Use Case: ERP-Integration Ridder iQ ERP and TruTops Fab / Calculate at Singeling B.V. 

In this short post I will describe for you a short example of my client that has achieved enormous success by implementing and seamlessly integrating Ridder iQ ERP and TruTops Fab.

 

Client Contact:
Ing. Laurens Singeling, B. Eng.
I: www.singeling.com
E: info@singeling.com
T: +31 75-6164726

The situation at Singeling

Singeling B.V. is a metalworking company specializing in engineering, laser cutting, bending and welding sheet metal. The company owns multiple Trumpf laser cutting machines, bending machines and does its own in-house engineering. 

The production department was faced with a major challenge in preparing, planning  and managing the production of laser-cut products. Especially with converting 3D models into CNC code for machines and keeping track of the progress of individual parts. 

The previous manufacturing system was outdated: Previously, people worked with an overcrowded Outlook calendar, which was dragged around daily. Files were stored in folders. Communication to the shop floor was on paper.  There was a constant need for overtyping and production was managed on paper. This used to be somewhat manageable, but nowadays customers order increasingly larger variations, smaller order sizes and shorter delivery times.

In addition, they also had no access to the current stock levels. It was a matter of counting, measuring and sometimes even ‘go by intuition’  to determine if a needed material was in stock. This caused a lot of frustration, uncertainty and unnecessary failure costs.

Regarding post calculation of manufactured products, the system only issued the production time on a paper report, and no costs or actual material consumption. This also had to be manually added to each individual part afterwards. The results were overloaded management employees, having to figure out for each part the question “What did this actually cost?”. 

A bottleneck problem

In total this resulted in a bottleneck problem: the laser cutting machines were able to operate 24/7, the bending machines could run in shifts, but the output of the work preparation was limited. 

This resulted in a lack of overviews: the more parts that were taken in production, the less the actual output per week became of the machines. This is because the time that was needed to search for products, the planning and organization were increasing significantly. The more work that was taken on, the less the effectiveness of the organization became.

Automation as a solution

It was clear the situation needed an improvement and it soon became clear the path to go is the one of automation. To do so, I started an ERP-integration project. 

No options could be found by recruiting staff  because the company no longer had workplaces available and this would have resulted in a cost increase. 

Also, it was not an option to change the order portfolio to bigger series or customers that would order based on repeat products. The management and I agreed that the margins would be the highest on the smaller series and engineering-to-order products.

After analyzing the necessary components for the system and their respective functions the selection of software suppliers was started. 

The decision fell quickly on the new TruTops Fab software, also because the company already started experimenting with the Calculation software of Trumpf (TruTops Calculate) and had gained experience with their laser programming software. 

In 2015, Singeling was one of the first users in the Netherlands that would start the implementation of this new software. This was in line with the innovative thinking of the business, since they were also one of the first users that implemented Ridder iQ prior in 2014.  Both this and previous implementations were successfully completed by me. 

4-Step Process for Implementation and Integration 

The project was delivered in the 4-step process that I tend to apply to all my clients:

  • Step 1: Strategic design of the ideal business process with matching IT
  • Step 2: Create software links with ERP software to decrease manual actions.
  • Step 3: Training in its use, to be able to work flexibly and efficiently.
  • Step 4: Optimization of usage and processes to decrease throughput times. 

Step 1: Strategic design of the ideal business process with matching IT

The software systems that were selected are: 

The process was designed to work seamless with the systems. This is a challenge, since all systems operate differently. With help of both software suppliers and researching the in depth functions the following workflow was developed: 

 

Step 2: Creating software links with ERP software

The integration design was done by me, including expert user input, designing the flows and making sure that the development was being tested extensively before releasing it to the end user. 

The software company behind Ridder iQ ERP, Ridder Data Systems, was responsible for the development of the source code. 

In return the customer and the supplier of TruTops Fab, Trumpf,  would bring in the experience, design specifications and use case information. In this way a win-win collaboration was created. 

It was also needed to reconfigure TruTops Calculate for the new process, where both the ERP and the programming software were now sharing one materials database, with matching codes and specifications. So that both systems can communicate in the same ‘language’: the material code is equal in all systems. 

Step 3: Training in its use, to be able to work flexibly and efficiently.

The client received an extensive training in the usage of the software integrations, including manuals, videos and in person explanation. 

