Turner Suspension Bicycles, Inc. of Murrieta, CA manufactures top-of-the-line, world-class mountain bikes. From the birth of the first BURNER All Terrain Bikes (ATB) in 1992, to the current offerings, Turner has strove to make the suspension frame as simple, rigid, and low-maintenance as possible. The results are refined geometries and machines built using only the best materials, combined with the highest quality manufacturing. This led to success that put a strain on their product flow and production scheduling systems.
Planning and Scheduling Customer Orders
According to Mike Votaw, Production Manager, “While our production numbers are small compared to many companies we still suffer from many of the production scheduling pitfalls of much larger operations. Demand for our product has not been a problem. Trying to plan and schedule all the customer orders in an efficient way is a huge challenge that is only going to get worse. Just trying to a get basic handle on Shop Capacity, Material Lead-times, Customer Due Dates is too much for a manual scheduling board and a fist-full of post-it notes.”
Under advice of a business consultant who had already set Turner Bikes up with a basic accounting system using QuickBooks Pro, Mr. Votaw downloaded a free trial of Resource Manager for XL, a planning and scheduling system based on Microsoft Excel available from User Solutions, and was able to evaluate the program using their own operational data.
According to Mike Votaw, “We are much too small for most of the big, costly, complex programs out there, and we really didn’t want to toss out the progress we had made with QuickBooks. Plus, I was already familiar with Excel – so the idea of adding a planning, scheduling, and tracking component to QuickBooks was very appealing – especially since it could be done so affordably.”
After a successful test trial of Resource Manager for Excel, Mike ordered the program and began implementing it. In just a few days, Mike had entered in all the basic shop constraints, such as numbers and types of machines and laborers, shop calendar, materials, vendors, customers, and was able to construct the Bills-Of-Resources that describe what has to be done, in what order, and how long it takes.
Mike reports, “Now that we have the full program, its abilities have exceeded our expectations. We have found it to be powerful and relatively easy to learn. For the first time, we now have a handle on our flow of product from projections, to orders, to shipments. What is especially encouraging is the program’s flexibility to respond to new demands.
For example, after only having the program a few weeks, the owner came back from a trade show in Japan with the biggest order in our history. When he asked me when we could deliver – I simply entered in the demand, scheduled it, and printed out a Gantt Chart schedule showing exactly when we could deliver the product and what our manufacturing costs would be. He was ecstatic to have that information so quickly and accurately to respond back to our customer.”
Mike continues, “Resource Manager for Excel is helping us achieve our goals of increased sales of more profitable products (custom and special order) – without increasing our overhead. Using the various reports and ‘what-if’ capabilities, I can look at the options of adding more direct labor and purchasing more equipment for shop metal working and doing the work ourselves – or outsourcing. Turns out, I can completely manage our supply chain quickly and easily from Resource Manager – tracking jobs and inventory as they flow between our operations and various sub-contractors.”
While it was originally brought in to complement and integrate with QuickBooks Inventory, it turned out that it was just easier to do more in Resource Manager for Excel, including complete inventory control, than to integrate daily between the two products. According to Mr. Votaw, “QuickBooks is a great program if you fit exactly their target user, such as a service provider, but there is no flexibility for manufacturers. We now just use it for invoicing and use Resource Manager for everything else.
Refreshing Customer Support
Throughout this entire project and continuing to today, we are very pleased with the customer support we have received from User Solutions. They have responded quickly and thoroughly to our every request from simple questions to special situations. That kind of personal support, for affordable manufacturing software is refreshing”.