Right time, right place, and right information. The web of information needed for each process and individual in your manufacturing operations can be more convoluted than a roadmap. Finding the sweet spot to connect them has spawned an entire industry.
Most businesses are looking for more, but more of what? The wants and needs of each operation are different, and it is often difficult to find consensus with each department in the company. Finding agreement on where you are and what you need is often a good place to start. Here are four common scenarios.
Dr. Frankenstein. You do NOT have an ERP system, but instead you have stitched together a collection of independent software applications that may or may not be integrated with one another. For example, you have CRM software to manage business contact information, a separate software solution to record quotes and sales orders, another to manage scheduling (typically Excel or even a white board on the shop floor), another to create delivery notes, and yet another software to create and send invoices…
A stitched-together solution often begs for one of two things (sometimes both):
- Consolidation. Reducing the number of applications reduces the IT burden and simplifies processes throughout operations.
- More functionality. Standalone applications lack some of the major features that a more fully integrated solution can offer. The sum should be more than all the parts.
Fed Up with ERP. You have an ERP or MRP solution, but you don’t like it. You found a software to streamline the management of your business, but now creating orders is slow and very manual, or scheduling and shop floor tracking features are complicated or don’t work.
Generic ERP or MRP solutions often miss critical features for fabricators such as material and cycle time data for nested parts, or parts that are nested on different sheets. The resulting data gap leads to inaccurate quoting and unpredictable delivery times. The best solutions can manage business relations, handle orders, manage inventory, balance machine load, make delivery notes, create invoices, capture shop floor data, schedule and reschedule quickly, and report back when work is done.
Best of Both Worlds. You like part of your ERP system but you are willing to do an integration alongside it if it works to your benefit. Your ERP system gives you the financial information you require, but manufacturing execution, feedback, and real production data are lacking.
In short, you may be looking for an MES-type (Manufacturing Execution System) solution to schedule and track production and capture accurate data from the shop floor without giving up the financial data afforded to you by your ERP system.
ERP Diehards. You are married to your ERP system either because you really like it or don’t have the resources (financial or otherwise) to make a change. For the latter case, there are workaround solutions that can make your ERP system work smarter specifically for nested program operations. Scheduling and tracking of nested programs are often the more significant issue for fabricators that need to balance workload among similar machines.
While the remedy for each scenario is different, it is important for metal service centers to find a solution with specific functionality to address its manufacturing challenges. A closed feedback loop and accurate nesting data are critical components, along with added paperless and time-saving benefits. The sum of the integration will be better than the parts.