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Dassault Systèmes has launched My.SolidWorks, a free community that provides one single access to any SolidWorks content. My.SolidWorks lets these users tap into the knowledge and experience of two million users and more than 400 value-added resellers in the SolidWorks Community.“My.SolidWorks allows me to quickly find new and old posts to help me with my current job. It makes it much quicker and easier to participate in the community,” said Scott Baugh, CAD administrator, Berry Plastics Corporation. “I can see what folks are asking or talking about right now, and share my ideas and opinions with colleagues.”My.SolidWorks is designed to offer many improvements to the SolidWorks Community, in several different categories: • Experience: My.SolidWorks provides a consolidated view of the latest updates from around the SolidWorks community. The latest blog posts, discussions and videos are presented in an easily digestible format. They can be filtered based on users’ individual needs and interests.• Find: My.SolidWorks lets users search the entire SolidWorks community at once, making it much easier for users to find the tips and insights they need to get the most out of SolidWorks. They can also share what they find with colleagues, peers and friends with the social capabilities built into My.SolidWorks.• Engage: My.SolidWorks makes it easier for new and existing users to engage with the community; stay on top of current design topics, and add their own knowledge and expertise to the discussion. My.SolidWorks is freely available to anyone.
Users of enterprise asset management (EAM) and computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software report low levels of access to these systems through handheld mobile devices, according to a new IFS-sponsored survey of executives from industrial companies with $50 million or more in revenue. Of these executives, 75 per cent report little to no mobile access to data kept in enterprise asset management (EAM) software, computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) or other applications used to manage maintenance and asset data. Only 34 per cent reported using a handheld mobile device to perform work in these systems. According to the research, higher levels of access were reported by respondents using native apps developed by their enterprise software vendor and connecting to the application either through a cloud intermediary or through a direct integration into the application itself. “The study indicates that those who limit remote access to connection solutions like VPN tend to be less likely to report high levels of access and are less likely to be working in the software from a handheld device,” IFS North America vice president for Energy and Asset Management Patrick Zirnhelt said in a statement. “Our own approach includes native Android and iOS apps for any number of different functions and an Android and Microsoft work order management app which is key for the industrial maintenance process. Our full application interface also works on a touchscreen device in Windows 8. By eliminating third-party intermediary tools, companies are in a better position to harness the benefits of mobility.” The study, “Mobility in EAM,” is based on a survey of 200 North American industrial executives. It is available for free download at:
Executives at middle market to large companies are less interested in implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) software through subscription-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) than on-premise implementations or exploring a private cloud delivery system, a new study says. The study, sponsored by IFS, which examines attitudes and implementation plans of executives at industrial companies with more than $50 million in revenue. It shows that levels of interest for SaaS were relatively low compared to other provisioning systems. The number of respondents saying they were “very interested” in SaaS was a quarter of the number saying they were “very interested” in on-premise. While the majority expressed some degree of familiarity with SaaS, respondents did not indicate they planned to switch to SaaS-based ERP in any numbers. ERP has traditionally been hosted on-premise, which, according to the study, remains as the preferred option among executives. Private cloud, a model that includes a perpetual license to the software combined with a cloud computing deployment dedicated to the single customer, also fared well in the survey. More than 64 per cent of respondents expressed some degree of interest in ERP through private cloud, while only 50 per cent expressed any degree of interest in SaaS ERP. “It is clear that despite the general interest for SaaS solutions, most companies still prefer more traditional delivery methods for ERP,” IFS North America chief technology officer Rick Veague said. “SaaS, private cloud and on-premise implementations each offer their distinct advantages, with SaaS holding more appeal for best of breed solutions than for ERP. This is very much in line with our philosophy and the choices IFS offers between various cloud delivery systems.” The study, “Cloud Hosting Preferences for ERP Software,” is based on a survey of 200 North American industrial executives. It is available for free download at:
Almost two-thirds of software-as-a-service (SaaS)/cloud ERP users say these systems are better or significantly better than traditional on-premise ERP platforms, according to a new survey of more than 200 North American manufacturing leaders. The survey, “2012 ERP Study: Implementation and Usage Trends for SaaS/Cloud vs. Traditional Systems,” found that 73 per cent of respondents agreed that SaaS/Cloud was either better or significantly better than traditional ERP. In addition to that, Also, 75 percent of SaaS/cloud users express increased customer satisfaction. Ease of use, security and access to mission-critical real-time data, anywhere at any time, were some of the reasons respondents cited for the satisfaction.Conducted by the Manufacturing Performance Institute (MPI) on behalf of Plex Systems Inc., the study assessed implementations of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, satisfaction with those implementations and the extent to which ERP systems have benefitted organizations.The survey targeted more than 200 manufacturing leaders in North America from food processing, aerospace, defense, electronics and general manufacturing industries. The study analyzed implementations based on the type of system in place. You can download the “2012 ERP Study: Implementation and Usage Trends for SaaS/Cloud vs. Traditional Systems” from the Plex Online Resource Center.  
