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Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) carries the potential to streamline processes, increase visibility, boost productivity, cut costs and more for today’s process manufacturers and chemical distributors. But managing ERP efforts through a single application makes all the difference.

Manufacturing ERP Software: Small to Medium Shops

Enterprise Resource Planning Systems centralize information and streamline processes of an entire organization. They work together with enterprise cloud integration services to streamline information in a cloud-based environment, where it is easy to save, access and retrieve from a single platform.

Despite these benefits, some shop owners are still hesitant about implementing ERP systems in their shops. They depend on diverse programs with decentralized information about processing, estimating, quoting, tracking and more.

Accurate information is crucial to making good business decisions, however, it’s inefficient to work with data stored in separate silos. If there’s nothing connecting these programs, you’re most likely making decisions that improve performance on a single department, but they might get in the way of other processes.

What is manufacturing ERP software?

Manufacturing Enterprise Resource Planning Software is responsible for digitally integrating the different departments on the shop floor. It’s an effective way to centralize information for better planning, organizing and running of the shop.

Small to mid-size manufacturing companies use several programs to run their shop floor. The most common are:

MANUFACTURING EXECUTION SYSTEM (MES)

An MES tracks the product through its entire life cycle. From acquiring materials to delivering the final product to customers. Production lines need a manufacturing execution system to track products through the whole manufacturing process. Strict regulations require this system to have recall capabilities to trace potential product flaws and inefficiencies to their roots.

QUALITY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (QMS)

Government regulators aren’t the only ones that require high product quality, the customers do as well. Understanding compliance and recording parameters decrease the risk of producing parts that are out of tolerance. QMS software handles documenting processes to follow specifications. It standardizes activities involving suppliers and machining operations required to make the parts.

When your business grows, flawed parts and processes can as well. QMS controls the quality of the output through specific instructions to meet production and customer standards. With this system, shops can operate without the hassle of dealing with as many non-conforming products.

COMPUTERIZED MAINTENANCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (CMMS)

A CMMS is a database of maintenance and calibration operations within a business. The system lets employees know exactly when to focus on maintenance and sends proactive alerts when maintenance of machinery or calibration of instruments is coming up to be due. It also manages work order schedules for maintenance activity so it can be scheduled in with customer jobs for the least impact. A CMMS can ensure machinery is well maintained, so as to reduce errors from delayed or unexpected maintenance activity.

TOOLING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (TMS)

A TMS manages tooling availability so you can take work orders knowing you have the resources to produce them. The tools have to be in optimal conditions to perform at the required standards, and many of the machining operations require a rotating tool assembly, ideally measured with an offline tool presetter. In addition to tracking RTA’s the system generates reports to feed into procurement so that the correct tools, brands, and quantities will always be available when jobs are set up. This can help dramatically reduce setup time on CNC machines.

LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (LMS)

Training is difficult when the market grows fast, new parts are produced, and inexperienced employees join the team. Tribal knowledge and best practices disappear with the retiring workforce. This system documents, tracks, reports and delivers information regarding the educational content available for employees. The need for reducing the employees’ learning curve to adapt faster into the operations makes this system effective at improving the shop’s performance through its workforce.

BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE (BI)

Business Intelligence generates data, analyzes and reports to provide insights to improve business performance based on benchmarks. It also helps in making operational and strategic decisions. Manufacturers benefit from its analytics, big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to gather vast amounts of information. It helps increase flexibility and visibility to reach business milestones by providing the data needed to make complex decisions.

It’s difficult to gather information and make decisions quickly when the data is spread among several programs. Manufacturers need to centralize information in order to track performance in every department and make decisions that are good for the business. Decentralized data management might seem appropriate because each department has its own challenges and areas of opportunity, but it makes a shop owner’s job harder when making company-wide decisions.

Paul Van Metre, Adion-Systems co-founder and vice president of sales, said, “ProShop represents ERP 4.0 or perhaps a Digital Manufacturing Ecosystem. It is a completely paperless, 100% electronic method of managing a facility’s business including shop floor monitoring, part quality inspection, work instructions and tool management, and doing it with a big data, manufacturing-analytics approach.” According to Van Metre, most conventional ERP systems are accounting-based with minimal functionality for managing and controlling the shop floor environment.

On the other hand, systems focused on manufacturing monitoring do not provide the full scope of information needed to guide optimal business strategies. Especially when decentralized systems generate isolated information that doesn’t cover the whole process. A change in a single department impacts others, thus affecting the quality, cost and time of production.

Isolated information isn’t enough for manufacturers in industries like aerospace and medical that require strict regulatory compliance like ISO and AS. Enterprise software systems help them operate at organizational levels. Reports, graphics, and parameters contain information about the whole process and not only about the performance of a single department.

HOW DOES ERP SOFTWARE WORK IN MANUFACTURING?

ERP software helps from the beginning of the manufacturing progress. You can generate estimates, record every part of the process and relationship you establish with previous and new customers. You can manage inventory, users, messaging and reporting to make sure the orders are exactly what your customers demand.

Aerospace manufacturing implements ERP software solutions because the industry is highly regulated and its rapid growth results in constant changes in the market. Having a rigid infrastructure pressures them to implement an ERP program to gain flexibility and allow for fast-paced growth. It makes cost control easier, simplifies compliance with AS9100 standards and enables strategic decision-making.

According to Computer Economics, World Wide Technology Trends Survey, 90% of medical manufacturing companies have ERP systems and it represents the highest investment in their business. In fact, medical and aerospace companies using ERP systems benefit from improved order fulfillment by planning with different scenarios to make sure they have the resources to serve the upcoming demand. It automates contract manufacturing to reduce manual tasks for employees and frees up time in other areas that require human intervention.

Manufacturers integrate ERP solutions to benefit in many departments at once. It’s not only about the customers, but also the employees.

ERP solves problems in manufacturing environments allowing them to:

SAVE TIME, MONEY AND ENERGY

It’s not about shrinking your workforce, but increasing productive work by reducing human error. Digital records of every process in the shop allow careful monitoring to avoid mistakes and fix them when they appear. Responding quickly to problems around the shop will allow employees to focus on their work without as many distractions so work orders get completed on time. ERP centralizes the information to pinpoint where the problem is, how to solve it and who can fix it. This way you won’t be spending unnecessary time on fixing inefficiencies during production caused by circumstantial events.

BECOME EFFICIENT TO SERVE CUSTOMERS

Automation lets you produce more parts in less time. Cutting cycle time lets you take more work orders at a time. ERP software reduces wasted time by making transitions smooth around the shop. Reducing human error in the manufacturing process makes employee’s production hours more efficient.

Ready-made templates in ERP systems produce a seamless workflow to turn estimates into quotes and purchase orders into work orders without taking much time from your employees.

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