ATEC Smart Factory OneApp Case Study


ATEC Engineering Solutions, who we have helped support their ERP system for many years, contacted us to ask about how they could replace paperwork they use within their business. In particular throughout the production process where they use printed route cards and capture various written information on them through the various activities they perform on a project for a customer, from inspection and testing, to repair and assembly.

We worked with them to come up with a set of initial requirements and then developed a bespoke OneApp to help them implement a smarter factory.

They were so pleased with the outcome we asked if we could make a case study on this to show others, below is the video we have had produced.



Implementing the Smart Factory Shop Floor at ATEC Engineering Solutions

My name is Mark Poole I am the operations manager here at ATEC Solutions and we are a company that specialises in providing engineering solutions for safety critical environments working across various industries such as oil and gas, aerospace, marine, land defence.

We can provide end-of-life support for products where the OEM has either gone out of business or no longer supports the products that the customers have in place, we can take that product we can reverse engineer it, we can manage the obsolescence on it and basically keep that unit running, we work with various businesses like Rolls Royce, RBSL, Lockheed Martin.

Rolls Royce in particular where we look after the marine products for our navy, a lot of the products that are in our ships are old legacy products and therefore come across obsolescence as the electronic market and the industries develop products are not available we will develop solutions to overcome that obsolescence and build it into the product to make sure that it delivers, as it was supposed to, as it was designed to originally.

On this particular station this is a PCB out of an engine control unit from a T55 Engine which is the engine on a Chinook helicopter and Tony's just replacing some components that when we've done the initial inspection on it and initial tests on it have been identified as faulty, so he is replacing an IC on this board.

When units arrive with us the start of the process is to do an initial survey where we'll take the unit, take the product, do initial tests on it and try and diagnose the fault if there is one, once the fault's been found we will identify it down to component level replace those components, which is what Tony's doing now, all of our operators are qualified to IPC-A-610 and IPC-7711 / 7722 repair standards, once the repair is complete we will then put the unit back through test again and make sure that the faults disappeared, sometimes that's not the case, sometimes it's actually you fix one fault to find another, so we repeat the process, right the way through to test again at the end going through all the environmental testing to ensure that the product is fit for purpose when it leaves the building.

It's critical that we document everything that we do, everything about it, they have a log card that goes with the job that we have to update so from the minute the unit came into us we're starting to collect data we're starting to record that data and historically would have all been done on paper.

It's a long relationship that we've got with Web Control, Web Control have been supporting ATEC since they put in the new ERP system some time ago now, so therefore when it came to wanting to go down the route of implementing tablets and getting rid of paperwork and making a smarter shop floor, smarter factory then Web Control was the company of choice for us, because we knew they would deliver what we wanted and what was best for us and not best for them.

Initially we worked closely with ATEC Solutions here on-site and remotely to kind of fully understand all the needs and requirements of the project, we wanted to fully understand exactly what made ATEC Solutions unique to them and how we can use those value propositions to kind of enhance the application and make it more beneficial to them, the challenge we initially had with that I think was actually removing the preconceived ideas that they had around the limitations of their ERP system, what we wanted to do is almost strip that back and look at the process with fresh eyes and to almost design the perfect process that wasn't limited either by technology or by what they needed to do to sort of achieve the outcomes that we wanted for this project.

Previously when we had a job we had an instruction for drawings, wiring, item lists and we would physically stamp it with our self-certification stamp from IPC and date it and pass it on to the next operation, any additional test requirements would be written down by the test engineer, same again a rubber stamp for them and when it's completed you certify your work, now with the OneApp once you leave the operation that you've been asked to complete it gives a digital stamp to prove that you have completed that operation.

Even at the end of the process what we found was that we would only extract some of that data into the system, the most of the data that we actually could use for reliability and data analysis and trending was left on the paperwork was then scanned and just filled away, so creating an electronic app or the use of the tablets, the smart factory shop floor as we're calling it and collecting the data electronically through the process means that it's live, so decisions can be made live, not only on the unit itself but on the operational function, so with the number of jobs that we've got going through at any one time, we can go in and see where they are up to, we can alter things around, we can reschedule if we need to, we can do it all on the fly because we've got live information, before we would have had to walk around the shop floor, we would have to try and physically find the product, we wouldn't know where it was at any one time, now the app tell us where it is by the station that it’s at because it’s recorded, tell us which operator is working on it, tells us which components have been replaced on it, all of this data is available immediately for us, so we can make better decisions, more informed decisions, they can get drawings on the app, engineering documentation that supports the processes they are doing, they are all available through the app, we've managed to make sure that everything is at the end of the fingertip now for them, whereas before it was on a piece of paper, they were writing it down they were going to cabinets, they were getting engineering paperwork, getting engineering documents, all of that is a thing of the past for us now. So, this is the start of the future for ATEC.

