Waterjet Manufacturer Meets Growing Demand With Company-Wide Automation System
The in-house system developed by OMAX helps eliminate bottlenecks, provides active real-time measurable data, makes it possible to quickly adjust to fluctuating production schedules, streamlines processes and shortens manufacturing lead times to get machines on customers’ shop floors faster.
To fulfill increasing demand and provide abrasive waterjet solutions to customers as quickly as possible, OMAX Corporation (Kent, WA) has integrated a company-wide custom-designed automated management system. The company designs and manufactures the world’s most advanced abrasive waterjet technology in a variety of table sizes and price points at its headquarters in Kent.
This system, developed in-house by OMAX, helps eliminate bottlenecks, provides active real-time measurable data and makes it possible to quickly adjust to fluctuating production schedules. As a result, the waterjet manufacturer has further streamlined its processes, but most importantly it has shortened manufacturing lead times to get machines on customers’ shop floors faster.
OMAX developed its own management system – one that handles every aspect of operations, from purchase forecasting to inventory tracking to accounting, customer service and manufacturing. Because the custom-designed software system is a web-based platform, the company did not incur the additional time and costs associated with installing multiple programs into the facility’s numerous computers. To access the system, employees log on to a highly secure website, even when accessing through public Wi-Fi networks.
“We continuously work to ensure our customers have the high-quality abrasive waterjet solutions they need, when they need them,” said Dr. John H. Olsen, the vice president of operations at OMAX. “With that said, a large portion of the new automated management system’s functionality is the ability to switch back and forth according to changing demand and production schedules. These fluctuations drive inventory, and the new system recalculates our production forecasts and inventory values for generating daily work plans that are accurate and current.”
The new automated management system uses basic consumer technology, which makes it extremely cost effective. Instead of purchasing specialized hardware such as barcode readers or computers with factory-floor features, this system uses Amazon Kindle Fire tablets, large touch screens and standard label printers.
The company currently has over 100 tablets in operation. The devices are lightweight, and almost every function is initiated within two button clicks so employees can quickly enter all applicable transactions. The management system also provides real-time inventory numbers, which helps the manufacturing staff picking parts, as well as the purchasing and accounting departments. Prior to the new system, data entry was time consuming and often lagged by a day or two.
The automated system and tablets help streamline manufacturing in the plant. Together, they allow employees to quickly locate and track all the necessary components and subassemblies involved in building the company’s waterjet product lines. The tablets display – in illustrations or photos – the needed model-specific parts and components that, once picked, are easily marked with labels generated by battery powered label printers on each cart. The carts are then wheeled to assembly stations.
The tablets are also used for monitoring real-time dispatch lists of activities and completion schedules. All activities – transfers, parts gathered, shipped materials and the like – are prioritized and instantaneously displayed.
The company enhances its work order tracking with the new system. For each order, the system lists all prescribed steps to follow and within which of company’s various work centers the work will be done. Each work center can then view its workload and schedule, as well as track a work order as it progresses through the factory.
At various work centers throughout its factory, the company has 27 in touch screen monitors that, as part of the automated management system, provide visual instructions for workflow management. Images of components and subassemblies are prominently displayed so those assembling machines can do so without accessing a laptop or computer screen. Any new or updated procedures that have been incorporated are also noted on the monitors.
Prior to its full implementation in 2013, the company ran both the old and new management systems in tandem. Running the two systems together made the transition seamless. Employees had ample time to learn the new system as the migration took place, and there were no disruptions to workflow and machine delivery times shortened almost instantaneously.