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Software Update: Cloud-Based ERP Lowers Costs, Boosts Efficiencies for Small Shops

Steve Leavitt 







 Steve Leavitt is general manager, US Cloud Solutions, Exact Online (Newton, MA), a division of Exact Software North America LLC, a developer of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

Manufacturing Engineering: Your company just launched Exact Online Manufacturing. Describe this new software.

Steve Leavitt: Our newly launched cloud-based software was designed specifically for small business manufacturers and wholesale distributors in the US. We now offer two cloud-based products for US small businesses, including Exact Online Manufacturing and Exact Online Wholesale Distribution. Essentially, the software enables small business manufacturers to operate more efficiently and profitably by giving them the ability to manage their business via one solution that provides real-time insight into their business operations. This single solution spans all key business functions in manufacturing and allows all users to access the information; in other words, it provides a single source for real-time data.

Available through the cloud, our software streamlines tasks such as production and inventory management, logistics and customer relationship management [CRM]. Additionally, the software integrates seamlessly with QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop, bridging the gap between common manufacturing and wholesale distribution tasks and traditional accounting functions. Our software replaces disparate systems and manual processes, giving business owners a 360° view of their businesses while also enabling their accountants to become even more trusted advisors to their clients. Now, accountants have access to business operations data that was previously unavailable, allowing them to provide more in-depth advice to their clients. Our software is now available for download through Exact Online and the Intuit App Center.

ME: What are small manufacturers most looking for in ERP solutions?

Leavitt: Small manufacturers’ businesses are becoming more complex and harder to manage. These folks are in dire need of technology solutions that help them manage their business. However, the reality is, they simply cannot afford traditional ERP solutions that were designed for large enterprises. Small manufactures want enterprise-like ERP solutions that are powerful yet affordable, and flexible enough to support their on-the-go lifestyle. Our software leverages the cloud to provide small businesses with all of these capabilities. The software offers enterprise-like functionality that is in line with small business manufacturers’ cost expectations and requirements. It allows them to manage all facets of their business via a single, easy-to-use solution. Not only is the software affordable, it’s available via the cloud, which means that owners can manage their business anytime, anywhere, without being tied to a computer at the shop. Furthermore, the software is highly secure.

The bottom line is that small businesses have been craving an ERP-like solution tailored to them, and up until now this type of functionality was not available at a price they could afford. Our solution tackles this challenge head-on. It provides powerful ERP-like functionality, but also addresses some of the negative preconceived notions that come along with ERP solutions, such as that they are too complex, expensive and difficult to deploy. Our solution is affordable and easy to implement, yet yields powerful results. Additionally, because it is cloud-based, it offers users the ability to scale into additional ERP-like functionality as the business demands.

Cloud-based Exact Online for Manufacturing offers small manufacturers a fast, cost-effective and easy-to-use ERP solution.

ME: What advantages does a cloud-based ERP offer manufacturers?

Leavitt: Ease of use. A cloud-based ERP solution offers manufacturers quick and seamless setup. The implementation is quick, with no need for intervention from the IT department and no upgrade processes required. These types of solutions can be up and running within minutes, and because of the nature of the cloud, are extremely easy to use. Essentially, the cloud allows for small business manufacturers to scale into the functionality they require as the business demands it. This creates an easier-to-use scenario simply by giving them the functionality they need without the need to learn complex processes. Our cloud-based software offers a simple, step-by-step user interface that walks users through every phase of managing their shop floor. Ultimately, this improved ease of use allows manufacturers to achieve greater levels of productivity within their businesses.

A well-designed cloud-based ERP solution also has the ability to offer manufacturers a single view into their business. This single view is extremely important for accountants and business advisors who work with these small manufacturers. By giving them access to real-time data on how the business is performing, they are able to collaborate better and provide better advice to their clients. Using our software, small business manufacturers no longer have to log 16-hour days at the office; instead, they can manage their business from any device that has an Internet browser—this has enormous implications in terms of improving quality of life. Finally, the cloud offers users tremendous cost benefits because there are no hardware or maintenance costs attached to it. In the case of our software, users simply pay a predictable, flexible monthly subscription which is in line with their cost expectations, enabling businesses to grow and scale up as necessary.