This helped to quickly get employees operational and get feedback from the users in a short time frame. Later, a few new functionalities were adapted, and other requests were planned for a later project. Such as integrating further with a customer portal, automatic cost calculation of 3D assemblies and welding calculation software. 

By doing the training, the amount of work preparation staff doubled, so that the organization was able to handle lower employee capacities during vacation times more flexibly.  

Step 4: Optimization of usage and processes to decrease throughput times

One year after implementing the major project, an optimization project was launched to apply Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) in the processes of production to further reduce the throughput times. Read more about QRM in my other articles. 

The results:

  • All cutting orders are automatically clustered by material type, resulting in faster and paperless nesting activities.
  • Any employee in the office can now calculate prices, the ERP does this fully automatically (both before and after!).
  • Insight into necessary orders and stock, which leads to smarter ordering. This saves 25% purchasing costs because there is now a bulk advantage.
  • Reduced lead time for laser cut products by 50%, reducing work-in-progress costs.
  • Due to tight planning, the percentage of work that is completed on time has increased with more than 20%.
  • The integration also gives them an improved overview of the turnaround time for projects.

Good integration saves you enormous time, costs and gives more overview to the management. An additional benefit of the solution is that it helps with gaining more satisfied and motivated employees on the shop floor, because of the calmness and confidence the office brings to the shop floor. 

Let us advise you about the possibilities. Book a free consultation through the link below. 


Many Manufacturing Companies Are Lagging Behind Industry 4.0 — For a Good Reason

Why? In the current technological and political landscape, an optimistic yet cautious approach is the most considered choice for many companies.

 

The 2020 Predictions

When you pick up various magazines or research reports, you quickly get the suspicion that most companies are already in the fourth industrial revolution. One report predicted that “Digital Disruption” in 2020 would replace 40% of the established industries.

But nothing is less true. Often, marketing stories have been written so far to impress the competition. The number of companies that actually work with the latest Big Data, AI, Robotics, and Cloud solutions is surprisingly low.

Do not get me wrong, I am a big enthusiast and interested about these latest techniques. I certainly believe that the new generation of production techniques is coming off the industry like a tornado. Robotisation will definitely have a huge impact on our work, but that depends entirely on how we will open up the right use cases for this.

When we look at the manufacturing industry, a robust and incredibly dynamic collection of various services makes it understandable that the attitude here is a lot more pragmatic than most reports believe.

Although manufacturing companies can vary considerably in size, processes, and customers, they all share certain characteristics, such as increasingly complex supply chains, using means of production that last for decades before they are replaced, and the real internal need to prevent production downtime at any cost.

 In my view, the manufacturing industry is all about WHAT you do, not necessarily how — or how beautifully — it is done; it does not make it any more important, if it only achieves the desired results in the short and longer term. — Luke van Enkhuizen

We want to turn the companies into real smart factories. Then there are countless bits in this puzzle that require a lot of strategic thinking. This is due to the low volume and high complexity. If an idea is too theoretical, it is understandable that it is often not immediately welcome.

The Innovation Gap

There is a big gap, an innovation gap, between the theoretical predictions and the people who actually work on the work floor.

Experts who do not work every day in industrial environments — from policymakers to academics to consultants — will probably never fully understand the complexity of the challenge that may arise when manufacturers switch to digital.

Until recently, the leaders working in information technology (IT), production, and actual operational production functioned almost separately. This is particularly noticeable with the larger machine builders who sometimes add many new features to software products, while the main functions remain behind.

The result is that even today there are few specialists who have both the technical expertise and the necessary IT skills. As long as we cannot close this bridge, the manufacturing industry will not be able to move forward with the new innovations.

More Than Technology

The technological component in innovation is no longer the most complex to solve. Software development is becoming more and more accessible to every company to make use of this. Investigations are increasingly shared between universities and industry. All these specialists need the right feedback from the shop floor.

In my view, the manufacturing industry is all about WHAT you do, not necessarily how — or how beautifully — it is done; it does not make it any more important, if it only achieves the desired results in the short and longer term.

The art is to keep focus on improving the flow. That we design our new processes on what the customers really want and not get distracted by what the marketing reports write.

The manufacturing industry really only gets further when we work together. As soon as we learn from each other, help our suppliers and customers, and continue to assess to what extent we are progressing, a golden future awaits us.

