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With the recession softening manufacturers’ fourth-quarter revenues, financial analysts are emphasizing different barometers — such as operating margins — to gauge companies’ success. Leading manufacturers are taking steps to improve margins by running as Lean as possible, ensuring continued focus on quality and compliance and reacting swiftly to take advantage of new revenue opportunities as a result of the economic environment. While IT is not spared from cost-cutting initiatives, smart companies are making targeted IT investments that provide quick return on investment (ROI), particularly in areas that support the organizations' differentiating business and manufacturing processes. This dual strategy of selective cost-cutting and targeted investments in IT from an end-to-end process perspective typically has delivered larger returns than focusing purely on cost-cutting measures, according to a report titled “Managing IT in a Downturn: Beyond Cost Cutting” in the September 2008 McKinsey Quarterly business journal. This counterintuitive approach has marked a shift in “C-suite” (CEO, CFO and COO) purchasing and decision making it likely to become the new norm even when the economy recovers. As early as last fall, companies began shifting more IT purchasing and decision-making power to senior levels — and beyond the traditional realm of localized budget approvals into aggregated decisions — because the combination of limited access to capital and declining revenues was forcing companies to more closely manage budgets in shorter time segments, sometimes from quarter to quarter or even month to month. As a result, the C-suite is taking a more bite-sized approach to selecting software that solves immediate pain points, can be paid for easily and implemented quickly, and provides measurable near-term ROI. It must integrate seamlessly into differentiating business processes and also align with the company's long-term IT and business strategy. This new emphasis is driving demand for three types of software — each supporting an end-to-end process perspective — helping manufacturers weather the downturn while positioning them for strong growth when the economy recovers. 1. Performance management software helps manufacturers reduce costs by providing visibility into operations and enabling quick tactical responses to production or supply volatility. Examples include manufacturing visibility and intelligence and inventory optimization solutions that integrate with tactical production planning, procurement, scheduling and execution capabilities. This combination enables manufacturers to respond quickly to supply or demand volatility. Consider a situation in which cost-cutting measures necessitate a production line (or even a plant) to be shut down, and production needs to be shifted quickly onto other plants so existing order delivery or inventory is minimally impacted. This situation requires deep visibility into — and tight integration across — process steps such as demand planning, production scheduling and manufacturing execution. 2. Quality and compliance software helps manufacturers mitigate potential revenue leakage due to product and process defects, non-conformance or quality violations. This includes improving detailed track-and-trace and recall-management capabilities from core production processes across the supply network. Consider a situation in which a sudden quality defect in a key component required for one of your best-selling products is introduced by one of your suppliers. Rapidly uncovering the quality or conformance issue, conducting a root-cause analysis and taking corrective action across the supply network requires a complete view and detailed reporting of compliance and traceability from component to finished assembly, and from the supplier’s plant to the store. 3. Revenue-capturing software enables manufacturers to identify and capitalize on new opportunities created by the current economic environment. Such solutions typically support deep insight into customer buying preferences and are integrated into trade promotion management, demand management and production fulfillment processes. Dramatic shifts in the economy can create new opportunities. Products that may not be in demand today may be tomorrow. In today’s global business landscape, it’s not enough for manufacturers to have software that provides insight into industry trends, into buying behavior and into product and profitability analysis and processes. Software must integrate seamlessly into trade promotion management and collaborative demand and fulfillment planning solutions to enable manufacturers to more nimbly react to and capture new market opportunities. Smart manufacturers know they can’t afford to postpone IT investments until after the economy improves. By selecting software that can be quickly implemented, deliver fast results and seamlessly integrate differentiating business processes, the CEO/CFO can achieve short-term goals of improving margins while still following the CIO roadmap for creating the perfect plant. Greg Swift is the regional vice-president of central-region sales at SAP Canada Inc.
