Advice on frequent material transfer to subcontractor - keeping Epicor inventory accurate

We have a subcontractor that touches virtually every product we ship. This requires we ship them 50-100 unique parts to build a product, and we need to keep track of what parts are at our subcontractor and which parts are in our inventory. This process worked OK for about 10 years, but we just hired someone new and it has fallen apart(tons of errors), and in digging in we believe it’s an error prone process as well as very labor intensive(20 hrs a week job). The process from a 50k ft view is

1.) Print out the pick list for the kit and write down on the paper the number of actual parts picked(we backflush the parts at a pick operation). Once the picking is completed give the sheet of paper to someone to update inventory.

Note: Parts often come on reels or trays and touching them or separating out the exact qty would introduce quality problems. In some cases the the subcontractor already has enough parts for another kit so that is denoted on the paper.

2.) Someone then creates a spreadsheet with all the parts in the kit that we sent and manually enters the actual qtys - the expect qty(since we backflush the expected qty) and then uses DMT to transfer the qty to the proper warehouse for the subcontractor. When the parts come back we basically to the same process to move the remaining parts back to the proper warehouse.

I’m not involved in this process first hand, but I’m thinking a handheld to get away from writing data on paper along with a customization(not sure what this would look like) would allow us to automate the process to reduce the labor and make the process less error prone. The other idea that came up was maybe we can leave some of the expensive parts permanently at our subcontractor.

Any advice / suggestions?

Can you stock all of the material at the subcontractor and backflush everything?

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I’m wondering why you aren’t using a subcontract operation on a job? You set up the job and the only operation on it is the subcontract operation. You pick materials to that job, then create a subcontract shipper. When the completed part is returned, you receive it in. You can then create a subcontract dashboard to see what was sent to them and what has been returned.

Eddie, I think the scale of what you are doing with 100 materials per parent/kit to send out is the driving the complexity of this way up. The subcontractor having its own warehouse is the right move. You may not be able to reduce the hours invested much, but you will want to work on the accuracy first and may be able to do the material transaction at the point of picking with an MES scanner if you went to an issue mode instead of a backflush mode. Backflushing has timing issues that can complicate things further. You will need to put some people expertise at the point of picking to ensure the accuracy of the job material picks.

@Beth There are generally two operations on these types of jobs, the first is a pick operation to backflush the materials from inventory followed by a subcontract operation.

@Gil_V great suggestion, someone else here proposed this as well as it simplifies the problem greatly. The value of our inventory is extremely high(7 figures) so ownership isn’t comfortable trusting a subcontractor to keep it all, although we did discuss this and they were open to leaving inexpensive parts there which we are planning to discuss with our subcontractor.

@bboes to clarify someone is spending 20hrs a week just doing DMTs(data entry of paperwork into a spreadsheet, doublechecking all the figures and DMTing). Getting this process accurate is the most important thing but I suspect as a side effect we may be able to decrease the labor.

I’m a little fuzzy on what the process would look like if we issued materials via a handheld as we’d need to indicate what qty of materials are being consumed and what qty of materials are just moving from warehouse to warehouse. So as an example to keep things simple lets say we need only 1 materials PN XYZ and qty 100 is needed, but they come in a reel of 10,000 parts. I think we’d need to issue qty 100 of XYZ to the job, and we’d need to transfer the other 9,900 parts to the subcontractor warehouse, then when the 9,900 parts come back we’d need to move the 9,900 parts back to our warehouse. Is this what you have in mind? If so how how would you recommend we transfer the 9,900 parts between warehouses?