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Those same platforms typically allow some level of remote access, a nice feature that became a God-sent functionality during the pandemic. Custom injection molders Natech Plastics Inc., Ronkonkoma, N.Y., and SEA-LECT Plastics Corp. (Everett, Wash.) are both users of DELMIAworks (formerly IQMS) but until the pandemic, they had almost exclusively logged in on local networks within their own facilities.

Matt Poischbeg, v.p. and g.m. at SEA-LECT, a custom molder with 16 presses ranging from 33 to 600 tons, could only think of a couple situations when his company, which has been a user since 2011, had remotely logged on to the DELMIAworks or SOLIDWORKS, both part of the 3DEXPERIENCE portfolio before the pandemic. “Prior to COVID,” Poischbeg says, “only our engineer would have utilized remote access when going to trade shows, or logging in from his lap top and accessing SOLIDWORKS on the company’s server and opening files when he was doing some work offsite with clients or potential clients.”

Natech was able to keep running in person and remotely thanks in part to ERP software.

When the pandemic came around and much of SEA-LECT’s administrative and engineering staff shifted to remote work, remote access became much more frequent. In particular, it helped the company rush through a reusable mask aimed at helping frontline healthcare workers and first responders, moving from design adaptation to molds in less than a week last April.

“This is where DELMIAworks and SOLIDWORKS come into the picture,” Poischbeg says. At that time last spring, he says SEA-LECT had a handful of employees working from home, including the company’s buyer/planner—using DELMIAworks ERP system from home via online access, and one of SEA-LECT’s engineers utilizing SOLIDWORKS CAD software. He was working remotely to help protect his family from the virus, including a small child and pregnant wife.

“When this mask opportunity came up, I talked to my moldmakers—especially to the apprentices—and said, ‘This is an opportunity; are you up to the challenge; can we do this and build this injection mold pretty much in a week?’ To my engineer at home, I asked, ‘Can you facilitate all of this with these files being made available from home?’”

His engineer was able to view the files from home, doing all the SOLIDWORKS “pre work” and then downloading them to the server at SEA-LECT, where one of the apprentices took those files and did the machining. Using some aluminum the company had on hand, the team—in the building and at home—was able to build that first mask mold within a week. “We quickly began production and started shipping these masks,” Poischbeg says.

Riding the swift success of the first project, SEA-LECT shifted to a new mold for a second size of mask. “We did the same thing,” Poischbeg says. “Our engineer did all the CAD work from home, and our apprentice here at SEA-LECT did all the mold build. It’s a perfect example of teamwork and collaboration, as well as working from home/working here at the plant.”

Taking the ERP Plunge

Back in 2019, Long Island based custom molder and moldmaker Natech Plastics “took the plunge” and invested in DELMIAworks, according to David Kachoui, director of business development at the company. Prior to that, Kachoui says the company used a “mish mash” of systems, ranging from Access and Excel to QuickBooks. Natech maintains two manufacturing facilities less than a mile from each other Ronkonkoma, N.Y. with a third mold making site in Clark, N.J. The implementation carried into 2020 when Natech transitioned its accounting operations to the ERP platform, undertaking a portion of that work during the pandemic.

“The first phase of implementation was already completed—that was before covid hit,” Kachoui recalls, “so it was really the second phase—the accounting implementation—that overlapped with the remote work. We were really lucky that it happened like that because we had already gone through a large part of the implementation, and it was just about going through that process a second time for that module.”

Beyond the accounting department, engineering also utilized the platform’s remote capabilities, with any employees who could work remotely doing so during the outbreak. “Obviously we’re not talking about somebody who has to be out on the manufacturing floor,” Kachoui says, “but the engineers were able to and did; they were using DELMIAworks.”

Removing that potential for human error by reentering the same thing multiple times and creating greater stability in the system has been good.

“If the engineers have to create a new bill of materials for a new product that we’re going to be manufacturing, they put that in DELMIAworks,” Kachoui says, “and then they were having remote calls with the team, especially in the beginning, just to make sure that the lines of communication were open and the information was flowing, which was the biggest challenge.”

Integrating a system as complex as an ERP platform would be hard under normal circumstances, but completing the integration in a pandemic that forced many key stakeholders to complete the task apart from colleagues was a challenge for Natech, but one the company met. “Our employees say it’s good that we implemented the program,” Kachoui says. “It’s certainly been challenging. I think one of the difficulties was just how to apply what we do to the system, because we use different terminology or we don’t know how to use it in that way. It was just a learning curve to be able to tap into the value that it has.”

Now that Natech is utilizing the software, the benefits are becoming apparent, particularly in making sure the same data are informing the company’s decisions. “I think just integrating the system so that the same information is flowing through has been key,” Kachoui says. “Removing that potential for human error by reentering the same thing multiple times and creating greater stability in the system has been good.”

SEA-LECT is a Washington-state based custom molder with 16 presses ranging from 33 to 600 tons.

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