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Configuring products on the shop floor

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article image The role of the shop floor has moved from one of being a manufacturing area to that of a dynamic, value-added centre for final customisation

The role of the shop floor has moved from one of merely being a manufacturing area to that of a dynamic, value-added centre for final customisation. Sage Business Solution 's Mike Lorge writes.
Following the financial meltdown of 2008, manufacturers like many other industries now want to see a faster return on investment, and products that are quicker and easier to install and integrate. 
An emerging trend in the market is the need for quick to implement, international ERP solutions that support domestic locations, as well as offering strong international features, multiple language and currency support, multiple chart of accounts, all delivered to multiple locations.
At the same time, manufacturers know well that no two products are the same and different types of products require different manufacturing processes, usually defined as process, discrete or mixed-mode manufacturing.
As a result, many manufacturers are moving final product assembly points as close to the customer as possible in order to deliver customer-specific products on a timelier basis.  

They also wish to avoid having pre-assembled finished inventory sitting idle on warehousing shelves as a result of incorrect forecasting or sudden shifts in consumer preference. 
Ironically, this has shifted the role of the shop floor from one of serving merely as a manufacturing area to that of being a dynamic, value-added centre for final customisation.

Product configuration tools, like those which are found in Sage ERP X3, help ensure that proposals for final product manufacturing are intelligently configured to meet customer needs.  
Companies also require additional flexibility at time of order to sell accessory items that "go with" what the customer is ordering, including pre-established "menus" of items that are often sold together.  
This helps save time-consuming keystrokes, particularly for multiple line item orders that contain products which are associated with each other in some way.
But front-office sales configuration is just one part of the equation.  Back-office functions dealing with manufacturing allocation, scheduling and warehouse delivery coordination are just as important to achieving successful fulfilment of customer-specific products.
Depending on the industry or type of products involved, certain configurations might be fulfilled simply by ensuring that separately-stocked, off-the-shelf products are picked, packed and shipped together.  
Often, here is an intermediate step of physically assembling components together into their finished state.  In either case, it is paramount that component inventory allocation takes into account all necessary constraints.
For example, companies selling various combinations of computer systems want to ensure that the same number of processors, monitors, keyboards, and printers are manufactured and delivered, even if it means shipping one or more components short of what is actually available, due to inventory shortages for one or more of the other related components.  
For many companies, receiving a partial configuration is worse than receiving nothing at all, since the unmatched parts only take up unnecessary space, and must be double-handled once the remaining products arrive.  
Designating that orders or individual line items should be "shipped complete-only" can protect against warehouse processing of partial orders until all quantities can be allocated to meet the given constraint.  
For customers who permit partial deliveries, built-in controls ensure that only even increments of related products are picked and shipped. It is also good business practice to prioritise the allocation of incoming components to partially allocated configurations, so that they can be shipped to the customer as quickly as possible.  

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