Be sure to check out our Software Directory.

An interview with Autodesk sustainable design program manager, Dawn Danby, regarding the recently launched Autodesk Sustainability Workshop.
Autodesk, Inc., a provider of 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, recently announced the availability of Factory Layout Optimization for AutoCAD software, a new free technology preview available on Autodesk Labs, enabling industrial engineers and layout designers to devise more efficient factory layouts for material handling. The AutoCAD plug-in is designed to help manufacturers adopt leaner manufacturing methods, decreasing waste and improving overall factory efficiency. The Factory Layout Optimization utility enables industrial engineers and factory layout designers to take existing 2D layouts created using AutoCAD and define the material flow paths and stations inside the factory. The new technology provides real-time feedback on optimizing layout from a material handling standpoint, enabling more precise evaluation of multiple layout scenarios earlier in the design process. The Technology Preview can be applied to new or existing 2D layout designs in AutoCAD 2011, AutoCAD Architecture 2011, AutoCAD Mechanical 2011 and Autodesk Factory Design Suite 2011. "This technology is an exciting addition to our factory design software capabilities," said Scott Reese, senior director, Autodesk Manufacturing Industry Group. "The Factory Layout Optimization utility will enable our many factory customers to eliminate the guesswork from factory layout and have greater confidence in their decisions." Factory Layout Optimization for AutoCAD will be available on Autodesk Labs for a limited time. Factory Layout Optimization for AutoCAD is compatible with AutoCAD 2011, AutoCAD Architecture 2011, AutoCAD Mechanical 2011 and Autodesk Factory Design Suite 2011 software; both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. The user interface for Factory Layout Optimization for AutoCAD is in English, but the technology preview is compatible with non-English versions of the supported applications.  This announcement was made at the 18th annual Autodesk University, which took place in Las Vegas, Nev., from November 29 to December 2. The event provides training on the latest Autodesk 3D design software, free certification opportunities and the chance to interact with and learn from other users and design industry leaders. More than 7,000 attendees and 120 exhibitors participated in this year's event at the Madalay Bay Resort and Casino. Manufacturing AUTOMATION magazine was there. Stay tuned for more coverage in the January/February 2011 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION. www.autodesk.com
Autodesk, Inc., a provider of 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, has updated AutoCAD WS, a free web application that uses cloud computing to enable AutoCAD software users to view, edit and share their AutoCAD designs and DWG files through web browsers and mobile devices. The updated mobile application, which will soon to be available through the App Store, helps to increase usability and functionality in AutoCAD WS by making designs accessible even when users are not connected to the Internet, and offers support for opening e-mail attachments directly into AutoCAD WS. "AutoCAD WS has been overwhelmingly embraced by users," said Amar Hanspal, senior vice-president, Autodesk Platform Solutions and Emerging Business. "In just eight weeks, over 410,000 users have registered, 430,000 drawings have been uploaded and the mobile application has been downloaded from Apple's App Store over 560,000 times. With the update to AutoCAD WS, we are directly responding to user feedback. We have added requested features, including the ability to access designs while offline. This will encourage even more designers to start using this free and groundbreaking product."   AutoCAD WS facilitates true anytime, anywhere design by connecting AutoCAD users across the globe through an online workspace that is accessible directly from their AutoCAD desktop software or on iOS devices, including Apple iPhone and iPad. The 1.1 version of the AutoCAD WS mobile application will expand design accessibility through features that include: • Offline support: Most requested from existing AutoCAD WS users, designs can now be viewed and edited from mobile devices, without the need for Internet connectivity. • Direct file uploads from an iPad: Users can now open an e-mail attachment and upload it to their AutoCAD WS account directly from their device. • Simplified gesture interface: Editing, drawing and markup has been enhanced to be more intuitive and similar to AutoCAD. Version 1.1 of the AutoCAD WS mobile application for iPad, iPhone or iPod touch will soon be available on the App Store. Users of AutoCAD products, including 2010 and 2011 versions of AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT software, can download a free plug-in to upload and open files stored in AutoCAD WS accounts directly from their desktop. This announcement was made at the 18th annual Autodesk University, which took place in Las Vegas, Nev., from November 29 to December 2. The event provides training on the latest Autodesk 3D design software, free certification opportunities and the chance to interact with and learn from other users and design industry leaders. More than 7,000 attendees and 120 exhibitors participated in this year's event at the Madalay Bay Resort and Casino. Manufacturing AUTOMATION magazine was there. Stay tuned for more coverage in the January/February issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION. www.autodesk.com
For most of 2010, Canadian companies have taken a wait-and-see approach to ERP. According to IT research firm IDC, Canadian businesses are neither jumping headfirst into new ERP applications nor making significant changes to their existing systems. Our firm's on-the-ground experience is consistent with IDC's findings. Our ERP consulting business is slower in Canada than in the U.S. We're not the only ones seeing this trend. Software vendors are singing a similar tune: their Canadian ERP sales are, on an adjusted basis, relatively weaker than their U.S. sales. A Canadian sales rep for a well-known ERP vendor recently told me that he's being relocated to the U.S. to help mop up some of the excess demand. From a competitiveness perspective, lagging Canadian ERP adoption is concerning. It means that Canadian manufacturers and distributors - particularly in the small to medium-sized segments - are in some respects technologically disadvantaged relative to their U.S. peers. This technological disadvantage has real business consequences that span an organization's entire value chain, including lower sales, higher inventory costs and lower product quality. In my view, a tipping point in the Canadian ERP market will be reached in 2011 and 2012. Canadian companies will be compelled to upgrade their enterprise systems, and when they do decide to make the leap, they will need to be prepared for a long and arduous change management project. This change project starts with system selection. The selection process will take months and, in some cases, can last longer than a year. For one client, we're into month six of its selection project and, to date, everything has proceeded smoothly. Another company we're talking to has given itself a year to find the right-fit system. For the buyer's management team, the selection phase can be grinding. It consumes key IT, operational and administrative personnel. It's a distraction from the day-to-day business. Usually, by the time the company has narrowed the field to the top two or three contestants, frustration has set in. Management just wants to choose the system and move on to the implementation project.  