Your Complete Guide to Production Tracking and Shop floor Visibility
At a Glance
  • Plant managers can drive real-time visibility by implementing a production tracking software to identify and eliminate production bottlenecks and improve overall production efficiencies.
  • The software collects and analyzes critical data related to production processes, such as machine performance, order status, and resource utilization.
  • By offering a unified platform for tracking and managing production processes, different teams and departments can also streamline workflows to reduce back and forth of decisions.

The manufacturing industry is continuously evolving and sees a constant rise in customized products. Meeting production goals at this juncture stands as a crucial necessity for overall success. Tracking all critical parameters on the shop floor and having real-time visibility at granular level of all production processes is the key to meeting production goals.

Customized production tracking software tailored to your shop floor helps in achieving your goals. It gives you visibility into every movement of every order and tracks key metrics of your assets to help you take data-backed decisions.

This guide will walk you through various aspects of production processes, highlighting the importance of real-time monitoring and demonstrating how production tracking software makes a difference—especially as Industry 4.0 continues to gain traction.

Production tracking and its impact on shop floor visibility

Production tracking involves continuous monitoring and management of manufacturing processes, enabling manufacturers to closely observe all activities of the manufacturing plant. It offers real-time updates in a well-organized format to get a comprehensive understanding and visualization of activities across production lines, production batches, machinery, and more.

Impact of a Robust Shop Floor Tracking Mechanism

An efficient tracking of production processes enhances shop floor visibility in many ways –

  • It’s easy to have an eye on on-floor, active resources, especially the machinery, equipment, several tools, and even the workforce. Managers can easily identify which resources are overburdened and which need to be utilized better – all leading to better efficiency and optimized resourced allocation.
  • Any bottlenecks, delays, or quality issues can be identified in real-time. The earlier the challenges are detected, the easier and more effectively they can be addressed – preventing unexpected disruptions to production deliveries
  • Since every work order is being tracked along with the critical data associated with each process, it’s possible to track status of every component. Plant managers can compare every order against compliance and quality across the shop floor.
  • Since everyone on the shop floor uses the same real-time data, the likelihood of miscommunication or delays due to lack of information reduce drastically. All corrective actions can be taken promptly and on-time.

Production tracking software is purpose-built to empower manufacturers by seamlessly tracking and tracing all the critical data associated within the shop floor. Resources, live orders, machine performance, KPIs – you name it, the software has a way to seamlessly track it.

While the real-time monitoring capability of the production tracking software enables operators to track the live work orders, alerts and notifications ensure everyone gets notified whenever there’s a red flag or disruption. Not only this, most of the software offer such information in an interactive dashboard so that accessing information does not become a bottle neck. In short, the production tracking software bridges the gap between the real-time insights and actionable data to drive informed decision-making throughout the manufacturing process.

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Challenges faced by manufacturers with low visibility into production shop floor

  • Limited quality control – The lack of real-time insights into the various production stages makes identifying and rectifying defects a challenging task. No wonder why some organizations complain of compromised product quality, higher rework costs, and increased customer churn.
  • Lack of material usage tracking – Without clear visibility into the shop floor, manufacturers struggle to accurately assess ongoing processes. This can lead to overproduction/ underproduction and overstocking/ understocking – resulting in unnecessary expenses or missed sales opportunities.
  • Reduced operational efficiency – The inability to have real-time visibility into machinery health and performance calls for unwanted last-minute hiccups in the form of unplanned downtime, inefficient equipment utilization, and increased maintenance costs – hampering the productivity and operational efficiency.
  • Compliance and traceability issues – Without detailed insights into running production batches, it’s challenging to asses each and every component against compliance and potential defects. Manufacturers struggle to identify and isolate the defected components, posing potential legal and reputational risks.
  • Hindered decision-making – With no/limited access to real-time insights, the management often struggle to make informed-decision making such as immediate decisions to handle disruption in resource allocation, process optimization, and market changes.
  • Difficulty in predictive maintenance – The inability to continuously monitor equipment’s health leads to unplanned breakdowns – making a way for disrupted production schedules and increased maintenance costs.
  • Ineffective resource utilization – Without knowing the real-time status of production line, it’s difficult to predict which life is overstaffed and which remains underutilized – ultimately impacting the overall productivity.

A modern production tracking software helps drive real-time visibility into processes and operations offering data for robust planning and decision making. But, before you tap into the many advantages of using a production tracking software, understand the phases of work orders and its importance in knowing granular details of the MO at each stage.

