Optimising productivity and profitability

PSL Datatrack celebrates 30 years of developing production control software for sub-contract precision engineers

Posted on 11 Mar 2019 and read 445 times
Optimising productivity and profitabilityAsked if sub-contract precision engineering companies should look further than just investing in the best machine tools and tooling as the means of providing their customers with products and service of the highest quality, PSL Datatrack’s managing director — Geoff Gartland — will respond with an emphatic “yes”.

He added that behind every job is a process to be followed, “and if it is not planned in the most effective way, there is the risk of wasting valuable production time on associated administration tasks.

“This can adversely affect costs, profitability, product quality and — as a result — customer relations.

“Dedicated production control software that manages the production process and is designed specifically for the sub-contract precision engineering industry provides the solution.”

2018 marked the 30th year of PSL Datatrack (www.psldatatrack.com) providing production control software to precision engineering sub-contractors.

It started in 1988, when Prospec Systems Ltd (the Bracknell-based company behind the software) developed job-processing software that offered precision engineers a practical, simple and logical solution to controlling production and improving their business procedures.

PSL Datatrack’s systems are designed to manage not only what happens on the shopfloor but also everything that goes on behind the scenes — pre-production and post-production — until an order is safely delivered and invoiced.

Mr Gartland says: “The business of every sub-contract precision engineering company starts with a quotation for what they have been asked to make by a potential customer.

“To prepare the quote accurately, there are a number of variables that have to be considered; these include the process, estimated set-up times and cycle times, requested batch sizes, hourly rates, quantity and type of materials required from suppliers or from stock, as well as any subcontract processes needed — such as heat treatment or plating.

“Calculating and controlling all of these variables is essential, irrespective of whether the quotation covers the mass production of simple components or the batch production and assembly of intricate components into a finished item.”

Accurate quoting


Mr Gartland says it is vital to ensure that the first quote for any customer is as accurate as possible, and if all the essential information on these variables is entered into PSL Datatrack production control software, any repeat business can be dealt with more efficiently.

“The Quotations module is the software equivalent of setting a machine tool; once the information has been entered at the quotation stage, it can be re-used throughout the rest of the system to prevent the manual re-typing of data and possible human error.

“The core activities that any precision sub-contract engineering company has to manage are largely the same, so the production control software can essentially be an off-the-shelf item — as long as the base product is offered with a vast number of configuration options to suit individual needs.”

Optimising productivity and profitabilityThe latest version of PSL Datatrack has some 1,200 configuration options that can be set to work differently for a variety of customers.

Many of these options have been developed from the company’s Wish List programme, which allows existing users to request specialist features for their own businesses.

If these are recognised as being of potential value to other companies, they become a standard feature in future releases of the software.

New or existing users of PSL Datatrack can then select the features best suited to their specific business requirements, safe in the knowledge that the base product is stable and proven.

If a customer has an urgent requirement, PSL can also carry out bespoke development work.

Mr Gartland says Quotations are just the start for many PSL Datatrack customers.

“As a business grows or requirements change, the need to manage the business as a whole can be fulfilled by adding separate but wholly integrated complementary modules.

“These can cover everything from shopfloor documentation, scheduling, traceability, tool management and quality control through to purchasing, process planning, and financial and credit control — plus boardroom reporting that can show if Key Performance Indicators are being achieved.

“Hardware can also be added in terms of shopfloor ‘departure and arrival’ screens — also referred to as Status Boards — which provide real-time visual information and clear instructions on the processing of multiple jobs.

“If the data is in the system, PSL can portray it on a Status Board.”

He also says that while many precision engineering companies are still using DOS-based computer systems holding historic customer information, if this information can be extracted, it can be imported into PSL Datatrack.

“Some companies may also have specialised software in place for certain other areas of their business, such as accounts; PSL Datatrack can be effectively integrated with these.”

When it comes to implementing a suitable production control system, PSL Datatrack says that every project is different and depends to some extent on the expertise users may already have and in which areas of the business the software is being implemented.

Full days of classroom-style training may be appropriate for some, while others may prefer Web-based tutorials that allow staff to fit in training alongside their day jobs.

In conclusion, Mr Gartland said: “The concept that production control software helps to maximise the return on all of a company’s investments — including machinery, tooling, staff and office equipment — is not far from the truth.

“For many PSL Datatrack customers, the software has become an essential tool — not just for managing their business today, but for strengthening and growing it in the future.”

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