WAGO Corp. has launched WAGO/PARTcommunity Portal for free access to WAGO’s more-than-17,000 parts catalog. As an online portal, it provides direct downloads of 2D/3D CAD drawings, product information and PDF data sheets. A multilingual user interface provides information in English, Spanish, French or nine other languages. For expedited part selection and specification, users register once — log-in information is retained for future use. WAGO/PARTcommunity then guides users through selection of a default CAD format (2D, 3D, native or neutral); the format can change to suit individual parts as needed. A convenient selection pane flanks the main preview window, allowing users to easily toggle between automation, electronic interface and interconnect products. WAGO/PARTcommunity permits selection of several part numbers prior to download. Once selected, file delivery and access are immediate: perform a “save as” command, store the CAD file and then access it. All saved parts are also electronically stored in a “My parts” list on the WAGO/PARTcommunity server for future viewing/reference. WAGO/PARTcommunity provides a 3D parts presentation for visual overview of a part’s form factor, space requirements and other design considerations. An animation feature then automatically spins the selected component for hands-free review. A 3D PDF view Is also provided. Access the WAGO/PARTcommunity at http://www.wago.us/PARTCommunity.htm.
IBM and Dassault SystÃ¨mes have signed an agreement under which Dassault intends to acquire IBM sales and client support operations encompassing Dassault's PLM software application portfolio, as well as customer contracts and related assets, for approximately $600 million in cash. Dassault and IBM have also defined the next steps in their long-standing relationship, and plan to establish Dassault as an IBM Global Alliance Partner and expand their services partnership. While the transaction is being completed, both companies expect their existing operations, including customer service and product availability, to continue as usual. After completion of the transaction and integration of the two companies’ PLM operations, Dassault PLM customers will benefit from simplified engagement and support processes. “The adoption and integration of PLM and 3D collaboration by a growing number of enterprises require deep industry knowledge," said Bernard CharlÃ¨s, president and CEO of Dassault SystÃ¨mes. "The planned integration of the IBM sales force and related business operations represents the largest investment in our corporate history. We are putting our customers and partners first, creating a globally efficient sales organization to bring the value of V6 PLM applications to every enterprise in every industry.” Pursuant to the planned global alliance agreement, IBM and Dassault expect to continue to jointly invest in developing, deploying and supporting client PLM environments, delivering integrated PLM solutions to their clients worldwide. The enhanced services agreement is expected to bring significant potential to the global marketplace with extended IBM resources and expertise to help transform client PLM environments, leveraging the DS V6 portfolio. Both companies are dedicated to strengthening and extending their cooperation in the areas of professional services, cloud computing, middleware, flexible financing, hardware, and sales and distribution. www.3ds.com
Global Shop Solutions, a privately-held ERP software system provider for the discrete manufacturing industry, has launched its enhanced GS Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool "that simplifies how manufacturers file and access customer and prospect information." The newly redesigned GS CRM tool is fully integrated with Global Shop Solutions’ One-System ERP Solutions and, with its single-screen simplicity, provides a single point of entry to access all key customer, prospect and vendor information. “We invest a great deal of resources communicating with our customers about their needs, and as a result, our CRM module was quickly moved to the top of our R&D upgrade list,” said Dusty Alexander, president of Global Shop Solutions. “With our single-screen CRM tool, employees no longer have to waste valuable time using standalone systems to access critical customer information. GS CRM saves time and helps create a paperless environment.” Unlike traditional CRM tools, GS CRM is a single-screen module, cross-connecting all shop aspects so users can find related information on one screen. The tool can also sort by vertical and can connect to databases, making it a good marketing and sales resource. With GS CRM, users can: • access all customer information (names, titles, and contact info), e-mail history, situation specific workflows, and service requests; • track new sales tied to prospects or customers, forecast the sale close date, or research the sale dollars, type of sale, and ship date; • drill down to access accounts receivable information, sales history, RMA’s, schedules, etc.; and • document customer preferences, quality issues and other information essential to building and maintaining strong customer relationships. Global Shop customer, Larry Fisher, director of administration for Houston-based Turbo Components, states that the GS CRM is a tool they’re “making serious use of now. It’s a robust system and for a business of our size it offers a real avenue of growth potential for us.” For more information, visit www.globalshopsolutions.com.
