Increasing output from the capacity you have is the holy grail of wood products manufacturers. To do so requires having your finger on what is happening to every item in production at every stage.
While technology has been advancing continuously, it remains a daunting challenge to link individual machines into a plant information system. And since many of the work processes involved in cabinetry and furniture production are manual operations - often involving wood components and specialty items sourced from third parties - capturing production data must happen on two levels.
Enter RSA Solutions' Production Coach, which provides a 360-degree view of the factory, from CAD/CAM importing, through planning, sorting, tracking, automated machine feedback, part alerts, visualization, kitting and shipping – all in real time and without the need for physical files. Production Coach is a 2018 IWF Challengers Award recipient.
Production Coach addresses the reality of wood products manufacturing at the piece and project level. Modular in nature, the system is built around workstations positioned at key production points. It allows you to have as many or as few stations in the shop and office as desired, and only those features activated at any station that are required. For some stations, tracking first operation, assembly and shipping may be enough. At other stations, tracking and production progress may not be as important as kitting and ensuring that everything makes it on the truck.
Production Coach software has established links with Cabinet Vision, Microvellum, and woodCAD|CAM, which simplifies implementation. This provides the opportunity for quick implementation and harnessing of existing CAD|CAM data. It was developed by Web-Cab Inc., in Mirabel, Quebec, which markets the application in Canada as Production Assistant
Many wood product firms have already adopted Production Coach, including Timberline Cabinetry & Millwork, a maker of commercial casework and architectural millwork.
“The software gives us the ability to scan a part and have it tell us where to put it and which cabinet it was designed for, but it can do so much more than that,” said Timberline co-founder Kent Swinson. “We needed a way to manage that stack of parts, which might have the parts for 50 cabinets, times 10 parts a piece. There could be 500 parts to dig through but the software allows you to scan every single part, one a time, and it tells you what slot to put it in, which means you are only touching each part one time. That is a major improvement over the old way.”
A 300 percent increase in production throughput and efficiency, in fact.
Eight people work in the office and 13 in the shop at Timberline’s 20,000-square-foot facility. “We are able to put three times more volume through that same department, using the same amount of square footage, the same amount of equipment and essentially with one-half of a person more,” Swinson added.
The software also has a built-in function that enables scanning of products, kits and pallets at shipping to ensure 100 percent accurate shipments, 100 percent of the time.
“There is a whole host of benefits that we have received from the software besides the part alerts, sorting and tracking,” he added. Production Coach also provides information on a weekly and monthly basis on how many remakes were needed and why. “This information is provided at each one of the workstations so that everyone in the plant knows without leaving their area,” said Swinson. 
Woodworking Network's Jared Patchin talked with RSA Solutions' Regional Sales Manager/CEO Shawn Maberry about Production Coach at last year's AWFS. 
About the Challengers Award
The purpose of the Challengers Distinguished Achievement Award is to encourage and promote the development of innovative new technology in the field of woodworking machinery, supplies, and services for the furniture, kitchen cabinets, architectural woodwork, store fixture, upholstery, or specialty and general wood product industries.
A panel of 10 distinguished judges, all industry professionals representing a broad cross-section of the industry, review and analyze each of the75 entriesthat were submitted for the 2018 competition. The finalist judging takes place the day before IWF opens. On that Tuesday, the finalists perform live demonstrations for the panel of judges, who then make their final decisions on the most innovative product developments.
The Challengers Distinguished Achievement Award culminates with a presentation held on the show floor on opening day during which the winners are announced and presented with the now familiar distinctive bronze sculpture.  Following are the 23 Finalists from the 2018 competition.


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