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ERP Ties Everything Together for Multi-Plant Job Shop

By: Louis A. Kren

Friday, September 1, 2017
 

Here’s a challenge: How do you real-time-trace fabricating jobs from start to finish; quote new work and add jobs on a daily basis into the production queue; ensure material supply, production-equipment availability and secondary operations (some from outside contractors); and manage delivery to customers worldwide? Oh, and all of this must take place across two locations more than 1500 miles apart.

We found a company doing just that, with a huge hand from enterprise resource planning (ERP).

Dalsin Industries, founded in 1945 as Dick Dalsin Sheet Metal Co. and initially specializing in architectural sheetmetal products, now serves customers that produce technical and computing products; renewable energy; large over-the road-vehicles; automotive, cosmetic, computer, medical and industrial equipment; construction machinery and more. It does this through a blend of experienced staff; advanced and automated CNC stamping, fabrication and assembly equipment; and design services geared toward manufacturing-cost reduction and optimized product fit, form and function.

Added Location Prompted Need for Robust ERP

The company, owned by the sons of founders Richard E. and Eleanor Dalsin, has its 135,000-sq.-ft. headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Bloomington, MN, where it processes various coiled and sheet materials. Over time, Dalsin Industries has weathered industry and customer change by entering new markets for its value-added products and contract-manufacturing services, and added progressive-die metal stamping as a core competency.

Adding or changing about 1100 jobs per month, Dalsin Industries relies on its ERP system across the board, from material orders to schedules to deliveries. When an order finalizes, the system provides the purchasing department with items for ordering as acceptable minimum and maximum quantities. Then the system creates a bill of materials and a job can be scheduled, with start and due dates as well as due dates for each operation. Dashboards inform workcells and various operations on job status.
One example of the company’s willingness to adapt to change occurred in 2013, when it opened an 85,000-sq.-ft. stamping and fabricating operation in Phoenix, AZ, to respond to customer needs for additional regional support and added capacity. The tricky part is getting the laser cutters, punching machines, stamping presses, robotic welders, bending machines, finishing equipment and automated material-handling systems to work in concert and deliver quality products to customers on time—and profitably. That’s where its ERP system comes in.

“In our industry it is critical that we know what the costs are for each job, and we want to make sure that we are charging a customer a fair price,” explains Jeff Dalsin, IT business analyst for Dalsin Industries. “We need to know how were are doing on a job, operation by operation, and then on the whole job, and materials consumed as well.”

He’s only hinting at everything that must be considered in order for Dalsin Industries to be successful. Along those lines, prior to the addition of a second location in Phoenix, the company installed an ERP system, and then replaced it with another after Phoenix came online. But what Dalsin Industries had considered an ERP upgrade to better serve two company locations had instead revealed itself to be lacking in critical capabilities.

“Within a year of implementing the second ERP system, we had realized that it was not a good fit,” says Dalsin, noting that it may have been a better option for an OEM manufacturing its own product, not for a job shop dealing with a large amount of variables from quote to quote and job to job. “For example, we only could quote one quantity at a time, and being a job shop/contract manufacturer, most of our quotes involve two to five different quantities, so we ended up having to create two to five separate quotes. As a result, our sales and quoting people had to spend extra time handling the added quotes.”

This costing workbench, one of seemingly endless tools in Dalsin Industries’ ERP system, helps the company analyze costs and cost changes for each job.
That’s not all.

“We could not determine how well we were performing on a particular job,” Dalsin says. “We could not drill down to part-by-part, operation-by-operation information to determine what jobs were taking longer and what jobs were performing well.”

Benefits Across All Operations

Frustrated by the shortcomings, in 2015 Dalsin Industries opted for Epicor to meet its ERP needs. Within a year, a time period that included installation and training, the advantages of the new system became apparent. The powerful ERP capabilities touch every aspect of the organization and are too numerous to mention individually, but Dalsin described a few that especially stand out.