Management, though, should resist its urge to rush negotiations. The total cost of an ERP system - and its ultimate net value - depends heavily on bargaining efforts. Discounts are there to be had. They just have to be found. For example, one of the large ERP vendors is sometimes prepared to offer license fee discounts of 60 to 90 percent to companies that earn less than $100 million in annual revenues. Concessions like these can add up to six-figure savings. Though, many buyers - particularly in the SME segment - don't have the internal ERP negotiating expertise to land these types of deals. As a result, many end up leaving significant value on the table. Below are some tips to help you extract the most value from your ERP negotiations, starting with timing.   The setup: Timing the negotiations Timing is critical. If a buyer is lucky enough to time its ERP investment with a trough in the ERP sales market, it'll have an easier time extracting concessions. Few buyers, however, fall into this category. Most tend to enter the market in and around the same period. These buyers will have to work a little harder to make time work in their favour. Opportune negotiating windows typically open up near the close of a vendor's reporting period. Here's why: a vendor includes a buyer's project in particular quarterly and annual sales projections. The vendor then translates these sales projections into targets for its sales reps. Sales rep commissions are typically based on meeting those targets. The key for the buyer, therefore, is to time the negotiations for the end of the reporting period. By pressuring the sales rep's commissions, the buyer can create urgency, which can translate into favourable concessions. Managing the vendor's sales expectations The buyer should actively manage the vendor's sales expectations. Vendors use sales expectations - or Total Account Value (TAV) in vendor parlance - to set proposed pricing and sales rep commission levels. As an oversimplified rule-of-thumb: the higher the TAV, the more expensive the system.  The buyer should take it upon itself to make sure that ERP vendors assign low (but reasonable) TAVs. How? By managing the information it divulges. For one, the buyer should seldom disclose its project budget. However, since vendors know that most prospects won't divulge budget information, they have developed proxy measures based on company size. Most commonly, ERP vendors generate TAVs based on a prospective buyer's annual revenues and employee count. If your company is privately held, I would recommend keeping this information close to your vest. If there are compelling reasons to divulge this information, I recommend using broad ranges. Be warned that vendors acquire TAV information from third-party research companies (among others). Here's how these arrangements work. The research companies offer "free" ERP research to prospective buyers. The buyer fills out a contact form and gets access to the research. The research company then turns around and sells the information contained in your contact form to ERP vendors. And, as you've probably guessed, the information sought on the contact forms typically includes questions about company size and project timing - the key inputs for sales projections and TAV. Getting the deal done If the buyer has timed the negotiations and managed its information, it has done its positioning work. The toughest part - contract negotiations - remains. One reason why getting a good deal is so difficult is because almost all ERP vendors keep their list prices a secret. This makes it almost impossible for buyers to gauge whether or not the vendor's offer is fair value. Another reason has to do with the complexity of the various contracts that the vendors want the buyer to execute. Oftentimes, the easiest way to cut through all of this complexity is to hire an experienced ERP negotiator. A good negotiator is one who can extract good dollar value while protecting the buyer's rights and interests. In an ideal scenario, your negotiator should: • be independent and impartial; • have good relationships with vendors; • have strong negotiating expertise; • have deep subject-matter expertise; and • be a lawyer. Having said that, many companies will still decide to negotiate on their own behalves. For these companies, I recommend that they do their due diligence before sitting down at the bargaining table. This means understanding the terms of the contract and researching best-practices. Talking to peers and participating in online communities are good places to start. Once the negotiations have concluded, the buyer is ready to move onto the main project: implementation. Jonathan Gross is vice-president of Pemeco, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in ERP selection and implementation. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
On a recent ERP system selection project, our client eliminated a functionally competitive ERP software package because of its disproportionately high price tag. In fact, our client dismissed the manufacturing and distribution ERP package during the first round of cuts, before the vendor was even given a chance to perform a live software demonstration.   The point of the story is that ERP value - like most things - is partially judged in relation to cost. Even though most ERP buyers appreciate the importance of cost, many fail to give it the treatment it requires. The general result: unexpected sticker shock.  In most cases of "mystery surprise" pricing, an impartial observer could not be faulted for laying blame both on the ERP vendor and on the buyer. More often than not, the vendor can be blamed for maintaining opaque pricing practices that preclude meaningful up-front research. Very few vendors publish their list prices. Many buyers, meanwhile, can be blamed for not giving the vendor sufficient information from which to prepare a meaningful pricing proposal. They can also be blamed for not doing enough good analysis on the vendor responses. The purpose of this article is to help empower ERP buyers to make better-informed buying decisions. It is primarily focused on vendor pricing practices relating to ERP licenses. Getting vendors the information they need When an organization acquires an ERP system, it is getting something that is, in many ways, unique. The uniqueness reflects the way that the system is assembled, configured and customized. An ERP buyer needs to understand that the vendors cannot deliver useful proposals without understanding its unique combination of needs. It would be akin to ordering a build-your-own pizza without identifying the toppings you want. Much like the build-your-own-pizza model, an ERP vendor starts with a core application. Then, it adds toppings in the form of software customizations, add-on modules and third-party software.   