Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Production management software smoothes output

Software modules identify bottlenecks and prompt corrective action to provide accurate delivery forecasts and saves at least 70% in tool set-up and machine preparation times.

Dedicated to high precision machining for aerospace, automotive and general engineering industry, Frencken's site in Brno, Czech Republic, manufactures, on average, some 1000 different parts every year. The emphasis at this Czech Republic sub-contractor is on 'done in one' machining and just-in-time supply to a customer base that includes Airbus Industries, Thales, EADS and Bosch. The attraction for these 'blue chip' customers is Frencken's well-equipped 1000m2 production facility that is home to two Mazak Integrex multi-tasking turning centres, three Mazak machining centres, two Mazak Super QuickTurn CNC lathes and a Mazak Variaxis five-axis machining centre.

These machines are interlinked by Mazak's Cyber Production Centre (CPC) production management system, the four software modules providing real-time visibility of every aspect of the production process.

Prior to November 2001, Frencken had been operating a MRP system inherited from its parent company.

This, in the view of Pavel Sobotka, managing director, did not deliver the information needed to manage a continuously changing manufacturing demand and shopfloor process.

However, once installed, CPC began identifying bottlenecks and prompting corrective action.

Two people now co-ordinate the entire shopfloor operation, identifying and resolving potential problems in advance of actual metal cutting.

This not only provides accurate delivery forecasts but, equally relevant, also provides the capability to check on the process status of every order.

The CPC's four modules are: Cyber Scheduler, which is the 'master' as far as parts data is concerned; Cyber Tool Management, Cyber Machine Monitor, which is used extensively within Frencken for analysing machine utilisation and production process rationalisation; and Mazak CAMWARE, which creates Mazatrol and ISO NC programs off-line.

Cyber Scheduler, which is derived from the Preactor family of advanced planning and scheduling solutions, provides the dynamic scheduling function.

According to Sobotka, it has played a pivotal role in the change to proactive process management and has also allowed Frencken to dispense with paper records when providing process documentation.

Savings have been made, too, by using Cyber Tool Management, with Frencken rationalising its tooling inventory and reducing significantly tool replacement/machine downtime.

Prior to this, machine operators had to remove every tool from the magazine after each completed job and then load a new set of tools for the next job.

It is now possible to check tool status and tool life in real-time, meaning that only 'missing' tooling needed for the next job is loaded, together with 'sister' tooling when the predicted life of existing tooling is insufficient to complete the job.

Overall, Sobotka estimates a saving of at least 70% in tool set-up and machine preparation times.

With business increasing at the rate of 15% year on year, Frencken is planning to build a second manufacturing plant.

It intends to control both sites using CPC, enabling this busy 60-employee sub-contractor to synchronise its manufacturing operations and contributing to its growing reputation within Europe.

Auto-ID products and solution components in Israel

Zetes has announced the creation of a new subsidiary in Israel, Zetes, located in Tel Aviv.

Zetes has announced the creation of a new subsidiary in Israel, Zetes, located in Tel Aviv. Founded with a local partner, Eli Harel (see hereafter), Zetes is controlled by Zetes Industries who has a 70 % ownership interest in the venture. The company will initially employ 2 people.

Zetes is the first direct implementation of the Zetes Group outside Europe where Zetes has subsidiaries in 9 countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and UK).

By combining a country organisation close to the local market with the broad range of competences made available by a leading international player, Zetes is uniquely positioned to bring the best Auto-ID products, solution components, practice and know how to the Israeli market.

Zetes in Israel Although Zetes' strategic focus remains to strengthen its direct presence in Europe, in large countries in particular, Zetes considers the time more than right to enter the Israeli market where customers are more and more becoming multinational companies demanding technology providers and partners with international scope.

Competing in an increasingly international environment, these customers command modern and efficient mission critical Auto-ID solutions (such as mobile sales and services applications, distribution and warehouse management tools) that can give them an edge over the competition.

Providing such solutions requires a broad range of innovative technologies (mobile computing, voice directed systems, RFID) combined with high-value competences and services, an investment which is not always attainable for the smaller local player.

Due to its international development and resulting critical mass , Zetes has always been uniquely positioned to invest in these technologies and services and is therefore able to deliver this broad range of innovative and solid solutions to the market.

With Eli Harel's very strong experience of the local Auto-ID market, Zetes found the right partner to channel these solutions to the Israeli customers.

Zetes Group In the Auto-ID industry, Zetes is deploying value-added solutions providing their users with the most appropriate selection of technologies and services, according to their business needs and industry-specific issues (manufacturing, transport and logistics, distribution, mobile sales and services).

Thousands of private and public customers are currently benefiting from Zetes' global and integrated Identification and Mobility solutions.

These solutions use both emerging and mature technologies for data capture (barcode, voice recognition, RFID) and communication (Wireless LAN and WAN, Personal Area Network such as Bluetooth), and take advantage of best RandD and products from Zetes' pan-European partners and industry leaders among which Symbol, Vocollect, Intermec and Zebra.

Having generated consolidated revenues of 139,5 million in 2005, with a high level of growth compared with 2004 ( 100,8 million), the Zetes Group currently employs 455 highly skilled and experienced people.

Global resources At both international and local levels, Zetes provides its customers with the benefits of a pan-European partner thanks to its globally coordinated competence centres.

These centralised teams of experts focus on specific business domains and enabling technologies (Voice, RFID, Print and Apply).

Tapping into the available expertise and know-how of every country organisation, they concentrate, enrich and disseminate this expertise across the group, also building standardised, configurable solution components and assisting the country organisations with the deployment of these components in their specific projects.

