IT Solutions

Enhance Operations with ‘At the Source’ Shop Processing Software


By on
Empower your machine operators to update the system in real time

Over the past 20 years, service centers have continued to incorporate their business software into more and more of their day-to-day operations. One area still “ripe” for data flow improvements is value-added processing.

Many service center machine operators still record their work outside of the corporate information software system. This method typically requires significant paper handling and additional personnel to update the software after deciphering operators’ handwritten information on the processes they performed. The result is a significant lag between the time the work is completed and the time the corporate information system is updated. Because the enterprise software is not updated on a timely basis, sales and other departments can’t see the most current and accurate information on inventory. With today’s systems, this process can be streamlined by empowering the operators to record their work directly into the software system.

In the past, the handling of fabrication orders would incorporate the printing of a work order or pick ticket advising what was sold and what needs to be processed to fill the order. Warehouse personnel would then take the paper document, pull the material and transport it to the machine for processing. The machine operator would process the material and then handwrite what he or she did (e.g. what material was used, what was produced and what was returned to stock).

The material would then be put on a truck for delivery, while the work order document with the processing information would get stacked with similar documents. Eventually, it would make its way back to a “data entry” person, who would update the inventory in the business software by removing the source material, allocating the produced material to the sales order for invoice costing, and returning any usable remnants left over from the process to the “live” system inventory.

Today, however, as more service centers are incorporating value-added or fabrication operations into their business models, capturing the data involved with the processing of material on a timely basis becomes more critical to the sales and purchasing teams. But doing presents several challenges.

Among them is the installation of shop-floor workstations, possibly with scanners and printers, that can be connected (either hard-wired or wirelessly) to the corporate business software. Software applications must be created to “walk” the operators through what they previously recorded on paper, with an easy-to-use interface and built in checks for appropriate entries. The workstations must be designed to function in a grimy warehouse environment.

Once the equipment, software and new procedures are in place, the data flow can become quicker, more accurate and may require fewer people to accomplish. The processing order can print directly at the operator’s workstation or be queued up on the screen. Material can be allocated to the order using a hand-held laser reader and a barcode, preventing errors and notifying sales and purchasing departments in real-time. The operator begins the process, with verification by a scanned material tag number or part number, ensuring that the correct material is on the machine.

Upon completion, the operator is led by the software through the process of completing the order and entering any remnants left over, with checks on balances of quantities to be shipped, returned to stock or scrapped. Upon final approval, the order is “costed” and ready to invoice, shipping labels/delivery tickets are printed for the truck, and the inventory is updated with the remnants.

By incorporating options now available in today’s business software, service centers can reduce to a few minutes a process that historically has taken hours or even days. Updating the system more quickly allows all departments to work with a more real-time inventory, which can help prevent duplicate sales and purchasing delays, while providing up-to-the-minute executive reporting on sales, profits and inventory positions. Such inventory management benefits are just the beginning of what can be accomplished by empowering machine operators to update the corporate information system in real time. Once these processes are in place, additional functions such as labor tracking and machine times for job costing also can be incorporated.

[Inventory management benefits are just the beginning of what can be accomplished by empowering machine operators to update the corporate information system in real time.]

Editor’s note: This article was contributed by the experts at Compusource.
Compusource Corp., La Palma, Calif., offers the Metal Center Management System, a fully integrated metal distribution and accounting system designed for metal service centers. For more information, visit