The buyer's first task, therefore, is to develop a list of basic ingredients that allows the vendor to price a complete ERP solution. The list of ingredients should be made up of actual functional and technical needs. In my article, ERP selection: Three steps to analysing functional needs, I explain how to develop such a list. Only once this list is delivered to the vendor will it be in a position to determine the best mix of applications and customizations.   Now, bear with me while I stretch the pizza analogy further than it should probably go. Just as a pizza parlour would not be able to price a pizza based on toppings information alone, a vendor would not be able to price an ERP solution based on specifications information alone. In the case of the pizza parlour, the missing information is size. In the case of the ERP vendor, the missing information is capacity. In ERP terms, capacity refers to the number of licensed users. The buyer's next task, therefore, is to project its ERP users. A word of caution to the buyer: user licenses come in two forms - concurrent and named. Some vendors price licenses on the basis of concurrent users, while others do so on the basis of named users. There are even some that offer both alternatives. Distinguishing between user types is important because most buyers do not have a 1:1 ratio of concurrent-to-named users. In terms of definitions, concurrent licenses refer to the number of users that are allowed to use the system at any one time. In contrast, named licenses refer to specifically dedicated people who are authorized to use the system. Given different vendor licensing practices, the buyer is advised to project both concurrent and named users. The buyer would also be well advised to have the vendors price multiple user scenarios, because the real future might be different from the projected future. Any variance between actual and projected user counts could affect relative pricing, because different vendors have different ways of pricing license increments. Analysing pricing proposals After submitting its specifications and user scenarios, the buyer has put itself in a position to receive meaningful pricing proposals. Though there are no guarantees that the vendors will oblige, most vendors respond with useful pricing information. Even if the responses do contain useful pricing information, the forms in which they are received are generally not conducive to comparative analysis. The buyer's next task, therefore, is to reorganize the responses into a format that permits "apples-to-apples" comparisons (whether manually or by automated program). For each client, we create a customized pro forma Statement of ERP Costs that we use to analyse each vendor response. For each vendor, we aggregate the line items into common categories and sub-categories. For example, in the license cost category, we might have line items for the following: core license, vendor add-on modules and third-party software. We might also have line items to highlight the costs of non-standard high-priority items (e.g. shop-floor data collection licenses). Once all of the responses are entered into the pro formas, we make whatever pricing adjustments are needed to perform an apples-to-apples comparison. In some cases, the vendor has given us sufficient information to make the required adjustments. In other cases, we need to ask the vendor to re-price certain items based on a different set of assumed circumstances. Once all of the adjustments have been made, the buyer has put itself in a position to perform an "apples-to-apples" comparison. In terms of relevant time periods, the analysis should, at a minimum, be performed for Year 1 and for an assumed system lifespan period. The costs over a system's expected life are known as the total cost of ownership. For ERP systems, we generally assume a 10-year total cost of ownership period. This 10-year total cost of ownership analysis is a must because the most significant ERP costs are typically in the form of recurring annual maintenance costs. Every year, the buyer generally pays maintenance and support costs that are equal to 16 to 22 percent of total, undiscounted license costs. In my next article, I intend to delve deeper into these maintenance annuity obligations, and offer some tips on negotiating more favourable terms. In the meantime, I hope that this article has provided you with helpful tips to guide you on your ERP selection project. Jonathan Gross is vice-president of Pemeco, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in ERP selection and implementation. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Autodesk, Inc. recently announced that AutoCAD for Mac is now available for purchase. The company is making a free 30-day trial of AutoCAD for Mac available for download and will offer free educational licenses to students and educators. Styles&Wood, a provider of property services to retailers, banks and commercial organizations, is one of the more than 5,000 participants who were part of the AutoCAD for Mac beta program. "We have been waiting a long time for AutoCAD to come back to the Mac," said Andrew Handley, CAD development manager. "Our experience has been that AutoCAD for Mac is similar enough to the PC version that the transition is easy. We've found it to be a very powerful and reliable product that has all the functionality we need." AutoCAD for Mac has an intuitive interface that will feel familiar to Mac users and takes full advantage of Mac OS X, including graphical browsing of design files with Cover Flow and use of Multi-Touch gestures for pan and zoom on Mac notebooks, Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad. With native creation and editing of files in the DWG file format, AutoCAD for Mac also supports easy collaboration with suppliers, customers, clients and partners, regardless of platform. AutoCAD for Mac is also integrated with AutoCAD WS, so users can also upload and manage designs in their online workspace directly from the desktop, and edit and share those designs through a web browser or Apple iOS devices using the free AutoCAD WS mobile application. AutoCAD for Mac is now available for purchase in English in North America and Europe from leading resellers, online retailers and Autodesk.com. For details, purchase options or to download the free 30-day trial, visit http://www.autodesk.com/autocadformac. Students and educators are also eligible to purchase commercial seats of AutoCAD for Mac at a substantial discount. For more information and to download the free education version, visit http://www.autodesk.com/pr-mac4students.