Below you'll find features from our print edition followed by online exclusives. What do companies that make valves, candy, hockey boards and fuel cells have in common? Answer: They, among others, have turned to software to maintain a competitive edge. Explore the following case studies to see how Canadian manufacturers are leveraging CAD/CAM, PLM and ERP in their facilities. Print FeaturesSiemens PLM: Mold design, manufacturing time cut with digital developmentMicrosoft: Allan Candy sweetens sales, streamlines IT with Dynamics GPSolidWorks: Hockey-board maker speeds up production with CAD, roboticsAutodesk: Complex-structure manufacturer saves with digital prototyping, data managementDassault SystÃ¨mes: Airship maker rises to the top with CAD, PLMSYSPRO: Steel fabricator leverages ERP to automate production, track productsPTC: Ventilator firm delivers on time with CAD, content managementExact: ERP manages inventory, workflow for specialty valves maker Oracle: Fuel-cell maker accelerates time-to-market with PLM Sage: Plastic products manufacturer gets BOM makeover with ERP add-onOnline ExclusivesDelcam: Precision-parts maker shaves programming time with CAMWonderware: SCADA provides solution for Ontario water treatment plant Kinaxis: BreconRidge reduces response times to customer changes by 80 percentIQMS: Mould maker gains organization, savings with EnterpriseIQIFS: Fresh food manufacturer keeps an eye on the bottom lineSAP: Lighting distributor looks to a bright futureBonus: 2008 Software Guide Case Studies
THE COMPANY: Mirplex Molds Inc. in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., has offered services in mold manufacturing and precision machining for more than 25 years for a range of industries. The size of its molds varies greatly, from small (used to produce pill bottle caps) to very large (weighing up to 15 tons per side).THE CHALLENGE: Over the years, the company has become known for its expertise, and now many of its customers involve Mirplex in their design processes. But this doesn't protect the company from time pressures posed by global competition. "We must always find ways to deliver molds faster to stay ahead of foreign competition," mechanical engineer and mold designer Pascal Lachance explains. THE STRATEGY: Mirplex relies on Siemens PLM’s NX digital product development system and SINUMERIK CNC technology for a fast mold development process. The company evaluated a number of other solutions before upgrading from its previous software, choosing NX because of its seamless integration with CAM systems, the availability of NX Mold Design and the ability to get technical support in French. Other selling points were the fact that it could create the large digital assemblies that some of its molds required, and NX CAM’s support for the Siemens SINUMERIK 840D controller, which Mirplex uses to run its Huron HSM centre.With NX, mold design and tool path creation take place concurrently. So while Lachance is designing the mold, his colleague, CNC programmer Eric Boucher, starts the programming work in NX CAM. This is possible, in spite of the fact that many design changes are still coming in from the customer, because of how easily the NX geometry can be changed. "The challenge we have is that the parts we get from customers are never completely designed," Lachance says. "NX gives us the flexibility to change a model through powerful tools such as the surface modeling function." THE RESULTS: The overall result of NX is a 35-percent reduction in the time it takes to deliver molds. This faster cycle time, combined with the company’s expertise, positions it well in the globally competitive market for molds. Lachance estimates mold design takes 25 percent less time, partly due to the faster incorporation of customers’ design changes. NX Mold Design also accounts for some of the savings. "NX Mold Design has standardized our processes," he says. "Also, we now have a library of parts such as mold bases that we can reuse. A mold is already half- designed when we start."Boucher estimates he can incorporate design changes 50 percent faster with NX than he could previously, in part because he doesn’t have to reassign all the surfaces. He finds NX CAM easier to work with in general thanks to features such as the ability to drag and drop operations to create a machining sequence. Also, the use of templates means he is now reusing existing information to a greater extent. This combined with the fact that the programming work starts sooner and changes are incorporated faster has made tool path generation 20 percent faster.• Browse back to the 2009 Software Case Study Guide Index for many more software applications.
