Shop Management Software Avoids Mistakes

AutoPlan takes guesswork out of order entry.


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Anodizing is a straightforward process, but if the plan calls out DPS 11.06, PS13201 or any other aerospace specification, things might get a bit tricky for the finisher.
The process parameters for time, volts and others can vary from spec to spec—or from material to material within the same specification. For commercial work, the same variation can be found for aesthetic reasons, such as color matching.
In a job shop, managers often find it difficult to transmit to the operator all the subtle requirements of the specification or the nuances of process control required by the purchase order so that the parts are processed properly the first time and every time. More importantly, it is essential for contractual, safety and other reasons that the proper instructions flow down from the prime contractor to the shop floor operator. This can be daunting.
If the shop is using Visual Shop, a job shop management software created by Cornerstone Systems, it can now add on AutoPlan, a software designed by Beyond Relations of Rockford, Ill. AutoPlan programmers say it creates the proper routing based on the specification, material and purchase order. For processing, this means the routing will reflect the correct bakes, proper etches, customer overrides and other call outs.
“The software works with Visual Shop to create process masters with the proper techniques,” says Amanda Kirchner, sales and business development manager for Beyond Relations.
In a nutshell, AutoPlan is compliance software for Nadcap-accredited special processors, an “intelligent engineering planning system” that automatically creates the process master with the correct techniques from the specification, material and customer requirements.
“By automatically creating the proper techniques from the specification and requirements, the software provides for easy, manageable and precise planning every time a job comes into a shop,” Kirchner says.
The “business differentiation” provided by AutoPlan is a feature that creates a distinction between a shop’s commercial and certified work. The company touts that it eliminates unnecessary paperwork and sign-offs for commercial jobs, thus allowing for simplified shop travelers, while providing for sign-offs and requirements as needed for certified work.
AutoPlan starts by evaluating all the variable information for a work order—specs, purchase order, material and material conditions — to create accurate and precise techniques.
Kirchner says AutoPlan then creates techniques for the following classes: chemical processing, paint, DFL, baking, inspection, heat treat, racking, blast, masking, handling and packaging, as well as magnetic particle, fluorescent penetrant and radiographic inspections.
Hohman Plating, a Nadcap-certified metal finisher in Dayton, Ohio, implemented the software in 2009. The company offers a bevy of services, including electroplating, electroless plating, conversion coating, anodizing, vacuum coating, plasma spray, dry film lubricants, stripping, cleaning, phosphating, RoHS-compliant coatings and more.
“Because we offer over 50 coatings and services in-house and process over 125 orders per day, accuracy and speed at order entry and processing is crucial,” says Dave Fulton, president of Hohman Plating. “With this software, our order entry time went from more than 17 minutes down to just over 12 minutes. This saved over 10 hours a day and resulted in $50,000 in savings annually.”
AutoPlan also allows for immediate corrective actions when mistakes are found, Fulton says.
“When you add in the planning accuracy and reliability improvements that come with the software, the new system has quickly become a strength and competitive advantage within the business,” he says. “With our legacy planning system, there was a significant human element that could not be avoided.”
Fulton cited as an example a mistake that is common in most finishing shops.
“We recently experienced a mistake in planning due to a very detailed base material requirement to a spec that we do not process frequently,” he says. “In reading the corrective action that was put in place by our team, I couldn’t help but recognize how much more confident I am that we are now able to create hard-coded rules and conditions within our planning system to prevent repeat mistakes. We are setting our planners up for future success regardless of how complex the specs become.”
AutoPlan can adjust the process master created based on material, material type, material class, material condition, surface finish, hardness, temper, customer, part, part number, prime contractor, part type and other variables.n
For more information about AutoPlan, please contact Beyond Relations at 815-986-0163. Hohman Plating can be reached at 937-228-2191 or at hohmanplating.com.