Autodesk, Inc. has announced that AutoCAD for Mac software will be available to users this Fall. This version of AutoCAD runs natively on Mac OS X and will increase choice of hardware for millions of users around the world. Autodesk also announced the AutoCAD WS mobile application, a new app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch that will allow users to edit and share their AutoCAD designs in the field. "The release of AutoCAD for Mac marks the return of professional design and engineering software to the Mac platform, and an important convergence of power and design. Over 5,000 customers have helped develop this product through our beta program, and they are delighted to have the choice of a native Mac version of AutoCAD," said Amar Hanspal, senior vice-president, Autodesk Platform Solutions and Emerging Business. AutoCAD for Mac has an intuitive interface that will be familiar to Mac users. It takes full advantage of Mac OS X, including graphical browsing of design files with Cover Flow and use of Multi-Touch gestures on Mac notebooks, Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad for intuitive pan and zoom features. User experience design patterns, such as the visual approach to drawing and layout management, have also been incorporated into AutoCAD for Mac. With support for native creation and editing files in the DWG file format, AutoCAD for Mac also offers easy collaboration with suppliers, customers, clients and partners regardless of platform, the company said. Files created in previous versions of AutoCAD will open in AutoCAD for Mac, boosting productivity by reducing time-consuming file translation and cleanup of converted data. AutoCAD for Mac and the AutoCAD WS mobile application will be available in North America and Europe beginning this fall.
Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. (DS SolidWorks) has unveiled the SolidWorks 2011 product line, with enhanced support for manufacturing. Manufacturing AUTOMATION was at the company's headquarters in Concord, Mass., for the big reveal. The new SolidWorks 2011 family of products includes more than 200 improvements requested by customers who use SolidWorks every day to design new products, validate their performance, communicate with partners, manage design data and minimize a product's impact on the environment. The enhancements are meant to deliver new ways for their 1.4 million users to speed product design, deepen collaboration and strengthen designers' engagement with manufacturing. Active communication between design and manufacturing helps ensure that teams can actually build the products they conceive, and that organizations minimize costly delays, scrap and rework. SolidWorks 2011 includes new features that automate weld placement and documentation. Users select and visualize weld bead paths with the Smart Weld tool, and they specify weld type and prepare joints with enhanced fillet and groove features. SolidWorks automatically compiles data on weld counts, length and type in new weld tables, enabling detailed breakdowns for cost analysis and bidding. Users can apply new visible weld gaps to fitting-to-fitting, pipe-to-pipe and fitting-to-pipe connections to ensure successful welds. Another enhancement is the new bend calculation tables, which allow designers to quickly calculate the developed length of parts. In addition, the new integration of SolidWorks Design Checker into SolidWorks Enterprise PDM software helps streamline the release of designs to manufacturing. Users can weigh the impact of manufacturing decisions on a product's carbon footprint through an expanded range of manufacturing and use regions (now including Australia and South America) in SolidWorks Sustainability software. The software also offers new support for custom materials. Creation of pipe, tube and conduit runs is meant to be simpler with new routing capabilities. Users can now trace existing geometry to guide the route path. SolidWorks associates the outside diameter of the pipe/tube/cable/conduit with the geometry. Relying on these capabilities and more, the SolidWorks 2011 product family is meant to streamline the successful handoff of designs to manufacturing. Other highlights include: · New drawing detailing functions in SolidWorks CAD software eliminate the time and effort of manual dimensioning. Users can automatically align, stagger or center dimensions in a single click without any overlap. · New 2D Simplification helps speed up parts analysis. Users select an intersecting plane and apply the loads and restraints to perform static, nonlinear, pressure vessel and thermal studies. SolidWorks Simulation instantly calculates the results and displays them on the full 3D model. · A new Electronics Cooling Module lets users set up and execute thermal simulations, helping ensure that heat doesn't melt a product's electronics. A new HVAC module works the same way for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Expanded part libraries now include fans, materials, two-resistor components and integrated circuit packages. New analysis variables include local air quality, ambient temperature and Joule heating. · A new menu bar in SolidWorks Enterprise PDM product data management software is meant to speed access to key designs. · All SolidWorks 2011 products are designed to improve speed and reliability by using memory more efficiently when working with large designs and during prolonged work sessions. · PhotoView 360 is fully integrated into SolidWorks CAD software, creating a single, unified environment for design and rendering. · For an immersive experience, SolidWorks users can lead their customers through designs using new walk-through capabilities. Users can navigate their design visions via their mouse or an onscreen console - no preset paths are required. · SolidWorks customers can also work more closely with partners by sending them detailed designs - but not too detailed. The new Defeature tool facilitates the removal of unnecessary detail or sensitive intellectual property before sharing. · For improved communication beyond the design team, 3DVIA Composer technical communication software introduces a dynamic, interactive "storyboard" capability that helps customers deliver process instructions through interactive images. Users can create a step-by-step linked narrative for recipients, such as a colleague in manufacturing, a prospect considering a big contract, or a consumer actually using the product. Users drag and drop views to create interactive procedures that are clear and effective. Magnetic lines are another feature that increases productivity by organizing content with minimal clicks. Users are already weighing in. "In addition to refinements throughout, SolidWorks 2011's new CAD and PDM capabilities will enable our engineering groups to intelligently tackle new challenges in the design of our products and production systems," said Janine D. Essex, global product line manager for the SolidWorks application at Robert Bosch LLC, a global technology and services company. "We're expecting measurable, improved and enhanced productivity throughout our customer base."   "There are big changes," said Robert Teele, lead mechanical designer for Nuvera Fuel Cells, a clean energy products company in Billerica, Mass. "Our production and marketing departments, for example, are eager to use the new walk-through animation capability to explore our equipment designs and our custom on-site installations with customers."   For more information about the SolidWorks 2011 product family, including video demonstrations, visit www.solidworkslaunch.com. What do you think about SolidWorks 2011? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with your experience.