After more than a decade of controversy, there is now unanimity of thought on many of the benefits and evolution of Cloud ERP. Indeed, today, there is common thinking among business and market analysts, software vendors and system integrators about the role of Cloud ERP. At last, this consensus is finally trickling down to end-users. Before discussing those commonly held beliefs about Cloud ERP, facts that are difficult to refute, let’s quickly review what is meant by Cloud ERP. With Cloud ERP, using the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, users are provided access to ERP software and databases in a newer manner. Instead of managing the infrastructure and platform upon which the ERP software suite runs, the cloud providers do so for them. The end user accesses Cloud ERP via a web browser or mobile app while the software and user’s data are stored on the provider’s servers at a remote location. Thus, an organization can reduce its IT operational costs by outsourcing hardware and software maintenance and support to the cloud provider. In addition, with the ERP system hosted centrally, updates can be released without the need for the users themselves to install new software. Another major benefit of Cloud ERP is that it lets an enterprise get their ERP solutions up and running faster with improved manageability and less maintenance. As a result, Cloud ERP will be one of the most radical, sweeping upgrades in manufacturing technology over the next decade. It will become a major consideration for every manufacturing or supply chain entity. As smart phones have become to the individual businessperson, it is not a question of “if” organizations will adopt a Cloud ERP solution, but “when.” The benefits of Cloud ERP speak for themselves. Cloud ERP deploys faster. It’s easier to use. Access to information is from anywhere, at any time and by any device. Pricing is more attractive because the “up front” costs of typical On-Premise ERP systems are deferred and spread over the life of the use of the software. Companies that implement a Cloud ERP solution are yielding cost reductions in both IT staff and hardware infrastructure. Because of such impressive benefits, the interest in Cloud ERP is growing and installations are multiplying. Who are the early adaptors? Who are the laggards? Those companies that are presently considering the adoption of Cloud ERP are newer companies that are growing and have no On Premise ERP system installed. They are unencumbered by either having to get additional ROI out of a presently-installed system or the fear of change. Today, most of the ERP systems that are installed are On Premise ERP systems. Some will change over sooner than later. The laggards, though, the last to adopt, will be those very large companies that have SAP or ORACLE on premise in the majority of their plants. It is possible that some of these companies, however, could include the next wave of Cloud ERP buyers for their smaller plants in a two-tiered ERP strategy. Ultimately, though, they too will have to consider Cloud ERP as their primary ERP. For those companies using On Premise systems, will they continue to use them? Will there be minimal consideration of a Cloud ERP system until the company encounters one or more of the following? 1. The On Premise ERP system is no longer supported (effectively) by the software vendor. 2. The On Premise ERP system can no longer keep up with the ever-changing technological advancements, such as mobile. 3. The company now has multiple divisions with differing ERP systems that cannot give it the global deployment and integration of systems that it needs. Triggering a cost/benefit analysis for a new enterprise-wide system will often lead to the conclusion that access to and cost to maintain multiple On Premise ERP versions and systems is cost-prohibitive versus a Cloud ERP system. 4. The younger generation of employee users will resist using the archaic On Premise ERP system and demand the benefits of Cloud ERP, blaming their company’s/department’s/employees’ substandard performance on the old ERP. Only time will tell! Pat Garrehy is president & CEO of Rootstock.
Basic Grain Products Inc. is a leading private-label food manufacturer of snack products, including rice cakes, rice crisps, pita chips, soy crisps and potato crisps, sold primarily in the United States and Canada. Basic Grain Product's corporate office is located in Burnaby, British Columbia, and the Company's manufacturing facility is housed in Coldwater, Ohio. On July 1, 2012, Basic Grain Products implemented Syspro ERP, effectively integrating all the Company's business functions into one system, streamlining processes, and generating real-time information across the entire organization. “Before July 1,” says Norman Shung, CFO, “we ran the business on a mixture of different products. The main problem with running the business on a non-integrated system was that our data was stored in multiple places, which impaired our ability to make timely decisions.  Nothing was at our fingertips – when we wanted to know specifics it was very painful to get the information, and it was especially difficult to generate reports. To know how many cases of a particular product were available we had to request a cycle count every time, because our inventory wasn’t in a perpetual system. Before Syspro, our business systems were not perpetual, not live, and not up-to-date.” According to Shung, the Syspro implementation process went very smoothly, with no major glitches or business interruptions. “The real challenges we faced came after the implementation. As is often the case, people are fearful of change, and with Syspro came many changes to both our technology and our business processes. It wasn't long, however, before our employees began to realize how easy it is to access the information they require from SYSPRO. Watching that processes evolve has been inspiring.” One of the most important advantages that Syspro brought to Basic Grain Products was a Perpetual Inventory system. “By connecting the inventory system with Order Entry,” says Shung, “and by continuously updating information on inventory quantity and availability as a function of doing business, our book inventory now gives us an exact image of our real inventory. That gives us a very high degree of control over our inventory, and over its associated costs. It also helps us keep track of our expired product, and makes it much easier to adhere to the FIFO (first in – first out) method, which wasn't being properly managed before. We still have to gather more data, but at least, now, the visibility is there.” Shung is quick to point out that the benefits of Syspro’s Lot Traceability module are crucial for a food manufacturer. “With Lot Traceability, we know exactly which lots were shipped to each customer, and our warehouse employees can fulfill orders from cases that are not in danger of being outdated. In addition, thanks to Syspro, we can now do a mock recall in less than 30 minutes. Before Syspro, pulling and qualifying the information took hours – it was a mountain of paperwork.” Before the implementation, says Shung, no one at Basic Grain Products had a proper understanding of production costing. “Our Bill of Materials and Job Costing used to be manual processes, and we didn't even know our true costs of production. Now, with SYSPRO, we are able to assign more accurate production and overhead costs. Because of that, we've learned that we have better margins than we had previously thought.” Syspro Workflow has allowed Basic Grain Products to implement automated order processing through EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). “We are now on EDI for customer purchase orders and invoices,” says Shung. “Our inbound customers' POs are going through EDI, and we invoice back to the customer through EDI. By automating those functions, we've eliminated a good deal of manual entry. Our customer service clerk is now only validating the information, which has improved our accuracy and saved a tremendous amount of time.” Asked if he can calculate the ROI for Syspro ERP, Shung has no reservations. “Syspro has provided us with a rapid ROI,” he affirms, “but I couldn't begin to quantify it. Quite frankly, the information we get from Syspro is priceless.” Odete Passingham is marketing manager for Syspro Canada.