Benefits of Production Tracking Software

Production tracking and shop floor visibility software can be particularly beneficial for small job shops in industries like millwork and metal fabrication. Here’s how these benefits specifically apply to such settings:

Benefits of having Powerful Production Tracking Software
  • Enhanced Project Management: Small job shops often handle multiple, diverse projects simultaneously. Production tracking software allows for better management of these projects by providing real-time updates on the status of each job, helping to meet client deadlines and manage expectations effectively.
  • Customization and Flexibility: In custom millwork and metal fabrication, each job can have unique requirements. Shop floor visibility tools can be tailored to track specific metrics relevant to each project, ensuring that custom specifications are met accurately.
  • Resource Optimization: These businesses often operate with limited resources. The software helps in efficiently allocating machinery, materials, and labor, ensuring that resources are not wasted and are used in the most productive manner possible.
  • Quality Assurance: In industries where precision and quality are paramount, such as millwork and metal fabrication, the software aids in monitoring quality at every stage. This ensures that any issues are identified and rectified early, maintaining high standards of craftsmanship.
  • Inventory Management: Keeping track of materials is crucial in small job shops. Production tracking software can monitor inventory levels, provide alerts for low stocks, and help in planning purchases, thus avoiding delays due to material shortages.
  • Improved Communication: These tools facilitate better communication within the team and with clients. Updates on job progress can be easily shared, enhancing transparency and building client trust.
  • Reduced Downtime: By monitoring equipment performance and maintenance needs, the software helps in reducing machine downtime. This is crucial in small shops where the availability of each piece of equipment is critical.
  • Labor Efficiency: Tracking the time spent on each job helps in analyzing labor efficiency. This can lead to better job scheduling, workload balancing, and identifying areas where training might be needed.
  • Cost Tracking and Control: For small businesses, controlling costs is vital. The software provides detailed insights into where costs are incurred, helping in identifying areas for cost reduction and more accurate job costing.
  • Scalability for Growth: As the business grows, the software can scale to accommodate more complex jobs, larger volumes, and additional employees, supporting the growth of the business without a proportional increase in administrative burden.
  • Custom Reporting: Tailored reports can be generated to analyze specific aspects of the business, such as job profitability, employee productivity, or material usage trends. This helps in making informed decisions for future business strategies.

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Driving real-time shop floor visibility with a production tracking software

A production tracking software brings more transparency and collaboration into the shop floor operations. By providing a comprehensive view of production processes, it empowers managers, operators, manufacturers and other key stakeholders to take more-informed decisions.

The many ways in which the software enhances the shop floor visibility are as follows:

  • Enhanced production flows and queue management

    Every order in a manufacturing plant follows a workflow defined in the release order. However, in case of sudden or unexpected changes, the scheduling requires immediate changes in priorities.

    Here comes the role of a production tracking software that not only combats such challenges but also ensure optimized task management for hassle-free production workflows. A production tracking software keeps the stakeholders informed with real-time insights into the live work orders which means as an operator you’ll always have an eye on what’s pending and what’s completed.

  • Amplified Shop floor efficiency

    From live order statuses, to resource allocation, machine performance, and much more – a production tracking software ensure the shop floor managers have instant access to all the information critical to make informed-decision making.

    For instance, a shop floor manager can easily identify a dip in the resource allocation or machine performance, allowing them to take immediate actions to reduce downtime and maximize productivity. In short, the software helps streamline manufacturing operations with more insightful, data-backed decisions.

  • Improved cross-functional collaboration

    Shop floor tracking software enables enhanced collaboration between teams through notifications and chats. There are in-built functions where users and operators from different departments can collaborate by tagging each other. This not only helps in prompt decision making but also take the right action at the right time.

  • Reduced cost of risk management and improved compliance

    The software helps capture records from various stages of a production cycle to create a detailed audit trail. Not only this, by closely monitoring processes against quality checks and regulations, it ensures risk mitigation strategies align with organizational goals and compliance standards. The ability to trigger alarms & notifications in case of disruptions or anomalies detected strengthens the overall risk management efforts within the organization.

  • Robust process for quality management

    Shop floor visibility software enhances robust quality management by providing real-time insights into manufacturing processes. It detects early quality issues, reduces waste, and improves efficiency. This technology-driven approach ensures product consistency, customer satisfaction, and regulatory compliance, making quality management proactive and predictive.

How does it work – Understanding the workflow of shop floor tracking software

Shop Floor Tracking Visibility Process

A sheet metal fabrication company working with the production tracking software.

