Production Capacity


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Nov 15, 2004
Northborough, MA
A favorite subject of mine.

I would be interested in hearing how you all go about controlling your production so you do not over commit to customers or underutilize you shop's capacity.

How to you measure your workload?

How do you plan when and how you will complete what you have?

How do know what you can handle?

How long does it take your shop to produce a standard job consisting of a wood frame, double mat, regular glass, drymount, and fit, for let's say, 16x20 frame size? (Assume you will be interrupted about 850 times. I am currious about the real time. Not the time it takes if you are working in a vacuum.)

Inquiring minds want to know.....
I can't answer this for you, but there was an interesting article in the current PFM about production pricing vs custom pricing.

I had a large project a couple of weeks ago that included 30+ pieces and I thought I'd do 4-5 here and 4-5 there... but I found once I got the "production line" rolling - it was faster to do them all at once... What could have taken me 5-6 hours only took me 3 hours - TOTAL! I guess that's why it's called a prodution line!!

I know that when I am able to work uninterrupted - I get alot more done. When I have someone in helping - they get alot more done being totally devoted to working - rather than having to "change hats" which is what we have to do in smaller shops.
I have found this to be a problem sometimes. Mainly at christmas.

I usaully just come in after hours and work while I'm closed to be more productive. And then there is always the customer that just happened to see the light on and knocks on the door.

It'd hard to nail an amount of time down because our job is so diverse.

Shadowboxes always take longer and jerseys do too. It always seems they go in cycles too. I will do 3 or 4 at a time and then not do any for a month or two.

If it were all prints that would be easy but that's not we are all about.

That has been my problem for about a year. I have an employee that worked part time for 2 years. Now he is too busy with retirement to work and
I can't decide if I need to replace him or just work harder and enjoy the extra money. He will still work if I go on vacation or at Christmas, so I can't decide.

I know I'm not much help but you can see we all have different ways of dealing with that problem (or blessing).

You really need to measure % of sales time and management time. In a 45hr week I only frame about 25 hours. I figure my overhead and profit per hour based on 25hrs not 45hrs. Everybodys deals different and changing. You got to do your own formula.

Rob Markoff may wish to chime in. At Orlando, at your National Convention for PPFA, the Board set up a Task Force to establish some standards of just such questions. Gene Auisili and Fred Horton are also involved, but I don't think they frequent the site.

Perhaps Rob will share his vision and maybe get some helpful insight from the group.

Now, are the prior posters members of PPFA? If not, it is this type of information that should make you join.

If you don't want to join, I hope nobody shares the data.

Heck, membership out to have some priviliges
But Bob, how do you really feel about the PPFA?

Carry on!
When I was framing full-time, I learned I could complete an average of 4 orders/day, including design time and all the other ancillary things that have to be done.

Some days I'd do one really nasty job and some days I'd do 16 easy ones, but it averaged out to 4 for me working alone.

At 20 orders/week (allowing for one non-framing day) I'd know that 40 orders was a two-week backlog. For me, that was optimum and very, very rare. I'd either have 20, and I'd be getting a little nervous, or I'd have 80, and I'd been posting a four-week turn-around and putting in some serious overtime. I remember one holdiay season I had 260 in the works, and I started calling customers and making deals.

When I got smarter and/or lazier, this system would tell me when to stop promising Christmas orders.

The POS would keep track of the number of orders in house and adjust the "approximate due date" on the printed work orders. Sometimes, I'd even have it make incremental price adjustments based on backlog - supply and demand and all that.

When I still had employees, one of them listened to me explain how that worked and said, "So, if I'm understanding you correctly, when you're busy, the customer gets to pay more AND wait longer."

I love it when they understand.
I'd like to chime in on Ron's comments regarding the POS. Before I had one, I didn't have a clue, but with the POS, I can tweak it at times, as Ron mentioned. I find that I compare my completion dates of jobs with what the POS assigned when the job was initiated. When I see that I'm getting behinder
I add more time to the POS assignment, and when I see that I'm getting done faster, I shorten the POS time. Not very scientific, but at least it helps.
I schedule the week's work by total dollars. Every six months I reset the goals and tell my staff what I wish the daily incoming orders to total. Some weeks we have more orders than we think we can finish (but we get them done) and other weeks we slack off the number of jobs because we have larger ticket items and it gives us a slight breather.
Pamela and I did some timing tests about a year ago. We (She did a much better job than I did) kept records by the task. I would LOVE to see that kind of data from the PPFA!! Average completion time for such and such.

Of course, that doesn't answer the question. I schedule much like Jerry. It is highly delivery dependent. Trucks come on Tuesday and Wednesday. So, I place all orders online or FAX end-of-day Saturday. (Closed Sunday, Monday) by Wednesday I have all material from the previous week. I stay late on Wednesday and cut/join all frames. Starting Thursday I take them in in-coming order. Most of the time I am done in 1 week to 1 1/2 weeks. My due date is always 2 1/2 weeks out. this allows for damaged goods replacement or other "trouble." If I KNOW it will be longer for special order or something, of course I adjust accordingly.

