Enterprise Resource Planning for Sheet Metal Work. These two terms in the same sentence is a rare occurrence. The reason being is that like many industries, the sheet metal trade has a process flow that is unique in many ways. Finding an ERP system specifically designed for the industry you work in is so important.
Putting a non specific system in place is like putting a paper boat in water, it will float for a short amount of time but will eventually sink and fall short of its purpose. Finding ERP suited to sheet metal can be as hard as finding a needle in a haystack and so we have put together some things to consider when trying to find a specific system;
– We quote in this but purchase in that, they call it this but we call it that. These two points are key for me, not only in the world of sheet metal, but in any industry that is heavy in terms of raw materials. The first point refers to unit of measure. There are still cases where sheet metal suppliers will sell sheets in tons. That’s all fine, but what happens when I receive those sheets in? How am I to know how many sheets I should be expecting if the supplier has told me I have ordered two tons? Having a unit of measure set is a simple tool that is very effective but often overlooked by ERP suppliers. On the topic of suppliers, it will again quite often be the case that you and your supplier have different names for one item. You may call it a Hank Bush, where they may call it a Rivet Bush. Being able to create a purchase order that automatically uses their terminology, but then links back to what you refer to it as, is a must.
– Off cuts can be reused and do carry value, do not lose track of them! Whereas the point above is quite generic, this point is very sheet metal industry specific. As much as we would love to be 100% efficient with material utilisation, the reality is that we are often left with off cuts that are a by-product of a completed job. We refer to off cuts as remnants. The ability to be able to put remnants back into stock is key, as these can then be used for both quoting purposes and physical consumption for other jobs.
– Group jobs to improve utilisation and save time. Work order nesting must be every sheet metal workers best friend. Grouping jobs that consume a common material can both save time and also improve your material utilisation. Reducing time and also making better use of material is only going to do one thing – and that’s save money.
– Search the Google way. Can you imagine trying to navigate your way through Google by first selecting the category, and then sub category, and then the sub category below that….. You would be there for days. With that said, you should expect to see the same in ERP software. As time progresses, your databases, whether it be your materials or your customers/suppliers, is going to get quite large and tiresome to go through one-by-one. Having the functionality of a dynamic key search will save so much time you would find it hard to believe. It also eliminates the need for items to be entered in a universal fashion. The point I’m trying to make is that it doesn’t matter if you call it ‘CR4 Mild Steel’ or ‘Mild Steel CR4’, you will be able to find it regardless. Contradicting that slightly, also having the ability to search things via a category tree can be helpful in certain situations and so should also be available.
– Used by production people as well as being supported by production people. Would you allow an experienced baker to construct a building the size of the Eiffel Tower with no professional help? The answer is obviously no. Having said that, it should be no different with the supply and support of software. Having people on the end of the phone that understand your industry as well as the software you use is a must. This also comes into play when implementing the software in the first place. A lot of companies have long implementation plans that are quite often unnecessary. They can sometimes be a disguise that gives the software supplier time to educate themselves on what you do. The implementation itself forms the foundations as to how the system will function for you. Get that wrong, and as we know, anything without correct foundations will come crashing down.
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