Metaldyne forges ahead with Preactor International

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Metaldyne is a leading global designer and supplier of low cost, high quality metal-based components, assemblies and modules for the automotive industry.

Headquartered in the metropolitan Detroit area, the company operates more than 50 state-of-the-art facilities in 11 countries throughout the world and has 7100 employees worldwide. The Metaldyne Minerva Facility founded in 1959 as Burns Cold Forge, incorporates the largest independent forging capability. Having manufactured some of the largest formed steel parts in the world, weighing up to 25 kg, Metaldyne turned to Preactor International when it needed a heavyweight scheduling solution.

Many of the items manufactured by Metaldyne Minerva, including light, high volume transmission shafts; stem pinions; large transmission shafts and countershafts; can pass through a variety of possible processes. Bar stock can then be blasted, sheared or sawn to a specific weight, before being phosphate lube coated, cold and or warm formed; the product can then be possibly nibbed or pierced, and heat treated if required before shipping.

Lou Laird is materials scheduler at Metaldyne Minerva and he outlines how the companys scheduling procedures used to be, prior to Preactor. We ran our MRP system several times weekly to create discrete work orders in MFG/PRO. The job number and quantity then had to be keyed into an elaborate Excel spreadsheet according to what machine the job could be run on. We would try to sequence as best we could and update the spreadsheet several times a day. However, when the new weekly schedule was ready to be published, it would take about six hours to generate by hand.

Whilst Metaldyne was not suffering from any specific scheduling difficulties other than those just listed, it did have a fundamental requirement to improve its performance in a number of areas. These include improving the timeliness of updated schedules, reducing errors in data entry, and improving sequencing and visibility. Laird describes when the decision was made to search for an alternative scheduling system, and why Metaldyne selected Preactor.  We recognised that we needed a much more visual system, something that could show us at a glance if we are getting in trouble. We needed a solution that would prevent all of our sequence problems and that would match up similar operations to reduce change over times. Obviously the system would need to interface with our ERP system, so we could remove all the additional data entry we had to do. Furthermore, the system would have to have multiple constraint capabilities and flexibility in its use of resources. From a user perspective, we were keen to have a good user interface and a system that was easy to use and understand. Finally, we needed the system outputs and reports to be flexible enough to cope with printed formats, email and distribution via the web.

Laird says: We had recognized the need to change our scheduling system for some time and a decision was finally taken in 2000 to compile a comprehensive shortlist, including Preactor. We thoroughly evaluated each system but finally selected Preactor as it matched all our requirements. First the product was outstandingly flexible and versatile which negated any need for costly and time-consuming customization. It also had the functionality we required, specifically the ability to handle multiple constraints. From a user perspective, it was also intuitive to use which can only assist in the training process, and the ongoing use of the software within Metaldyne. On top of this, the fact that it was very price competitive seems like a bonus.

The implementation began in March of 2003 and began with three days of training on the user interface and another two days on configuration. Following this, the actual configuration of the system took a further three days during which resource groups, resources, product overrides, shift patterns, product attributes etc were all set up. Once this was complete, three days were spent testing the Preactor interface with MFG/PRO and validating data, which would need to be imported into Preactor. Finally, there was a parallel running period of two weeks alongside Metaldynes existing system.

Laird was impressed by the implementation for a number of factors. The implementation went better than we thought it would. With the support of MDSS and Quinn and Associates, the process of getting up to speed and being supported was excellent. We were even able to reduce the number of people involved in the scheduling system from three to two. Perhaps the most impressive factor was going live ahead of schedule and having remained clearly within all our budget requirements.

The system went live on 5 May 2003 and three major benefits became apparent very early on. Prior to Preactor, the time taken to update the scheduling system consisted of six hours once a week with an additional hour daily. With Preactor, this was reduced to a few minutes on a daily basis. Prior to Preactor, Metaldyne experienced several sequencing errors on a weekly basis whereas now they have none. Finally, Metaldyne has moved from having zero graphical visibility of the schedule and therefore what is actually happening on the plant floor to having full visibility that allows an immediate understanding of what is happening and why should operations fall behind schedule.

Both Metaldyne and Quinn and Associates are very pleased with the project as a whole. The service and support from Quinn and Associates is excellent, says Laird. He says: Their experience is a great asset when it comes to helping with any issues we may have. From the data extraction and interface with MFG/PRO, MDSS has been very supportive and I would also recommend them. Greg Quinn of Quinn and Associates reflects on the project. Clearly a key factor in the success was Lous commitment to the project. Lou as the on-going single point-of-contact was invaluable.

As for the future? Metaldyne will be continuing its relationships with Quinn and Associates and MDSS and plans to add raw material scheduling to its existing capabilities at the appropriate time.

INFORMATION: Free information is available from PREACTOR on the subject in this story. Click here to request a copy

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