When Rock Solid Supply opened for business in 2003, owner Mike Brunelle delivered countertops from the back of his Nissan Pathfinder. Encouraged by initial success, Brunelle evolved towards a more sophisticated business model, offering high-quality, mass-produced granite countertops and bathroom cabinets. The company, headquartered in Barrie, Ont., differentiated itself by allowing its customers to mix-and-match colours of wood product with colours of granite, and by offering fixed prices with no surcharges or delivery charges. It was a winning combination – since its inception, the company has grown 30 per cent to 40 per cent per year. Jason Treslove was hired in the spring of 2010 to function as Rock Solid's operations manager. “I was brought on board to manage the company's growth,” says Treslove. “Rock Solid was working to capacity and having problems with organization. When I got here, the operations were being run on QuickBooks, and they had purchased a QuickBooks inventory module called Advanced Pro. I wasn't impressed – they'd spent over $5,000 preparing the information for Advanced Pro, and it still wasn't working.” With 15 years experience in Operations Management and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, Treslove had the skills to successfully implement Advance Pro. “As soon as I saw it running, I knew that we needed to upgrade to a different system. QuickBooks is great for a one-man-band, but as a business grows more complex it needs added sophistication.”Rock Solid spent six more months operating on the old system, in order for Treslove to demonstrate its limitations to the owner. “Change can be hard, and it was important to gain the owner's confidence in the decision to move away from Quickbooks,” says Treslove. “I was asking him to make a leap of faith that would determine how the company operates for at least the next 10 to 15 years. We knew going into it that changing the whole operating system would keep us up at night – especially with the company experiencing rapid growth. In February, 2011, we agreed that we needed a change to remain competitive, and that the best way to ensure our future success was to replace the old system with a fully integrated ERP.” The choice came down to Syspro ERP or Microsoft Dynamics NAV. “We compared them both, did our research, and had both companies give us demonstrations,” says Treslove. “It seemed to us that Syspro was able to offer more features and more out-of-the box functionality. That allows a business to get up-and-running quickly, for less cost and effort. With Syspro, you can essentially flip the power switch and run the business. We operated for a full year out of the box, whereas NAV would have required immediate customization.” The system Rock Solid ultimately chose was Syspro ERP. “We appreciated the robustness of Syspro,” says Treslove. “In addition, Syspro had many specific modules I wanted, such as Landed Cost Tracking (which allows you to track shipping and estimate its arrival time), a fail safe accounting system, Sales Analysis by customer and product, as well as Inventory Management and Distribution.” Because of Treslove's familiarity with Syspro, the implementation went smoothly, and Rock Solid did not require outside consultants. “The accounting required some thought,” says Tresolve. “It was more involved than in QuickBooks, but once you understand how an ERP functions, solving problems becomes fairly simple. To make things even easier, Syspro has a phenomenal self-help menu.” One of Treslove's first priorities was to optimize the company's inventory system. “It's critical for us to have accurate, real-time information on our inventory,” says Treslove. “We have several hundred SKUs, and we're always expanding that to increase customer selection. To make things more complicated, we order a lot of our product from overseas, and for some SKUs there's a three-month lead time.” Without proper control, inventories can become large and costly, in terms of capital, operational efficiency, and even business agility. “Inventories tend to grow with sales,” says Treslove, “but despite our own growth we've managed to resist that. We now keep larger quantities of fast-moving SKUs, and fewer of the slow. Whereas we used to store massive amounts of popular items, we now order smaller amounts more frequently. By dramatically increasing our inventory turns, we've reduced our inventory investment substantially. We're able to do that because Syspro anticipates our inventory needs, and keeps us from ordering as a knee-jerk reaction.” With the new inventory system, Rock Solid also enjoys much more accurate open orders. “Before Syspro our purchase orders were made by an e-mail from the owner. Now I can use Syspro to measure supplier performance – I can tell when they have open orders, and I can manage an active priority list using the inventory module.” Syspro has also automated Rock Solid's load planning. “We ship all over Canada,” says Treslove, “but maintain our own fleet of trucks for Ontario. Syspro allows us to break the province into zones, and plan our distribution over a two-week period. This week we're going to Windsor, next week to Ottawa. We can accumulate on a load for two weeks, and when it's ready to go we push a button and receive an automatically generated manifest. Syspro knows where the customers are geographically, what's being sent to them, and the volume of the truck. It sets up our loads accordingly, and we build into the truck using the manifest. That saves on double-handling and makes everyone's life easier. Shipping is a breeze, now, because Syspro does the entire process automatically.” Using the same load planning information, Syspro creates packing labels for Rock Solid's products. “In the past we used a specialized label system,” says Treslove. “Syspro wrote us a custom label program – it was inexpensive and saves us about six to eight man-hours a week.” The new labelling system has improved Rock Solid's order accuracy considerably. “The old way,” says Treslove, “relied on a human bringing information into Excel. The system was fraught with error - we were probably making mistakes on one out of every three orders. Now, because of Syspro, our order accuracy is up to near-perfect levels.” Syspro has also resolved a great deal of confusion around SKU numbers. “There used to be five or six SKU numbers for each item,” says Treslove. “Thanks to Syspro, everybody is now referring to the SKUs with the same information – that's crucial, because the next step is online ordering for our customers.” In the near future, Rock Solid plans to push its technological capabilities towards EDI (electronic data interchange). “Already, we transmit all of our documents electronically,” says Treslove. “All of our order acknowledgements and invoices are sent or faxed right out of Syspro. That's reduced our paper consumption significantly, and lowered labour costs. Even more significantly, we make a private label line, St. Lawrence Cabinets, for Lowes – the second largest hardware store in the U.S. Lowes is very automated and computer savvy, and they're pushing us to take the next steps. Right now we're moving into bar-coding, and soon we'll be matching up our systems through EDI.” According to Treslove, Rock Solid's investment in Syspro has been instrumental in allowing the company to grow and become increasingly profitable. “As a very rough measure of ROI,” says Treslove, “during all our recent growth we've only needed to add one person to our administration staff. But to me, that's not nearly as important as the fact that Syspro lets us keep our finger directly on the pulse of the business. We no longer need to transfer information to Excel and massage it – everything we want to know about our business is at our fingertips. Syspro has given us one-hundred percent confidence in our information, from order intake to final invoicing, and everything in between.” For more information on Rock Solid Supply, please visit: Odete Passingham is marketing manager for Syspro Canada.
