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New Tech Helps Transform ERP Software for IIoT Era

Terri Hiskey Vice President Product Marketing and Manufacturing Portfolio Epicor Corp.
By Terri Hiskey Vice President Product Marketing and Manufacturing Portfolio, Epicor Corp.

Manufacturing Engineering: What are some new technical trends in enterprise resource planning (ERP) software?

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Manufacturers using Epicor ERP visualize performance data with digital dashboards on the factory floor.

Terri Hiskey: The trends include ongoing migration of on-premises ERP to the cloud; integration of AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning), more mobility options offered, and more personalization.

ME: How has ERP’s cloud migration evolved recently, with manufacturers leveraging cloud ERP’s advantages?

Hiskey: We have seen the number of customers migrating to cloud ERP increase over time. The pandemic certainly forced many companies to look at cloud as an easier way to manage their business, especially with a distributed workforce. We also saw many companies that may have had on-premises installations of ERP look to add-on analytics, e-commerce or enterprise content management as cloud solutions.

ME: What impact do you see technologies like AI and machine learning, CAD/CAM integration, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) making on ERP?

Hiskey: These technologies are making a huge impact in ERP. Epicor introduced Epicor Virtual Agent, or EVA, last year. AI can help reduce the time it takes to execute processes by intuiting what the user is working on and providing options for next steps; it can also help walk new users through how to build workflows and processes to shorten the learning curve.

We’re just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to deploying IoT in manufacturing. Right now, the majority of the IoT use cases we are seeing have to do with remote monitoring machines. This is another area that has become critical as manufacturers get back to work but must comply with social distancing safety standards. Fewer people on the factory floor means less risk, so with the ability to be able to remotely monitor the performance of your machines—whether it is output, temperature, vibration or fluid levels—IoT has enabled many companies to do this remotely and therefore safely. When you combine AI and IoT, that is an even more powerful proposition. A user may get an alert from an IoT sensor that a machine is not performing to its usual standard. The AI may pick up that alert and send the user options of scheduling maintenance remotely, shutting the machine down, or perhaps ignoring the alert and continuing to monitor the situation. These are just small improvements that combined yield more efficiency and productivity.

ME: What’s new in the latest ERP releases from Epicor?

Hiskey: I’ve already mentioned our introduction of EVA; also, Epicor IoT helps translate the data coming off of machines and brings it into your Epicor ERP instance. We have been investing heavily in analytics, and with our Epicor Data Analytics solution, users get access to a host of role- and process-based templates that help visualize data that is important to them, whether that data relates to financials, operations, inventory, machine performance, or other functions. We are also investing in industry-specific functionality to help users in specific areas like metal services, medical devices and other areas.

ME: What do manufacturing customers want most from their latest ERP software?

Hiskey: Our Epicor manufacturing customers are looking for solutions that are easy to maintain and easy to learn because workforce turnover is always an issue in manufacturing. They want to be able to personalize their processes and forms so that it is specific to their needs, and they need collaboration capabilities to be able to better manage a distributed team. With the pandemic, many customers have adopted our various add-on solutions for e-commerce or enterprise content management as a way to offer their customers better ways to interact with them and to automate old paper-based processes. Our manufacturing customers understand the value of cloud, but want the upgrade process to be as seamless as the experience we have applying upgrades to the mobile phone apps, so we have also been investing in making that process as painless and easy as possible for our customers.

ME: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected manufacturers’ ERP deployments?

Hiskey: When shelter-in-place orders came out in March, many companies needed immediate and constant real-time reports on the state of their financials. We saw greater adoption of financial solutions like Epicor Cash Collect, which helps users organize and collect on their outstanding invoices. We also saw rapid adoption of our e-commerce solution, Epicor Commerce Connect, which gives manufacturers an online presence within just a few days.

Epicor Enterprise Content Management (DocStar) also became popular as the pandemic progressed, as many companies that perhaps had put plans to automate paper processes on the back burner now needed to move away from paper altogether, and quickly, to comply with safety regulations. Epicor ECM offers AP automation and sales order automation, capabilities that many companies found critical to keep business moving.

Siemens Releases Solid Edge 2021

Siemens Digital Industries Software, Plano, Texas, has released the new Solid Edge 2021 software, which includes design capability enhancements such as new subdivision modeling and improved reverse engineering performance with new deviation analysis.

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Subdivision modeling works within the Solid Edge environment, enabling freeform modeling for all user levels.

The updated software features a new AI-powered adaptive user interface to predict next steps, and integration with 3dfind.it, an intelligent 3D model search engine powered by CADENAS that can be used to save time in upfront design.

Solid Edge 2021 has features that make the design process easier for engineers, according to Ricardo Espinosa, R&D engineering manager for Kimball International, Jasper, Ind., a creator of design-driven furnishings that uses Solid Edge. “Subdivision modeling is very powerful,” Espinosa said. “Having the ability to incorporate organic shapes into our product designs within the Solid Edge environment is a big deal for us. Having the process contained in one software solution without the need for importing, exporting and translating data is very important.”

Enhancements have been made across the Solid Edge portfolio, including fast, accurate 2D layout of industrial control panels with new cabinet panel design capabilities; optimized integration between flow and structural simulation; a new searchable postprocessor database and improved roughing and adaptive milling capabilities accelerate NC programming; and enhanced cloud-based collaboration with the introduction of Teamcenter Share, which can be used with Solid Edge to synchronize desktop files to secure cloud storage.

New SURFCAM Adds Direct Link to NCSIMUL

The updated SURFCAM Traditional CAM software has added a direct connection to the NCSIMUL machining simulation solution by Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, North Kingstown, R.I., offering SURFCAM programmers greater control over the manufacturing process by delivering a more accurate and detailed picture of each machining operation from start to finish.