Companies evaluating ERP solutions may find themselves ensnared in a net of vendor confusion. Selecting the right ERP software from among 15 or 20 seemingly good candidates is a difficult project. So, how does a company go about comparing, contrasting and ranking the various ERP software alternatives? How can it determine which software package best fulfills its various needs? Answering these questions - and cutting loose from the net of ERP confusion - requires a strong analysis within a well-built methodological framework. Below is a three-stage framework that a company can use to assess its needs and find an ERP package that has the functionality to meet those needs. Stage 1: Identifying functional specifications Your system selection journey should not start with an assessment of various ERP packages. Starting the selection project with an external analysis pushes a company into an awkward restructuring project that could lead to failure. Using this ill-advised approach, a company becomes more likely to try to mould its own business processes to those defined by the ERP software. The problem is that those ERP-defined business processes were established by an ERP vendor that had little or no knowledge of the selecting company's unique business needs. As a result, the selecting company will likely find itself trying to squeeze its business processes into the wrong-sized box. Rather, your ERP journey should start with introspection. Starting with an internal analysis puts your company on a path to finding a system that fits its needs - and helps it avoid changing itself just to fit a specific system. Business process mapping is key to this internal analysis. The fruits of this exercise include a set of diagrams that show the precise steps that the various business transactions take to wind their way through the company. Consider, for example, a relatively simple business process (a.k.a. workflow) relating to the Chinese sourcing practices of fictional company, ACME Co. An ACME procurement employee conducts a daily review of purchase orders and extracts only those parts that are to be sourced from China. The employee then enters the relevant parts information into a spreadsheet and e-mails that spreadsheet to the Chinese supplier. Though this workflow contains relatively few steps, it highlights some significant operational inefficiencies. For example, the job of manually combing through purchase orders and populating a spreadsheet is time consuming, cumbersome and costly. Also, manual data transcription introduces significant human error risks that could delay purchasing and jeopardize timely delivery. If sourcing efficiency is a key business objective, ACME might decide that it wants to acquire an ERP system to perform part or all of this workflow. Ultimate automation, however, will depend on ACME's ability to select a system with the right functionality. To evaluate whether an ERP system has the requisite capabilities, the selecting company must first define the functional components that make up this business process. In ACME's case, it would want to ensure that the ERP system is capable of segregating purchase order parts by part code, among other things. A failure to identify this and other functional specifications could cause ACME to pick the wrong system - one that would be incapable of fulfilling its sourcing needs. Once a selecting company has defined all of the functional specifications, it then has to prioritize those specifications. The prioritization exercise is key because each system has its own strengths and weaknesses. The selecting company wants to make sure that it picks the system whose strengths match its most critical needs. Stage 2: Weighting functional specifications Functional specification weights should be assigned relative to the importance - or business value - of the underlying business process. In ACME's case, let us assume that Chinese sourcing is a key business driver. ACME would, therefore, give heavy weights to the functional requirements that are necessary to execute the related business routines. For our systems selection clients, we typically use the following four-point scale to weight functional specifications: 4.    Required and cannot be worked around; 3.    Required, but can be worked around if missing; 2.    Nice-to-have; and 1.    Future use. Once priorities have been assigned, the functional requirements list should be sent out to the vendors for completion, along with the other elements of a request for proposal (RFP). Upon receipt of the completed RFP, the company must then score the vendors' responses. The scoring process must include an analysis of how well the candidate systems meet the company's functional requirements. Stage 3: Evaluating the ERP software One purpose of a selection methodology is to help a company put itself in a position to pick a system whose strengths align with its high-priority needs. Another purpose is to help a company avoid picking a system that would fail to deliver on any of its high-priority needs. This latter category of unfulfilled, high-priority needs is what we call the "Danger Zone." Avoiding the Danger Zone largely depends on how well the company completes the definition and prioritization stages of the analysis. Failing to identify or prioritize functional specifications creates a risk of acquiring an inadequate system. For example, let us assume that ACME failed to identify purchase order parts segregation as a key sourcing specification. Let us also assume that ACME only first discovered this omission during implementation. As a result of this late discovery, ACME had to try to rectify this mistake during implementation by customizing - or programming - the software to deliver the missing functionality. In the end, the customization process delayed the implementation project and caused cost overruns. As this example shows, a methodology is a necessary but insufficient tool for running an effective system selection project. The methodology must be supplemented by a high-quality analysis of functional specifications. Remember, your ERP project is a 10-year investment into operational improvements. If your business does not have the internal skills that are necessary to run a proper selection project, it should look outside its walls for those skills. Jonathan Gross is vice-president of Pemeco, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in ERP selection and implementation. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Siemens PLM Software, a business unit of the Siemens Industry Automation Division and a global provider of product life cycle management (PLM) software and services, has promoted Charles C. "Chuck" Grindstaff to president, effective October 1, 2010. Grindstaff is the current executive vice-president of products and chief technology officer. He has worked in increasingly senior positions with Siemens PLM Software over 32 years. He succeeds Dr. Helmuth Ludwig, who Siemens Industry Automation announced would head its global communications team. Ludwig, who has served in increasingly senior positions with Siemens since 1990 and who joined Siemens PLM Software as president in 2007 soon after its acquisition by Siemens, will focus on working with each of the division's four business units to provide a range of strategic communications services. His appointment is also effective October 1.
