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Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America: Wireless System Lightens the Load of Heavy Equipment Manufacturer

Mitsubishi and Caterpillar formed their joint venture, Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America (known as MCFA), by revamping a plant in Houston and giving it the capacity to custom-build as many as 60 forklifts a day. By doubling the workforce overnight and dramatically increasing output, the consolidation put enormous pressure on the plant's work-in-process and employee attendance systems. MCFA's new wireless tracking system took the pressure off.

Application: Facilitating Work-in-Process and Tracking Time and Attendance
"MCFA manufactures custom-built forklifts, not just one standard model: A customer can choose a gas-powered, electric, or diesel engine, for example, or opt for pneumatic or cushioned tires. Assemblers typically do not know what type of unit they will be working on until they receive a work order. Any delay in getting the required parts to assemblers eats up production time.

Before MCFA installed its wireless system, the plant tracked all work-in-process manually. The delay between transactions and data entry made it difficult to track the manufacturing process, accurately forecast production, or adjust for production delays. "When a part came in to the receiving dock, it took up to several days before someone entered that information into the computer system," says Roy McCartney, system architect for the plant's information services. "In the meantime, the assembly line couldn't use the part." And MCFA could only tell a customer that it was either working or not working on the customer's order; it couldn't provide more details on the order's status.

With MCFA's new wireless system, tracking of work-in-process and employee time and attendance are both automatic. Using hand-held wireless computers, workers at the receiving dock key in information about parts received as soon as each part shipment arrives, and workers on the assembly line track work orders in progress.

Benefits: Fewer Production Delays, Better Customer Service, and Smooth Handling of a Growing Work Force
Now production delays have declined, the plant operates more efficiently at every stage, and MCFA's customers appreciate the progress reports they get on the status of their orders. Plus, the wireless system has helped management smoothly handle the influx of new employees at the plant. McCartney goes so far as to say that "with the plant's growth in product output and employees, it would have been impossible to continue manual tracking."

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