Custom Production Control & Manufacturing Support

Custom Production/Manufacturing Software with Rules-Based Expert System and Custom Web App

ALR Services procure competitively priced, high quality PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards). The company has grown to become one of the largest independent PCB suppliers in Europe, with customers across multiple industry sectors, and a reputation for value for money, quality and timely delivery.

The Problem

In a fast-moving market, prices have to be competitive, so selecting the most cost-effective supplier is key to winning any order.

Production and manufacturing support of PCBs is complex due to the variety of manufacturing options, each with varying cost implications that are also related to their suppliers' production capability.

Business rules regarding product costing were implicitly encoded in their legacy database software. Making changes to these was therefore difficult and expensive as they had to be carried out by the developer. The company needed a rule-based expert system to interpret their existing costing rules so they could respond quicky.

With their legacy system it was difficult to see a clear picture of the overall status of all orders. Once a firm order was placed manufacturing/production support was needed in order to monitor progress and manage customer expectations, as well as to optimise offshore shipping costs.

An integrated approach was needed to streamline the sharing of production status information. It was felt that a custom web application was needed for more dynamic and secure tracking of the status of outstanding orders.

The Solution

To support the quoting process, we implemented a dynamic rule based expert system which incorporates additional checking to ensure the quoting rules are correct.

The system can now be updated by ALR staff directly to reflect different supplier pricing models. Staff are also now able to fine tune quotes to remain competitive. In addition, each quote calculation is logged for further verification if required.

Given a specific set of part criteria the system can present multiple quote results from different suppliers to offer the best price and/or lead time.

The new quoting engine can accurately estimate delivery times, taking into consideration supplier holidays and additional days due to supplier and customer locations.

The recording of information about components for PCBs was standardised, which allowed the addition of rule-based questions for part specification and quote validation, thereby improving the speed and accuracy of quoting.

The management information system has been incorporated for monitoring orders. The new system displays a configurable dashboard for current orders, providing a single overall picture of the current status, including production completion and delivery dates. Priorities can be assigned within this.

In addition, we built a custom web application to allow suppliers to report the status of the manufacturing process for current orders via a database website integration. The production and manufacturing support software, incorporated within the system, ensures that the information on manufacturing progress is automatically fed straight back into the order status dashboard.

Using this live information our client can now accurately track the progress of each order to more easily manage customer expectations.