The Digital Journey

Successful business digitalization for sheet metal manufacturers in five steps


Digital transformation can seem like a daunting task for sheet metal manufacturers, but, thankfully, every company can go at a pace that suits them best to minimize the effort of implementing changes while maximizing the benefits. At Lantek LLC, there are five recommended software products that can be installed in steps. The software is “out of the box” operational, requiring little or no customization, making it easy for manufacturers to become familiar with the software at each step before moving on to the next.

Lantek Expert Cut options are included in a single program, allowing users to consult the sheet warehouse, execute cutting sequences, generate CNC programs, and calculate time and cost, among other things.

Or, manufacturers can pause at any step if they feel that is as far as they wish to go with digital transformation at the time. This gives them the flexibility to do what is best for their business while still having the option of continuing along the path in the future.

Implementing a data capture system can have a major impact on the ease and accuracy of the information collected from the shop floor.

Step 1: Digital quotations

When preparing quotations manually, it’s typical to produce around three to 10 quotes per day. Digital quotation software increases this number greatly. With Lantek’s digital quotation module linked to the CAD/CAM software, job estimators can produce as many as 100 quotes per day, depending on complexity, while at the same time achieving greater accuracy and consistency. Customers using the quotation module report that there is a link between quotation turnaround time and the likelihood of winning an order.

With a quotation module, CAD models and DXF files can be imported and, via links to the CAD/CAM software, provide accurate cutting times and material consumption data. It can store hourly rates for machines, employees, non-CNC operations and subcontracted operations as well as material costs that can be updated as they change. Calculation formulas are part of the system so that the results are repeatable, predictable and accurate. The layout of the quotation can be customized to suit a company’s branding.

Step 2: Digital sales management

Advanced CAD/CAM software for sheet metal like Lantek’s may also have a sales management tool to control the paper trail for each order; generate internal sales orders for each job; and produce order acknowledgements, delivery notes and invoices. Traceability is increasingly important for many manufacturers, and built-in sales management tools provide a way of keeping track of each order and its manufacturing status, which can trigger communications with customers in a professional and timely way while reducing administrative effort.

This capability also helps inform where business is coming from, who are the most active customers and which customers are not accepting quotations. This is information that can help optimize the sales process.

When CAD/CAM software is linked with a digital quotation module, job estimators can produce as many as 100 quotes per day, depending on their complexity.

Step 3: Digital MES manager

Depending on the part mix and production volume, it’s sometimes necessary to bring together parts from many different orders onto one sheet of material. With a reputable manufacturing execution system (MES) software module that’s integrated with the CAD/ CAM software, it’s seamless to release multiple sales orders to the shop and nest multiple parts from different customers on one or more sheets of material.

Tracking provides valuable information about the status of each job as it processes through the shop, along with data about manufacturing times for each operation. The data can then be compared with the quotation to highlight any discrepancies. Gathering this information can be used to optimize the quoting process, identify manufacturing problems, and evaluate the efficiency of machines and other processes.

Furthermore, the MES can support a paperless environment that is faster and more reliable with higher accuracy by using the MES’s data capture feature. Data capture is the process of extracting information from paper or electronic documents and converting it into data that computers can understand.

Step 4: Digital inventory tracking

Digital inventory tracking provides information about raw material and remnants in the shop. It monitors the material and its cost as it is purchased and automatically updates the material costs in the quotation module.

In doing so, shops can have an easier time using available remnants during the nesting of a mix of different jobs. Full traceability makes it possible to see exactly which batch of material is used for each job.

Step 5: Digital data capture

Implementing a data capture system can have a major impact on the ease and accuracy of the information collected from the shop floor. Manual systems rely on conscientious use of paper-based reporting systems while automated operator reporting takes away the need to fill in paper reports, producing results in real time and allowing any necessary corrective action to be taken immediately.

There are several ways in which this can be done. For newer machinery, the machine control can be connected so that as soon as the operation starts and stops, the times are automatically recorded. Other options include barcode readers or tablet-enabled verification. These options are ideal for secondary operations, such as welding or painting.

Advanced CAD/CAM software for sheet metal typically has a sales management tool to control the paper trail for each order.

The key benefits of data capture are high accuracy for operation times and quality control data sent back to the system as it happens. It can also give an early warning should processes be going wrong. With more accurate information, quotation accuracy will be higher, profitability of each job can be verified and changes to manufacturing processes can be made based on live data.

Lantek LLC

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