THE COMPANY: Just as water is always in motion, so is the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA). Since 1993, OCWA has operated in a competitive market, providing a comprehensive array of water and wastewater services to municipalities, private sector companies and First Nations. Each day, OCWA produces more than 700 million litres of drinking water, and treats about 1.2 billion litres of wastewater at 502 facilities across Ontario. THE CHALLENGE: When it comes to water, delivering a clean, consistent and safe product to all citizens is paramount. After protecting public health and the environment, priorities turn to delivering value through outstanding service and cost-effective operations. THE STRATEGY: OCWA has kept these goals in sight as it has made strategic moves forward for its customers. In 1999, the agency developed its first Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. Called Outpost 5, it was designed to work across large geographic areas to provide monitoring, reporting and security. Outpost 5 provides support to more than 750 OCWA locations, and is the largest such system in the North American water and wastewater industry. But OCWA's commitment to innovation did not stop there. As part of its promise for continuous improvement, the agency recognized an opportunity for progress. What if Outpost 5 could be enhanced through the integration of an off-the-shelf software solution with the current network base? Enhancing Outpost 5 with such a resource would enable the agency to operate more efficiently by taking advantage of templates and redundancy scenarios to roll out new locations more quickly with fewer staff. As envisioned by OCWA, the right solution would also improve their competitive advantage. Customers who choose OCWA as their provider today would have the option to take control of their system - without re-engineering - if they wished to do so in the future. They would simply purchase the necessary licenses to continue to run the application. And finally, this new approach would also provide greater continuity of service and quality control to meet regulatory requirements across the province. The R&D and IT departments at OCWA converted these ideas into specifications and sought out possible partners. Through the process of evaluations and presentations, it became clear that a Wonderware solution from Invensys offered critical advantages based on the similarities it shares with the Outpost 5 model. A transition to a Wonderware software solution would be eased because of scalable configuration and template structure, as well as strong web-based capabilities. Plus, Wonderware Canada East, the local Wonderware distributor for the project, added applicable experience and outstanding service capabilities. For OCWA, economies of scale are imperative. With more than a million square kilometres of territory to cover, the agency's teams are highly co-ordinated. Skilled technicians travel to remote locations for installations. Then they rely on colleagues working at the Toronto office to perform the programming, and still other groups in OCWA hubs around the province monitor and maintain the systems. THE RESULTS: None of this would be possible without a versatile solution that enables standardization. OCWA's Instrumentation, Automation and SCADA Group is responsible for deploying all of the installations. This team found that the Invensys Wonderware highly flexible System Platform and InTouch Human Machine Interface (HMI) could be integrated with Outpost 5, as well as OCWA's existing asset management system and Process Data Collection (PDC) database. Plus, with Wonderware software's template capabilities, the system could be replicated consistently and quickly at new installations. Ciprian Panfilie, SCADA developer team lead, explains, "It's easy because everything is developed as a template. We have a template structure at the Wonderware System Platform level, the reporting level, the security level, the graphic level, and we have templates that integrate with other packages as well. We have them all here in our lab so everything is fully tested and we maintain our standards." This brings a major advantage when new stations are added. Before integrating the Invensys Wonderware solution, OCWA required a complex, interdisciplinary team to work for six months to a year on new deployments. Now, they can do the same work with one person in about three months. And in the case of installations where the hardware is already in place, projects are even faster. Bringing the system online in large plants has gone from months to days. Along with these deployment advantages, the new solution also provides extensive measurement capabilities that are necessary for regulatory compliance in Ontario. Both OCWA work teams and emergency response teams rely on the system for real-time data about pump pressures, power consumption, piping systems, chemical levels and other performance factors. The data is used to respond to immediate needs, but also to compile reports that are required by the Ministry of Environment. George Terry, vice-president of operations and maintenance, says, "It's not enough just to do an excellent job in ensuring compliance at all times. What you have to ensure is that you are recording and documenting that work." It's also critical for OCWA to be able to defend its reporting. The agency is required to provide regular information to the Ministry of Environment. This data, collected from numerous sources - such as the pumps that deliver the water, the regulators that manage the chlorination and the labs that test the effluent - is reviewed, checked and rolled up into quarterly reports to prove compliance. Robert Simpson, manager, asset management and operational system support, elaborates: "We have to do this so that people are aware that they have a system that's working properly and providing them with clean, safe drinking water and properly treated wastewater. It's a continuous process." That's where the Wonderware Historian comes in. It enables each hub to record data in real time and convert it into reports that are submitted to the Ministry of Environment. And because of the extensive communications connections built into the system, staff throughout the operation can access the data instantaneously. In eastern Ontario, where severe weather is part of the picture, protecting OCWA's data is another area where Invensys Wonderware can help. Historian Forward is a sophisticated capability that maintains system data even if communications lines are temporarily down. Performance measurements - some taken as frequently as every five minutes - are stored locally, if needed, then forwarded to the central database once communications are re-established. Previously, OCWA had been hampered during power outages because remote staff members were not able to access records when connections were interrupted. Now access is optimized and data is protected. As the data is being collected, it is being monitored by OCWA's maintenance management system. Programmed with guidelines and allowable ranges for operations, the system automates the generation of alerts and work orders. Of course this benefits customers because it helps OCWA deliver a consistent product and a high level of service. But it also brings advantages to the agency's workers. The work orders enable crews to be proactive, since they can highlight budding problems before they progress. Additionally, management can better utilize personnel throughout the province because the Wonderware solution's web-based desktop capabilities mean that maintenance can be performed remotely. Simpson puts it this way: "You can be ahead of problems before they happen. Invensys Wonderware enables you to diagnosis a situation in a timely manner using a remote desktop. The last thing you do is physically go there." So it saves fuel costs, vehicle costs and operator time. The wide-area SCADA system also provides better work-life balance for OCWA's maintenance staff members. Because most corrections are made remotely, workers don't have to travel as much. And when system adjustments are needed, they usually can be addressed during the normal working day, eliminating more expensive, on-call hours. But if alarms do come in overnight, staff can log on to the Internet, make a correction and go back to sleep. The OCWA system incorporating the Wonderware software solution is considered cutting edge in North American water and wastewater management, but the agency is driven to implement further innovations. Plans include expanding web-based capabilities so that customers and partners can log on and see how their systems and services are operating, including performance information and quality measurements. Plus, OCWA envisions expanding its work with small and medium-sized utilities so that all municipalities in Ontario have access to the latest technology for clean water service. OCWA is also partnering with First Nations in Ontario. The agency hopes to be a resource for high-quality water and wastewater services, as well as emergency capabilities. Simpson sums it up: "The most important benefit is that it provides a scalable system for our clients, whether they are small or large. It incorporates the best technology and software available, and gives us the total solution to meet their needs, and meet all regulatory requirements to provide safe, clear drinking water throughout the province of Ontario." And with Invensys Wonderware, that's sure to continue.
