Big Data Pays Big Dividends for Plater
Here’s how metal finisher SWD Inc. is using software to track efficiencies.
In 2015, metal finisher SWD Inc. made a significant capital investment that company President Rick Delawder strongly believes provides the company with a strong competitive
advantage. Data mining and analysis software now has the firm’s management team “looking at things way differently than our competition,” he says.
“The standalone software reaches deep into our databases to empower our managers to understand better what’s happening on the shop floor and make decisions to improve efficiency and consistency,” Delawder says of the software from Advizor Solutions. “Access to the data and high-level data analysis also lets us optimize scheduling and production planning. And, last but certainly not least, it improves customer communication. We have real data to back up discussions related to our performance for individual customers and projects, rather than just relying on intuition.”
SWD operates a 165,000-square-foot facility in Addison, Illinois, where more than 150 employees process hundreds of orders per day. Among its process offerings, performed
for manufacturers of fasteners, metal stampings, springs and other metal parts, are computer-controlled plating, dip-spin coating and fastener sorting. Customers include automotive
and agricultural-equipment OEMs, each with their own unique coating specifications, but all with similar quality requirements. That is, as close to zero defects as possible, a directive that pushes Delawder to drive continuous improvement throughout the company.
“We often have more than 1,000 active orders being managed at any one time,” he says. “We needed a tool to open up new ways to see what’s happening on the floor, discover
inefficiencies and optimize performance. In that way, the software is a continuous-improvement tool at its best.”
For example, data pulled and analyzed by the software might identify a repeat job that generates more profit on one day than it does on another, or that runs more quickly on one day than it does on another. Many jobs, in fact, run through multiple processes, and the software can query the databases and provide specific reports to help managers see where specific job runs are more efficient than others. For example, Delawder says, a job could comprise one huge lot that runs through the finishing department, and then separates into two or three loads through the dip-spin department, and then into several lots through the sorting department.
“These deep and specific insights into our operations help us zone in on opportunities for improvement,” he says. “And they often can help with capacity planning and even guide us as we look to make our next capital equipment investments.”
Advizor’s software, in addition to supporting shopfloor processes, scheduling and production planning, also supports customer communication and insights.
“We can create very specialized and detailed reports for customers to show them exactly how we’ve been performing for them in terms of delivery dates, quality and other performance measures,” Delawder says. “Having the data to back up those performance reports
enhances our customer relationships greatly when compared to merely relying on intuition—ours and our customers.
“We can build in specific rules. That help us develop minimum invoice amounts for jobs based on the number of parts or by order weight, for example. This prevents inaccurate
quotes and invoices.”
Brad Kuvin is publisher and editorial director for MetalForming magazine. Visit metalformingmagazine.com.