  • Assign orders per master production schedule – The software maps the received order specifications with the master production schedule to pass the metal sheets through various workstations and series of machines to fabricate the component and assemble them into a final product. Various factors that contribute to this process are equipment capacities, workforce availability, and order priorities, and more – ultimately ensuring not only efficient utilization but seamless order alignment with the best-suited production slots.
  • Start, stop, and pause progress – On identifying an anomaly in the cutting machine, causing inappropriate cuts, the operator immediately pauses the defected order progress. This allows them to address and fix such machine issues without disrupting the other ongoing orders.
  • View order release documents – While addressing the issue, the operator looks into the diagrams and assembly instructions linked to the work order – allowing them to follow proper instructions ranging from component placement, cutting, material threshold capacity, etc. These documents are seamlessly linked to each order which makes the entire process more streamlined and seamless.
  • Red flags for issue reporting – The operators are notified in the form of a red flag alerts, prompting them to take immediate actions. Since, the software provides a unified environment, all stakeholders linked to the defected work order are notified through the red flag alerts, eliminating the need for official discussions and meetings delaying the order progress.
  • Escalate/resolve Issues – In case, if the operator is unable to fix the issue, it is escalated to the engineers or the quality control team for further actions. The collaborative effort is made to address and resolve the issue before it starts affecting the other orders.
  • Dashboards, alerts, and notifications – To keep everyone on the same plate, the key highlights of the order including the red flag raised for the defect are displayed on the dashboards. Alerts and notifications are sent to the maintenance departments, enabling them to take necessary preventive actions to avoid downtimes and minimize future disruptions.
  • Critical path analyses & alerts for delays – To avoid the anomaly starts causes delays in the planned production schedule, the software conducts critical path analyses. This process includes adjusting the sequence of tasks, queue management, order prioritization critical for order completion.

With MES in place manufacturers are empowered to have a complete control over the complete production cycle continuous monitoring and optimization of several key shop floor metrics:

  • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) – Measuring OEE is crucial for monitoring manufacturing equipment health and analyzing its effective utilization for quality output. The ability to integrate with core-manufacturing machines (a core-feature of MES) enables data collection on various performance parameters like machine uptime, speed, and output quality, which is then used to calculate an accurate OEE score. These scores empower manufacturers to easily identify bottlenecks, prompting immediate actions such as adjustments in maintenance schedules or the need for operator training to enhance productivity.
  • Inventory Turnover Rate – MES systems offer seamless integration with the inventory management system and production processes. This ability further facilitates in tracking the movement of inventory within the production cycle. As a manufacturer, you can easily track these movements and updates to have a clear view of inventory levels in real-time.
  • Defect Density – Among the wealth of data captured by MES systems, defect information holds a great significance. While tracking every batch of orders within production line, MES capture key details about the defects recorded during the processes such as number of defects within a specific unit. This is exactly an operator or shop floor manager needs to calculate defect density.
  • Unit Costs – The seamless integration of MES systems with various processes, machines, devices and technologies results in the collection of lots of real-time data – which can be analyzed to further track expenses related to production, materials, labor, and other operational costs.
  • Asset/Machine Utilization & Downtime – Being connected to production machines and machinery equipment, MES systems track the overall operational hours (uptime, downtime tracking) of a production process – enabling manufacturers to gain a clear understanding on how frequently and effectively the assets are being utilized.
  • Capacity Utilization vs. Availability – MES not only collects uptime and downtime data but also provides ways to use it for further observations. By capturing the operational hours of machines MES provides manufacturers the ability to compare the output with the actual usage or output generated during those hours for calculating capacity utilization.
  • On-Time Delivery Rate – To ensure on-time delivery rates, MES systems allow a continuous and close monitoring of the production schedule and workflow. One can track individual order progress in real-time to see what’s pending and what’s completed – ensuring orders are completed and delivered according to the set schedules.
  • Idle Time by Resource – The integrated environment of MES systems can easily track and analyze idle time by recording instances when machines/workforce were found inactive or unavailable during active productive tasks. This allows managers to better optimize resource allocation for reduced inactivity time and improved efficiency.
  • Wastage/Yield Rate/First Pass Yield Rates – Using MES system, you can easily understand the quantity of product generated at the end of production vs. the quantity inserted at the start of the release – giving you an accurate figure on wastage or yield rate.
  • Average Wait Time – MES systems log the time intervals between different production stages, from initiation to completion. This ability to monitor each step’s duration helps manufacturers in gaining an understanding of average wait time or delays in the production line.
  • Return Rates – Using MES systems, one can easily track and trace the products released into the production against the defect or quality issues. The systems closely monitor such products by comparing the number of products or components released vs. returned back due to defects or quality issues.
  • Inventory Rejection Rate – To ensure a better-quality inventory management, MES systems capture records of instances where incoming inventory is rejected due to quality issues, damages, or discrepancies. To further add value to the analyses, reasons for rejections such as supplier issues, quality control gaps are also provided to the manufacturer.

