- Automotive Products USA, a worldwide leader in developing hydraulic clutch systems, needed a system that would distribute documentation on production runs to employees on the factory floor, yet still give office workers access to real-time information. Finding Microsoft Access too difficult to use, Automotive Products chose FileMaker Pro.
Automotive Products USA
FileMaker Keeps Production Moving at Automotive Products USA
Automotive Products USA is a worldwide leader in developing hydraulic clutch systems. They produce over 1.2 million systems annually at their 122,000-sq. ft. manufacturing facility in Auburn Hills Michigan. Every domestic automobile manufacturer in North America uses their products, as do auto producers in South America, Europe, and the Middle and Far East.
Manufacturing automotive parts is in and of itself complicated, and designing processes to increase the efficiency of such tasks is even more complicated. So when presented with an opportunity to take some of the complexity out of the mix, Robert H. LaFountain took it.
Automotive Products USA needed a system for distributing documentation on production runs to employees on the factory floor, yet still give office workers access to real-time information. The company started by looking at ‘off the shelf' solutions, but could not find any existing software to meet their needs. 'We could not find an existing off the shelf program that could accomplish what we needed to do.' Mr. LaFountain explained.
Since Automotive Products is a Windows shop, the next turned their attention to Microsoft Access as a potential development environment. 'Access was considered since it was essentially free, but was found to be too difficult to create the types of databases we needed. We were already using QAD's specialized software in house, and we have programmers, but it created unsightly screens and was just not very adaptable.' Mr. LaFountain continued.
'We had used it (FileMaker) for several small projects and were impressed by its ease of use. Its databases could be restructured to comply with the requests of our users very quickly.'
When developing complex database solutions, taking as much complexity out of the task is important criteria by which to choose your development environment, but not necessarily the only criteria. In addition to being easy to use, the final product must be easy to deploy and easy to update. 'The finished product must be used by factory floor associates without extensive training. It had to be easily developed and changed to meet the demands of the factory floor cell requirements.'
After the dust settled, Automotive Products had in place an impressive system. 'All of our factory floor documents are now dispensed at the start of a run from one of the two floor based computers. We now only have the latest versions, with photos, on the factory floor and they can be updated quickly when engineering changes go final. All floor data such as build quantities, downtime, machine breakdowns, hours used, change overs, etc are entered into the other computer. This information can be viewed from any computer in the office in real time.' Mr. LaFountain said.
Development is not stopping here, however. 'Now that management has seen what can be done with a very small outlay of capital, the project is expanding. We have now added two more document databases and a specialized label printing database for roll feed labels. Much of our Industrial Engineering work, such as work standards, are now on related database tied in with our original system.' Mr. LaFountain concluded.