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How to predict the future

In a jobbing environment

By far the biggest challenge in a jobbing environment is the accurate prediction of job completion times.

Assembly-line factories repeat the same tasks over and over again and eventually their historical data become so accurate, they are able to use it to plan for and make accurate predictions well into the future.

Jobbing factories frequently deal with new, never before executed jobs and tasks and very little of the historical data that they gather, can be utilized for planning without in-depth prior analysis.

Most of Reliable Transformers' outputs can be classified as jobs. We are a specialist manufacturer of bespoke products, individually designed and built from the ground up. Fifteen years ago, we realised that we had to find ways to effectively plan and predict if we were going to continue to grow. Our team got to work, first by analyzing the problem and then by developing tools to aid us in this complicated task.

The first thing we asked ourselves was what were the common terms that describe a typical job at Reliable Transformers. These are terms like VA, voltage, cooling etc. Having developed all our design and management software in-house, we were already recording most of the information we needed and by then, we already had a vast database of historical data available. We sifted through this data and soon settled on seven terms that describe almost any product or service that we offer.

Our next step was to electronically label all our historical data according to these seven terms. By further grouping and sorting the data, we observed surprising similarities between seemingly different jobs.

We also discovered that jobbing factories, just like assembly lines, perform the same tasks over and over again, except, in seemingly random combinations and with vastly differing task durations.

Our next challenge was to accurately measure the time taken to perform each task in a job. We achieved this by adapting our existing bio-metric time and attendance software to also allow managers to record time-stamped job and task start and stop events. This provided us with super accurate time-study results for each task in each job.

Within months, we were accurately predicting how many man-hours were required to complete jobs.

Next, we set about assigning predecessors and children tasks to each task in a job. In this way we were able to graphically represent jobs and tasks in Gantt charts.

We quickly discovered a majour new obstacle. Tasks were seldom executed when the software dictated, but rather only when limited resources became available. This made accurate prediction of completion times of jobs almost impossible.

We spent months trying many different strategies and eventually developed complex algorithms that balance promises to customers, resource availability and economy to produce job scheduling and ended up with a tool that delivered unheard of productivity without undue effects on our costs, labour and equipment.

Employees now often switch between executing tasks for different jobs, all in a single day. This may appear unorganized, until you notice sub-assemblies and manufactured parts miraculously arriving at the next station on-time, every time. Unlike before, employees are now seldom idle and machines are optimally utilized.

The results we obtained from our efforts has completely transformed Reliable Transformers. Not only are we now able to accurately predict job completion times, we also spot potential delays well in advance, and fix them with a myriad of job prioritizing and expediting tools, tailor-made to effectively deal with such delays.

An added bonus (pun intended), is built-in employee performance monitoring, ensuring fair and accurate staff evaluation, and yes, a built-in employee performance bonus system.

We are also able to simulate the load placed on resources by virtually created jobs. We use this tool to predict our equipment and human resources needs prior to embarking on large projects. This same tool also provides our sales team with accurate labour costing and expected lead times when they are quoting on new jobs.

Our production management and planning software have become an indispensable tool in the day to day running of Reliable Transformers. We are continuously adding more features and tweaks in our efforts to provide even better service to our customers.

Put us to the test. Order from Reliable Transformers and we will demonstrate to you how good we are at predicting the future.

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