At Autodesk University 2012 in Las Vegas, Luke Mihelcic, Simulation Product Marketing Manager at Autodesk, explains the experience and possibilities of the next generation of simulation tools – Autodesk Simulation 360. The simulation in the cloud service provides: • Full scope flow, thermal, and stress analysis capabilities for predicting and optimizing designs • Cloud integration offering unrivaled computing power • Intuitive CAD-driven interface built for mechanical engineers • A solution said to be a fraction the cost of traditional simulation tools
Caleb Funk, a solutions consultant with IMAGINiT Technologies and Autodesk University 2012 presenter, explains how the Autodesk Product Design Suite offering assists designers with providing the correct tool for the task at hand. The Product Design Suite takes the design workflow from conceptualization and engineering through to simulation and documentation.
Sabian Limited is one of the world's foremost cymbal manufacturers. The company was founded in 1981 in Meductic, New Brunswick, by Robert Zildjian, who coined the company name by combining the first two letters of his children's names Sally, Billy, and Andy. The name “Zildjian” means “Son of the Cymbal Maker” – a title that dates to the Ottoman Empire in 1623. At the time, cymbals were clashed at the head of the army, to frighten the Sultan's enemies. Today, Sabian cymbals have a gentler, but still dynamic position atop the drum kits and cymbal stands of some of the most famous drummers and percussionists in the world. Sabian employs some 125 people in nine offices, and distributes cymbals and other percussion instruments, along with stands and accessories, into approximately 120 countries worldwide. “We're in a niche industry,” says Greg Hartt, CMA, Manager of Information Systems for Sabian. “The market is dominated by four or five large players, and half a dozen smaller ones. There are no reliable statistics, but I estimate the worldwide market in cymbals to be from $150-million to $250-million per year.” Hartt, who joined Sabian in 1997, was the first-ever graduate of St. Mary's University in Halifax to matriculate with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Computer Science. “I'm your worst nightmare,” he quips, “an accountant and a geek.” In 1997, says Hartt, Sabian ran on an accounting program that was purchased the year before for $150,000. “In 1999 we had to deal with the fact that our accounting system wasn't Y2K compliant. The vendor informed me that the cost of compliance would be another $200,000 – for a program that didn't have a manufacturing system, or many of the other components we depend on today. Not wanting to throw good money after bad, I decided to take a look at an ERP.” Sabian, says Hartt, chose Syspro after a detailed search of product reviews, reference checks, and a thorough evaluation. "Our priority was to purchase a system that could be highly tailored, to play to our strengths and conform to our business processes. Syspro was exactly what we were looking for. Our initial investment was approximately $100,000. Half of that was spent on software and the other half on consultants. It was the best $100,000 we ever spent.” Over the years, says Hartt, Sabian has pushed the boundaries of what Syspro can do. “We've worked extensively with the Syspro Halifax office, and with other third parties, to write custom software. Syspro head office has even written scripts for us that are now part of their product. These days, we're writing our own software with Visual Basic. The beauty of Syspro is its flexibility – we can leverage our investment without affecting the core reliability of the software.” Despite having thousands of SKUs, Sabian manufacturers only three major product lines. The company's basic cymbals are formed from brass “uniroll” blanks, purchased from suppliers in whatever thickness desired. Sabian's premium “cast metal” cymbals are made of bronze, forged from an ancient family recipe in the Sabian foundry. When the metal is molten it's poured into discus-shaped ingots, which are cooled and allowed to rest before being subjected to a lengthy manufacturing process: rolling, shaping, cutting, hammering (by machine and hand), two stages of testing, and a period of maturation in what's known as the Sabian Vault. Before Syspro, says Hartt, Sabian had no way to track its products through the manufacturing process. “We didn't know how much copper or tin we had on hand, or how many uniroll blanks we had – and those have a 20-week delivery time. Syspro allows us to track the movement of product on the floor, and when we issue a job the system tells us how much materials and product we still have on the shelf. When we do a forecast we can see what we need over time. And when the customer places an order, we can provide a very good estimate of when that order will be filled. Syspro allows us to be more proactive, which gives us a definite competitive advantage.” Barcoding can present problems for manufacturers. “It used to be a nightmare for us,” says Hartt. “Each individual stock code has to have a barcode, and we have approximately 6,000 stock codes. We cannot buy labels ahead of time – we manufacture 500,000 cymbals in a year representing 1000 or 2000 SKUs. An economic quantity from a printer would be 10,000 labels – but we have SKUs we may never manufacture 10,000 times. Syspro allowed us to create a simple system that lets our factory people key in the stock code and get the barcode returned. By using barcode software that ties back to Syspro we've made the system much more efficient.” In 2003, the Syspro Halifax office authored a custom module to conform to the flow of Sabian's packaging process. “We brought the packaging system in six years after the barcode system,” says Hartt, “and now we're using the barcode to tell us what's in the box. When we hit the final function – close order – the barcode tells Syspro what we're shipping. All of the effort that used to go into packaging is now being done by computer – the whole process has flattened out for a substantial gain in efficiency.” Syspro has also made it easier for Sabian to process vendor invoices, such as credit cards. “There are close to 60 credit cards that we don't have to enter information for anymore,” says Hartt. “That's knocked a whole lot of processing time off at month end. All-in-all, Syspro creates better and more accessible information. That in itself makes us more efficient, because we're no longer dependent on a filing system – everything we need is right at our fingertips.” Although Sabian has never subjected Syspro to a formal ROI, Hartt is positive that the numbers add up to success. “When I came here in 1997 the company was making X-dollars in revenue,” he calculates, “selling about 480,000 cymbals annually. Fifteen years later we were at 2X-dollars in revenue, selling about 900,000 cymbals per year. During all that growth we only hired one additional person in an Administrative capacity. That's twice the volume with only one more body, and that would not have been possible without Syspro ERP.” For more information on Sabian’s products please visit their website: Odete Passingham is marketing manager for Syspro Canada.
