How can a busy MSO, or any shop, do a better job of managing materials? With hundreds of part numbers, varying regulations mandating different products and a plethora of other priorities, how do they cope with material management issues?
There are some great tools provided within the paint manufacturers’ shop level computer software. Most of the major paint manufacturers can help capture usage by repair order (RO), as products are mixed on the scale. While these are great tools, some shops, including several MSOs, are looking for a more robust solution.
Check the scale
The first step to material management is making sure you have good information. The scale reports are a great place to start, if all the information is there. If everything is being mixed on the scale — clears, sealers, primers and color — and RO number, we have a good data foundation. Many shops operate under the belief that everything is being mixed on the scale, but how do we really know? Ask your jobber for help. They should be able to produce a report listing all the liquid volumes purchased over a period of time. Running scale reports can generally provide similar volume reports. Comparing these over an extended period of time should help to determine if all liquids are being mixed via the scale and recorded by RO number. If they are, you have accurate accounting of almost all per job liquid costs. You also have accurate reports for emission and VOC reports, should these be required in your area.
If you don’t find a very close correlation in volume purchased verses volume used, then the scale reports are obviously not an accurate source of data. Be sure to run these reports over a long period of time (I suggest six months) to even out minor fluctuations in inventory and purchases.
Using purchase data
Another approach is to use purchase records. These can usually be obtained from your local jobber or paint distributor. With a little finesse, this data can be converted into valuable information. Several paint distributors across the country have created material reports that help turn lots of data into good information. Some distributors have turned to third-party solutions that give their customer an even higher level or more in-depth material usage analysis.
Lean material management may very well be the next big trend in shop management. It seems like the only significant area not yet subjected to lean methodologies. With leaner material usage, not only are costs maintained, but waste and other handling expenses are also reduced.
Back to our quest for information beyond the scale. We now have a large volume of data from our purchase reports. Data seems like a great thing to have; but can you have too much data? The answer is yes. The data needs to be molded into information. With any modern computer system, you can produce enormous amounts of data, making it easy to suffer from Datum Analysis Paralysis.