Manufacturing Engineering: What are some of the new technical developments in enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for manufacturers?
Corey Ladd: To be more efficient and to have single sources of the truth in their data, customers are seeking to leverage modern, standard application programmer interfaces (APIs) to integrate into their software. As we at ECI Software Solutions evolve our key platforms, such as KnowledgeSync and M1, we are developing Software as a Service (SaaS) and services-based architectures with APIs that connect to other systems. Connected machinery is one application of a more comprehensive set of integrated systems and data.
ME: What’s new in your latest ERP software releases?
Ladd: Since the beginning of 2020, ECI’s manufacturing division has made several improvements to our product roster. Starting with integrating Macola and NET1 Payment Processing, ECI worked with our preferred payment gateway for online credit card and payment processing to provide its Macola users with the ability to process credit card and ACH payments online. This integration has helped users streamline operations, improve data security and enhance customer service.
ECI also formed a strategic relationship between JobBOSS, our ERP built for job shop management, and Data Inventions to improve shop floor performance with Alora. Manufacturers often face challenges gathering machine information and making sense of that data to make accurate business decisions. Through this new collaboration, JobBOSS users can use Alora, a machine intelligence platform, to capitalize on the real-time information needed to improve shop floor performance.
Additionally, ECI collaborated with LillyWorks to deliver Protected Flow Manufacturing (PFM) to Macola users. Macola empowers manufacturers and distributors to plan, manage and analyze their businesses to reduce costs and achieve higher productivity. As a result of this new collaboration, users have access to LillyWorks’ PFM software to deliver improved scheduling, visibility and control.
ECI delivered a new version of KnowledgeSync, an alerts and workflow solution that helps businesses monitor and respond to key activities across the organization. The upgraded software is now browser-based and interfaces with thousands of web application REST APIs.
ME: What are customers most looking for today from their ERP software?
Ladd: Manufacturers need access to their data in real time. One of the greatest benefits of an ERP system is that it will provide manufacturers with a secure, cloud-based solution that lets them access important business information at any time, from anywhere. This lets personnel, as well as authorized partners and vendors, see business-critical, up-to-date information in real time, so that all stakeholders can make informed decisions without requiring extensive back-and-forth or mass communications.
ME: As cloud migrations for ERP become more commonplace, are some manufacturing businesses still more suited to on-premises ERP?
Ladd: Certainly, for larger manufacturing organizations that have a global reach, cloud migration is pretty commonplace. However, small and medium-sized manufacturers have traditionally been hesitant to adopt cloud technology—or any technology, for that matter. While some SMBs are recognizing the value of moving their operations to the cloud, many are still faced with hurdles that are preventing their digital transformations.
With small to mid-sized manufacturing leaders wearing many hats (e.g., owner, operator, and bookkeeper), they not only must streamline some processes for themselves, but also have a software solution that is accessible wherever and whenever. For example, on-premise ERP would not let a manufacturer do their payroll or invoicing remotely.
ME: How can ERP and PLM work better together to become more complementary for customers? Is there some overlap between ERP and PLM?
Ladd: ERP and PLM are complementary solutions as they communicate with each other to support business needs. As its name implies, PLM is designed to manage a product from initial design stages to production. ERP takes the product data produced throughout that lifecycle to help organizations manage production resources and business activities, like financials and staffing. In essence, PLM manages the development of a product and ERP manages resource planning for production.
As PLM is a cyclical function, the ERP system captures and provides critical insight into the evolution of individual product fulfillment. For example, what were the physical tools used to manufacture an item? How appropriate were certain materials and their revisions? What internal manufacturing processes yielded the most efficient quantity, quality and costs? Which outside vendors added critical value—time, reliability, expertise and costs? And how are the skills of internal engineers and inspectors helping to perfect a product?
Such questions raised during the continuous PLM cycle are supported by the ERP system’s capture of prototype design, estimated builds, actual material utilization, shop-floor-operation data capture, sub-contract analysis and quality management—especially around recording non-conformances and corrective actions. Effective ERP solutions aid the PLM function through custom alerts, reports and measurements triggered by other organizations’ key events, data and tasks.
ME: Which industries are targeted most by your ERP software, and what successes can you briefly highlight?
Ladd: Manufacturers in the made-to-order, make-to-stock, configure-to-order, engineer-to-order and mixed-mode industries benefit most from ECI’s ERP software solutions. ECI customers come from a variety of industries and have a strong presence in aerospace, metal fabrication, machine shops, tools and automotive.
For example, Design Ready Controls, a leading supplier of control panels and wiring harnesses for OEMs, knew they were ready to invest in a modern, customizable ERP solution in order to drive business growth and maximize operational efficiencies. [The company has] averaged annual sales gains in the 15 percent range for more than a decade due to success with their customer-centric culture, eco-friendly initiatives and investment in personnel development through on-site training. However, they needed a scalable ERP system to keep up with their success. That’s when the company turned to ECI’s M1—a module-based, ERP manufacturing software.
M1 gives Design Ready Controls the tools to better understand and focus on its core business, as well as improve basic processes. Manufacturing companies of all sizes struggle to operate efficiently when data is scattered across the organization, within multiple software programs, and when critical processes are disconnected. M1 ties business operations together in one centralized system.
Siemens Digital Industries Software, Plano, Texas, has released Simcenter FLOEFD software, a CAD-embedded computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tool. This Simcenter FLOEFD is part of the Simcenter portfolio of simulation and test solutions that enables users to optimize designs and deliver innovations faster and with greater confidence, according to Siemens.
