date is crucial so that they may be properly used for capacity planning.

Replace or Repair

While replacing SFC systems should not be taken lightly given the cost and the interface requirements, many companies choose to do so by implementing a best of breed Manufacturing Execution System (MES). These companies find that requirements for information and the ability to immediately respond to issues on the shop floor have changed since they purchased their ERP system. MES is often used to put automated controls in place in a process manufacturing environment, for finite production scheduling where queues at work centers are managed via an interactive production schedule, and when an integrated quality system is added.. MES software usually includes purchasing, inventory and bills of material modules to limit the interfaces required to the ERP system. Several MES vendors supply the pre-programmed interfaces to ease implementation with ERP systems.


Profitability can be achieved or lost on the shop floor by the organization’s ability to control activities during the manufacturing process. Given the number of operations and information that needs to be managed, software to assist in controlling the shop floor tasks is essential. Considering the cost of replacement, be sure you have implemented the SFC module properly prior to looking for alternatives.

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