Dewi has got a tablet, he is just loading up a works order, so he selects his work order to start using the testing templates, before the testing templates they used to be manually written down, whereas now we've got them in an electronic format.

Here is Dewi typing in the serial number, before this was all handwritten, the best thing about this now is everything now readable and in an electronic format, so it's constantly updated for us.

The Picking process is selecting components that are used in the kits on the shop floor to build the jobs.

The screens are very simple to use, all the prompts are very self-explanatory and then you are able to pick the jobs that you need, print off the components that you want, how many you need to pick and then it will print the labels off for you, the correct date and time and the GRN, when the goods were picked.

The platform itself that we've built for the application is quite unique in itself, it's not a pull of data, it's actually a push of data, what I mean by that is that in most modern applications now when we press a button we want to see the data instantly, we want instant results, we don't want to press a button and have to wait for that data to come through and for those results to take their time, in older systems like the one that they use for their ERP system collecting those large amounts of data when you're making that request can take a long time, what we've done is built a platform that actually brings that data in real-time, is very, very quick and rather than us pulling that data, we are actually pushing it from the ERP into our application, using a very sophisticated platform that we've developed, that can be used across multiple applications.

One of the key features of the application, is its mobility, most ERP systems are set to a fixed terminal, in most cases to a fixed kind of PC terminal on a desk, we wanted to create an application that can be fully mobile, that can be moved around the workshop, can be used in any area that wasn't fixed to any one place.

The application can also be used on an Apple device or an Android device, in this particular case we're opting for Windows laptop with a touch screen, which gives them more flexibility in what they're doing on the shop floor, they can obviously carry this around, from work centre to work centre, without the need to actually then change their PC's.

Firstly, it will do some very clever scheduling in the background, so based on due dates, based on priorities, it will automatically prioritize when those works order need to be and schedule them on the work centres as per the operational routings of that job.

This is the main screen, several options for the operators to choose from, the main one being the works orders, this is a list of all the route cards, all the jobs that are live on the shop floor at the moment, which we have allocated to the app, the operator then comes along and picks the job that he's got to work on next and that opens up the actual job with the routings and all of the processes that the operation steps that they've got to follow.

Once they are in the works order, they can start the job, they can stop the job, they can pause the job, they can log faults, they can log test information, they can see past test results, they can look at quality statistics, they can look at quality standards, they can also look at the technical drawings of the job that they are working on as well, as well as all the operational steps that are required to complete the operation.

So the operators booked on the jobs through the barcode of the op and the barcode that the operator has, which is unique to him, so he would log his time on and off the op, however they were not doing it in real-time, some of them would wait until the end of the day and then they would book all of the time to the jobs that they have worked on, it meant that the accuracy on the manufacturing time that we had in the system, that we was collecting was not accurate, now literally when they log into the tablet to work on that job it starts the clock ticking and when finish the job and they log out it stops and all of that data is recorded.

We've never been in a position before when we've had the data to actually analyse whether it is or isn't correct, so now we will have the data to look at the manufacturing times that we've got within the system and adjust those manufacturing times in line with actual times being given on the job.

It's almost as if Web Control are looking at a roadmap of our business roadmap and are looking to develop the ERP system ahead of us actually hitting the problems, is how it feels for us, we knew from a business point of view what we wanted or what we hoped we could get, Web Control knew from an I.T. point of view what was possible and what we could get, I think between us we came up with an initial scope, but all the way through the project Web Control have been there to support us, so as we've gone along like any project you sit down with a blank piece of paper, you start at the beginning and you draw out what you want or what you think you can get, when you actually start to implement these changes, you realize that there's opportunities to improve it even more, they've been a supportive partner.

I would probably go so far as to say you know not just a supplier to, but we see them as a partner, working to make sure we make the most of the ERP system that we've got.

You know I could stand here and talk all day of the benefits and if I'm being honest I don't think we've even realized all the benefits yet, it's a new thing for us we've only been live a matter of weeks or months, I think once we've built up that data behind us again it will give us even more things to focus on for the future and help develop the business.