Simcenter FLOEFD helps engineers simulate fluid flow and thermal problems within their preferred CAD environment. Featuring intelligent technology to enable simulation, Simcenter FLOEFD helps users frontload CFD simulation into the design process to understand the behavior of their concepts and eliminate the less attractive options. The software is said to enable users to reduce overall simulation time by as much as 65-75 percent, offering up to 40 times productivity enhancement. Part of the Xcelerator portfolio, Simcenter FLOEFD helps design engineers increase productivity and contribute to the creation of an accurate digital twin.
Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, North Kingstown, R.I., has released a pair of updates to its Production Software portfolio, with new versions of its WorkExplore CAD viewer and analyzer application plus a new version of its WorkPlan manufacturing execution software (MES) for sheet metal automation.
The new WorkExplore package offers easier highlighting of individual parts in an assembly, and refurbishments to the client viewer, according to Hexagon. The CAD viewer and analyzer from the Production Software portfolio was originally created to import and analyze all file types and sizes at high speed. It often takes less than half the time to open a file compared to the original CAD application, says Hexagon.
Among the new and enhanced functionalities in WorkExplore is the ability to highlight individual parts in an assembly. Additionally, the selected component is now displayed in color, while the rest of the assembly appears transparent in the background to show the position of the part in an assembly.
The 2021 WorkPlan update enhances automation and flexibility to further integrate it into the sheet metal market. A solution originally dedicated to mold makers, WorkPlan mixes a single database with multiple business requirements, such as tools, sheet metal, prototyping, and mechanics. Initially used as a business calculator for sheet metal quotes, Radan’s quoting module, Radquote, connects with WorkPlan and now updates projects using referenced components present in a bill of material.
Dassault Systèmes, Vélizy-Villacoublay, France, is showcasing a new generative design technology for engineers in a new on-demand e-webinar available on the company’s web site. While generative design has capabilities that can help solve complex engineering challenges, the need to find feasible flow paths often leads to juggling multiple siloed software solutions to design, simulate, optimize and validate these complex products.
To address these challenges, Dassault Systèmes has introduced a new workflow consisting of a set of apps integrated within the 3DExperience Release 2021x platform that streamlines the process and speeds time to insights, according to the company. These apps allow everyone to work within a single application.
In this process, designs are created with their specific uses in mind from the outset, instead of editing a design after creating an expensive prototype. Among the new flow-driven generative design highlights are: streamlining traditional workflows while making flow optimization capabilities more accessible to mainstream engineers; leveraging workflow assistants to guide engineers in specifying inputs and boundary conditions while automatically optimizing the output to meet the fluid flow requirements; and providing analysts with higher-quality answers earlier to allow them to focus on the crucial aspects of their jobs rather than back-and-forth discussion with designers.
Siemens Digital Industries Software, Plano, Texas, has released an update of its Parasolid design software that it says improves 3D printing and scanning workflows with new tools for convergent modeling and lattice structures.
Further advances in convergent modeling give engineers greater efficiency in workflows that need to mix facet and B-rep geometry, while new functional foundations have been implemented to support lattice structures. Lattices are repeating networks of nodes and beams and were difficult to manufacture until the advent of 3D printing. Lattices offer increased strength-to-weight ratio compared with solid material, so engineers can design parts with reduced material requirements and mass while maintaining structural integrity.
Additive manufacturing techniques are now bringing the performance benefits of lattice structures into production, driving new requirements for lattice modeling in the design process. The Parasolid geometric modeling kernel is used in Siemens’ Solid Edge and NX software, and it is at the core of the Xcelerator portfolio’s open ecosystem. Parasolid is also used by over 350 other products, including many leading CAD/CAM/CAE/AEC software applications.
CAD/CAM and simulation components developer ModuleWorks GmbH, Aachen, Germany, has released its 2020.04 CAD/CAM software components.
The update is the company’s first major release of 2020 and is available for download from the ModuleWorks website. It contains new features for five-axis and three-axis machining as well as improved visualization for the MultiXPost post processor.
ModuleWorks’ five-axis component features new automatic tilting to help create a collision-free lead for the machining process. The new tilting feature uses an intelligent algorithm to automatically tilt the tool to avoid collisions, thereby improving the safety and efficiency of the machining process, particularly when working with complex tool shapes such as barrel mill cutters. The three-axis machining module features floor finishing for wireframe-based toolpath calculations and a tool for creating a specified number of engraving toolpath slices with variable depths. In addition, the multi-axis post processor (MultiXPost) keeps the table and head in fixed positions. MultiXPost eliminates the continuous movement and keeps the table or head axis in a fixed position while ensuring the toolpath is simulated within machine limits.
CNC Software Inc., developer of Mastercam CAD/CAM software, has become a Strategic Partner of the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC). Founded in 1988, the NCATC supports a network of higher education and industry-led resources that advocates, advises, and promotes the use of advanced technology applications to enhance economic and workforce development programs and services.
“NCATC is a cutting-edge organization in workforce development. It makes perfect sense to welcome Mastercam as a new Strategic Partner,” said Toni Neary, director of education, Morris Group – Haas Division, and a NCATC Board Member. “Working through our network and annual conferences, we look to bridge the skills gap and appreciate the insight Mastercam can bring to conversation.”
“We are excited to be a Strategic Partner of NCATC and honored to be the first CAD/CAM company in a group that includes best-in-class industry partners like Haas Automation, Verisurf, Sandvik, AMT, and so many others,” said Peter Mancini, education product manager for CNC Software. “Many of our education customers are members, and we want to increase the national awareness of these Advanced Technology Centers.”
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