CIMdata, Inc., a PLM strategic consulting and research firm has published a new white paper, Product Lifecycle Management and the Data Deluge, that reports on new research on PLM and “Big Data,” a phrase used to describe data sets so large and complex that they cannot be readily analyzed using traditional database techniques.Based on CIMdata’s global market research, companies all over the world rely on product lifecycle management (PLM) strategies to enhance their product development and manufacturing processes. Through the use of advanced information technology (IT) solutions, design tools, and other technologies, companies generate large amounts of data that document the evolving product across the lifecycle. Most data and process management solutions used at the core of these strategies include numerous ways to leverage managed data, including classification schemes to organize information, associative linking of related information, and search engines that can find information of interest. While this works reasonably well for the volume and type of information developed across the extended enterprise, companies also use information from the Internet to support their product development processes. Some of that information is well structured and easy to incorporate. But increasingly, companies are looking to the open Internet and World Wide Web to gather information from unstructured sources as well.The paper focuses on the intersection of PLM and what has come to be known as “Big Data.” The increasing volume and growth rate of data applicable to PLM is requiring companies to seek new methods to turn that data into actionable intelligence that can enhance business performance. The paper describes methods, including search-based techniques, that show promise to help address this problem.Product Lifecycle Management and the Data Deluge is available to be freely downloaded from CIMdata’s website at
The world of technology is no longer just reserved for technical experts – consumer technology now spearheads the technologies which businesses later adopt. Clever user interfaces (UI) and stylish hardware has also resulted in users building emotional bonds with hardware, such as their smartphone or tablet - something that was unheard of not so long ago.Most people have heard of ‘consumerization,’ where a technology first emerges in the consumer market and subsequently gets adopted into the corporate one. This transition of business as a technology driver, to that of merely an educated adopter, has been termed: ‘The consumerization of IT.’ The trends that drive consumer IT are also blurring the lines between business and consumer needs. Generally, this has focused on hardware, with the increasing adoption of smartphones and tablets in the workplace. More recently, it has expanded into the software market. Even the traditional Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) market has not been immune to this trend.Beyond significantly impacting the way in which people interact with one another, the rise of social media has also affected the software that they use. A new way of doing things has arrived. Enterprise software typically has to do with numbers, transactions, and so on. Social software is more focused on stimulating engagement. Changing the way of doing businessThere is now a new way of how technology can help businesses. The rise of the social enterprise is seeing social media elements being used in business and commercial contexts. Many companies have started to use social media elements to promote collaboration between their employees.In addition to collaboration, these elements are being implemented to get employees to share tips and ideas of how to improve the workplace, as well as best practices across teams. Imagine using elements of the Facebook experience, such as event invitations, user comments, and photo and video sharing, and applying that to a customer order on an ERP system.In the old days, orders were simply loaded into the system. Now, one can tag an order as an event, and make it more descriptive of its various elements. As the order goes through the system, people who are involved at that specific stage can leave a comment, for example: “There is going to be a delay in implementation time because a spare part had to be ordered.” Suddenly, the entire community of the organization involved in that order is not only updated but, engaging with one another.This also means that employees could be trading documents in real-time. Gartner estimates that half of enterprises will be using some sort of social network within the next two years. These social networks are not necessarily the mainstream ones that are currently in operation, which we hear about everyday, but rather customized ones developed by companies themselves, featuring similar elements. Collaborating on solutionsOn the group side, you can have an engineering department who is busy solving a particular problem, and have other departments discussing and working collaboratively on it, without being pulled into unnecessary meetings. This different way of doing business will require adjustments in the organization and indeed adaptation, no doubt.The social enterprise may prove difficult to embrace for those people who have more than 10 to 15 years of business experience. It will involve a significant culture change. On the flip side, it is highly probable that new employees will find their feet quicker in this collaborative environment. Going mobileThe rise of mobility will also benefit those employees on the factory floor, where computers are difficult to operate. Mobility allows a factory worker to walk around with a tablet, have wireless internet and intranet access, and flag potential issues that could delay an order.There are already a few large organizations that are using collaboration across multiple divisions and locations to improve the effectiveness of their operations. Social enterprise is about improving collaboration and not about slowing it down.In the past, ERP solutions allowed companies to do process integration. Today, with the rise of the social enterprise, companies can now do people integration as well. Phil Duff is CEO of Syspro, one of the world’s largest independent vendors of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. The company is operational in more than 60 countries across six continents. He regularly blogs on SYSPRO’s Smarter ERP blog:
