One of the biggest challenges of properly implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is making sure it includes all necessary information, but even a basic ERP solution can positively impact a mold shop as long as it includes the following functions:
Quoting. One of the most efficient methods for creating
a new quote is using quality data from previous jobs. A moldmaker needs a library of data on profits, time, problems, subcontracting and more, which becomes a reference for providing accurate new quotations. However, the moldmaker also needs to review how closely the quotation for a previous job was to the actual amount of material and labor used to complete that job. Then he or she can start to make more accurate quotes much quicker.
Scheduling. Once the quotation is accepted, the moldmaker can immediately turn it into a job using an ERP “ship to date” method and then working backwards, making sure to include a buffer of time for the main tasks that must be completed. As tasks and their expected completion dates are inputted into the ERP system, any conflicts with other resources will automatically be highlighted. This can influence scheduling changes and/or outsourcing decisions.
The level of detail in a quotation will determine how much work is required during scheduling. If the quotation includes items such as ordering standard parts, for example, each of those items will automatically be added to the scheduling and then onto supplier orders.
Two common scheduling methods are by a Gantt chart (a bar chart illustrating a project schedule) and by a dynamic drag-and-drop system, which both allow dependencies to be created or removed based on the individual tasks entered. The latter method is typically easier to implement.
In an ideal world, the quote is created before the job is awarded. In a moldmaker’s world, sometimes a job is so hot that the order comes in without a quote. In this instance, ERP allows the moldmaker to start scheduling resources using a previous job as a template. Then the system automatically generates a quote based on what is scheduled, and this quote can then be given to the customer and carried over to an invoice.
Workflow management. Managing the workflow requires that the data entered into the ERP system be both accurate and up-to-date. If you only enter task time sheets from the previous day, then your data is already old, making it difficult to assess real-time workflow issues. Entering data in real time allows managers to see, at any moment, if a task has not started or is taking longer than expected to complete, or any other pertinent information. Workflow management functions can also be used to streamline other shop operations. For example, requiring employees to clock in and out of tasks can be used to track employee time. This data can then be automatically supplied to and used by payroll companies, eliminating the time and expense required of human intervention or manual-entry errors.
Job completion. When a job is finished, invoices are sent and the part is shipped. Now it’s time to examine the job data, evaluating such information as which tasks were not budgeted sufficiently, which tasks were finished early, how much profit was made and what was the profit margin. This job, and its data, can then be used as a resource for future jobs. As the company’s database of completed work grows, its ability to make accurate quotes and schedules will grow and improve also.