With the economy on a continued recovery the demand for boats, especially small to mid-sized styles is increasing dramatically according to the recent NMMA U.S. RECREATIONAL BOATING STATISTICAL ABSTRACT. While not yet back to pre-2007 numbers, it’s still significant growth. This level of growth has opened up the need for boat builders to become more efficient and streamlining of production. Prior to 2006, many builders just made capital investments in plants and equipment which during the downturn put many of them out of business. Cash flow dried up and the capital equipment became a major liability.
Learning from the missteps of the past during those pre-2006 growth years, how can the smart boat builder gain production levels to meet today’s demand without breaking the bank with capital investment? Other industries have faced similar issues such as the automotive markets. Suppliers to the automotive industries have felt the same pain and been in the same scenario. So what did they do to avoid the problems of the past?
Production efficiency in boat assembly can be increased and optimized thorough the use of assembly specific ERP software. Generic business software typically does not have the capabilities to best handle line stations, in line sequenced supply of components, Takt time management, conversion of the engineering Bill of Materials to Assembly Bills and detailed task management. Boat assemblers that are willing to look at applying lean concepts to boat assembly will recognize these concepts and functions can increase production by 30-50% without adding significant capital. Getting the line running smoothly without stoppages due to unavailable components, labor shortages or over utilization and bottlenecks is critical and software that handles assembly control processes is needed.
Other critical aspects of efficiency improvement in boat assembly can start at the initial sales estimate. Too often the dealer and boat builder are working off of paper to get the estimate and configuration right for the client. Change orders then are rampant even during production, which is a costly place for a change to be made. With the use of Sales Price Configurator software that is directly interfaced to the ERP order and production system, a more efficient quote to production process can take place. The client is less likely to make late order changes if they have more information up front. Since the system is integrated, changes that are made can be more effectively communicated to the production line with less disruption.
Another area to improve production efficiency involved the sourcing and procurement process. By having an integrated system to create supplier order demand directly from the configured production job, component products can be time sequenced to arrive exactly when needed for production. Why have an expensive interior or seating arrangement sitting in the warehouse 2-3 weeks before it’s needed. It consumes space and can sustain damage during that wait time. Why not have a system that can line its delivery up exactly to the line station when needed.
Another process that we have seen which can offer significant improvement is shop floor systems that integrate directly to the order and production ERP systems. They provide real time order information and what’s needed for production right down to the shop floor. The guys that are assembling and fabricating can see exactly what is needed to be done in real time. Changes as well can be reacted to more quickly. On the flip side, they can record their production in real time as work is completed down to their work time to perform tasks and the material components assembled to the hull – right down to the serial number. This information as to labor is critical to making lean process improvements as you have to measure in order to modify processes. Reliable information coming from the shop floor done in a way not to waste time writing down task can provide gains in efficiency.
Give these some thought as you look at your growing order book and then take a walk out to the production lines. Ask yourself, can we improve and are we doing everything we can to meet our customer demands.
These topics and more should be on your mind if you are attending the IBEX boat builder’s exposition October 4-6 in Tampa. We will be there and would like to speak with you if these points struck a chord with you.