Systems Modeling Corp.Sewickley, Pa.

Dec. 21, 2004
Tempo 10.0

Tangling with the laws of unintended consequences can be an expensive experience. A sales department's spectacular victory can prove a catastrophe for the shop floor, throwing carefully crafted schedules into disorder and leaving longtime customers frustrated and angry. Project-management and workplace-modeling tools provide some guidance. Properly programmed, they allow managers to take a look at their staffs, the tasks in front of them, the time they have to get the work done, and all of the other factors that go into putting out a product or providing a service. There's just one problem. Workplace management and scheduling products usually focus on a single area, and often deal with managing capacity rather than the real world task of filling orders. For companies to deal with a universe where sales have an impact on production -- which has an impact on traffic, which has an impact on schedules, and so on -- software that ties together activity by numerous different units is needed. And that's what Systems Modeling Corp. has attempted with the latest version of its Tempo finite capacity scheduling software. "The big thing this technology is going to bring to the table is the ability to allow people to see the effect of change," says Don Lazzari, sales and marketing manager at Systems. That's change as in the impact of, say, pushing an order through from the vice president of sales' favorite customer. "When the VP of sales comes down and says, 'We've got a large order. We need to get it out no matter what,' you can sit him down and say, 'This is what no matter what means.'" Sometimes a special order can get slipped right in. On other occasions 'no matter what' translates into delayed deliveries and frustrated customers. The key is allowing mangers to make informed decisions -- and then deal with the consequences. "You can show what damage is going to be done by forcing this order into the mix," Lazzari says. "You can tell them, 'By accepting this order, you're putting 40 other customers out.'" If such delays are acceptable, then Tempo allows mangers to determine who will feel the impact of their decisions, and deal with them. "You can find the 30 customers you want to contact and do damage control with," Lazzari says. Not surprisingly, integration capabilities are one of Tempo's key features. The product is designed to tap directly into whatever existing workplace-management software a company is running, whether the programs focus on manufacturing or services; and Tempo is fully Microsoft certified. Besides determining the impact of unexpected orders, Tempo can help users find potential bottlenecks, test potential production sequences, and let users know what's happening with orders at any level of the manufacturing process. Tempo is designed to provide users with a quick return on their investment. Lazzari claims the product costs about half as much as its competitors. That translates into a price of about $50,000, depending on a facility's size and complexity. Installation takes anywhere from 15 to 30 days of production time. During and after that comes the product's second costs -- getting people to feed the monitoring software all the information it needs, and then act upon its suggestions. Purchasing software is one thing. Actually getting people to use it is quite another. Tempo has tried to deal with this through making its products as friendly as possible through extensive use of graphic interfaces and other techniques.

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