THE COMPANY: Sport Systems Unlimited in Waterloo, Ont., began operations in 1996, with a mission to built hockey boards in a better way. The company has been designing, manufacturing and installing dasher-board systems for ice and inline hockey, indoor soccer and other sports and recreational activities. They're made of mechanically fastened anodized aluminum frames, high-density polyethylene puckboard, tempered safety glass and stainless-steel hardware.THE CHALLENGE: Hockey is more than 125 years old, and while it’s still the same game it has always been, today’s state-of-the-art rink is a lot more than ice, wood and chicken-wire fence. Sport Systems wanted to produce rink board systems that look better, last longer and are easier to maintain.THE STRATEGY: The company then turned to SolidWorks CAD, which is at the heart of a recent Lean manufacturing transformation at Sport Systems, automatically generating robotics and CNC code from 3D solid models. "Switching to SolidWorks software was a critical move in our manufacturing transformation," says project manager and design coordinator Chris Henhoeffer. "Prior to embracing SolidWorks and 3D, the knowledge for producing a set of boards was in shop floor drawing templates and with manufacturing employees, requiring arduous fabrication steps and intensive training. Now the knowledge is inside the engineering office. SolidWorks software streams data out to robots and CNC machines via its Visual Basic for Applications interface. Line workers simply set up raw stock, punch in the SolidWorks part code, and watch the panel, part, or aluminum member be machined in a fraction of the previous time." Sport Systems uses DriveWorks knowledge-based engineering software for configuring customized board sizes for the job. The company relies on reseller Javelin Technologies for ongoing software training, implementation and support.THE RESULTS: The new manufacturing approach has slashed production time of custom rinks from approximately 1,200 staff-hours per rink in 2006 to 450 staff-hours in 2009. "We can now produce more hockey board systems more efficiently with the same amount of staff and virtually no overtime, all of which has set us apart in the industry," says director of sales and marketing David Staines. "When we have the raw material in stock, we can deliver a rink in three days. Lean manufacturing, robotics and SolidWorks have also allowed us to branch out into new markets like indoor soccer, one of North America’s fastest-growing sports, and even pharmaceuticals, where partitions prevent cross-contamination of drug batches. Efficiencies realized from our new manufacturing program also positioned us for a merger that allowed us to become a preferred rink equipment supplier to the NHL."• Browse back to the 2009 Software Case Study Guide Index for many more software applications.
THE COMPANY: Founded in 1926 and based in Coquitlam, B.C., Dynamic Structures designs and manufactures complex structures. Whether it’s creating a massive telescope enclosure or an amusement ride, the company is known for its innovative designs and exacting engineering. THE CHALLENGE: The products Dynamic Structures builds have very precise requirements. For example, amusement rides must not only wow riders, they must also meet stringent safety regulations and be completely reliable. Ride rails need to line up and switches bear the weight and motion. On these and other projects, there’s little room for error. Most of the time, building physical prototypes of these complex projects is nearly impossible. Yet the company needs to have confidence that when fabrication begins, it has accounted for all aspects of operation and installation. THE SOLUTION: In 1994, the company began designing its most complex structures using AutoCAD, incorporating 3D functionality as it became available. Then, in 2002, it decided to move beyond 3D to digital prototyping with Autodesk Inventor. With Inventor, they’re able to model highly complex geometry for intricate structures faster and easier than ever before. What’s more, it can use digital prototyping to visualize and validate designs from all angles. "On massive, complex structures â€¦ we can’t fabricate, assemble, then realize something won’t work," drawing office manager Craig Breckenridge says. "On a traditional drawing, it can take hours to determine whether someone can access an area of an enclosure. With the digital prototype, we can visualize exactly how the worker can do it. We know how much space equipment takes up, what’s around it, and how we’ll support it – just by looking at the digital prototype." Before digital prototyping, teamwork was hampered by miscommunication. Now, both designers and engineers access data for projects using Autodesk Vault Manufacturing, data management software that helps with revision control and the engineering change order process. THE RESULTS: Besides helping to streamline the design process, digital prototyping enables Dynamic Structures and its clients to experience photorealistic renderings and animations of designs. "Before we build anything, we can see and almost feel it," Breckenridge says. "It makes a huge difference in the accuracy of our design process – we are confident that what we see is what we’ll get." The company animates digital prototypes to help the fabrication shop quickly understand how to sequence the assembly process. It also includes 3D visualizations in its bids for new projects, importing Inventor models into Autodesk 3ds Max to create project animations. Additionally, the company estimates digital prototyping reduces the time it takes to create and revise part and assembly drawings by more than 20 percent. • Browse back to the 2009 Software Case Study Guide Index for many more software applications.
