In this first installment of our series of 3rd Shift Harry stories, we see the catastrophic consequences of what can happen when the wrong materials are issued to a production batch.
Paint and coatings manufacturers work with a number of different chemicals and materials to create their products. Paints are typically formulated according to their intended use; The latex paint you use to freshen up your living room walls with is different, chemically speaking, than the epoxy paint you use to coat your garage floor with. For a manufacturer of paint, putting the right pigments, binders, and solvents together can form a rainbow of color for your project. But get the recipe wrong, perhaps by issuing the wrong polymer, can muddy up your colors… or worse, can ruin an entire batch.
A mid-size manufacturer who relies on spreadsheets, clipboards, and some basic accounting software to run their business can find themselves in a hardened mess when it comes to properly identifying and adding the raw materials that go into their products. That’s exactly what happened to a customer of ours before implementing Deacom’s ERP software and using our warehouse management system to control their inventory.
After working for the company for a few months, 3rd Shift Harry had become very comfortable with picking raw materials from inventory and pouring them into the 3,000 gallon mixing tanks. In fact, he had often stated that he could “do it with his eyes closed” – a comment often left unchallenged. That day, Harry had been tasked with the production of one of the company’s decorative paint lines. Everything was going smoothly during the process; first adding the appropriate amount of solvent, then pigment, then resin… all according to plan. But this time, about 30 minutes into the mixing process, a loud, and unexpected noise echoed through production room – and it came from Harry’s tank!
Rushing to the source, Harry saw that the shaft connected to the motor housing had completely sheared off. The production supervisor hit the emergency shut off and stood there in shock. The broken shaft was nothing compared to what they were about to see: They opened the 2-piece split lid at the top of the tank revealing a completely rock-hard, solidified batch of paint! All Harry could say was, “That don’t seem right.”
The material was so hardened that the company had to bring in a professional crew to clean up the mess. Even after chipping away at it with jackhammers, two individuals had to go through by hand, scraping the inside walls of the tank until it was thoroughly clean. This was all because 3rd Shift Harry poured the wrong material into the batch!
In the end, the mistake resulted in eight weeks of downtime for this one tank and cost the company tens of thousands of dollars in wasted materials, lost finished goods, incurred clean-up costs, production downtime, and equipment replacement. The total cost of Harry’s mistake ended up exceeding his annual wages.
To this day, our customer is still unsure of what exactly was put into that batch of paint – most likely it was one of their hardening agents used in their epoxy-based line of floor coatings – but a definitive conclusion wasn’t possible because of the reliance on manual processes and the lack of proper inventory control. Without a proper warehouse and inventory management system, the wrong materials can too easily be picked by 3rd Shift Harry and added to a batch.
DEACOM WMS enforces tight controls of raw material selection. Specifically, it is our two-scan verification issuing process that can prevent these types of destructive scenarios. When staging the material for production, the user must first scan the lot label to confirm it belongs to the job. The second scan occurs prior to the production operator using the lot in the production process. The system confirms it’s the correct part and that it’s being added in the correct order.
You might consider this to be our way of “Harry-proofing” your production process. Implementing such strong controls over inventory will ensure that your next batch of paint remains a smooth one.