I always set expectations so I have a probability of beating them. If you say two weeks and finish in 1 and a 1/2 people remember positively.
I'm with Cliff and Jerry. I also give a 2 week out date, and yes the POS really helps. I use lifesaver and the calendar on there is how I schedule my day. I probaly check the thing 10 times a day and it will even print me a to do list, monthly or daily.
Best investment I've ever made.

Thank you all for your input. But just for fun let's try this another way... How much can your shop reasonably build on an average day? How do you measure it, units, pounds, dollars, cubits, or some other method?

I know. "It all depends." "What kinds of jobs, how many customer, how many other things we have to do, etc..." Heard it all before. Still there must be a way to measure this that gets us alot closer than a guess or the if we get more we frame faster method.

With a background in operations management and a true love for this business I am looking to identify and set a guideline for all framers to use.

Can anyone tell me how to get ahold of the people mentioned above from the PPFA?
We can do the 16 x 20 frame, mats, glass, mounting in just under 25 minutes. Of course no one person does the whole job. One person cuts and cleans glass, another cuts mats, another pulls, cuts and joins frames.

There are usually 3 people at each store on a given day plus the frame maker. The two stores can easily do 50 frames a day and average about 30. Yesterday, we took in a 30 frame order for a hotel remodel that has to be done by Monday and no one is worried. Lynn cut the frames (all same size, same molding) yesterday and will join them today after she gets done with regular framing. The frames in this job will take less than 25 minutes because they are all alike, say 15 minutes.

We work on efficiency. We wrote our own warehouse program which allows us to pull molding quickly. Each main bin in the warehouse has a smaller bin in the cutting room for shorts. Still, it takes as long to pull molding for a frame as it does to cut and join it. I think 25 minutes for no two alike frame jobs is about as fast as possible.

Though this was brought up on another thread a few weeks or or ago, and there was considerable disagreement about it, the universal unit of measurement has to be "frame". As you mentioned, "it all depends", but until I hear a better UOM, that's what I think of it as.

In my buisness (the making of mouldings) we use Lineal Feet. It doesn't matter whether it's 1/4" x 1/8" basswood spacer stock, or a moulding made from three pieces of 12/4 Mahogany with custom tooling. It's all Lineal Feet, and we measure our performance in Lineal Feet per Hour. Some weeks it's higher and some weeks it's lower, but we use it as an indicator.
Originally posted by Harry:
Can anyone tell me how to get ahold of the people mentioned above from the PPFA?
If you join the PPFA you have access to their entire directory online. One of the very valuable tools available to any framer.
I do plan on joining very soon. Next week infact.

Your number is nearly the same as mine. My studies have shown that 20-25 mins "on the clock" is about right. However if you have 4 people in the store to complete that job esentialy you are using 100 mins of payroll to complete that job. 4 employees x 25 mins. Thats what it takes to run your store and complete that job. Yes? Now of course it is not as simple as that. Or is it? That is my question. Because I am looking at total store operations not just the building of the frame job itself the numbers don't always make sense. Case in point, In your example above, to produce 30 jobs a day at an average of 25 mins each you would use 3000 payroll minutes in a day or 50 hours. Do you? At 4 people in the store at 8 hr shifts that is 32 hours or 1920 mins. Are you using more hours than that, or did I miss something?

Thanks for sharing your experience as I travel down this raod trying find the Holy Grail of framing production......
Harry, I spoke with the Treasurer of our local chapter. He will be meeting us for lunch on Friday with the other Grumblers. (Hope to see a few of you!) The next mmeting March 21 was just announced in a flyer.

If you need his number call.
No, no, Harry. The 25 minutes is total time spent by everybody on a job. No one person spends that much time on the job. Lynn pulls, cuts and joins the moulding in 9 minutes, Sarah cuts and cleans the glass in 4 minutes, Cindy pulls and cuts the mats in 6 minutes and Janelle puts it all together in 6 minutes. Lynn, btw, cuts and joins for both stores in a central location. We hardly ever (never?) work at this level of efficiency for a whole 8 hours. But we could. A 50 frame day leaves plenty of time for goofing off, talking on the phone, lunch, ringing customers out, designing frames, pop corn... That's how we're able to slip in 30 extra frames over a three day period. Even with the 30 frames due Monday, there is still plenty of goofing off.

Sure, you could argue we're over staffed but a large staff is a form of customer service. There are plenty of occasions when all three people are busy waiting on customers. If they weren't there, customers would have to wait, and that's poor service. Also, turning around jobs quickly is good service.