“We can follow a job through each operation, unlike before,” he says, describing how the ability to drill down into jobs provides Dalsin Industries with much more actionable information at its fingertips. “That includes the production rate attained in pieces/hr. and what was quoted. If we don’t hit the quoted numbers, we know that something is wrong. Either our projected rate is too high, or our production has a problem. We then investigate to make sure that the projected rate is correct—ensuring that an operator did not ‘wand out’ or exit the system too early in an operation or too late—and adjust accordingly. So we perform due diligence to make sure it is not simply a log-in/log-out issue. “From that point, we can assess other potential issues,” he continues. “We can work with operations managers and operators to explore setup and other processes and then make improvements.”

Another area where Dalsin Industries benefits is through its use of the new ERP software: price-break tables, which list discounts based on volume sales and purchases.

“When performing purchasing functions, the old system did not allow us to include price-break tables for parts we were purchasing, or tables for subcontracting services,” recalls Dalsin. “This made it very difficult for our purchasing department to do its job. We can add these tables with the new system.”

Tracks 1000-Plus Jobs per Month

Adding or changing some 1100 jobs per month, Dalsin Industries relies on its ERP software across the board, from material orders to schedules to deliveries. As soon as an order is finalized, the system provides the purchasing department with items for ordering and the acceptable minimum and maximum quantities. Based on the accepted quote and other inputs, the software creates a bill of materials, and a job can be scheduled with start and due dates as well as due dates for each operation.

Multiple resource views and online scheduling tools such as the change-impact informer offer a manufacturer’s master scheduler and manager the ability to visually locate overload problems and slack conditions, then perform cost and throughput analysis on schedule changes before they are firmly committed, according to an Epicor description of the ERP system’s scheduling capabilities. The system’s scheduling engine uses several factors that affect production quantity, setup time, production time, capacity and priority as well as others to calculate how long it will take each job to complete. It then displays the schedule through the Job Scheduling Board, the Resource Scheduling Board and the Multi-Resource Scheduling Board.

In addition, jobs can be scheduled in a what-if mode, analyzing potential bottlenecks before finalizing the actual schedule.

“So you know right out of the gate if you can hit the customer’s deadline,” says Dalsin.

Dalsin Industries also takes advantage of Epicor ERP’s Business Activity Queries (BAQs) that allow users to pull specific data out of the system.

“We can turn those BAQs into dashboards that users can place on the system’s main menu for easy access,” Dalsin explains, noting that the custom BAQs and dashboards are created by the company’s IT department. “We can tailor these to specific needs, helping our people perform more efficiently. One dashboard we use addresses operations, notifying us when an operation has not been completed on time, and indicating the time available to catch up, prior to the final job due date, in order to ship on time. Another dashboard indicates when a job is ready to ship so that the shipping department can pull the product for delivery to the customer.”

Dalsin further explains other areas of customization—nearly every program within the ERP system is customizable—as well as the ability to personalize users’ screens.

“Users, if they have personalization authority on their accounts, can modify their screens,” Dalsin says. “They can move data onscreen so that they do not have to scroll to see it, or can modify sorts—by part number or job number or date, for example—according to their needs.

“Personalization is helpful,” he continues, “because each person differs in what data they need and how they process it.”

Challenges Met

ERP helps Dalsin Industries meet the myriad challenges inherent in operating as a multi-location contract manufacturer on a daily basis, according to Dalsin.

“Today, customers want things ASAP—no waiting for three to four weeks—so it’s whatever we can do to expedite turnaround from when we get a quote to when we ship product out the door to satisfy customers’ needs,” he says. “Without customers we have no needs, so we need to keep them happy and process their orders accurately and timely. Our ERP system lets us do that. If we were trying to keep everything straight without an ERP system, we would be pulling our hair out.” MF

 

See also: Epicor Software Corporation

Related Enterprise Zones: Software


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