What is your opinion? Leave a comment or LIKE this post, I would really appreciate it! — Luke


7 Key Traits of Truly Smart Factories

Building a future-proof business requires a unique skill set to guarantee continuous development and motivation. No single company will be the same. However, there 7 fundamentals that any manufacturing company can start with today.

With today, we mean starting in the current moment to explore opportunities and set up projects that are focused on a dedicated outcome (e.g. to increase a certain throughput, launch a new product, connect certain systems and likewise).

To begin it’s important to define what a smart factory is. In my opinion, I define those where the systems actively give suggestions on improving the business while reaching unseen effectiveness towards constant changing customer demands.

A digital, smart factory of the future can be recognized by the following properties:

1: Automated.

Any process that has a certain constant and repetitive nature should be automated by default. This will help the business obtain speed and create significant quality improvements in the form of consistency. This can be both software- and hardware-based.

In the short future, we can also expect a rise of the robots with “Co-Bots”, which are co-operating robots that perform tasks of lower value and can quickly switch tasks and assignments.

2: Digitally Connected

Because of the recent major drop in the costs of sensors and electronic components, it’s now possible to record process information. This data gathering on a large-scale will give major insights in the actual performance of the business. Right now, it’s already possible with Arduino processors to create small test projects, with almost no budget.

Do you already have a student working on exploring new data connectivity opportunities?

3: Intelligent

The factory of the future is smart, which can interpret the data that we mentioned in the earlier point, make (advance) decisions in this way and thus interactively generate continuous improvement and innovation. This a key factor to becoming truly smart. Because data, just like any technology, on itself has absolutely no value for the improvement of the business.

It’s how we interpret the data, and how we ACT on it.

4: Flexible

Customer demands are changing faster than ever before. This huge new change in markets and their solutions are having a major impact on any part on the business. Truly smart factories are not only very good at automating, but they are also even better in rethinking what works and especially what doesn’t.

What are new demands you’re seeing now in your company? How’re are you responding to these needs?

5: Sustainable

A company can only last as long as it’s ability to provide to the economy and its environment. Yes, you’ve read this right. A business that doesn’t add anything to making this earth a better place will lose the race soon from those that will do.

Let’s start today to deal with resources and energy in a responsible way.

6: Human-centered

All the mentioned approaches will only have an impact if we train our people decently and activate their talent. People remain the center of the main activities and will make the difference in any field. No matter how smart our tech will be, the people will make it work and can insert their creativity. Personal training will count more than ever before.

A great example of this is called “reverse mentoring” where businesses recently started inviting younger employees (Generation Z) to help older managers to have a better understanding of modern technology.

What’s the average age of your R&D department?

7: Collaboration

Nobody got truly successful on their own. No company ever worked only with their own ideas. We live in the age of open source developments now. Ideas are floating more freely than ever before.

Truly smart factories are working together with the brightest minds in the industry — and know how to find the right support & mentoring.

How are you collaborating with people in the manufacturing industry? What experts are you involving?


What is a Customer Portal? Why Do Modern Manufacturing Companies Need Them?

Within Industry 4.0, connectivity is an important pillar: connecting the digital to our physical world. But what about your customers? In this article, you will learn how a portal can ensure that your customers feel well-supported- and that also saves money.

Customer portals provide customer access to important corporate company information such as order history, ongoing orders, customer account information, shipping addresses, previous invoices, quotations, credits, credit limits, and many other sources.

In short, these provide answers to questions such as:

  • "Has my order been received correctly?"

  • "When is the planned delivery date of the order?"

  • "Where can I find my delivery note or delivery documentation of the order?"

  • "Which invoices do I still have to pay?"

This concept has long been known to us as a consumer. Every day millions of euros per day are ordered on sites such as Amazon.com, but also many niche suppliers already have such solutions.

In the manufacturing industry, this is still very different at the moment, only a limited number of companies have a modern & functional portal. The reasons for this vary greatly.

Previously, an argument for this was the cost item, and that this technology was only available to the 'big players'. This is no longer the case with the emergence of new technologies (more about this later). Others believe that 'personal contact' is more important.

Why every manufacturing company needs a portal?


A recent survey has shown that two out of three business customers choose self-service about the complexity of explaining their problems by telephone to a representative/ receptionist.