THE COMPANY: IMT Partnership, based in Ingersoll, Ont., provides manufacturing, machining and forging services to the automotive, truck-trailer and oil and gas industries, as well as defence agencies, such as the Canadian Department of National Defence and the U.S. Department of Defense. The company's Ingersoll Axle brand is known for a wide selection of truck and trailer axles, including high-quality, customized axles that are delivered within weeks. THE CHALLENGE: IMT's operational excellence depends on IT systems, but the company ironically faced increasing difficulty maintaining the systems that made its manufacturing processes efficient. The software the company used was complex, expensive and did not support changing business needs or plans for growth at IMT. In 2007, IMT acquired a rival forging operation in Champaign, Ill. As it looked forward to integrating this and future acquisitions, it needed business management software that was easier to implement, maintain and modify. THE STRATEGY: After comparing software packages from various vendors, IMT concluded that Microsoft Dynamics AX provided the functionality and technical flexibility that the company needed. It allowed the company to add capabilities - like a new barcoding system for its manufacturing floor - and streamline processes. And because Microsoft Dynamics AX is based on the Windows operating system, IMT can more easily integrate the solution with its other systems, including specialized software for shop floor operations and timekeeping. THE RESULTS: Microsoft Dynamics AX provides IMT with the IT systems it needs to build high-quality, custom products for customers, while keeping maintenance and support costs to a minimum. In addition, the business management software has helped eliminate inefficiencies and created new opportunities for enhancements. Microsoft Dynamics AX brings together sales, supply chain, manufacturing and financial processes. An accountant used to spend at least an hour a day processing inventory changes for reporting purposes. Now, shipping and receiving information is automatically reflected in the system. Another plus: IMT was able to reduce the number of steps needed to place and monitor orders from 16 steps to just two. Microsoft Dynamics AX also increases visibility into operations so that IT managers can make better decisions. By identifying and solving problems earlier, IMT helps ensure its customers receive quality products on time, without any unnecessary waste in resources. For the complete story, visit http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Microsoft-Dynamics-AX-4.0/IMT-Partnership/Growing-Manufacturer-Integrates-Processes-Drives-Efficiency-with-Business-Software/4000002193.
THE COMPANY: Ganong is a Canadian manufacturer of gift box chocolates, fruit snacks and sugar confectionery. Operating out of its St. Stephen, N.B. location since 1873, the company was voted one of Canada's 50 Best-Managed Companies for three consecutive years. THE CHALLENGE: Despite being a mid-sized manufacturer, Ganong believed strongly in the value of an experienced information technology staff, and in what a new, fully integrated enterprise system could bring to the organization. Ganong's proprietary, heavily customized HP3000-based application was generally effective in processing the company's business transactions; however, management believed that an improved information management system would enable them to make better, timelier business decisions. Further, the new information system needed to have scalability, stronger order fulfillment, and manufacturing capacity management capabilities. Ganong also recognized that, while their confectionery manufacturing business environment placed them within the realm of needing a process-specific software application, they wouldn't require anywhere near the capabilities offered by most process manufacturing vendors. Instead, their manufacturing processes were aligned more towards a hybrid or mixed-mode style, with requirements for both batch and discrete capabilities. THE STRATEGY: Ganong engaged the IBM Global Services Division in Canada to assist with a formal evaluation of packaged applications. The team investigated several major applications on the market to determine which vendor offered a truly mid-market solution with the best balance of the following criteria: functionality, technology, price, ease-of-use and implementation. Ultimately, Ganong selected Sage ERP X3, knowing that the software solution had the right amount of functional depth and breadth to achieve the company's system objectives and attain the fastest return on investment. Factoring into the decision were the software's integrated automated data collection capabilities, a feature that must typically be acquired from third-party specialists. The Ganong team also liked Sage ERP X3's more technically advanced architecture. THE RESULTS: With Sage ERP X3, Ganong improved accuracy and reduced billing errors, and now tracks off-invoice allowances at a detailed level. Financial reporting is much improved, with easy access to financial and statistical profitability information. The accuracy and timeliness of production recording is greatly improved through the use of the integrated Sage ERP X3's data collection module, thereby improving the production planning process. "This is one feature of the system from which we derived benefits immediately right from go-live," says Marc Lefebvre, vice-president and CIO for Ganong. Since its initial implementation in 2002, Ganong has maximized its investment in Sage ERP X3, extending its usage across the organization and to additional users, and updating the software as new releases become available. A recent software upgrade to Version 5 boosted the functionality of the browser-based interface and added expanded inventory functionality. The browser interface proves ideal for remote users of the software, as well as local users who appreciate the familiar web look. Ganong has also implemented EDI, a process made much simpler due to the flexible architecture of Sage ERP X3, explains Lefebvre.
