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ETO Manufacturers Learn to Track

by Thomas R. Cutler   |   August, 2007

Manufacturing Insights

Brunt Associates is an architectural millwork firm based in Wixom, Michigan. The company experienced significant growth and needed to upgrade its software system yet required a solution that could address the unique issues facing a company in the woodworking industry. “We are a carpentry and millwork company. We manufacture and install our own product,” said Brian Brunt, vice president. “Ours is a second generation, family-owned business. My father, Denis Brunt, founded the company over twenty years ago, originally as a carpenter contractor. I took the company into manufacturing and architectural woodworking, quite simply because the market was there. All of the jobs we were bidding had components of woodworking in them. It just made sense to start manufacturing.”

It was in 1988 that the company began manufacturing architectural millwork work. Today, Brunt Associates specializes in architectural woodwork for the health care, commercial and educational markets. Past projects include: Dow Automotive, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Detroit, the Henry Ford Hospital, Wayne State Hockey, Michigan State Radiology Building, and the St. John Hospital Pediatric Center. Approximately seventy-five percent of the firm’s work is involved with the healthcare field.

Tracking Productivity in the ETO Environment

When the company first began manufacturing, the workshop was in Brunt’s garage. “From there we moved to a 2,000 square foot shop, then a 6,000 square foot shop, then a 12,000 square foot space. Now we are in a 24,000 square foot building with a shop that employs twenty full-time workers. Thirty-five carpenters work in the field, doing installations,” Brunt proudly reports. “What we do is spec-driven architectural millwork, which can range from custom nurses stations to reception desks, to office interiors or the locker rooms and facilities of the hockey department at Wayne State. We lay up our own veneer and finish in-house, plus do a lot of thermoforming solid surface work. In short, we are a custom house and do what the job entails.”

Unlike repetitive manufacturers who have a catalog of SKU’s and post to inventory, ETO (engineer-to-order) manufacturers have different requirements for measuring and tracking productivity. According to Randy Richel, president of Trakware Systems, “ETO manufacturers, like Brunt, need to track key business-critical functions such as estimating, advanced scheduling, job costing, production management as labor and material shop floor data collection. These unique ETO MES (manufacturing execution systems) requirements must simultaneously integrate with major software for financials, engineering design, optimization, payroll, and even wireless interaction for mobile workers.”

In order to streamline all information into one central, interactive system, Brunt selected Trakware because of their extensive understanding of the ETO woodworking sector. According to Brunt, “It has helped in managing information and keeping track of orders. In our billing department we have been able to catch things like duplicate invoices. It’s a much more organized and streamlined way of doing business and has been a real time saver to be able to go to one single spot to get all the information needed for things like hours, costs and purchases.”

The program integrated seamlessly with the company’s payroll system, which was significant because as a union shop they are required to provide additional pay and benefit reports. Shortly after the new system was up and running, Brunt had a custom link created that would import time data directly into payroll. All hours are collected on the shop floor via a work order. Brunt compared the previous process by noting, “Before implementing the new system, getting the information together was an all-day task. But now we have 100 percent accurate data collection on the shop floor because we are collecting time inside the plant through touchTRAK stations. Xora [a strategic alliance partner with Trakware Systems] allows us to do a precise job of collecting time outside of the plant. The remote time entry system can be used by anyone with a GPS-enabled cell phone."

Because customized ETO manufacturers are operating on thin margins, it is even more critical to know the status of any project throughout the enterprise, from the office to manufacturing plant, from project manager to estimator. ETO MES solutions must have the capacity to determine the status of any materials inside or outside the plant. Material must be bar-coded and labeled for each job and if there is a question, project-based manufacturers can discover quickly and accurately who received it. While far from exhaustive, ETO MES solutions are most needed among the following types of manufacturing organizations:

  • Architectural Woodworking
  • Cabinets, Casegoods, Caseworks
  • Store Fixtures
  • Doors and Windows
  • Furniture
  • Oil and Gas Fabrication
  • Solid Surface
  • Metal Fabrication
  • Yachts
  • Custom Electronics
  • Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based TR Cutler, Inc., the largest manufacturing marketing firm worldwide – Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium of twenty seven hundred journalists and editors writing about trends in manufacturing. Cutler is also the author of the Manufacturers’ Public Relations and Media Guide. Cutler is a frequently published author within the manufacturing sector with more than 300 feature articles authored annually; he can be contacted at See More Details.

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