Discrete manufacturing ERP: engineering requirements

Discrete manufacturing moves from prototype to production much quicker today than it once did. No business can continue operating at a leisurely pace. Customers’ products evolve quickly, and discrete manufacturing suppliers have to evolve along with them or even stay ahead. This increased product development velocity puts pressure on our engineering ERP module and the processes it supports.

Automated specification processing

Many of today's discrete manufacturing ERP systems provide the ability to read technical specifications directly from customers' documents, saving the time needed to type and proof them for use in ERP. It is no longer necessary to program equipment manually for first runs. Automating and using the customer's own specifications saves time and promotes accuracy. The changes between the first and second runs are fewer, and the gains from automated processing make the second programming of equipment much lower in importance.

Machine-to-ERP communication

Legacy discrete manufacturing ERP systems often rely on shop floor personnel to input the units completed. Many of today's machines track completed units, and those values can be transferred to ERP systems with greater speed and accuracy. The time required for an operation is often inflated in legacy systems by the additional time needed to move from the work area to an input terminal that might have been far away. Machinery today can copy the data output of a production operation to an ERP system very accurately and in real time.

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Component management

Modern engineering ERP modules also benefit from better control of component parts. Many discrete manufacturers use their customers' part numbers in their ERP systems. Customer A might call a part “123” and use that for the SKU. However, customer B might call the same part “456.” The manufacturer ends up with the same part in the ERP system with two different names, and, of course, both parts are stored in the stockroom in their own bins. The ability to select parts based on a description or other characteristics can help match up parts and open up the possibility of changing the bills of material using those parts.

Machinery management

Over the years, manufacturers have developed shop floor fixtures and tools that greatly help in production. discrete manufacturing ERP systems should track those tools. For many businesses, tracking of these tools is limited to what is in the engineering old-timers' heads - they remember that there was a tool, and they go find it. The latest discrete manufacturing ERP systems can be configured to tell users which tool is needed for which operation and move it there when needed. ERP systems can also help track the life of those tools so the manufacturer can plan for replacement and re-calibration.

Engineering ERP modules have huge potential for cost management. The customer usually specifies a particular part to be used, but if we can improve the process for sourcing and engineering this component, cost savings can be made and shared.

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle. Contact Tom at customerteam@erpfocus.com.

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Tom Miller