What engineers need from an ERP

Genius ERP: ready out-of-the-box for custom manufacturing.

Engineering is a key component in ETO manufacturing environments — it’s part of the name for goodness sake! — but engineering is all too often left out of ERP software systems. ERPs, even many that are designed for the manufacturing industry, will connect many departments and functions in a plant — accounting, purchasing, scheduling, inventory management, to name a few — making the manufacturing process easier and helping to get jobs out of the door faster. But all too often the engineering department, which plays a key role in the designing, engineering, and manufacturing of a product, are left out of the loop, and engineers are tasked with hunting down and re-entering information from and into spreadsheets, CAD software, and other systems. This wastes valuable time, increases the chance for human error, and isn’t this what an ERP system is supposed to be helping with anyways?

When selecting an ERP system for a ETO manufacturing shop, look for a system that has been designed to meet the needs of your whole shop, including your engineering department.

One of the most cumbersome and detailed tasks of the engineering department is to create a bill of materials(BOM). Many manufacturing ERPs will require the engineering department (or possibly purchasing or someone else within the company) to painstakingly take a CAD drawing and create a list of all the parts needed, and then create the BOM. To get this information synced up with the rest of the ERP, it must also be re-keyed into the ERP system. Inefficient to say the least.

The best manufacturing ERP systems will do this for you, and will connect your CAD software to your ERP. This saves you all of the above steps, and lets your ERP interact directly with your CAD software. Imagine being able to produce a BOM from a CAD drawing at the touch of a button! ERP systems that are built to work with CAD software can automatically extract and create a BOM from the designs and drawings your engineering department creates in CAD, and streamlines the purchasing, requisitioning, and manufacturing process. Your engineers or draftsmen don’t need to waste hours manually creating BOMs, with hundreds of parts form detailed CAD drawings, you can be assured that fewer errors will be made, and your BOMs will be connected to vital systems like inventory management, meaning it’s easier for you to know what parts are needed and what parts need to be ordered to get a job built and out the door.

You may also be noticing that your engineering department’s job has been changing recently. In the past your draftsmen provided your shop drawings based on specs from your customers, but now you may be finding that many of your customers are designing their own products.  This trend has forced you as a manufacturer to gain more knowledge about designing, assembling, and manufacturing parts in a more efficient and cost effective environment, and to learn how to comply with Design for Manufacturing (DFM) principles. What this translates to is that today you probably have more people working in the engineering room than ever before and that you have to go beyond the basic design processes you used in the past. After identifying what will be purchased or manufactured you must now define the routing steps. To make this process easier, many manufacturers are managing the routing steps and the instructions straight from the 3D CAD Software to speed up the process once the design is completed, and to decrease the potential for mistakes on the production floor. Having an ERP that can seamlessly connect to your CAD system will help manage this process and will allow you to automate routing steps.

Engineering is one of the most important elements of the custom manufacturing environment. Finding an ERP that gives engineers with they need will improve your manufacturing processes and let you gets jobs out the door faster and better.

Anne Mulvenna

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