THE COMPANY: Newmarket, Ont.-based 21st Century Airships, in business since 1988, designs helium-filled aircraft with distinct environmental advantages for use in geo-surveys, military surveillance and weather monitoring, and to support temporary infrastructure, such as cellular towers, during disasters. THE CHALLENGE: Since its inception, 21st Century has researched and developed approximately 18 airship designs, incorporating different configurations and levels of technology. Its latest offering, recently tested in Alabama, demonstrates a new hull design and bio-fuel capability. Despite this innovation, the company spent 18 years creating its designs on paper, scaling them up and then building physical prototypes to uncover the small errors that became exaggerated when scaled. It was a slow process that required significant trial and error, time and materials. THE STRATEGY: In 2006, 21st Century left its paper-based methods behind in favour of CAD. The company selected CATIA because it is the design standard throughout the aviation industry. THE RESULTS: The transition to CATIA has enabled many efficiencies and improvements in the company’s processes. "The repeatability that comes with using CATIA is one of the key improvements we’ve seen," engineering director Tim Buss says. "Once we’ve designed the envelope (the airship’s outer shell) in CATIA and sectioned it up, we can repeat those same gores all the way around without error. Everything is an exact replica of the previous one. No flaws or errors are being perpetuated." CATIA also allows designers to use their previous practical experience to ensure structural support is incorporated in the right places and to perfect a ship’s design before it is built, saving time and the cost of discarded materials. By leveraging CATIA’s ability to factor in component properties, designers can ensure balance and accurately predict positioning of systems and loads. CATIA also has proven to provide the company a significant advantage when dealing with its partners. External suppliers provide engines, actuators and other components, and because many of the company’s suppliers also design with CATIA, 21st Century can pull its suppliers’ models for parts directly into its own designs. In fact, the company is merging with one of its manufacturing partners. Once the merger is complete, both companies will use CATIA to ease the transition from design to manufacture. They also are considering 3DVIA Composer, which generates fully associative product documentation directly from CATIA models, to produce assembly documentation. "Efficiency has gone way up," Buss says. "We can handle a lot more projects at the same time and still keep track of everything. Using CATIA, we’ve improved efficiency by at least 60 percent, so we can take on more work with the same staff and improve our profitability." "Leveraging CATIA has improved our efficiency and, in turn, our profitability," president Hokan Colting says. "We’re producing higher-quality airships more quickly and cost-effectively, which helps us bring this very 'green’ form of transportation to even more markets." • Browse back to the 2009 Software Case Study Guide Index for many more software applications.
THE COMPANY: For more than 25 years, Venmar Ventilation in Drummondville, Que., has been a leading North American manufacturer of indoor air quality products for residential applications. It manufactures a full range of products, from kitchen range hoods and attic ventilators to filtration and ventilation systems.THE CHALLENGE: Venmar needed an integrated 3D product design solution that would enable the company to quickly design and deliver the highest quality, most accurate digital models while also promoting best practices in design protocol to ensure compliance with industry and company standards. Additionally, the company wanted to enable multiple designers to work on the same product and the same assembly at the same time. And finally, it wanted a visualization tool for other people in the company who did not have the CAD software to enable broader collaboration.THE STRATEGY: PTC’s Pro/ENGINEER 3D CAD software and Windchill PDMLink content and process management solution proved to be the best solution for these requirements. Venmar uses Pro/ENGINEER to explore new concepts, design new parts and develop new products." With the software’s seamless Web connectivity, Venmar designers have global access to the resources, information and capabilities they need. Pro/ENGINEER also has high-fidelity digital models that have full "associativity," which means that product changes made anywhere can update deliverables everywhere.Venmar is also using PDMLink, a web-based solution that gives its designers the ability to work with multiple users on the same assembly. By checking the part or drawing in and out, everyone involved with a particular assembly has instant access to the latest iteration. Having centralized information enables collaboration between Venmar’s multiple users. Additionally, documented assembly workflows ensure that the appropriate people are assigned tasks and go through the approval cycle. Venmar has found Windchill PDMLink easy to understand, easy to use, and user friendly.THE RESULTS: Among the benefits the company has received is a reduced time to market from 24 to 18 months and an ability to develop more products in the same time frame. In part, the product helps to achieve this by automating workflow for drawing approvals, and ensuring that documents cannot be overwritten, making it easier to track revisions. The connection Venmar has with PTC is beneficial to both PTC and Venmar, as well. "Our overall relationship with PTC is a good relationship," Venmar CAD administrator Marc-Andre Verville says. "PTC wants to help, and they want to make sure we get the most out of their product."
