In this age of technology, and rapid progress in data-visibility, we are still struggling with one very basic concept in manufacturing. It is amazing how many companies are still relying on spreadsheets and text documents to record their specification sheets. It is easy to spot the problems in using this system. Spreadsheets and text document have no way to record the revision history associated with every product, unless we save every iteration in a separate location, or print the old spec sheets and save them in a filing cabinet.
It is easy to spot all the potential errors that can be made when the process is partially paper based, and partially electronic. And that is exactly what happened at one company in the food industry. After changes were made to a specification sheet, old copies were still floating around on the production floor, which lead to miscommunication. While some electronic systems were updated to reflect the new spec limits, the old spec sheets were still calling for the old spec limits. To make things worse, one spec sheet was used for every product, however, that product could be produced on any number of different production lines, all with different capabilities and equipment. At times, line operators read the spec limits associated with another line, because the sheets were not easy to read.
With a system that was apparently broken, it was decided to fix this once and for all. A custom solution was developed that would address all problems. The solution that was developed is now known as MyProduct Spec, and has been wildly successful in every company that has implemented the product.
MyProduct Spec is customized to every operation, so that it can effectively manage all the processes and business processes for the particular operation. For starters, MyProduct Spec keeps a revision history of all changes being made for future reference. Every time a change gets made, the version number on the spec sheet gets incremented accordingly, and the date of the last change, and person making the change gets included in the header of the document. The print job for the spec sheet is tied into the production order, or process order depending on whether SAP has been implemented as discrete, or process. Therefore, the spec sheet prints along with the order every time, and no old spec sheets are floating around in production. Potential crisis number one averted.
Furthermore, the spec sheets are divided into two sections, product specific, and line specific. Depending on the work center the order is opened for, the spec sheet only prints out the line specific information that is pertinent to that particular production line. Potential crisis number two averted.
Previously, with text based spec seets, it was impossible to import specification variables into other database driven electronic systems. Since MyProduct Spec is database driven, every spec variable is stored in a database field. It is very easy to synchronize two database driven systems with SQL queries and import tools. Now, all different systems are synchronized continuously. Every time a change gets made in the SAP spec, that change travels through to all other systems. Potential crisis number 3 averted.
This product is truly one of the great success stories for our company. This is a highly complex custom ABAP program that has deep ties into SAP integration. Many other ABAP developers have failed at programs with this much complexity. However, when there is a clear vision up front, and a clear understanding of the customer’s processes and business processes, along with the dedication to make it work, there will be success.