Are you aware of the exact cost of a manufactured item in your production facility? Are you able to account for every operator at every time?

The importance of Visual Factory Automation has become very apparent over the recent years.

At FactorySmart we work together with various companies that integrate software into your factory setup in order to control your production output in all aspects from start to finish.

The company MicroStep, spol s.r.o., is a renowned Slovak producer of CNC machines used for cutting material using a wide spectrum of technologies (plasma, laser, oxyfuel, waterjet).

Furthermore, MicroStep machines offer additional functions like drilling, tapping or marking.

The company is also developing and producing transport and manipulation systems, intended for bringing the material into cutting zones and taking away the cut out parts.

MicroStep focuses on high-end customers with large production facilities, who put emphasis on effectiveness and high level of automation. Complying with these requirements, MicroStep provides an in-house developed CAPP application called MPM (MicroStep Production Management), which is an integration platform for different parts of the business – material storage, orders department, department for creation of cutting plans and department of CNC machines operators, allowing automation of information flow between them.

Factory Smart MPM5 - Microstep aoftware

In this crazily, advanced digital world that we live in, it is becoming more important and apparent that you know the exact cost of a part in your manufacturing set up and that you are able to give your customer an exact time line as to when his goods will be completed and delivered.

MicroStep understand the complexity of such a process and has therefore come up with a visual factory automation solution process. With this solution you are able to do the following:

  • Get quotes for raw material
  • Place orders
  • Track orders
  • Create job cards per machine and operator and adjust these job cards according to communication from raw material suppliers, regarding fluctuation of lead times. (i.e. your supplier does not deliver raw material on time. The automated job allocation interface willer-adjust the job card to accommodate the later shipped raw material)

Our visual automation software, can be integrated into your companies ERP system, which means that all the above can then be managed from your own system.

Once raw material is received into the stores process via your stock keeping system, the storeman allocates the relevant material to the correct job. The beauty of the software is that it integrates into your normal job allocation process.

The production manager then allocates these parts to the relevant cutting machines, cleaning, bending, assembly/tacking, manual or robotic welding, painting, packing and dispatch.

At each station you are able to programme or track the following:

  • Set up time
  • Total time of combined manufacturing time (cutting, cleaning, bending, tacking, assembly, welding of parts, packing, dispatch)

Let’s go through the entire process step by step.


From Cad you generate solid drawing and then extract parts and generate a DXF file that you are able to nest either automatically or manually. Once this is done, you will have established the cutting time. This cutting time will also include the total running costs.


Parts that need to be bent will be entered into the software of the Pressbrake and a bending simulation is then performed to estimate the bend time.


Parts that have got dross on,  i.e. cut via plasma or flame, are then set through an automated cleaning system or sent to a deburring bay where parts are cleaned manually with a grinding machine.

Tacking and Assembly

Parts are sent to boilermakers which assemble parts which have been pre-numbered with plasma etch marking, laser engraving and micro punch marking or ink-jet marking. Ease of assembly due to marking that was done and then onto manual tack welding.

Robotic Welding

Parts that are to be welded are simulated, as to determine the welding time, which in turn gets communicated to the MPM system.

Manual Welding

The Production Manager gives the welder an estimated setup and welding time per assembly. This is also communicated and loaded into the MPM system.


The Production Manager gives the painter an estimated setup and welding time per assembly. This is also communicated and loaded into the MPM system.

Packing and Dispatch

This is where the final product is then sent to the packing and distribution area and collection and shipping is organized. This too is loaded into the MPM system for tracking.

With this total process one is able to see which parts are at which station and how far from completion this project is.

Each station above has a colour coded system as to determine at what stage of production each individual operator is at. *i.e, setup time=yellow, machine might have issue=red, in production =green, no material at station, operator must replenish=blue)

The most critical situation in a production environment is an idle operator. Unproductiveness leads to reduced OEE (Operational Equipment Effectiveness)

In general the OEE of many organizations is between 20-30%. Our aim with MPM is to enhance your OEE to be more than 60%.

In closing, the benefits of Visual Factory Automation, outweigh any costs and in this day and age your company cannot do without it. Industry demands have increased, considerably and customers are growing more and more pressured to deliver and therefore rely on their suppliers to be reliable.

Danie Botha from Bepicon makes great changes in his business by implementing the 2 second lean principle and using MPM software for his production process.

One of our customers, Danie Botha from Bepicon is an excellent example of implementing lean manufacturing into his production facility.

He has managed to combine his MPM software with Fastcap by Paul Akres.

Lean Books – FastCap

Paul Akres has written great books on how you can implement ¨Lean¨ in your day to day life and has various videos on YouTube:

Danie from Bepicon started watching a few videos and implementing them and in a short space of time has made small changes in his company which all add up to big time saving, if you look at it from a long term perspective.

He now has structured morning meetings where they discuss their daily production goals and everyone in the company is in the same mind set and is constantly looking at ways to improve things, whether it´s big time saving or small.

For example, every morning he would have to bend down and crawl under his desk to plug in his laptop. This would take 15 seconds off of his day every day. He decided to attach two hooks to the back of his desk and attach the adapters to these hooks. He now has saved himself 1.5 hours a year. This may not seem like much, but if you are saving yourself a few seconds every day, this all adds up to adding valuable time to do something else. What would the improvement be, if you saved yourself 2 seconds a day on various tasks.

Another example in his factory was that one of the welders was constantly looking for his baby grinder which would go missing from his workstation. This would result in 15-20 min of wasted production time.

He decided to weld 3 trays under his table. One for the grinder, one for the helmet and one for all his tools. This uncostly change has resulted in him having much more time to be productive and he therefore now gets through his work with much more accuracy.

We, ourselves at FactorySmart have also implemented the 2 second lean principle.

Every day we apply the 3-SSS. Sweep, Sort, Standardize, which means cleaning up you immediate environment, sorting out and standardizing what needs to be done for the day.

This engrains the habit of making employees aware of making small changes on a daily basis, which has a huge impact in the long run.

A great change that one of our employees made, was to make himself a trolley. He was constantly walking back and forth, whilst collecting consumables or parts and holding them in his hands, which was uncomfortable and time wasting. With the trolley he now easily rolls it from section to section, where he needs to go and this has saved a large amount of time.

What can you implement in your company today to save 2 seconds or more and improve your daily effectiveness.


Shopware makes use of a colour coding system that shows at what stage the readiness and status of each job is and at which station. And where in the process within the manufacturing chain they lie.

Shopware is another example of visual factory automation software that we support at FactorySmart. It works very similar to MPM and we have a great example of the company and how they helped grow a business to great heights.

A company called Mpact, Mpact – Home, approached Mr Deon Fourie from Shopware to assist them to increase their manufacturing capacity. After due diligence was performed, it was discovered that in the 9 production sites of the company they only had an OEE of 30%.

Shopware´s software was implemented and in a time frame of 4-5 years, Mpact´s OEE was increased to more than 70%. This all with the same equipment and people, which means that the result of increase in OEE, Impact was able to expand their output by more than double.

The overall cost saving and income increase has been exponential, as the increased OEE has allowed the company to increase production, without the purchase of more factories.