Steel fabrication thoughts and insights
Brian Williams has spent his adult life working in steel fabrication and technology. Starting as a grinder/wire brush operator in college he worked as a fitter, CNC programmer, production control manager, and VP of Operations for a 4-shop industrial plate and structural fabricator. At FabTrol he has delivered training and implementation services to some of FabTrol's largest customers and designed software as FabTrol's Product Manager. Today, he continues to work in product management and serves as the General Manager of FabTrol Systems.
A 2014 Cisco white paper estimates that the “Internet of Everything” will generate $19 trillion in revenue from the private and public sectors between 2013 and 2022. Cisco defines this internet of everything as the networked connection of people, process, data, and things and estimates that 42% of this will come from the “Internet of Things”.
They go on to say that:
The value will come to those who focus on improving their data capabilities (integration, automation, and analysis) and overall process agility — not to those who simply connect the most devices to the network.—Cisco White Paper: Attaining IoT Value: How to Move from Connecting Things to Capturing Insights
So to realize this value as a steel fabricator you will need:
- Feedback from connected things (like CNC machines)
- Feedback from connected processes driven by people (shipping, change orders, RFIs, off-the-grid (off the network) machines)
- Integrated data from the things, processes and people
- Automated analysis of this integrated data
- Process agility to leverage the automated feedback
When feedback requires additional human effort, some steel fabricators decide it's worth the cost while others don't want to invest enough, for long enough, to find out. FabTrol Pro resolves this by doing the work for you. It's automatic so you're likely to use it.
- No more creating a change order and logging it somewhere else. FabTrol Pro logs the change order and its budgetary impact for you.
- No more sending a transmittal and updating the status of drawings in the drawing log. FabTrol automatically updates the log.
- No more human effort to keep a file folder on the network up to date with the latest drawing revisions. The latest revision of a drawing is kept up-to-date by FabTrol Pro and easily accessed from an iPad, Android tablet or desktop browser.
- No more marking part progress once per day or once per production batch, the machine reports progress for each part automatically
These are just examples of how FabTrol Pro makes it easy to collect and connect data from people and things and deliver insights into your business processes and projects.
In a recent webinar poll our steel fabrication customers shared that, after jobsite schedule and erection sequence, the next most important factor for building production batches (also called releases, packages, work orders, etc.) was combining common assembly types (columns, trusses, tanks, girders, etc.).
Strategic batching means you can:
- plan batches in advance of releasing them to production
- regulate the flow of work into production
- keep the shop properly loaded for maximum efficiency
- manage the prioritization of work between and within projects
- nest/mult (allocate raw materials to produce parts) to feed your production plan
- collaborate with others within your organization (like project managers)
- provide feedback to estimators
Batching was a big part of FabTrol MRP’s Advanced Production system. In our new product, FabTrol Pro, the Batching module integrates with any level of Production tracking, including what would have been called “Basic” Production in FabTrol MRP.
Batching makes it easy to track parts as they pass through part processing (work areas like the drill line or press brake): marking all “bending for batch 23” complete at once and then keeping parts together as they flow into fit-up and are kitted for each assembly.
What about the lead person in your welding or shipping bay? How much does he know about the work he is planning this week? Is it easy for your Project Manager to find out if an important assembly or sequence will make it to the jobsite on time?
With the production management system in FabTrol Pro, you have fast access to all of this - and it’s quick and easy to set up and get going. You can know what’s in production, where, and how much is left to do on a given sequence or for a given task (like welding) or work area (like Weld Bay 2).
Our customers run job shops and generally only buy steel and other material when a specific project requires it. Beyond a few flat bar, angle and perhaps bolts, they really don’t stock much material for use on an unknown future job. Some do, however, produce a few standardized parts like clip angles and base plates.
FabTrol Pro manages this process by tracking standard pre-processed parts in stock. It's easy to allocate parts on a job against these standard parts and then mult or nest the balance against raw material you’ll process on your own equipment. Or, you can purchase the balance pre-processed from your vendor.
We know that you sometimes cut flat bar parts out of plate. FabTrol makes it easy to manage this without modifying the bill of materials. Start with our linear nesting engine to use up existing flat bar stock. Then, on your next plate nest, turn on the option to include flat bar. FabTrol will track what is and isn't nested and automatically add the remaining flat bar to the plate nest. FabTrol will maintain full traceability from flat bar parts in the bill of materials to the flat bar or plate material used to produce them.