THE COMPANY: The Allan Candy Company Ltd. in Mississauga, Ont., is a manufacturer of chocolate and sugar confectionery products established in the 1950s. It generates more than $100 million in sales and manages a strong portfolio of bulk candy, count goods, retail bags and seasonal offerings for Easter and Christmas. With two manufacturing plants in Granby, Que., and Hamilton, Ont., this new stand-alone unit produces more than 250 products.THE CHALLENGE: A former division of Cadbury Adams, Allan Candy became a stand-alone entity that needed to quickly shift from a complex SAP-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) environment to an out-of-the-box business solution that supports rapid growth and leaner manufacturing and distribution processes. The goal, according to president and CEO Steve Diakowsky, was to improve and streamline its IT and Lean manufacturing processes, and become more results-oriented and performance-driven. For example, staff needed a faster method of processing purchase orders and managers sought more real-time access to financial data. "Our business was threatening to buckle under the 800 pound weight of our legacy system," Diakowsky says. "The future of the Allan Candy operation relied on doing things differently – deploying the right technology infrastructure would be the first step along this path."THE STRATEGY: Facing tight deadlines, Allan Candy worked with TGO Consulting Inc. in Markham, Ont., to develop a flexible and scalable financial and operations solution based on Microsoft Dynamics GP. Designed for rapid time-to-benefit and low cost of ownership, Dynamics GP is a global financial and business management application for midsize organizations. "With Dynamics GP, no customization was required, and staff were particularly pleased that it has the same look and feel as our existing Microsoft-based software," Diakowsky says. In particular, it is using it to simplify manufacturing and distribution processes, as defined by the previous legacy ERP environment, to meet the specific IT needs of the new stand-alone business unit. Staff is now taking advantage of the customizable reporting and workflow features of Dynamics GP to improve inventory and distribution processes. "Due to the recent business changes, we were working under ridiculously tight deadlines and were ultimately pleased with the level of flexibility and scalability that Dynamics GP provided," he says.THE RESULTS: By developing a new IT infrastructure based on Dynamics GP, Allan Candy successfully made the transition to a stand-alone entity. Today, it benefits from improved inventory management, streamlined distribution and Lean processes. The company is now better positioned to streamline warehouse processes, better manage inventory and distribution, and improve accuracy, efficiency and customer service levels. The new platform allows employees to update information in real time and take advantage of new monitoring tools that help ensure inventory data is accurate and up to date. Via automatic notifications, managers can now monitor business-critical activity, including brand inventory, customer shipments, purchasing and invoicing.With Dynamics GP in place, staff is defining new processes around tighter budget control and enhanced reporting tools. "The out-of-the-box solution has better positioned us in the highly competitive confectionery industry," Diakowsky says. "We needed the flexibility to quickly adapt to new business demands and our new Microsoft-based environment allows us to do that. The move to Dynamics GP is playing a key role as we transform our business into a more results-oriented and performance-driven company."• Browse back to the 2009 Software Case Study Guide Index for many more software applications.