ME: What types of manufacturing operations are best suited to your online offering, and who are some of your customers?

Leavitt: We designed our software specifically for small business manufacturers and wholesale distributors that employ anywhere from 1 to 50 employees. In terms of specific industries, our software is beneficial to a wide range of companies including those making metal, wood, rubber [and] plastic [products] and printing. Our software is also ideal for wholesalers distributing any nondurable goods. One of our customers includes Dillaman Mold & Manufacturing, a two-person precision maker of plastic injection molds and components in Pennsylvania, and others include Crane Packaging, Organic Transit and Advantage Precision Plastics Inc.

ME: How fast can the manufacturing solution be deployed by small companies?

Leavitt: Our cloud-based manufacturing solution can be deployed within minutes by small companies. They simply have to sign up for the service and they can immediately log in via any web browser on any device, whether it’s a PC, tablet or mobile device.

ME: How does the US manufacturing climate look for this year?

Leavitt: We firmly believe that US manufacturing will continue to grow. According to a recent study, 48% of large manufacturers plan to return production to the US from offshore, and if recent trends are any indication, this number is likely to climb steadily. Additionally, according to the recent 2012 MIT Forum for Supply Chain Innovation Reshoring Study, the top five reasons businesses are seeking to reshore are time-to-market (73.7%), cost reductions (63.9%), product quality (62.2%), more control (56.8%) and hidden supply-chain management costs—all things a business of any size can improve/influence dramatically in short order.

We believe the numbers point to steady growth in US manufacturing. ME


Autodesk Launches Industry’s First Cloud-Based CAM System

Autodesk Inc. (San Rafael, CA) on Dec. 3 unveiled the industry’s first cloud-based CAM solution, called CAM 360, based in part on technology the CAD giant acquired in the 2012 purchase of HSMWorks (Copenhagen).

At Autodesk University in Las Vegas, Autodesk detailed its new CAM 360, which is based on technology in HSMWorks and also on the company’s cloud-based PLM 360, Sim 360 and Fusion 360 offerings for PLM, simulation/multiphysics and design functionality, respectively. CAM 360 builds upon these existing suites of cloud service offerings for manufacturers to provide users with anytime, anywhere access to flexible, next-generation tools to create, simulate and turn digital prototypes into physical reality.

With Autodesk’s CAM 360, users get a solution combining CNC programming, simulation, and design with real-time collaboration and online project and data management.

“Two years ago, we launched PLM 360, creating a new paradigm for product lifecycle management,” Robert Kross, Autodesk senior vice president, said in a statement. “In September 2012, we broke down the barriers to testing and analysis with Sim 360. Last year, we ushered in a new era of cloud-based design with Fusion 360. And now, Autodesk delivers the final piece of the solution—manufacturing—with CAM 360.” Unlike stand-alone CAM tools, CAM 360 is an integrated cloud-based solution that allows users to take advantage of Autodesk’s next-generation Digital Prototyping platform including modeling tools in Fusion 360. CAM 360 is expected to be generally available in 2014 in select markets.

Autodesk’s CAM 360 introduction comes just three weeks after the company announced it would acquire Delcam plc (Birmingham, UK), the developer of the PowerMill, FeatureCAM, Partmaker and PowerShape CAM and design software applications, in a deal valued at approximately $276 million. That deal is expected to close in Autodesk’s first fiscal quarter, after which Delcam will operate as an Autodesk subsidiary. Autodesk will provide more details on the transaction in its fourth-quarter conference call scheduled for February.

Software Update is edited by Patrick Waurzyniak:

This article was first published in the January 2014 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF

Published Date : 1/1/2014

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