ERP for metal fabrication companies must address the most common types of manufacturing found in this industry. This includes the creation of general hardware products, metal forging, metal stamping, wire products, and others that utilize both ferrous (containing iron) and non-ferrous metal products. This is important because metal fabrication is different than manufacturing primary metals, as that process deals more with rolling, alloying, and casting the product.
Common Target Areas of ERP for Metal Fabrication Companies
Companies in the metal fabrication industries have several things in common, including targeted areas of improvement. For example, metal fabrication companies are constantly looking for efficiency improvements, ways to reduce inventory, and creative ways to cut costs. The right ERP for metal fabrication companies can help accomplish those goals.
There are certain areas an ERP solution for this industry should cover:
- Customer Relationship Management
- Quoting and Estimating
- Order Processing
- Product Configurator
- Product Data Management (PDM)
- Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
- Document Management
- Engineering Change Management
- Forecasting and Demand Planning
- Materials Management
- Mixed Mode Manufacturing
- Lean Manufacturing
- Supply Chain Management
- Advanced Manufacturing Planning
- Warehouse Management
- Plant Equipment
- Cost Accounting
A Look Into an Ultra Metal Fabrication Client
Ultra is working with a family-owned company in the metal fabrication industry who manufactures lite kits, louvers, and other threshold products for steel and wood doors. The company ultimately engaged Ultra in their ERP project because they lacked the in-house experience necessary in order to thoroughly and subjectively evaluate potential ERP systems that could meet the needs for a metal fabrication company.
Currently, the company is functioning with a homegrown system that’s been in place for over 20 years, but they are eager to embrace the expanded functionality of a modern ERP system.
There were a few other reasons the company looked to start an ERP journey. First and foremost, they needed a software solution with the capability of handling bill of materials and routings.
They also needed a solution that has the ability to scale as they continue to take more market share away from their competitors, and one that would ultimately allow the company to expand their business by opening more locations and becoming a multi-plant organization.
Lastly, their current system is so dated, it is hard to find people that know the coding language to add additional functionality.
One reason this client is so special to us and the industry is because they’re an outlier. The majority of the businesses in their sub-industry are massive companies; they are the only mom and pop shop left in the game. They will go above and beyond to help a customer succeed, and that is something we value equally at Ultra. While we work to help our client succeed no matter their situation, we especially love helping businesses like this one thrive.
Two Functionalities Desired by the Client
While we outlined several necessary areas of focus in the ideal ERP for metal fabrication companies, there are a couple areas that resonated with this client.
1. Product Configurator
The Product Configurator is an important and necessary feature in an ERP for metal fabrication companies. Our client follows suit with the industry in this regard, as acquiring a highly functional and effective product configurator is one of their main goals.
The company’s output is unique in that they need a configurator that has the ability to make alterations of any size to the product, and in any way the customer requests. This configurator must also be integrated into an order entry piece in the new system; currently, all options for parts are hard-coded, and do not tie back into the BOM for inventory or costing accuracy.
The client also discovered they need an ERP system that fits their demand for short lead times. More often than not, their customers will need certain products on extremely short notice, sometimes as few as two days.
They need a system that gives them the flexibility to produce at a moment’s notice, and to make sure their customer is always taken care of no matter the cost. Therefore, it is imperative they have accurate inventory so their customers’ needs are always met without having to keep massive amounts of raw materials on hand.
2. Lean Manufacturing
Lean Manufacturing is an important topic to consider when searching for the right ERP for metal fabrication, and this client is a prime example. The Ultra team actually executed the future state mapping two times, with the second incorporating values of Lean ERP.
The second time around, we paid close attention to the amount of transactions the employees on the floor would execute. We pinpointed the transactions that would give us the most valuable data, and designed their processes around those points. Our goal was not to capture all data points, but to concentrate on the few that would help increase customer satisfaction, and help determine where cycle time could be reduced.
The company decided that when it came time for the ERP selection phase, they would want to look for an ERP vendor that married the concepts of Lean and ERP together, paying close attention to whether the solution was flexible enough not to burden the shop floor employees with mountains of transactions that would slow down current state Lean processes.
From the Long List to the Short List: How To Decide Between Two Software Vendors
After concluding the future state mapping stage, we were able to help our client come up with a long and short list of potential ERP software vendors. We guided them through four vendor qualification sessions that consisted of two-hour sessions each. After this round, the decision was down to two vendors: Epicor ERP and Infor CloudSuite Industrial. While both vendors have standard functionalities for the industry, there were a few differentiators between their solutions.
- Order Fulfillment: Epicor allows users to ship an item straight from a work order; it does not require you to have the item in inventory in order to ship it.
- Shipping: The Epicor ERP solution features built-in LTL (less than truckload) rate shipping and can pull in rates from different LTL carriers to ensure you’re getting the best deal. This feature shows up-to-date carrier information based on where the product is going, how many items the company is shipping, and quoted rates per quarter.
- Human Capital Management (HCM): The Epicor HCM capabilities were very strong, and would make managing employee certificate and trainings, 360 reviews, and performance reviews much easier.
- Strong Product Configurator: Infor’s product configurator had just what the client needed, from the ability to make alterations by client, to order entry integration.
- Search Capabilities: The search capabilities in the Infor solution are available in every field on almost every screen, making it easy to find whatever information you may need at any given time.
- Sales Rep Portal: The Infor sales rep portal makes it easy for salespersons to check on their customers and customer orders. This was an add-on, similar to a customer portal, that is a superior tool for sales reps. The portal will allow the reps to have real-time access to any issue the customer may have, and will also put the information they need in the palm of their hands to upsell certain customers.
- Pricing: In an industry where pricing can be somewhat complicated and convoluted, Infor’s pricing methodology is very strong and detailed, and has no limitations for what kind of pricing it can handle.
What Lies Ahead In The ERP Journey
Our client just concluded the vendor evaluation stage with Epicor and Infor, and will next have to decide between the two products. We will discuss implementation methodology with both vendors and determine which will be the best fit from both technology and a relationship perspectives.
This client goes above and beyond to ensure their customers are successful, and they are looking for a partner that will do the same for them. Once that decision has been made, we will help them through the negotiation process and begin implementation planning. The company has a targeted ERP implementation start date of July 1.
To learn more about ERP for metal fabrication companies, and how Ultra can help you begin your search, contact us today.