E-Wood.com researches effectiveness of software by Simply Computing

Note: This article is reproduced from E-wood.com, an online B2B resource for the Forest Products Industry.  Original can be found at:  http://www.e-wood.com/news/news_feature_4.asp

E-Wood.com
Reviewer:
Fred Morris, Editor, E-wood

In 1996, Beaman Lumber, Inc. of Winchester, New Hampshire began using two of three software modules produced by Simply Computing:

Log Scaling - Employees use a hand-held computer while scaling logs to enter data.  The data is batch-downloaded to the log scaling system as many times a day as required.  The log scaling system maintains a detailed history of log purchases and produces a wide range of reports including scale slips, procurement summaries, and inventory or purchase analysis reports. 

Rough and Dressed Lumber Inventory - Employees use Norand® data terminals to enter production data, to request the printing of lumber inventory tags, or to scan the bar coded tags attached to each unit of lumber as it is produced.  The terminals are interfaced to a computer (server) in the central office by radio frequency (RF), resulting in real-time inventory data processing.

The third module, Wood Brokerage, was not purchased and is not discussed below.

Since 1996, Scott Lake, Beaman's General Manager, attributes the following convincing benefits to the new system:

  • Increased annual production by better than 30% to 12 MMbf due to this system and other contributing factors
  • Improved labor efficiency; saved approximately 12 man-hours per day
  • Eliminated redundancies in inventory; improved physical inventory results, and produced significantly fewer inventory accounting discrepancies
  • No corrupted or lost data and no need to re-enter raw data since day 1
  • The radio system, server, and software package has never resulted in a shutdown
  • Employees participated in the creation of mill-specific codes and accepted the new system in one week - resulting in improved morale of manufacturing team members
  • Easy to learn and doesn't require employees to write anything
  • Removed inventory control responsibility from administrators in the office and gave it to those in the yard who produce and are accountable for the lumber
  • Shipments are pre-qualified, that is, matched with order details by species, dimension, grade, and pattern
  • Pre-qualification reduces errors and, once a pack is allocated to a customer, the system prevents shipping it to the wrong customer
  • Only the sales staff has access to customer order details and pricing
  • Provides a permanent historical record of every lumber pack's progress through the mill, and identifies who processed each transaction

Since purchase of the system, Simply Computing has had to provide only minimal support to improve Beaman Lumber’s reports and to assist in company-wide network upgrades

Beaman Lumber customers report that few other lumber suppliers have simplified the buying process as well in terms of consistency, correctly filling orders, and simplicity of documentation (bills of lading and invoices). 

I asked Scott what were the problems with the system?  After a moment's thought, he said, "Data acquisition time. When running long reports or a broad query, the system takes a little too long to produce results - but that's more a function of the network capacity and volume of data than the software.”  In a few words, Beaman Lumber is more than merely satisfied with its new technology. 

Log Scaling System

As delivered, the software is an empty database, a new paradigm that the mill is expected customize with its unique log and lumber processing.  The software adapts to the mill rather than requiring the mill to adapt to the software.

The hand-held computers (Beaman Lumber uses Husky ® and Corvallis Microtechnology ® computers) allow the log scaler to enter:

Species

Defects

Trucker

Length

Deductions

Landowner

Diameter

Woodlot

Scaler

Grade

Crew

And other important data

The dollar value of the logs is kept separate from the scaler and is reloaded n the system.  Only after the scaler's data is downloaded is the dollar value of the logs computed.  Scale tickets are printed without prices.  Separate Price Scale Slips are printed on demand.

The scaler downloads data as often as required (once or more a day) to update the master data file (on the server) and to produce scale slips.  Although Beaman Lumber chose not to interface the log scaling software directly with its accounting system, the log scaling system provides all data necessary to generate checks to loggers.

Some time ago, an accident resulted in damage to one of the handheld computers.  To avoid this happening again, Beaman Lumber plans to replace its handheld units with a voice-activated, radio-interfaced data entry system.  This makes it impossible to accidentally lose data once entered and gives the employee far more flexibility.  Another important benefit of the voice-activated system is that it is real-time data processing.

Jay Porter scales logs for Irving Forest Products in Dixfield, Maine, reportedly the largest white pine mill in the world.  Irving was the second mill to purchase the Simply Computing system, and Jay has been using it for four of his 25 years scaling logs.  Irving's four scalers process one to two million board feet of logs per week, and without the voice recognition data entry, "The job couldn't be done."  What he likes most about the log scaling system is it's "heads up" and safe.  Logs can be scaled as fast as they are unloaded, and once a load is on the ground, it 's scaled and in the system in eight minutes.   Irving will be updating its voice-activated equipment in early 2000.

The Rough and Dressed Lumber Inventory System

Employees enter lumber inventory data using a Norand data collector.  At four separate cost centers in the mill, large bar-coded labels are printed on demand and are attached to each pack, and packs are scanned at seven locations.  When a pack changes configuration, a new label is printed and the old label is scanned and retired to update the inventory change.

At Beaman Lumber, two 4"x6" bar-coded labels are applied to every pack, one on the end and one on a side visible to the forklift operator who moves the pack.  The labels are printed in pairs with an industrial thermal printer in the mill and integrated with the Simply Computing software.  The label characters are large enough to be read from a distance and describe each lumber pack with the following data: 

·        Species

  • Length, width, thickness, grade, pattern
  • Initials of person accountable at this stage
  • Rough or Dressed
  • Volume

Each stage at which the pack label is scanned is a cost center where labor-handling costs accumulate.  It is important to keep track of work center and inventory costs, and this system supports the identification and reporting of those costs.

 

Cost Centers

Tags & Scanning

Rough lumber packed green in mill

New tag produced

Rough lumber stuck for kiln

Tag scanned, new tag produced

Rough lumber moved into kiln

Tag scanned

Rough lumber pulled dry from kiln

Tag scanned

Rough lumber re-graded, sorted (unstuck)

Tag scanned, new tag produced

Rough pack prepared for shipment

Tag scanned, new tag produced

Rough pack put in inventory

Tag scanned

Pack dressed to customer specification

Tag scanned, new tag produced

Rough or dressed pack staged for loading

Tag scanned

Rough or dressed pack loaded for delivery

Tag scanned

 

This method of "reading" and tracking inventory allows the mill to distinguish specific lumber packs such as "green-certified" from non-certified lumber.  Beaman Lumber has applied for and expects to be awarded chain-of-custody certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in the very near future. 

 

At any point in this process, customer inquiries can be matched with, or allocated to lumber.  Once a pack is committed to a customer, the label is identified and the pack cannot be sold to another customer, unless the order is cancelled.

As the forklift loader scans the bar codes for a particular order, the bar code data is matched against the customer's particular order.  From this final scan, the system automatically produces both a bill of lading and an invoice, which can be picked up after the driver ties down the load.

 Standard reports produced by the system include:

  • Inventory reports (selected by user), kiln reports
  • Work center production, consumption reports
  • Sales history reports (selected by customer, grade, type, etc.)
  • Sales, Production, and Shipping reports
  • Bills of Lading and Invoices

Summary

Scott Lake compared the Simply Computing software with others available before purchase.   Because it had a Windows® “look and feel,” and offered both more functionality and user flexibility than the others, it was selected.  Scott keeps track of new developments in software for the wood products industry and has not found a package superior to this, at this writing.

Beaman Lumber has not been disappointed.  As Scott Lake says, "This system has made us more efficient, more productive, and more professional."

For more info contact:
Simply Computing:
Kimberly M. Haven
toll free 1-800-903-4122
info@simplycomputing.com

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