The customer is king, right?

So that means that more than 60% of all communication is in principle superfluous. In addition, it has been demonstrated that 28% of all the office staff's time is spent on reactive actions concerning e-mail and telephone.

 

So much profit can be achieved!


This same study also describes that 75% of all customers value self-service more than live service in any form, and Forrester Research (the researchers) found that corporate purchasers now consider whether the suppliers would make their online experiences pleasant and easy as a significant factor. to choose what they do business with.

Providing your customers with 24/7/365 service in the form of self-service frees up your staff time, reduces operational costs and even boosts customer satisfaction.


How often does it not happen that one of your employees is disturbed during their work, but often can not help the customer, causing frustration on both sides, while the problem could easily have been automated in the first place?

Manufacturing companies can cut costs, provide better customer experiences and achieve unprecedented operational effectiveness by offering an ERP-linked portal to their customers.

 

The first step to your customer portal

An effective portal does not have to be complex, and therefore not expensive. The trick is to make decisions about what matters to your customer. If you have a modern ERP system, chances are that it offers an API or SDK, with which data can be exchanged in a secure way. Standard data platforms or ERP-adapted frameworks are available today.

In addition, it is often also possible to publish data on the web directly from your database via a web service. Have your guidance supervised by an expert by experience and involve your ERP supplier.


Manufacturing: Five Steps to a Successful Digital Transformation.

A recent survey revealed that almost three-quarters (71%) of industrial decision-makers agreed with the statement that, ‘We need to get digital technologies, so we can prosper’.

Further on, the surveyed agreed - by a remarkable balance of 2:1 - that the future of (successful) manufacturing lies in the leveraging the combination of established technologies and more advanced, cutting-edge developments.

On the other hand, it also came clear that there still is relative caution within the Industry.

The need for adoption and transition is being acknowledged, but there is a serious innovation lag in between companies that talk and truly walk the talk by pulling the trigger and investing in these new opportunities.

It seems to me that the gap mostly exists because of a lack of understanding of how to get started, what skills are needed, and the right technological investments.

These barriers can be overcome, as demonstrated by the rapid growing list of manufacturers who already are successfully using technology to innovate business models, supercharge business growth and disrupt entire industries.

Making these steps forward can look daunting at first, but the reward seems to always worth the risk. Simply because there is no there is no future in the status quo for businesses.

What is Digital Transformation?

A quick look-up on Wikipedia results in the following description:

"Digital Transformation (DT) is not necessarily about digital technology, but about the fact that technology, which is digital, allows people to solve their traditional problems. And they prefer this digital solution to the old solution”

Digital Transformation in the Manufacturing Industry.

What we can learn from this is that it’s more than just "going paperless. In fact, it’s more a strategy to enable new types of innovation and creativity in a particular domain, rather than simply enhance and support traditional methods.

Knowing these key facts, let’s move forward.

Five Steps to a Successful Digital Transformation

1: Beginning with the end in mind

Your Digital Transformation should support not only the customer of today but also the customer of tomorrow. What do you expect the market to or operational environment to look like in five year’s time? Wil some current services still be relevant? Or will the demands for these services change?

The manufacturing can be disrupted quickly, and it also predicted to be revolutionized very soon (the Fourth Industrial Revolution). To see this in action, all you have to do is look at the world of retail over the past decade for evidence of that.

You need to think long and hard about what would happen if there was no market for your product tomorrow. That can be scary, but it can also be tremendously liberating in helping you define your organization’s digital transformation roadmap.

2: Think broader than individual processes

Whenever a system is introduced with new capabilities it’s necessary to review the impact of this on the full spectrum of the business.

The customer doesn’t notice much of small efficiency improvements, rather the overall business effectiveness. In the 21st century, the customer will drive the success of any business more than ever before.

3: Lead by example

We are living in an incredibly exciting time for both employees and organizations, particularly for those who are embracing digital transformation.

The new world of technology-driven business depends on a whole new style of leadership. A style where the younger generations will play a key role.

Are you giving the right example to your employees by staying open-minded, supportive and eager to invest in this new world?

4: Understanding Agile

The digital world is developing at such a great pace that sometimes this can mean that a better solution to a problem can be found during the improvement process. In traditional means, a project scope cannot be altered or even abandoned when such an opportunity occurs.