Vessix Vascular is a privately held, venture-backed company developing novel radio frequency balloon catheter technology directed towards a variety of clinical applications including the treatment of medication resistant hypertension via percutaneous renal denervation, and peripheral in-stent restenosis. This new technology has the potential to help the one in three adults in the world who suffer from hypertension–a condition that is more common than cancer, diabetes and coronary artery disease combined. The company’s newest product, the V2 Renal Denervation System for hypertension, recently received CE Mark and promises to greatly simplify the renal denervation procedure. But Vessix Vascular also faced a unique challenge. As a small group, Vessix could ‘get by’ with their paper processes for managing engineering changes, product documentation and Bill of Material (BOM) information but knew this process would not be effective as it grew-particularly where they needed to track engineering change history with full audit trails to meet regulatory requirements. “Even as a start-up, we faced multiple challenges using a paper-based system to manage product revisions,” says Rinda Sama, director of operations and quality for Vessix Vascular. “Documents would pile up on people’s desks, which meant that items were not reviewed right away, causing delays, and many times by the time it was reviewed, the product was already in the next revision.” The team at Vessix had previous experience with Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software as a tool to automate product design and development processes. They wanted to implement PLM early on as a best practice for managing BOMs, engineering changes, product documentation, training records and Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPAs). “Implementing a solution early on prevents the company from being bogged down by legacy data and processes when transitioning to an automated system in the future and also helps to eliminate resistance to change from employees entrenched in those practices,” says Sama. “Tools that are affordable, already configured to meet the needs of medical device manufacturers and can adapt to a company’s processes make it easy to adopt PLM as a start-up and get off on the right foot.” As they evaluated PLM vendors, they were looking for a solution that did not require huge backend support and one they could install on their existing servers. A colleague at another medical device manufacturer recommended Omnify Software. “We looked at Agile due to previous experience with the software but found it to be very expensive and not quite what we needed as a start-up,” says Sama. “After viewing a demo of Empower PLM we found the tool to be identical to Agile, and even better in some areas, but with a much more affordable price tag.” Vessix selected the Empower PLM solution because it met their needs as a small start-up with an easy-to-use and configure system and also delivered the features they needed for controlled product development processes to meet compliance requirements. The scalability of Empower PLM ensured Vessix that they would be able to continue to use the tool as the company grew. Empower PLM has supplied Vessix Vascular with a scalable solution as they have already grown from ten users to 25. “Empower PLM is part of our day-to-day life at Vessix and the employees here love it,” says Sama. Empower PLM addressed Vessix Vascular’s manual revision management issues by providing team members with the ability to see all Engineering Change Orders (ECOs) in real-time. “ECOs no longer pile up on people’s desks. All of our product design and development processes are streamlined and viewable in a single snapshot and the time to process an ECO is transparent,” says Sama.  “We converted the Vessix Approved Supplier List from a static Excel spreadsheet to a dynamic Omnify list,” says Joseluis Espinosa, project manager and Omnify administrator at Vessix Vascular. “In this way, vendors are now able to be linked with individual parts and assemblies. Opening a vendor record displays every part acquired from them. Another advantage to dynamic vendor management is the simplicity with which secondary vendors are able to be qualified and linked to pre-existing parts.” Omnify Empower Vendor Management provides an additional layer of information not available through the legacy paper system. Similarly, all tools and equipment are now managed through the Omnify Empower Training Management Module to track calibration and preventive maintenance. “Since we have test and manufacturing equipment both in-house and offsite at various contract manufacturers, using Omnify Empower PLM for automated equipment tracking and maintenance has substantially increased our overall efficiency,” says Espinosa. Vessix Vascular is ISO 13485:2003 compliant, which specifies requirements for a quality management system. The company has already been through two ISO 13485 Quality System audits using the Omnify Empower PLM system. Prior to Empower PLM, they would have to find and print documents to pull for an audit. Now, they can quickly search in Empower PLM to show the necessary