THE COMPANY: Mississauga, Ont.-based Atlantic Tube & Steel (AT&S) is a manufacturer of automotive and structural steel tubing. It runs two mills: one makes mechanical tubing, predominantly for the automotive aftermarket; and the other manufactures larger-sized structural tubing used in a host of applications, such as conveyor belt rolls, jackposts and trailer hitch tubing. THE CHALLENGE: “Over the past 30 years,” president Frank Cancelli says, “the business has grown increasingly complex on all fronts.” AT&S controller Marvin Bavcevic, who was in charge of the implementation, said that before the transition, they were using a DOS-based program with a very limited ability to analyze results. “It was a dinosaur, and our management decisions were being made in the absence of sufficient data.” THE STRATEGY: “To compete effectively,” Cancelli says, “we needed to implement an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. After researching the alternatives, we chose Syspro ERP because we believed it would create business efficiencies, help us maintain our inventory and volume advantage, and ensure that we conform to our industry’s strict quality requirements.” They made the decision to go with Syspro in August 2007, and then in December, they ran Syspro in parallel with their old program. Finally, on Jan. 1, 2008, they went live. THE RESULTS: One of the ERP capabilities AT&S needed the most was product traceability. “Quality, and the perception of quality, are of paramount importance in our industry,” AT&S sales manager Larry Brandon says. “That’s why Syspro’s lot traceability component is a key benefit.” Steel, Brandon explains, can be manufactured in many forms using myriad components. “Too much or too little of certain components (carbon, for example) will affect the product’s malleability. And since many of our customers need to bend and shape the steel they buy, it must conform precisely to exacting specifications.” If an order of steel does not conform to specification, and if AT&S receives a customer complaint, the company can now use Syspro to quickly identify the relevant production run. “With that information, we can take all the rest of that steel out of stock,” Brandon says. “That way we avoid sending the wrong product to other customers, which helps us eliminate, or at least minimize, any negative quality perceptions that might arise in the market.” Lot traceability also allows AT&S to drill down to the source components of any production run. Implementing Syspro has enabled AT&S to fully automate its production floors. “That allows us to look at the shop floor in terms of reducing man-hours,” Bavcevic says. “In addition, with Syspro we no longer need our manual production reporting process. … These days, the whole production process, from input to output, is all recorded and reported by Syspro.” • Browse back to the 2009 Software Case Study Guide Index for many more software applications.
THE COMPANY: Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. is a global manufacturer of pet products with a plant in Mississauga, Ont.THE CHALLENGE: Before MDT AutoSave Change Management Software was installed (first at the Nestlé Purina plant in Mechanicsburg, Pa.), the plant used a homegrown program to track changes in their programmable devices. About 15 programmers regularly made changes by accessing the most current program from Explorer, making changes and then saving the new version of the program back on Explorer. "We really had no way to manage all the different program versions created by our programmers," controls engineer Alan Hiler explains. In facilities where multiple people are making changes from multiple computers, the documentation of changes is often lost, archives of older copies are non-existent and the wrong programs may be running on the devices. In environments requiring frequent changes, it is not uncommon for code to be lost or changes overwritten resulting in increased downtime and decreased productivity.THE STRATEGY: "We made the decision to use AutoSave because we wanted to get away from having different people making changes and not documenting it properly," Mark Buettner, director of electrical and controls, says. "We didn’t want a situation where an emergency occurs, such as a processor dies, and production is stopped because we don’t know where the latest version of the program is located or have to decipher which program is the current one."THE RESULTS: In providing a central repository of all program changes, AutoSave ensures that, if a device fails or a program results in undesired performance, a prior version of the program is readily available so plant operations can be restored quickly and correctly. "With AutoSave we can easily download the previous copy of the program and get things running again quickly. If one device is down, the entire plant could potentially be down, so the ability to get up and running again is very important," Hiler says. Stopping production because there are no older versions of a program available is costly enough but consider the cost associated to completely rewrite a program. "If you lose a copy of a program, it isn’t just the production time we are losing, but we also lose the intellectual value of the program we have created," Buettner says. The cost to re-write, test and commission a single program is often greater than the cost to implement a change management solution."Before AutoSave was installed in the plant, we had some problems with program version mismatches, the biggest issue being the assumption that the copy on file was the program running in the PLC, but in some instances, it was not," Hiler explained. "MDT AutoSave periodically queries automation devices and compares the code running in the processor with what is on file. If a mismatch is detected (indicating someone went around the software to make a change), an e-mail notification is sent highlighting the mismatch along with information pinpointing the changes. This ability to regularly verify that the correct version of the program is running significantly decreases product waste and safety risks. "A big benefit for us is AutoSave’s ease of use for our maintenance guys." We have guys here that have never accessed a PLC program before and they have to download a program to make a simple change. Before AutoSave, we had to write pretty detailed documentation on how to find the file, open it, connect to the server and so on. Not only does AutoSave save us time, it also significantly reduces any chance that the wrong PLC is accessed, causing big safety issues," says Hiler.