Being Agile gives the opportunity to come up with many ideas and rapidly prototyping them to determine whether they hold value or not.

5: Get mentoring

There is a saying that goes like “Smart people make mistakes and learn from them. Wise people find people that made mistakes and learn from them before making them themselves.”

This is absolutely true for new technical challenges. Finding partners with the experience in achieving results combined with the support and motivation to keep developing will be key in making the moves forward.

 


Industry 4.0: Why Truly Smart Factories Are Remarkably Simple.

A modern Smart Factory is making extensive use of many modern digital technologies that help to improve the throughput, reduce waste, cut costs and develop new products for the world of tomorrow.

Let’s say for example that a business wants to reduce the production costs of one of its own products. To do this it has a wide array of strategies to choose from: We could change the product design to improve the feasibility, apply automation to reduce handlings, apply lean manufacturing, find cheaper suppliers and even create a digital factory to work paperless.

Every strategy will result in a different outcome. The new era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution forces the management to make a well-educated decision on which route to take to achieve the company’s goals.

Two great questions to ask ourselves in this scenario are:

“What is the operational target we are trying to achieve”

and

“Which option makes the best return on our investments?

Welcoming the Smart Factory

These days, every manufacturing company has heard about the ‘Smart Factory’ or ‘Digital Factory’. They seem also a great all-in-one solution to all of our challenges. Both are closely related, but one ‘smart’, and the other is just ‘digital’. A huge difference, in which we’ll have a more in-depth later.

Based on many case-studies, it recently became clear that: In order to create a truly Smart Factory, the business process has to be made (very) simple first. To understand this, let’s look at a business case example; Tesla Motors & the U.S.A.  & Russian aerospace industry.

Rocket Science

The more advanced a system becomes, the greater the likelihood that something will go wrong. Tesla recently found this out during their launch of the new Model 3 electric car. Due to high popularity, there was a need for high output and scalability.

To respond to this demand a special ‘lights-out’ factory was built that was almost fully automated by robots and computer controlled systems. At first, this new and brave strategy seemed the appropriate approach for the ‘car of the future’. The reality seemed a bit more challenging, as Elon Musk tweeted:

“Excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. Humans are underrated” - Elon Musk

The production faced serious delays and as a result, the stock prices of Tesla dropped sharply. It seemed that the Silicon Valley company reached a limit and that sending rockets to space was easier than building series of cars. Simply put: Production of series is actually harder than rocket science.

In the aerospace engineering industry, there is also a well-known story about the Americans vs. the Russians: Faced with the fact that ball-point pens would not write in zero-gravity, both were looking for a (seemingly better) way of writing in space.

The Americans immediately started to spend millions on R&D and testing (even using special planes to simulate the gravityless environment) and presented their ingenious pen: The Fisher Space Pen. On the other side of the globe, the Russians applied a much simpler approach: they decided to use a basic pencil.

I think this is a good illustration of Leonardo da Vinci's famous quote

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication".

Let’s take this insight with us in our strategy to improve our production processes.

The Toyota Approach to Industry 4.0.

The principle “simplify your processes before investing in technology" is central to Toyota’s vision on Industry 4.0 - and Smart Factories.

This approach allows the company to avoid unnecessary investments in technology. Only when no more progress towards a goal is possible by simplification is the investment in more smart technology considered. Or simply put by the founder, Taichi Ohno:

"Use your brain before you get out your wallet."

This doesn’t mean that Toyota doesn’t rely on technologies altogether, actually more on the contrary: the business is known to be one of the biggest investors in R&D, Automation and Robotics. The difference is their more effective approach to technology.

Industry 4.0: More Than Technology

For my consulting clients and during my keynotes I always address the importance of using a strategy that relies both on the current products, leverages the current automation opportunities and seek to find new business models that can create exponential growth in the business.

The same applies to the optimization of the production processes.

  • First, we will find ways to improve the process by management strategies such as Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM), LEAN processes and team building.
  • Second, we find a way to automate those improved processes (if only the first step has been checked) by integrating systems (such as MES-software, integrated into the business ERP).
  • And lastly, we start exploring new manufacturing techniques that are completely in unexplored territories, such as 3D printing, Augmented reality or even Big Data Approaches.

Want to know more about Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM), LEAN processes or ERP-integrations? Leave me a message on this page!