documents along with change history, who approved the change, when it was released, change justifications, and links to any other Omnify items relevant to that part. The company recently received their CE Mark, which will allow Vessix to begin marketing the product throughout the European Union, making their Renal Denervation System available to the wider number of people suffering from drug-resistant hypertension. “Omnify PLM offers some subtle yet powerful advantages to the CE Marking application and review process,” says Espinosa. “Design History Files and Phase completions were enhanced by citing project deliverables with dynamic links through the Omnify BOM structure, which increased the response speed when regulatory bodies inevitably requested more information. In addition, the web interface kept overseas employees in the loop with time-sensitive signoffs and item releases, and uploading legacy design documents en masse was a breeze, facilitating research into previous-generation projects to address regulatory concerns.”
Headquartered in Burlington, Ont., Higginson Equipment was founded in 1945 as a manufacturer of pneumatic and hydraulic NFPA-style cylinders, and as a distributor of fluid power and industrial product lines. In addition, the company manufactures “Economax” corrosion-resistant cylinders for the trucking industry, custom designs and builds special cylinders for a variety of uses, and leverages its expertise in pneumatics to create C-frame air presses.In 2009, Higginson decided to part ways with its 15-year-old business software. “There were three factors motivating our decision,” says company president Bill Allan. “First off, we'd been with our old system for 15 years. It was simplistic, and it didn't have a materials resource planning (MRP) component. The writing was on the wall. Secondly, the recession – we needed to increase our productivity without increasing our manpower. Finally, we received funding, in the form of two government grants, one through the Yves Landry Foundation, and the other through the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters' SMART Program. I was already a big believer in ERP. With government assistance I couldn't say no.”A 20-person company with revenues in the $7 million range, Higginson recognized the necessity of optimizing itself for the future. “We've been steadily growing,” says Allan, “but we needed something to help us get to the next level. We wanted to eliminate the inefficiencies and bottlenecks in our processes, and in doing so, we wanted to build a solid base for improvement and growth.”To facilitate its strategy, Higginson engaged its long-time VAR to perform an assessment and recommend an approach. “Our company-wide processes were analyzed in detail,” says Allan. “As a result we were advised to implement a new, more advanced ERP system. After doing due diligence, and on their recommendation, we chose Syspro.”When it came time for implementation, Higginson did it with alacrity. “We took what is usually a six-month process,” says Allan, “and did it in two months. We spent late nights, inventing on the fly, even made some rash decisions. Fortunately, the VAR that sold us Syspro gave us amazing support, and at the end of the day we got what we wanted.”Bill Allan says the company's new ERPbrought new efficiencies.As Higginson implemented its new ERP, says Allan, most of the old, inefficient processes were funnelled into one of the following categories:• Automated functions available in Syspro (e.g., automated work order creation from sales order; automatic serial numbers generation for manufactured parts) • Product configuration (to automatically define product specifications, Bill of Materials and cost at the time of quotation)• Integration with office productivity tools (such as Microsoft Office)• Electronic faxing and remote connectivity. “Syspro has made us much more efficient,” says Allan, “especially as far as the Bill of Materials (BOM) and work orders are concerned. We used to have to do an excel spread sheet for every job, and then more spreadsheets to calculate cut-lengths of different materials. Now we just put the model number in and Syspro calculates everything for us.” Before Syspro, adds Allan, Higginson's system supervisor, a highly skilled machine operator, sat at his desk three hours a day doing repetitive calculations. “Thanks to Syspro,” says Allan, “he's now gained three hours a day in production time. We've also managed to eliminate a good number of mistakes. Occasionally, in the past, we'd cut a batch of tie rods incorrectly – not anymore.”Because of Syspro's modular nature, one can add efficiencies to work-flow as time and energy allows. “One thing we want to do more of is load leveling,” says Allan. (Load levelling is the process of evenly distributing demand, in terms of orders or schedule, over a given period of time.) “We haven't quite figured out how to take advantage of it, but load levelling will give us a bird's-eye view of production. That will help us smooth things out, and see problems that might be coming down the road. It's a nice feature that we still have to leverage completely.”Asked to consider Syspro's ROI, Allan gives thanks again to the government-sponsored grants. “The grants considered,” says Allan, “Syspro is going to pay for itself in a year. The company is out-of-pocket approximately one person's yearly salary. For a relatively small amount of money, we automated our business processes and removed the repetitive paperwork. But the real money-saving consequence of Syspro is that we can now do more with fewer people – and that makes us more competitive. I would definitely recommend Syspro to any manufacturer.”For more information on Higginson Equipment, please visit Passingham is marketing manager for Syspro Canada.