Must have features in a production tracking and shop floor visibility software

Now that you have gained a comprehensive understanding of how a production tracking and shop floor visibility software operates, let’s explore the key features one should look for in a production tracking software –

  • Work order visibility – An ideal production tracking software must offer 360-degree visibility into the live work orders, enabling the different stakeholders to have a bird’s eye of view on what’s pending, what’s completed, and what got stuck. It should also offer real-time insights into the key order details like specifications, deadlines, and linked documents (if any).
  • Production analytics and reporting – No data will make sense if not recorded and analyzed properly. A production tracking software gathers data in multiple forms, however to drive informed decision-making, it must offer capabilities to run detailed analyses of the comprehensive data. Generating reports and analyzing valuable insights such as machine occupancy and downtime, performance etc., necessary but must not be a mammoth’s task.
  • Chat and notifications – To avoid unnecessary delays in the production process and miscommunication among the teams, the production tracking software must trigger alarms and notifications whenever a threshold is violated. Not only this, these notifications must be seamlessly sent to all the concerned team members for faster resolutions and real-time communications.
  • Queue management – Everyday in a manufacturing plant are not the same. While some days everything runs smoothly as planned, the other days encounter lots of disruptions and unplanned changes. An ideal software should have powerful sequence management capabilities so that orders sequence can be changed as the demand priorities changes.
  • Issue tracking and RCA – The software must capture key details and maintain a log about every work order including the defects identified/addressed during the production. A seamless tracking of such issues followed by a detailed root cause analyses is must to prevent recurrence of the issues and optimized productivity. It can also help for future audit trails.
  • Material usage tracking – A seamless integration with the material management tool is necessary. From available stocks to pending and completed inventory – as a user, you should be able to accurately track, forecast, and manage inventory from one screen. You should also
  • Workflow automation – The end-to-integration of processes, tools, and capabilities should enable workflow automation within the shop floor – resulting in reduced manual errors and smoother operations and enhanced productivity.

Great features or tools only work when operated within a healthy manufacturing environment. To get the best out of above features, it’s important to consider the various factor that not only impact the efficacy of above features but also influence the shop floor control.

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Choosing the right production tracking software

Selecting the right production tracking software is neither a one-day task nor a one-man’s task. The research, face-to-face communications, internal demos, and cost considerations takes days to finalize the deal. To accelerate your selection process, here’s a ready list of few actions to consider.

  • Assessing business needs and requirements – Before sealing the deal it’s important to evaluate your unique business needs. What inefficiencies are you targeting to address using the software – workforce, machinery, or processes? How your existing infrastructure and workforce going to adapt the changes? All such questions should be discussed with key stakeholders and end users to evaluate different perspectives of requirements.
  • Evaluating key features and functionalities – Vendors often categorize the software features under different packages. While some packages offer the very basic features, others offer the ability to be customized as per the need. It totally depends on your need goals do you have for implementing this software. Key features that you must consider evaluating include user-friendly interface, reporting & analytics, ease of integration with your existing systems, and customization.
  • Cost consideration and budgeting – Consider the initial upfront cost and see if it aligns with your ongoing expenses. The software cost also depends on the deployment and licensing type, hence it’s important to compare the different pricing models and align them with your budget. Also, talk about any hidden costs in the form of customization or support to avoid unexpected expenses.
  • Scalability and future-proofing – Closely analyze the scalability capabilities of the software to avoid integration issues in the future. It must seamlessly embed with your existing technology stack and offer effortless adaption to the emerging industry trends. Take a look at the roadmap the vendor has for the software to future-proof your investment.
  • Vendor selection and considerations – Select a vendor on the basis of their industry experience and track record. Ask for testimonials and case studies to learn about user satisfaction and authenticity. Learn how valuable the software has been for the clients and what challenges it solved. If you are able to relate to any challenge, take the next step and review the support services.

5 Questions to ask before switching to the new production tracking software

1. Will it work along with my existing ERP/WMS/ and other business enterprise systems?

Production tracking is a comprehensive process in which real-time data from multiple systems and processes is captured and provided for informed-decision making. This unified view of data won’t be possible if the software lacks integration with your existing infrastructure such as a legacy ERP system, workforce management system, or any other business application that stores critical shop floor data. Hence, look for a software that offer seamless integration with such applications.