Thanks to this approach and in only three years, Zetes has succeeded to become the leader in the European Voice market for industrial applications (order picking, cross docking) with its own solutions' portfolio, the 3i Voice Solution, an open environment supporting best-of-class technologies on both specific voice platforms from the industry leader, Vocollect, and non-dedicated devices such as those offered by Symbol.

Strong local responsiveness 'Zetes' international development and the resulting critical mass allowed our company to build these centralised competence centres and to ride waves that typical local players cannot', comments Alain Wirtz, CEO of the Zetes Group.

'These transnational resources perfectly complement our decentralised country model that provides our customers with local points of contact, solutions, support and services, delivered by country organisations fully responsible for their operations'.

The local co-founder of Zetes , Eli Harel, has been appointed as Managing Director.

'With Eli's experience and entrepreneurial spirit, we are confident that Zetes will become a leading player in the Auto-ID Israeli market', adds Alain Wirtz.

Eli Harel has a BScandEE in Electronics Engineering from the Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva (1972).

From 1973 to 1979 he held positions in the Israeli Navy and Government with responsibilities for various information technology functions and assignments.

In the last 20 years Eli held various leading positions both in management and technical roles in the Israeli Auto-ID industry, gaining in-depth knowledge of the customers' needs and the technologies and solutions to address these needs.

Production management software is integrated

Fuel cell system maker wanted an MRP and accounting system that had tight integration and looking at 123mrp.NET the company could see that it did not have half its roots in DOS.

Voller Energy Group, based in Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK, develops and manufactures portable fuel cell power systems. Formed in 2001 by Steven Voller and Mike Clarke, the company has recently seen substantial growth, rising from 2 to 20 staff in 12 months and also floated on the AIM stock exchange in February 2005. Said Michael Clarke, chief operating officer; 'We looked at a number of MRP systems that integrated with Sage, our account system in use at the time.

A number claimed to be integrated with Sage but I found they were not particularly adequate in a number of areas, specifically maintaining stock valuation - in fact, the trail through one of the major packages we looked at clearly did not work.

We wanted an MRP and accounting system that had tight integration.

Our auditors, BDO Stoy Hayward recommended Access Dimensions, and the integration between this and 123mrp.NET persuaded us to attend an Evaluation Workshop, which three people attended.

Looking at 123mrp.NET was like a 'breath of fresh air' - you could immediately see that it did not have half its roots in DOS.

Other systems that I have used tend to have data fragmented over different data sets, so you'd need to be a computer genius to extract the information you wanted.

123mrp.NET was clearly written in the 21st century.' User training commenced on 8th August 2005, with implementation and administration training occurring later that month.

Clarke found that users trained internally on one area of the software quickly learnt other areas when required: 'If you are used to working with one section of 123mrp.NET the modus operandi is very similar for all the other sections, so it is pretty intuitive to find your way around the system.

During the implementation phase I prepared all the data in Excel spreadsheet form - at the time we had one product with sixteen variations.

We created a six tier structure for the product, so it could be configured at the top level with various sales options.

Having keyed in the one Bill Of Materials it was then a case of simply copying the one BOM to all the other products, which took less than a day.

After this we had 350 stock items to enter.

We used the data entry process as an opportunity to get people to have hands-on experience with 123mrp.NET and this whole process only took a couple of days.' The system went live on November 1st 2005.

Production rates at the time were only three or four units per month, however the same month Voller received a large order for several hundred new products.

Clarke explained: 'On November 1st we literally just switched on and went live.

For about a month I supervised and made sure that people were happy with what they were doing.

There was a lot of purchasing activity required during December for our new order, and we had around fifty new components and two new structures to enter, which only took a couple of hours.

Creating new products within 123mrp.NET is an absolute dream! On older systems you'd have to put your parts in, come out of that and go into your BOM package.

If you then found a mistake you had to close that part down and go back to edit your part.' With over 30 years experience with computers Clarke was surprised with 123mrp.NET's performance: 'In using the system it is at least 50% faster than other systems I've used previously in the production and placement of orders'.' Clarke said: 'The ability to transfer a purchase order by email or even fax from the desktop is a major time-saver.

Collating the data on the purchase order itself is also an improvement over other systems.

Most of the reports I use are quite adequate, but if you want to tinker with them the ability is there to do so.

Changing an existing report or adding a new field is easy.' Clarke concluded: 'It was a strategic decision to implement an MRP system, and it is very important to get this right.

There is only so much research you can do on different systems after which it becomes an act of faith in making a commitment.

Moving to a system that had been written for .NET from the ground up rather than one that had been transcribed from another system gave me a lot of security that the product would be reliable.

We were quoted systems typically costing GBP 50-100,000, which we were expecting we would have to pay.

I think it takes a bold commitment for a company to make a decision on an MRP system after attending just one Evaluation Workshop, but that's exactly what we did.

Moving forward, the company will be developing a range of products that will need quite a high level of control with respect to insurance-backed safety approvals, so the batch process control within 123mrp.NET will prove extremely useful to us.' Summary of benefits are as follows.

* 123mrp.NET recommended by the company's auditors, BDO Stoy Hayward.

* A true .NET system rather than one ported from another language.

* System went live within three months.

* 50% faster to use that systems previously experienced.

* Reports can easily be modified, or data exported to Excel.

* Four people received full user training in just three days, with only one person requiring implementation and administration training.

* Very low startup cost as opposed to spending GBP 50-100,000.

* Tight integration with Access Dimensions accounts software.

* Batch process control aiding acquisition of accreditation standards in the future.

* Entering new parts and BOMs is extremely quick.

* Total initial training cost for current staff of GBP 3750.

* Low monthly rental fee of GBP 400.