Canadian Fabricating & Welding

2022-04-19 07:05:43 By : Ms. Winny Tonsmile

The operator of the automated purlin and girt mill uses a laptop with the machine to connect to the time clock so everything can be done from the one station. Photo courtesy of MakLoc.

Since 1971 MakLoc Buildings has been a leader in structural steel building design and manufacturing. The company provides turnkey construction and metal building systems for the oil and gas, heavy industry, agriculture, and commercial industries across Western Canada. Projects start with drafting in-house and are carried through to erecting the buildings on-site. With offices and manufacturing facilities in Edmonton (Nisku), Morinville, and Calgary, Alta., the company supports a team of over 200 employees spread out across all areas of the business.

“About half of our workforce is on the shop floor,” said David Booth, IT systems officer, MakLoc. “We have a fabricating and welding shop in Nisku, Alta., and we also have a fabricating shop in Morinville, Alta.”

Booth added that the company traditionally focused on the oil and gas industry, but in the last 15 years it has branched out, expanding into new markets and upgrading its manufacturing facility to compete in a competitive market.

“And in the last eight years, we’ve focused on integrating automated machines on the shop floor,” explained Booth. “In our fab shop, we have several roll formers; we also have a few folders. We can take coil and put it directly on the machine and can roll and shape it into the panel size we need. In our weld shop, we have burning tables as well as automated welders and automated drills for drilling into the steel beams.”

Many customers come to MakLoc with an idea of what they are looking for or have a drawing that they want to have built. Engineers work with the customers to better understand the project and establish a plan. At any given time, the MakLoc team can have upwards of 30 projects at many different stages of completion on the shop floor.

With employees located in three separate locations and so many projects in production, the MakLoc team has focused on finding ways to manage their work flow efficiently and provide customers with quick and effective solutions. In 2008 the company purchased an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system from Global Shop Solutions (GSS), The Woodlands, Texas, and over the past decade has been increasing productivity and better supporting all areas of the business.

Booth explained that their business wasn’t entirely suited for a one-size-fits-all ERP system.

“We looked at many different options,” Booth added. “GSS seemed to have the best options for the customized work we were doing. We get different buildings projects and not one is exactly the same. It was hard to find a system that didn’t expect you to build the same product every single time. The GSS system allowed for each job to be different but still follow the same work flow, which was essen-tial for us.”

The company noticed its first improvement when it added a time clock system on the shop floor. With over 200 employees across several locations, it was important to track and manage employee shifts. Prior to integrating the time clock system, employees filled out paper time cards.

Booth said that having employees across all shops use a time clock allows for all the information to be aggregated on a centralized computer system, so management can see which employees are on the shop floor in real time, as well as better track attendance and manage workforce needs.

This automated folder is able to get information directly from the server and drafting departments before performing operations. Photo courtesy of MakLoc.

The company previously used a basic accounting system that didn’t include any work flow or shop management features. The new ERP system is robust and offers many different modules to help MakLoc better manage all facets of the business, and over the last five years, the company has focused on exploring new features.

One of the most recent successes was with the GSS mobile feature.

“Three years ago we started to use the GSS mobile solution, which involved putting hand scanners onto the shop floor,” explained Booth. “This enabled us to track inventory through the system rather than on paper. We have all of our shops set up to automatically request and receive inventory as needed. For example, when an employee is issuing steel, paint, or even standard equipment, it is all done on the shop floor rather than having them fill out paperwork and sending it upstairs to be catalogued. Now it’s all done as it happens on the shop floor, and we can see it in the office as it is happening. It has really helped us clean up our inventory and track it right as its happening rather than realizing it weeks later.”

Inventory management also has helped the company make better ordering decisions. Previously the office may not have known if something was out of stock until days or weeks afterwards. By live-tracking inventory, the office can reorder new supplies as needed to ensure that the right material and tools are in stock to complete any job on time.

It also has helped when it comes to inventory counts. Previously the shop spent upwards of a week counting all the metal plates, tubes, and wire, bringing in people across all departments to go over and count all inventory across all facilities. This was time-consuming and took away from production. Now inventory count is a one-day procedure that involves only four employees rather than 20.

“Everything is being tracked every single day, and problems are being rectified every single day,” added Booth.

With the success in time and inventory management, the company is working on setting up a bar coding system for scheduling and work flow. According to Booth, the bar coding system will work with the time clock system so that when a worker clocks in, they won’t have to manually find the report and determine what job they should be working on.

“The bar codes will allow workers to go to a workstation and scan their identification tag,” said Booth. “They can then scan the job they are working on and it reports back to the system automatically. This will mean less human error and allow us to track exactly what jobs are currently in production.”

It will also help to track which machines are in use and can digitally prioritize which jobs should be worked on to ensure no machine is sitting idle.

It’s really all about removing paper systems from the shop floor and automating work flow for better efficiencies and productivity. The company recently added a document-controlled system to its existing accounting program to eliminate the printing of invoices. Now invoices can be taken directly from the accounting program and either emailed or put into the system so anyone on the shop floor or office has access to them.

The mobile CRM customer and prospect contact management tool allows you to handle important business and manage your manufacturing while away from the shop.

The GSS ERP system offers the company a range of options to better serve its customers. With each module or program rollout, the company has seen gains in productivity and increases in the bottom line. And this is just the beginning for MakLoc. The company hopes to eventually perform machine monitoring. Over the past decade, MakLoc has upgraded its equipment, replacing older models with new ones that have automation and smart technology. Once they have acquired a few more machines, they hope to set up system monitoring as well.

The ERP reporting tools already have helped with shop floor management. According to Booth, with all of the hours being logged and job information being added to the system, the reporting tools have allowed for management to look and assess utilization and see how long jobs are taking and how to speed up production.

The next step for MakLoc is to better track shipping and receiving. The company is currently focused on providing options to customers in Western Canada and will ship products to sites for construction. Booth explained that this also is an area where they can expect productivity gains.

“If we can code and track every single crate, on-site workers will be able to scan the crate to see exactly what is inside it rather than having to open each one to find a single part,” he explained. He added that this will make it much easier for workers on-site to efficiently complete construction and minimize time off the shop floor.

Associate Editor Lindsay Luminoso can be reached at

MakLoc Buildings,

Global Shop Solutions,

Canadian Metalworking / Canadian Fabricating & Welding

Toronto, M1R 0A1 Canada

See More by Lindsay Luminoso

Lindsay Luminoso, associate editor, contributes to both Canadian Metalworking and Canadian Fabricating & Welding. She worked as an associate editor/web editor, at Canadian Metalworking from 2014-2016 and was most recently an associate editor at Design Engineering.

Luminoso has a bachelor of arts from Carleton University, a bachelor of education from Ottawa University, and a graduate certificate in book, magazine, and digital publishing from Centennial College.

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