NewsDesk Software: ERP Software Boosts Shop-Floor Productivity
Dusty Alexander is president and CEO, and Mike Melzer is vice president, operations, for Global Shop Solutions (The Woodslands, TX), a developer of ERP software solutions for manufacturers.
ME: How can ERP software improve machine shop efficiencies and productivity?
Dusty Alexander: At Global Shop, we say ‘if you can measure it, you can gain efficiencies by sharing it.’ And that’s the essence of ERP software—putting real-time information in the hands of people when they need it, so they can run the shop floor more efficiently. ERP creates real-time workcenter efficiencies in many ways. It allows machinists to electronically clock on the job at their workstations. As soon as a job is finished, you can log into the system and instantly compare how you did with what you estimated. And at any point in time, you can look at a workcenter and see who’s running what job and how long it’s projected to take.
Mike Melzer: ERP also gives you real-time access to job-related documents, such as drawings, part specifications, or even videos on how to set up the machine. Operators don’t have to walk all over the shop floor to find the documents they need because they’re accessible right from their workstations. ERP also encourages operators to work on multiple machines by tracking the work done on each machine. And Global Shop automatically calculates costs and efficiencies between each machine so that it doesn’t have to be done manually.
ME: What are some key trends in ERP for manufacturing?
Alexander: Going paperless. With ERP, having everything in one integrated system eliminates the need for separate spreadsheets, databases, and the double entry that goes along with them. With all the data electronically available at every workstation, there’s no need for printed documents on the shop floor.
This goes hand-in-hand with the trend of document control, which makes all the drawings and other job documentation instantly available throughout the shop. The key is making sure two people can’t work on the same document at the same time. At Global Shop, our Document Control Vault prevents this from happening. When someone checks out a document from the vault, nobody else can access it until it gets checked back in. Most ERP systems require an expensive third-party package to achieve this level of document control. At Global Shop, we build it right into the system.
Melzer: Mobile is another hot trend. With iPads, hand-held printers, and other wireless devices, you can do things on the shop floor—like track labor, move inventory, or check the status of a job—you just couldn’t do before.
We’ve got one client who installed iPads on their forklifts to track material movements on the shop floor. Every time they move a part, they print an inventory move ticket with a wireless hand-held printer. This has reduced the time it takes to track down a part from hours to literally seconds. Another client living in Florida uses iPads to remotely manage the business in Pennsylvania. Using Skype, he can sit at his beach house and give instructions for setting up a machine or making a part.
Another growing trend is automated machine integration. You can set an automated machine to start at 5 pm and make parts all night. The machine will say what it made and when it finished, and Global Shop will import the job details into the system. You don’t have to key-in the data, and it’s always accurate because it came off the machine.
ME: Are cloud-based ERP solutions making an impact on manufacturers, and if so, how?
Alexander: With Global Shop you can run either way, so if you decide to switch it’s no big deal. The primary advantage is having someone else host all your data. They back up the data for you, so if your system goes down you’re covered. Keeping the data on your own system gives you more control, but you have to back up on a regular basis. I’d say about 25% of our clients are using a cloud to host Global Shop.
ME: What are some new ERP tools from your company that users are employing today?
Alexander: We already mentioned a few, such as document control and mobile technology for shipping. Probably the biggest tool we’ve added is our Global Application Builder, or GAB, which allows clients to make their own customizations to the software. For example, they can use GAB to code what they’re doing with external spreadsheets or databases directly into Global Shop.
Melzer: Most ERP systems require a separate software and outside programmer to make customizations. With GAB, you just code it right into the system. As a result, all GAB customizations easily integrate with every system update. And clients can post their GAB customizations on our website for others to download and use. Our customers love it!
ME: What industries are making good use of ERP?
Melzer: Anyone that makes a part can benefit from ERP.
ME: How does the current business climate look for manufacturing?
Alexander: With cheaper natural gas energy, limitless automation, rising wages overseas, and improved productivity, we see a resurgence of manufacturing for our North American customers. You still need to cut labor costs, and the way to do that is by getting more efficient with an ERP system. We’ve had companies install Global Shop and double their business without adding any new people on the administrative side. We also had a client reduce internal office procedures from 80 hours a week to eight. When you can eliminate 72 hours of work a week, the efficiencies and cost savings quickly add up.
Melzer: With Global Shop, these kinds of results aren’t unusual. In fact, if our clients aren’t producing significant cost savings and productivity improvements within the first year, we revisit them to make sure they’re using the system properly. ME
Software developer KeyedIn Solutions (Minneapolis) at Houstex on Feb. 26 announced its new KeyedIn Manufacturing, a 100% cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) software application designed specifically for the manufacturing sector.
Aimed at small- to mid-sized manufacturing operations and job shops, KeyedIn Manufacturing provides immediate visibility to all processes. Available at any time on any device, the software provides full integration from lead to shipment, streamlining back office operations and delivering immediate cost savings and production efficiencies. Formed in October 2011 by former Epicor employees, KeyedIn uses the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model offered in three versions—Office (with all modules and all reports), Shop (production times, material/movement), and Mobile (tablets and smartphones), priced at low per-user monthly subscriptions, noted Lauri Klaus, KeyedIn CEO. Built for speed on the web, the application employs .NET and is written in the C# programming language, Klaus added.
New technology developed by KeyedIn has enabled the development of levels of customization and functionality previously unavailable to the smaller enterprise. KeyedIn Manufacturing provides a visual view of the shop floor that allows managers full visibility into the schedule and control of processes. It also integrates with QuickBooks and other applications to provide a seamless view of financial information.
Nikon Metrology Inc. (Brighton, MI) and Metrologic Group (Wixom, MI) announced Jan. 24 that Metrologic’s Metrolog X4 software has been expanded to provide new capabilities and applications for Laser Radar and other Nikon measurement products. Metrologic has combined large-scale capabilities into its popular Metrolog software, which now offers large-scale point clouds with fully automated functionalities. These include edge detection, curve and surface-based feature extraction, best-in-class GD&T, high-performance point-cloud analysis, and a single interface throughout the range of Nikon Metrology’s product line.
“Analyzing and using point cloud data generated by any of Nikon Metrology’s laser scanning products including our Laser Radar is now easier than ever,” Robert Wasilesky, Nikon Metrology senior vice president of sales, said in a press release. “Simply scan a part directly into Metrolog X4 to process measurement results quickly and accurately.” There’s no limit to the features that can be measured directly or extracted automatically from a point cloud, he added. Users simply compare the point cloud directly to a CAD model for simple go/no-go conditions or overall deviations to the model, and it also allows analyzing prismatic and free-form features relative to GD&T.
Simulation developer CGTech (Irvine, CA) on Feb. 4 announced a new programming and simulation software solution for Automated Tape Laying (ATL) machines. The new software complements CGTech’s existing composite software applications for Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) that it also demonstrated at the JEC Composites show in Paris. Developer of Vericut simulation, verification and optimization software, CGTech’s new ATL software enables engineers to take a CAD-designed composite part to the CNC programs that drive automated composite machinery.
Metrology developer Verisurf Software Inc. (Irvine, CA) and ATS International B.V. (Troy, MI, and Haarlem, The Netherlands) on Feb. 13 signed a technology partnership agreement under which the companies will integrate Verisurf’s metrology software with ATS’ CM4D statistical process control (SPC) software to automate product quality validation solutions. The companies have started working together to develop a state-of-the-art application that integrates the 3D Model Based metrology and inspection of Verisurf’s offerings with ATS’ professional trending and SPC reporting.
Edited by Senior Editor Patrick Waurzyniak: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was first published in the April 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.