THE COMPANY: Armour Valve Ltd., headquartered in Toronto, supplies specialty valves, accessories and process equipment to the oil & gas, power, petrochemical and wastewater industries. It also has an office in Calgary dedicated to servicing the Western Canadian marketplace.THE CHALLENGE: In recent years, double-digit growth intensified the need for information to manage performance. Until 2007, it generated reports and key performance indicators (KPIs) from 24 Lotus Notes databases, all separate from its financial package. Response to customer, supplier and internal inquiries was hampered due to the lack of an integrated database. Metrics and reporting depended on manually transferring data from one system to another, increasing the potential for error and weakening the company’s ability to identify trends and respond to problems early. In 2006, Armour Valve drafted a mission statement to achieve integration and real-time information for improved decision support. With sales reps spanning the continent and suppliers worldwide, an integrated global system made sense.THE STRATEGY: After an extensive search, it chose Exact Software’s enterprise solution. In 2007, the company implemented Exact Globe, Synergy and Event Manager, and in 2008, Exact Business Analytics (EBA). The company customized its front-office processes with Synergy SDK (software development kit) and is currently working with Globe SDK to introduce custom elements to its core back office processes.THE RESULTS: Since implementation, metrics have flowed automatically via customized EBA dashboards. Analysis is multi-dimensional by company, cost centre, sales rep, sector, product and manufacturer. Meanwhile, notifications from Event Manager have increased visibility of process gaps and informed task prioritization. According to marketing manager Liz McBeth, customer service has improved and operations have been streamlined. "Having a central integrated database allows us to retrieve information quickly and be more responsive to customers, suppliers and internal stakeholders. The system encourages collaboration in new ways thanks to a cross-enterprise view of the business," she says.Benefits also come from integration of all four systems. For example, the sales team uses Synergy on the road for access to 30,000 contacts, plus real-time sales and scheduling information via their mobile devices. Globe ERP allows the company to conduct business seamlessly with faraway customers and suppliers. It functions as a financial, inventory, project and workflow management tool. Event Manager automates processes, notifies and frees users for higher priority tasks. "We wanted consolidated metrics gathered from both companies that could easily be filtered to focus on single company performance," McBeth says. "Exact has enabled us to provide KPIs via custom dashboards to any level of the company in real time for access to performance data whenever needed." With Exact’s suite of systems, real time metrics became a reality, steering the company toward more growth.• Browse back to the 2009 Software Case Study Guide Index for many more software applications.
THE COMPANY: Flexahopper Plastics Ltd. is a plastic products manufacturer based in Lethbridge, Alta., that uses a rotational molding process serving agricultural, industrial, fishing and ecological industries.THE CHALLENGE: Flexahopper has a complex product mix with more than 600 items and several dozen distributors that makes for a difficult management task in materials planning, BOM maintenance and production scheduling. Many of the products produced are often changed based on custom ordering. Under their old system, having a non-standard or custom BOM based on a sales order was next to impossible to maintain as it would require creating a new BOM for every custom order. This led to outdated and inaccurate costing of BOMs and production.As well, material planning was a guessing game based on constant physical counts and checks of raw materials. The system in use had no practical or accurate material requirements planning system. Production scheduling was also a problem, as their old system had no facility for estimating production times of product runs.THE STRATEGY: Flexahopper needed to find a manufacturing control system that would accurately cost their BOMs, make BOM management and customization easier, and provide them with both material requirement forecasting and master production scheduling. They needed to find a software system that would integrate with the existing accounting system rather than purchase an entire new ERP system. MISys Manufacturing for Sage Accpac ERP (MISys SAE) fit the bill as it allowed for easy cost "roll-ups" throughout BOMs when items are replaced or have price changes; allowed customization through the use of "manufacturing orders" that can customize a BOM without changing the standard BOM; did an excellent job of materials and purchasing planning based on unlimited customizable criteria; and accurately forecasted production run times based on the BOM routing details.THE RESULTS: The cost savings and return on investment were enough to justify the purchase, the company says. They now always have proper stock levels and have reduced freight costs by an estimated 15 percent by eliminating "emergency orders." It has also allowed them to negotiate better terms with their suppliers. They now have accurately costed finished goods, allowing them to determine the best product pricing for customers and themselves. They can also customize a production run and still know exactly what it costs based on standard, projected and actual costs – and can now give a customer accurate delivery dates.• Browse back to the 2009 Software Case Study Guide Index for many more software applications.
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