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Silky Smooth Transition to Scheduling Excellence
July 2001

Silkmead Tubular LtdA major supplier to the automotive industry has installed a Preactor PC-based graphical finite scheduling tool to help eliminate production bottlenecks, whilst at the same time improving lead-time accuracy and customer service.

Silkmead Tubular of Dunstable, Bedfordshire, manufactures tubular components, with demand ranging from jobbing and batch to volume requirements. The manufacturing operation is varied and complex. One component could be simply produced with just two operations, whereas other more complex assemblies might require twenty or more operations.

“This combination of the simple and the complex made tracking production across the shop floor a difficult and time-consuming task,” says Simon Boba, Commercial Director at Silkmead Tubular. “We use CNC and manually operated machines, as well as special-purpose and dedicated equipment. In total, the facility has 14 groups of machines within the manufacturing environment. Of these, a single machine might be set for a run of just 100-off of one component, whilst a similar machine might be set to produce 100,000 of another.”

Silkmead Tubular LtdComplicating matters still further, the capabilities of facilities and machinery also vary widely. A certain machine might only be able to accommodate tube up to 12.7mm diameter, for example, whilst others can cope with 62mm tube. This means that within the ‘End Forming’ group alone there are some 15 machines, not all of which will be running at any one time and which (in some cases) are only operable by certain trained people.

“Prior to installing Preactor, we allocated and monitored orders and Work in Progress through a time-consuming and labour-intensive manual system,” continues Simon Boba. “There was no means of carrying out accurate ‘What if’ scenarios and accommodating front end loads (an inevitability for those supplying the automotive industry) was a constant difficulty and strain.”

Customer service levels also left much to be desired, with lead times of plus or minus one week - and sometimes even plus two or minus one week. A Preactor 200, subsequently upgraded to a Preactor 300, changed all this:

Silkmead Tubular Ltd“Initially, the biggest single advantage to us from the introduction of Preactor was the saving in time taken to schedule, monitor and run the shop floor,”  adds Simon Boba. “We were able to update and track progress by collecting data from the completed ‘Preactor Work To’ lists that were issued twice weekly to the resource group supervisors. Then we would run the Scheduler and produce revised lists.”

The original configuration of the package was carried out by Silkmead’s own production managers, only one of whom had attended the configuration training day (providing ample proof of just how straight forward Preactor is to configure). Silkmead is convinced this ‘hands-on’ approach was the correct start, because the managers now have a better working knowledge of Preactor and are able to carry out configuration alterations as the system grows and needs change.

“We have investigated many ‘Total Manufacturing’ software packages with a view to simplifying matters by replacing all our computerised processes with just one operation,” concludes Simon Boba. “However, none of them offered enough advantages to justify their price tag. Also, in virtually all cases except those that incorporated Preactor they were weak on finite scheduling. We’re confident that as we grow into Preactor 300, we will continue to benefit from its speed, accuracy and all-round compatibility as an essential marketing tool.”