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By using a direct link to NCSIMUL from within the SURFCAM Traditional 2021 interface, SURFCAM users will have access to true G-code toolpath verification, editing and simulation functions.

SURFCAM Traditional provides manufacturers with programming capabilities for two- to five-axis machining, in addition to turning and wire-EDM programming functions. NCSIMUL machining-simulation software can be used in conjunction with a range of CAM systems to verify and optimize toolpaths, switch NC programs between machine tools, and simulate machining operations.

By using a direct link to NCSIMUL from within the SURFCAM Traditional 2021 interface, SURFCAM users will have access to true G-code toolpath verification, editing and simulation functions to ensure that their NC programs are collision-free and reflect the full CNC machining environment. This new associativity between the two systems also allows users to compare cut stock with original design geometry.

The ability to view the state of the stock model throughout the machining process, including multiple operation parts or multiple part setup, allows machinists to adjust operations when required to prevent errors. “Creating a digital thread that connects the virtual with the real ensures that manufacturers can achieve greater productivity without sacrificing quality because they’re looking at accurate data throughout the entire manufacturing process,” said Machining Market and Product Manager Miguel Johann of Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence. “By using SURFCAM Traditional and NCSIMUL in tandem, users can pass the toolpath generated in SURFCAM—along with the part, fixture, and stock geometry—to NCSIMUL for G-code validation, toolpath verification, and a more detailed view of all operations.”

MSC Releases New Generative Design Tool

MSC Software Corp., Newport Beach, Calif., has released MSC Apex Generative Design 2020, which enables engineers to explore new design approaches and optimize any part of a design in a single step.

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Using the Apex Generative Design tool, surgeons can create smarter, latticed implants like this one that are prevalidated for additive manufacturing.

Part of Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division, MSC’s new generative design tool can produce optimized, print-ready designs on a normal laptop and 80 percent faster than conventional means, according to the company. The generative tool addresses product development pressures to meet shrinking budgets and rapid time-to-market demands by generating lightweight and smoothed preliminary component concepts based on just the engineering goals. It eliminates the iterative process of removing unsuitable candidates so engineers can find more optimal and novel solutions by fine tuning pre-vetted, manufacturing-ready designs.

The software enables engineers to innovate quickly, producing a better design in the same amount of time it would have taken them to create, test and discard a first prototype using conventional tools and workflows, MSC said. For example, with MSC Apex Generative Design, a surgeon can create a smarter, latticed implant design that’s prevalidated for additive manufacturing and the same weight as the bone it replaced, improving biocompatibility to encourage muscle attachment and patient comfort.

Mastercam Retains Top CAM Ranking

More shops and schools invest in Mastercam than any other CAD/CAM software package in the world, according to CIMdata, an independent research firm specializing in the NC industry. CIMdata reports that Mastercam, from CNC Software Inc., Tolland, Conn., has been the number one CAM software used worldwide for 26 years in a row. In the latest CIMdata report, Mastercam retained the top spot for CAM software in three categories: industry, education, and support network. Mastercam topped the list in both the educational and industrial categories, with nearly twice as many installed seats as the nearest competitor, according to CIMdata.

“With more shops using Mastercam and more schools teaching Mastercam, students are being prepared for a fluid transition to the job market with practical skills and reduced learning curves,” said Meghan West, president and CEO of CNC Software Inc. “This is a win-win situation for education and industry to contend with the skills gap and fill the glut of available jobs available in manufacturing.

Altair Releases Updated PBS Professional HPC Tool

Troy, Mich.-based simulation developer Altair announced a major update to its Altair PBS Professional, a workload manager for high-performance computing applications.

New features within the PBS Professional base scheduler enable customers to increase throughput as much as tenfold, manage costs and resources more accurately, and access efficient scaling through cloud bursting, according to Altair.

“For our users, the latest version of PBS Professional represents a significant increase in functionality and value. It will provide customers with the flexibility, scalability, and efficiency they need,” said Sam Mahalingam, Altair CTO. “The addition of a hierarchical structure makes PBS Professional a full-spectrum proposition—accommodating workloads ranging from multi-core, long-running HPC jobs to high-throughput workloads that could potentially involve tens of millions of high-frequency jobs in a single day.”

User benefits include:

  • High throughput scheduling, with the flexibility to accommodate more diverse and dynamic workloads via hierarchical scheduling. PBS Professional now embraces both high-performance and high-throughput computing workloads. Users can employ a “personal” scheduler to queue their own jobs sequentially within the same overall scheduler.
  • The ability to simulate workloads to find the most productive approach to scaling HPC resources.
  • Allocation management to control and optimize budgets across multiple sites, departments, and HPC clusters by scheduling resources to match an organization’s profile of costs and resources.
  • Cloud bursting via a GUI that requires no specialist expertise, leveraging on-demand resources from both public and private clouds.

Siemens, SAP Partner on Industrial Transformation

Siemens, Nuremberg, Germany, and SAP, Walldorf, Germany, have teamed up to accelerate their industrial transformation efforts. The developers say they will deliver integrated software solutions across product lifecycle, supply chain and asset management.

The Siemens-SAP partnership aims to provide a digital thread that helps enterprises eliminate process and information siloes, drives digitalization and delivers a comprehensive Industry 4.0 solution.

Under the agreement, SAP will offer Siemens’ Teamcenter software as the core foundation for product lifecycle collaboration and product data management. Siemens will offer SAP Intelligent Asset Management solutions and SAP Project and Portfolio Management applications to maximize business value for customers over the product and service lifecycle and enable new collaborative processes between manufacturers and operators.

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