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AK Precision Manages Complex Production Challenges


Steady growth has led to an increasingly complex set of production challenges for thriving subcontracting machine shop AK Precision Ltd, which is why the company decided to invest in a specialist production planning and scheduling system from Seiki Systems.

Serving a wide range of industry sectors, the company has grown steadily throughout its 10 year history. Each product is 100% Made to Order and has to meet the most exacting quality standards. Not only do these products vary considerably in physical size and complexity, but also orders can range from single items to batches of 10,000 that need to be called off over a period of time. The company also receives multiple line orders comprising many different components, again in varying quantities. Given the flexible nature of production capabilities within the company, each order can physically have many potential routes through production. To complicate matters further, each new or repeat order with specification changes requires a new optimised route to be developed from scratch. It’s no wonder that Managing Director Wayne Read describes order routing and smoothness of flow as one of the company’s primary scheduling challenges. “Many machines are capable of working on a wide variety of orders but some orders require specific machines which means we are always having to juggle priorities.”

Prior to investing in the Seiki Scheduler, AK Precision had historically used a mixture of spreadsheets and tee-cards to try and overcome these production scheduling challenges. Taylor recalls, “We tried a variety of spreadsheets but they all had too many variables and needed continued updating which often meant you were doing nothing other than working on a spreadsheet which might turn out to be a different version to someone else’s.” Read also points out that the company’s considerable ongoing growth in terms of number of machines and people as well as orders, added significant pressure to move to a specialist solution that could handle the company’s existing challenges but that was also flexible enough to grow with the company. “Given the specialist nature of our work we needed an equally specialist solution designed to work in a machining and engineering environment. The power and flexibility of the Seiki software to meet the company’s present and future requirements was the one of key the strengths of the solution for us.”

There were a number of other key considerations, all of which were met by the Seiki Systems Scheduler. These included the need to be able to schedule ‘on the fly’, to carry out quick and complex ‘what-if’ scenarios and to provide a high level of visibility across every element of the schedule. Furthermore, Seiki Systems had experience of integrating the solution with AK Precision’s primary PROGRESS business system. Read explains, “From the outset we all had a sense that Seiki understood our business and our account manager Neil Saunders and the wider Seiki team felt like people we could work well with.” Production Coordinator Rebecca Dack describes the impact of the improved visibility provided by the Seiki Scheduler as “massive.” She continues, “Now we could see not just every order on the schedule but how they all interacted with each other. We can make much better informed decisions, and with increased confidence.” Read adds, “In a very real way, the Seiki Scheduler has actually made Becks’ job possible. Production meetings which used to take forever and a day now take 30 minutes tops.”

The ability to generate the best possible schedule maximising the company’s human and machine resources has brought a number of direct time and cost savings including an increase in turnover and a 50% reduction in Work in Progress. It has also brought a number of additional benefits, including highlighting where manual routings for new or existing products are wrong or inefficient. And, because each machine now has an accurate work-to list (impossible before), operators can now see not just what job needs to be done and when, but what work is coming down the line. As Taylor notes, “Not only does this make the transition from one job to another smoother, it also gives the production staff a real opportunity to input positive suggestions into the schedule. These can then be tested and evaluated and when appropriate, acted on.” Read adds, “This has been a positive way of generating the buy-in from the production staff and has helped create an even stronger team spirit within the company.”

Read the full article on our AK Precision Case Study page or download a copy of the PDF below.

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