Until recently, plastics processors looking for fully featured enterprise business software may have been aware of only two choices that were tailored specifically for their needs. But at least two more plastics-oriented packages have emerged in the last few years, though without much publicity. That's changing, as makers of those newer packages have raised their profiles by exhibiting at recent trade shows. Suppliers of both newer and well-established enterprise software have come out with new releases that emphasize such features as more sophisticated scheduling, more kinds of user-customizable reports, and easy access via the internet.
Pricing of these packages can range from under $50,000 to over $200,000 depending on the number of users, size of the operation, and selection of software modules. In addition, training, installation, and maintenance contracts can run from 30% to 70% of total cost of the project.
Better scheduling, quoting
The latest version of The Manufacturing Manager (TMM v. 9.2) from Made2Manage Systems is an upgrade of an enterprise business package used by scores of small and mid-size processors such as injection molders, extruders, and thermoformers. TMM was formerly supplied by DTR Software International, which was acquired last summer by Made2Manage Systems (M2M). In business since 1986, M2M already had around 100 plastics firms among its 1900 customers for enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply-chain management, and other business software aimed at small and mid-size manufacturers. As a result of the acquisition, TMM users now have access to M2M's hotline support and 24/7 online support via its customer web portal.
One of the main new features of TMM v. 9.2 is the Master Scheduler. It now offers Capable-to-Promise (CTP) functionality in addition to Available to Promise. CTP is a more accurate, "real-world" scheduling model, since it allows you to quote deliveries based on not just length of manufacturing times but also machine and tool availability within the existing production schedule. Made2Manage Systems is also introducing a preventive-maintenance scheduling module. A future release reportedly will flag occasions when maintenance downtime would interfere with production schedules.
Also new to TMM v. 9.2 is the Quote Manager, designed to simplify quoting and allow you to go directly from a quote to a live bill of manufacture. The software supports win/loss analysis (helping you to examine quotes on jobs you lost to competitors).
Also new is the Language Localizer, which allows different operators to view screens in different languages and provides easier creation of reports, ability to attach notes to data records, instant messaging, and automatic e-mailing of reports.
PLM integrated with ERP
A new enhancement to another well-known ERP package for plastics processors comes out this month from IQMS. It's an optional module for Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) that will be integrated with EnterpriseIQ ERP software. PLM is like a "biography of a product," explains president Randy Flamm. On one screen, PLM keeps track of how many units of a given product have been made, what design changes, quality problems, and customer complaints have occurred, and how profitable the product has been since it was first produced. Flamm says automotive and medical OEMs have been asking for this software to help molders realize when it is time to redesign a product or manufacturing system.
ERP on the web
A relatively new addition to the short list of plastics-specific ERP choices is JobTrack from CyFrame International in Canada. This system is supplied with customized modules tailored for injection or blow molding, and blown film or profile extrusion. This comprehensive system includes modules for sales forecasting, rapid order entry with automatic work-order generation, production scheduling with machine optimization, materials requirements planning (MRP), materials purchasing and receiving, inventory management, shipping, invoicing, accounts payable/receivable, general ledger, and shop-floor production monitoring via barcode readers.
Besides tracking amounts of product made and profitability by product, plant, shift, or customer, the system monitors machine time, cycle times, temperatures, and recipes for regrind usage through specialized Siemens hardware. JobTrack is a web-based "intranet" application that is installed on a single server and is accessible to users anywhere via a standard browser.
For flexible packaging
Extruders and converters of film, bags, and pouches can manage their operations with the help of new Tori-Flex v. 7.0, an enterprise software package with a new scheduling module that's integrated with MRP and capacity planning. Supplied by PlastiSoft Corp., the graphical, drag-and-drop scheduler identifies job data such as the color of the film, layflat, and gauge being extruded. Printing jobs display the number of colors, type of printing, and availability of plates, gears, and cylinders. The software can sort extrusion work orders by completion date, color, and gauge.
The new touchscreen scheduler integrates complete MRP functionality, providing real-time views of resin, ink, and film availability. It automatically determines material availability based on all jobs running on all machines, as well as scheduled jobs and newly arrived purchase orders.
Version 7.0 provides over 280 sales, production, and financial reports. It has an improved credit-check process, tracks product returns from customers, and introduces wireless warehousing via handheld barcode scanners.