The Company: Tigercat Industries is a full-range Canadian forestry equipment manufacturer. The company has established a leadership position in its market by developing premium-quality heavy-duty off-road equipment for use by logging professionals. With manufacturing facilities in Canada and Sweden, Tigercat has grown to become a worldwide distributor of a diverse line of forest harvesting systems.The Challenge: The company’s success rests partly on its commitment to using the latest, most-efficient product design and manufacturing technologies, according to Corey Vantilborg, engineering systems administrator. “At Tigercat, we have a history of pushing the envelope when it comes to technology, so we can quickly react to market and customer demands,” Vantilborg says. “Improving our efficiency and speed is part of our culture and we utilize the tools that best allow us to maintain our competitive edge.”The Strategy: Tigercat implemented the SolidWorks 3D design platform, installing 43 seats, to increase productivity in equipment development. The company later acquired SolidWorks Simulation software to realize additional time and cost savings by validating equipment designs. To gain even greater product development efficiencies, Tigercat implemented a product data management (PDM) system.“We had a number of designers and engineers who were working across four different plants accessing four different development servers,” Vantilborg recalls. “We believed that a PDM system would allow us to become more efficient by integrating our resources into a single operation, thereby realizing better revision control, more efficient workflows and greater access to design data.”For its PDM system, Tigercat chose SolidWorks Enterprise PDM software, implementing 200 seats, because of its ease of use, integration with SolidWorks software, customization potential and the support of Javelin Technologies, Tigercat’s local reseller. “At first, I did not think integrated PDM was a big deal,” Vantilborg explains. “But now that we are up and running, I can clearly see the efficiency benefits of interfacing with the vault directly from inside SolidWorks software.”The Results: By implementing SolidWorks Enterprise PDM software, Tigercat has integrated data management for all of its product lines – ranging from harvesters, bunchers and loaders to skidders, mulchers and attachments – with operations at all of its fabrication and assembly facilities in Canada and its manufacturing plant in Sweden. This integration has resulted in tighter revision control, reduced documentation costs and greater engineering and manufacturing efficiencies.“The ability of our engineering groups to communicate about models, maintain a revision history and capture design innovations has substantially increased efficiency,” Vantilborg stresses. “We have several hundred thousand unique design archives, all of which in the past required documentation with a paper drawing. The combination of digital signature capabilities and a heavily replicated system has led us to obsolete our costly, physical storage system. While we need to maintain some paper documents to meet legal requirements, we will otherwise eliminate paper altogether.”With PDM, Tigercat also has realized the ability to refine, automate and standardize its workflows. SolidWorks Enterprise PDM software provides a framework within which Tigercat can more efficiently develop products and manage design changes. “The PDM system eliminates shortcuts and immediate solutions in order to preserve quality and capture innovation,” Vantilborg notes. “The system forces you to follow the workflow procedure and provides accountability and traceability. As a result, our personnel give greater attention to detail and are faster at completing our processes. “There are no longer any quick fixes, which might solve an immediate need but have long-term, undesired ramifications. With the PDM system, all of our plants run differently and more efficiently,” he adds.Another positive impact of the PDM system is the way it has opened up Tigercat’s design data to departmental functions outside of engineering. By providing personnel in departments such as manufacturing planning, assembly, purchasing, sales and technical publications with access to the vault, the company has enjoyed additional productivity benefits.“Tigercat has always been an engineering-focused company,” Vantilborg points out. “By providing every department in the company with controlled access to the vault, we are realizing improved productivity throughout the organization. Purchasing uses the data to obtain quotes, manufacturing planning uses data for setup and shop floor computers give assembly personnel immediate access to the latest revisions. The system enables us to leverage our product design data throughout the organization.” www.solidworks.comA version of this case study ran as part of the 2012 Software Case Study Guide in the September 2012 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.
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