Speaking of good service, yesterday we inflated a flat tire and changed the battery on a Ford Navigator for a customer.
After almost 40 years in the business I have found that guesswork plays a much bigger part than it should do in the forecasting of completion dates! However the firm promise to a customer that it will be ready by the of .... month speeds up production almost exponentially. Christmas Eve is always a winner of a target.
Seriously,for the two of us today,experience plays the biggest role in setting completion dates and getting the job out on time.
We have been on a 4 to 5 week lead time since June 2003 but fit in rush jobs,birthdays,weddings etc etc. The vast majority of our customers are not in a rush and are quite happy to wait for our phone call to say that their order is ready.
About 30 yearsago, a good friend of mine (Erik Karlsson) got me squared away on backroom schedualing. It goes like this:

We only promised frames to be done on the same day every week. (We picked Saturday 'cause it was our busiest selling day and we conldn't get any framing done anyways). So... starting Sat. we would promise for Sat. after next. That's the same as 2 weeks from today - the most common frame shop schedual. We would keep promising Sat. after next 'till we were booked up. Then we would flip over to the following Sat. Now we could have a real PRODUCTION SCHEDUAL ( an unusual term not normally used in a frame shop) that ran a full week. We ganged up all of our dry mounting, mat cutting, canvas stretching, frame cutting, frame joining, frame touch up, etc. Fitting day usually satrted on Friday. We did a lot of framing with a lot less walking. We rarely worked over time, still had time for rush jobs, and gave just as good and usually better service than the 2 weeks most shops promise.
Not to be a pain in the ##$ but, maybe I wasn't clear with my question. (That's why I just love e-mail). I am thinking of this in terms of total operations, including sales, trash, lunch, and pop corn. You do have 4 people in the shop for those 25 mins, right? I understand the part about 6 mins here and 4 mins there and so forth, but there are alot of other things going on that are adding to the days productivity,sales, etc... durring that time right? I am pushing this because you do have time invested in that order; selling it, processing paperwork, ordering materials, etc... all of those things need to be factored in. Yes? How can you seperate them. I would suggest you can't. So how else do you measure it? Producing the job includes all of these things.

Does your production staff work seperate from the sales staff or is there crossover? If so, is it all or just some of the employees.

I believe this should be measured in something (unit to be determined)to payroll hours. Sort of a "pounds per minute" type of thing.

Measure the productivity of the shop/store not the individuals (yet).
I see, Harry, but the only part of the operation that can be measured accurately is the actual frame job: cutting, joining, fitting. Everything else has too many variables.

Actually on a typical day we have only three people per shop. Lynn is there, too, but she only pulls, cuts and joins, pretty much all day for both shops. Also the two mat cutters do mostly mat cutting. The other four (two at each shop) fit, cut and clean glass, wait on customers, pop corn.

Everyone is cross trained but each also tends toward a speciality. We have open work shops - no back room so someone involved in fitting can easily walk over to greet a customer.

I think 30 frames per shop per day is getting close to maximum sustainable production. That's having Lynn crank out 60 frames a day. So three people for 8 hours to make 30 frames, what's that? A frame per person every 48 minutes excluding Lynn. We could do that. Keep in mind, these are not uniform runs but making 60 different frame orders. We could double that easily if all the frames were the same.
I agree that measuring the other stuff is not easy. Maybe inpossible. I think that's why the approach of measuring the entire system make sense. Over time you should see a pattern emerge. It can swing one way or the other on any given day, but over time it should give you a number you can then use to forcast. A cycle time. AHHHH there it is. Being able to forcast what your shop can do on an everage day or, better yet, the science behind figuring that out. That's what I am getting at. I doubt there will ever be an industry average or standard. Too many variables. But why could you not standardize a measurement sytem that everyone could use.

It has becom my lifes work....
Harry, I think I gave you a pretty good measure: a three and a half man shop (assign each of my two shops half of Lynn's time)can churn out a frame every 48 minutes. I think the actual putting together of a frame package in my shops is as efficient as possible while we're about average with designing for, chatting up, and ringing out our customers. If we extrapolate, a one man shop should be able to do just over 8.5 frames in 8 hours operating with the same degree of efficiency as my shops. Of course most people wouldn't want to work hard enough all the time to achieve 8.5 frames per person. I know we wouldn't, but we could. Probably if we reached the point where we did 60 frames a day, we'd hire another person and trade a little efficiency for a higher quality of shop life.

The figures I gave you are the considered opinions of my 2 managers and frame maker bassed on at least 10 years experience each in reasonably high volume shops so the figures should be fairly accurate. It'd be hard to get better data. Low volume shops would differ only in that they wouldn't have the experience turning out lots of frames per day but give them the work and initiative I'm sure they'd be up to 8.5 per person quickly. The key idea is sustainability; how long is a staff willing to work at maximum efficiency? Not long in my experience, maybe three weeks at most.
I studied this for 6 years (in a former life) for a chain of 31 stores that each did between 25 and 80 custon jobs a day from start to finish. I also have found that 48 mins is probaly a close average. Some of the bigger shops ran times of about 30 mins. There clearly was a diference in the sustainable cycle time in the different volume stores. In your case it sounds as if you are running an efficient system for the number of employees you have.

I do have another question if I may. Are you factoring in yourself and any other support people in this equation? I ask because the one or even two person operation may have and almost certainly has more to handle and consume their time than do your frames. (With all due respect) Not to be a "Wicked" (as we say here in Boston) pain in the ##$, but since you have been so generous with info so far, I though I would ask.