In the last of a series of Q&A articles from top production control software developers, Jo Bradley, software consultant at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence’s production software business, ERP Division, which develops the Javelin and Workplan platforms, discusses the advantages of the latest Material Requirement Planning (MRP) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software systems that integrate many facets of a manufacturing business.
Q) What are the fundamental benefits of MRP or ERP systems?
ERP systems provide the opportunity to have a single source of truth for your business. With “joined-up” data leading to total visibility, increased efficiency, improved reporting business information. ERP systems contain and manage areas including Planning, Scheduling, Resource Loading, Costing, Profit, Forecasting, Quotes and Estimates
MRP systems assist in balancing supply and demand. Providing information to drive key business decisions. Help in understanding resource loading. Confidence in delivering customer requirements leading to increased customer satisfaction and more orders. Profit – planned vs actual costs. Monitoring quality, costs to the business. Information is key in understanding where improvements can be made and monitoring the effectiveness of them.
Q) Are the days of the paper jobcard and paper management of contracts and work schedules over? How broadly have these types of production scheduling software and business management systems been adopted by manufacturing?
Paper jobcard and paper management is slow, time consuming, and prone to disjointed and inaccurate data. Modern businesses demand integrated systems where quick response times based on accurate information will give companies the edge in a competitive market. Javelin provides powerful “What if?” finite and infinite scheduling capabilities. Workload can be tested using different scenarios and manufacturing rules; the results can be compared either graphically or in a tabular form. The system provides the key to minimising work in progress, cutting lead times and improving delivery performance.
Q) What are the specific benefits for ERP/MRP in the aerospace sector: traceability, adhering to industry standards and practices, managing materials and resources? How can they help in an industry with a highly global supply chain and cross industry cooperation between companies?
Traceability is an essential prerequisite to operate in the aerospace sector. From the outset Javelin’s core development has been focussed on the exacting requirements for this field. The product comes complete with batch and serial traceability, issue control on parts, ISO change control, FAIRs, NCR, EDI and OTIF reporting.
Q) Are MRP systems now superseded by more broadly capable ERP systems?
Fully integrated ERP systems are a very desirable solution for lots of businesses. However smaller businesses can still get huge benefit from MRP systems. Workplan and Javelin offer a best of both worlds’ solution covering all that you would expect from a function-rich ERP system, and supporting direct interfaces to the best of breed accounts packages.
Q) How do these systems help manage the actual management of work on the shopfloor? How do they incorporate systems such as distributive numerical control (DNC) and Shopfloor Data Capture (SFDC)? How can they help schedule and prioritise jobs and ensure the most efficient use of machining time, for example?
Data from Bill of Materials (BOM) Routings Works Orders and Purchase orders, shift patterns, manning and skill level, all feed in to the Javelin Advanced Scheduling. Work-to lists, and document management available within the shopfloor data capture system. Real time bookings, nesting of operations from different works orders on the same resource can be set in advance or created dynamically, with actual times being apportioned according to planned times. Barcoding for speedy input in SFDC, cells for skills and manning.
Tooling can be integrated with scheduling with the ability to capture usage according to number of cycles, accrued run time, elapsed time or a combination of these.
Q) How do you combat the natural anxiety for staff not used to using these systems or transferring to a new system after they have become familiar with an old one? How does training and the software’ s own interface and ease of use help, particularly for SMEs.
Training is key in both knowing how to perform individual required tasks along with comprehending how that fits into the bigger picture. Javelin provides a demo database where users can train, practice and learn without impacting on the live system. Common and consistent functionality used throughout assists with learning new areas within the software.
Q) How do you support your customers after they have implemented these systems?
We have an experienced and professional team to support our customers and help develop their business using our software. Each customer is assigned their own consultant who maintains a close relationship, understanding their business and requirements, supporting as needed and offering tailored training. We also have a support desk that is knowledgeable and responsive and a customer portal where calls can be logged, and updates viewed.
Q) Ultimately the returns must outweigh the cost but how is this measured and what feedback regarding this do you get back from your customers?
Javelin and Workplan both offer highly cost-effective solutions for small to medium size manufacturing businesses. Many new implementations of our software are as a direct result of recommendations from existing users.
Q) How do you see these systems in the future integrating with Industry 4.0/ the Smart Factory, automation, robotics, additive manufacturing and AI? Can they help smaller companies integrate all these systems processes? How are you developing your software for the future to incorporate these changes?
Javelin and Workplan are housed under the Production Software business of Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence. Hexagon is a world leader in smart systems and smart factories and is deeply invested in machine system integration with the Edgecam and Radan brands. The recent acquisition of FaSys Factory Automation demonstrates the commitment within Hexagon to lead with future technological developments.
Q) What more can you tell us about Javelin and Workplan software?
Regarding Workplan and Javelin specifically they offer the dependable security of a large corporation in Hexagon, but with a dedicated team that maintains a close relationship with its customers.