THE COMPANY: Mitchell Mill Systems Canada Ltd. designs and manufactures material handling equipment used in grain, livestock feed, pet food, fish food, fertilizer, seed cleaning and other industrial processes. THE CHALLENGE: For many years, the company used 2D CAD software to develop its material handling equipment designs. As the manufacturer grew, however, its equipment business included an increasing number of standard products. In addition to improving the development of custom material handling systems, the company's need for a 3D CAD application for realizing greater efficiencies in standard equipment assembly design became increasingly apparent, according to Stephen Mitchell, the company's president. "We have been developing material handling systems for some time, and the part of our business focused on standard product lines has grown to about 50 percent of the total," Mitchell explains. "We began looking into 3D tools primarily to improve our standard equipment development efforts through greater efficiencies in the handling of assemblies. Design reuse and configurable assemblies were important goals, and we also believed 3D would improve interaction with our customers." THE STRATEGY: Mitchell Mill Systems selected SolidWorks Professional software because of its ease of use, sheet-metal design features and large assembly capabilities. Mitchell Mill Systems also values the software's design configurations, interference detection and advanced visualization functionality. Mitchell Mill Systems managed its transition from 2D to 3D in phases, starting all new development of standard equipment in SolidWorks software before moving on to existing design modifications and retrofits, and then to custom-designed projects. The company quickly realized the benefits of visualizing large assembly designs in 3D as part of its CAD migration. THE RESULTS: "Because we can better visualize what we are designing - such as simulating motion to detect interferences - and because it's easier and faster to make design changes, we not only are saving time and money, but also boosting the level of innovation that we design into our systems," Mitchell notes. "With SolidWorks, we can both see where a collision can occur, which eliminates errors and reduces development costs, and explore new ideas, innovative concepts and better ways of doing things." With the implementation of SolidWorks software, the company has also achieved greater efficiency during equipment manufacturing and assembly. "Having a 3D model to work from generates additional efficiencies throughout production," Mitchell stresses. "Working from a 3D model makes it easier and faster to assemble our equipment. In manufacturing, our assembly time has improved since we moved to SolidWorks. "Having the 3D design and the 2D drawing as references gives our production personnel a better understanding of what they are building and manufacturing," Mitchell adds. "There are fewer assumptions and back-and-forth questions, which saves time and contributes to our overall productivity. SolidWorks is a tremendous tool when used properly." By moving to SolidWorks software, Mitchell Mill Systems has improved the quality and effectiveness of its communications with existing and prospective customers. The company uses 3D visuals produced in SolidWorks as part of its sales presentations and proposals, and relies on eDrawings design communication tools to communicate more effectively with customers. "With eDrawings, we can design our systems and send 3D models to our customers so they can visually evaluate the design," Mitchell points out. "Our customers can visualize the design better in 3D, and typically see things in the initial design that they might not have caught in 2D. This capability results in much better feedback from our customers, which translates into fewer customer problems and misunderstandings. "In addition to improving design communication with existing customers, 3D models certainly add pizzazz to our presentations and proposals," Mitchell adds. "More and more of our customers expect to see what a system looks like without trying to envision a 3D image from a 2D line drawing. SolidWorks provides us with the tools we need to secure new customers, and better communicate effectively with the customers we have worked with for years."
THE COMPANY: Incorporated in 1992, and headquartered in Montreal, Que., WeighPack Systems is a packaging equipment industry leader with an extensive, high-quality product line, and leading-edge packaging equipment designs. For more than 18 years, WeighPack has delivered packaging equipment for applications throughout the world, within industries as diverse as food, hardware and pharmaceuticals. "Our core business is the manufacture of weighing and bagging equipment," says company president and founder, Louis Taraborelli. "Our machines process snack food, frozen food, candy, hardware - anything in a bag." While WeighPack's primary market is the U.S., the company is rapidly expanding its international presence with locations in Chicago, Las Vegas and Shanghai, and a new location in Southern Florida. THE CHALLENGE: "We're not a high-volume business," says Taraborelli. "Most of our sales are build-to-order. Our products are extremely variable, and our customers typically require a high level of customization. In consequence, we need to maintain a huge inventory of stock codes and componentry across multiple warehouses and subsidiary companies. We require an ERP that gives us complete control over our inventory, and provides us with real-time financial information." THE STRATEGY: During the early 1990s, WeighPack hired a third-party consultant to research the ERP products available at the time. "We considered several brands of ERP," says Taraborelli, "but there was one product that clearly came out on top. In 1995, we implemented Syspro." Today, WeighPack has been leveraging Syspro for more than15 years. To prospective ERP users, Taraborelli offers a word of advice. "To gain optimal benefits from your ERP system, a company must be willing to make some changes to both workflow and work processes. After making the decision to buy, dedicate a project team to speed the implementation process, and facilitate the necessary changes." THE RESULTS: "We now have a standard platform across all our warehouses and subsidiary entities," says Taraborelli. "Using a centralized server, we can access real-time inventory information from any of our warehouses. We can also access the bookkeeping records of our subsidiary companies, allowing our accounting department to stay on top of our financial health. To get the same level of information without Syspro, I'd need double the accounting staff." Syspro lets WeighPack know to the penny what a job will cost in advance. "We can now predict the cost of a finished product before we do the job. And within seconds of the job being closed, we know the real cost, and can advise our sales department if they need to adjust the price for future business opportunities. "Syspro continually upgrades and revises its software to make use of emerging technologies," Taraborelli says. "Syspro invests in keeping its product leading edge. From my perspective, everyone at Syspro Canada is accessible, personable and interested in the well being of our company." For more information on WeighPack Systems, visit www.weighpack.com. For more information on Syspro, visit http://canada.syspro.com/?//.

Subscription Centre

 
New Subscription
 
Already a Subscriber
 
Customer Service
 
View Digital Magazine Renew

We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. To find out more, read our Privacy Policy.