Dorset-based Miniature Manufacturing
, a specialist manufacturer of machined components, was originally established in 2015 to design and produce aftermarket parts for Tamiya model cars, but has gained a reputation for its precision engineering capabilites, it now serves a growing customer base.
The business in Sturminster Marshall can produce a variety of high-quality components in materials ranging from aluminium, acetal plastics, phosphor bronze and titanium. This is achieved with a plant list that includes five Haas CNC lathes and milling machines as well as a comprehensive range of manual machine tools.
A recent investment in PSL Datatrack
production control software has also helped to ensure that component production is underpinned by careful workshop scheduling, prompt delivery times and a commitment to full traceability.
The company’s small hands-on team recognised that organisation of jobs passing through the workshop would be essential in meeting the requirements of its customers. With that in mind, owner Phill Wiles researched potential suppliers of production control software that would meet the firm’s exact needs.
He identified at the outset that PSL Datatrack would fulfil both immediate and longer-term requirements. Mr Wiles said: “It is designed specifically for subcontract precision engineering companies and we considered the modularity of the system particularly important as this offered us the flexibility to expand it in future.
“Organising a workshop when there are just two operatives is virtually impossible. There are some 26 PSL Datatrack modules and to start with there were several that we knew would help us start to run our business more efficiently.”Scheduling work effectively
Primarily, the company wanted to prevent production hold ups by scheduling work effectively. Looking ahead, it had also been recognised that acquiring ISO accreditation would be key to the growth of the business and the company wanted to start preparing for this.
Mr Wiles continued: “With the traceability that it affords, the role PSL Datatrack could play in helping us achieve this goal was clear.”
Before acquiring PSL Datatrack, Miniature Manufacturing used what is best described as a “restaurant ticket system” to progress work. Different coloured tickets displayed job numbers by customer due date. It worked in principle, but without any form of scheduling several jobs would frequently be queued at the same time on the Haas 5-axis TL-15 CNC twin-spindle turning centre.
Now, they are able to report on and interrogate their entire outstanding order book through the ‘Works Orders’ module, providing a clear picture of all outstanding orders and enabling them to avoid bottlenecks as previously experienced.
Works Orders are raised without having to retype any information from the original quotation and data is retained within the system right through to delivery and final invoice, supporting the company’s use of KANBAN for ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing.
Together, these modules have given Miniature Manufacturing traceability information for every job as well as smooth, fast and intuitive progression through the workshop. Potential delays are identified and minimised
Mr Wiles added “We know the stage every job is at and none of them get stagnated. We can get them on to the correct machines in sequence as capacity becomes available. Delivery notes and invoices are then automatically raised and customers are no longer chasing us on deliveries as the system ensures potential delays are identified and minimised.”
In terms of winning new and repeat business, the ‘Quotations’ module has been particularly helpful. By having supplier costs readily available, quotes can be put together in hours when in the past they may have taken two to three days.
Just as importantly, the selling price for a component is accurately calculated based on production, materials, tooling and any sub-contract processes required. Miniature Manufacturing is also able to ensure that each job is actually profitable whatever the run quantity; previously, finding out the financial viability and true cost of a component run was much more hit and miss and could even result in losses.
Since going live, Miniature Manufacturing has further invested in PSL Datatrack with the addition of a ‘Status Board’ display system, giving the shop floor team real time visibility of order status based on progress from the Shop Floor Data Collection (SFDC) module. Mr Wiles commented: “I’m not sure what I’d do now without the Status Board to organise things.”
This investment further enhances the company’s commitment to implementing production planning in the build up to acquiring ISO accreditation. The next progression will likely be ‘Component Stocks’, which will record details of all components made for stock or allocated to a specific Works Order and is another step on the path to full traceability.
Mr Wiles acknowledges that running a workshop was much more difficult without PSL Datatrack and on reflection wishes he had invested in the system earlier. He also recognises that users only get out what they put in and so must commit to inputting customer records, material details and supplier reference numbers.
He concluded: “Once that is done and training has been conducted by PSL Datatrack, payback on the investment is pretty much immediate — the time spent at the outset is definitely worth it.”