2. How intuitive is the software, and how quickly can my team learn to use it effectively?

Features can never compensate for a complex user interface. No matter how impressive the software feature set appears to you, if your team is unable to use it efficiently- it’s only going to complicate the process. Hence, it’s important to gain an intensive demo of the user interface to ensure the interface is ease to use and learn.

3. What are the supported deployment models?

Everyone in the industry is embracing the cloud move, and that’s why most of the software in the market offer private or publicly-hosted cloud deployments. But if your existing infrastructure is completely on-premise – on-cloud deployment won’t work for you. Hence, it’s important to ask the vendor about the supported deployment models to avoid last-minute hiccups.

4. How scalable is the software as our production needs expand or change?

Technology keeps on evolving and so as customer demands. Few systems that work perfectly today might not fulfill the ever-rising customer demands in the future. Also, the strength of the machinery, workforce, equipment, tools, components keep on changing with time. Hence, it’s important that your software is scalable enough to meet such requirements without having to go through a complicated and expensive upgrade.

5. Are there user testimonials or case studies showcasing successful implementations within similar manufacturing environments?

Always ask for the testimonials and case studies of customers relevant to your industry from the vendor. This is the best way to be double sure that the software will work for you. Don’t just go by the numbers mentioned in such case studies. Check thoroughly and learn about what challenges were solved and how it helped the client.

While the existing production tracking software features may appear impressive, there’s are chance of falling short when expected to align with the future needs. The ever-evolving landscape of manufacturing demands constant innovation and adaptability. Hence, it’s equally important to keep an eye on emerging trends, technologies, and evolutions the software is expected to go through in the future.

  • Emerging Technologies Impacting Manufacturing Visibility

    IIoT devices are redefining the way shop floor operations are managed. Different types of sensors, scanners, monitoring tools, tracking devices, smart meters are all the part of this transformative wave. Sensors embedded within manufacturing machines and components are enabling seamless monitoring of various parameters such temperature, weight, vibration, pressure, energy consumption in real-time. Similarly, Barcode scanners and employee tracking devices are enhancing the visibility of inventory and workforce, respectively. Smart meters and energy monitoring devices facilitate in optimizing energy consumption for reduced operational costs. All of these devices collectively elevate the visibility of shop floor operations and empowers manufactures with data-backed actionable insights.

  • Predictions for the Evolution of Production Tracking Software

    The next phase of production tracking software will heavily focus on deeper integrations, AI-powered analytics, industry-verticalized customization, and flexible deployments. While deeper integrations with ERP, CRM, and IoT devices will unlock a unified ecosystem for manufactures, AI-powered analytics, industry-wise customization of user interface will make way for next-level customer experience in the manufacturing industry. The flexibility to choose from hybrid, private cloud, public cloud, and fully on-premise deployment will accurately meet the evolving needs of modern manufacturing environments

  • Industry 4.0 and Its Role in Enhancing Shop Floor Visibility

    Industry 4.0 has transformed the way businesses design, manufacture, and distribute their products. Research says Industry 4.0 technologies can significantly enhance end-to-end production tracking and have the potential to reduce costs by up to 30%. An intelligent integration of IIoT, AI/ML, and cloud connectivity is automating the way data is collected and presented to manufactures for actionable insights. For instance, the concept of digital twins in the manufacturing industry has made a significant impact by creating replicas of physical assets or processes. As per the name, digital twins allow you to mirror a real-life machine component or rather the complete machinery setup in a virtual environment. The best part about such replicas is that you can simulate operations and monitor them in a virtual space – where anomalies or potential failures can be detected before they impact production. This approach to predictive maintenance prevents costly downtime, reduces the risk of unexpected breakdowns, and improves the overall machine health.

    From digitizing the entire process of checking overall equipment effectiveness to monitoring live work orders on a digital dashboard, allocating jobs through digital job cards, AI/ML backed preventive maintenance – Industry 4.0 is making way for evolving technological landscape through digital transformation.


Almost every process and operation within a shop floor today involves data. Additionally, the addition of new, smarter technologies is only adding loads to this data set. But, having access to data alone does not mean smoother operations or more informed decisions. In fact, it’s important to have access to reliable, consistent, and real-time data upon which decisions can be made. Hence, it’s crucial to keep everyone in the shop-floor informed in sync with real-time data and investing in a right production tracking software can significantly transform operations and decision-making.

Streamline your shop floor operations with real-time, reliable data.

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