ERP Software for the Aluminium Industry
A good ERP software application for the aluminium industry will provide a comprehensive inventory management system to carefully track and manage materials.
ERP Management Software
ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) is a software application that allows companies, from a range of industries, to integrate and manage all manner of processes. Applications that can be integrated into this single system include planning, sales, marketing, finance, human resources, and inventory management, among others.
ERP for Aluminium Extrusion
The non-corrosive, sturdy, lightweight, malleable qualities of aluminium – as well as the fact that it’s 100% recyclable – have seen it spike in demand. Extruded aluminium is a heavily-consumed metal required in industries including (among others):
The Extrusion Process Explained
Basically, aluminium extrusion is the process whereby aluminium alloy is forced through a specifically designed die using a powerful ram. When the aluminium emerges from the other side onto the runout table, it has been moulded into the required shape. These include:
- Solid – There no enclosed voids or openings such as for a rod, beam, or angle.
- Hollow – There are one or more voids, such as a square or rectangular tube.
- Semi-hollow – This has a partially enclosed void, such a ‘C’ channel with a narrow gap.
What Are the Steps of Aluminium Extrusion?
Before understanding where ERP software fits into aluminium extrusion, it helps to have a quick overview of what this complex process entails.
Preparation of extrusion die including pre-heating before its loaded onto the press.
The aluminium alloy (known as a billet) is pre-heated to make it malleable.
The billet is loaded into the extrusion press and lubricated.
The hydraulic ram pushes the billet into the extrusion press.
The pressure pushes the alloy through the die opening.
The fully-formed extrusion is guided along with the runout table and cooled.
The extrusion is cut using a hot saw.
The extrusion moves to the cooling table to reach room temperature.
The extrusion is moved to the stretcher and brought to specification.
The hardened extrusion moves to the saw table where it is cut.
Features of ERP for the Aluminium Industry
There is a lot that goes into the aluminium extrusion process, as well as the follow-up sales and distribution, which is why an industry-specific ERP software is ideal. Here are some of the ERP features for this particular industry.
1. Inventory Management
This involves the ordering, storage and shipping of the aluminium product. Through the implementation of ERP software, inventory is monitored and the system is able to re-order or re-stock product quickly, thereby minimising holding costs and reducing overheads related to inventory challenges. Within the metals industry, inventory management is often a lot more complex than with other manufacturing processes. This makes implementing and adopting a comprehensive ERP system much more crucial. With an item-centric ERP system, fabricators can be established to accurately track inventory with a focus on details.
Challenges of poor inventory management
A lack of inventory oversight can be detrimental to the operations of an aluminium manufacturer. With valuable ERP software, you’re able to prevent the following:
- Inventory shortages (running out of stock)
In a competitive industry like aluminium manufacture, inventory shortages mean that your profit margin is high and a stock shortage – especially during peak periods – can drastically impact the business. Through effective ERP software, you’ll ensure you’re always attaining ‘par levels’ and, if the inventory drops below, an alert will send out an order for replenishment.
- Sitting with ‘deadstock’
On the other side of the spectrum is the ‘deadstock’ which is stock that is unused, unsold or expired. This is a massive waste for anyone in the aluminium industry as you’re losing out on both the cost of the goods sold, as well as the storage costs involved. By implementing an ERP system, you’re able to track all ordered products from day one by tracking the purchase, manufacture and expiry dates, alerting you when the product is about to become ‘deadstock’.
- Manual calculations for inventory management are not only prone to error but are also extremely time-consuming, which is a drain on company resources. Automation through ERP software saves you time and money.
Connected to inventory management is MRP and scheduling – both incredibly challenging as they require getting the right material to the right place at the right time, or threaten to disrupt the entire supply chain process. ERP software will identify the source of demand for material and, based on previous demand and purchase trends, will trigger a purchase order.
3. Estimation and Quoting
In an extremely competitive market like aluminium manufacture, estimation and quoting times are critical to securing an order. An ERP system will automate the entire process which previously relied on personnel and manual calculations. It also provides real-time data on Bill of Materials (BOM) from vendors, material costs and inventory levels for an accurate estimate and profit margin.
4. Warehouse Management
The ERP warehouse management functionality allows for the monitoring of complex warehouse operations within the metals industry. Some of the latest functions included in ERP software are radio frequency technology, batch and serial number management, work-in-progress tracking, and integrated shipping. Through real-time stock control, you’re able to monitor inventory at multiple warehouses through a single system.
ERP systems can be integrated with barcode scanning for better inventory tracking, as real-time data is updated at every step of the process, translating to increased accuracy as data collection is performed with minimal error.
6. Production Management
Through ERP, the multiple steps of production are integrated into one place, which allows for the management of aspects like production costing, die issue planning, die management and maintenance, as well as breakdown reporting.
7. Integration With CAD
Many aluminium fabricators work with CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software for designs which then have to be translated for production. Within the metals industry, you’re often working with the customer’s designs that need to be integrated into CAD software – and ERP has this capability. The various functionalities such as BOM, inventory management and production can be integrated with CAD for immediate updates, accurate quotes and scheduling.
All facets of the aluminium logistics’ process can be automated and integrated with ERP. In addition to inventory monitoring and MRP, this includes delivery tracking, bulk order management and composite material management.
9. Quality Control
Because of the technical uses of aluminium, such as used in the automobile, aerospace and machine manufacture industries, the end-product has to be of an extremely high quality that meets industry standards. Fortunately, ERP software can assure quality control through its comprehensive compliance system that measures quality parameters at each step of manufacture. Alongside barcoding technology, any defective items can be quickly identified and recalled.
What Are the Benefits of ERP Software?
With so many features, ERP is hugely beneficial to any organisation. Here’s a quick overview of what you can look forward to:
- Access to real-time data
- Streamlining of business operations
- Improved collaboration internally and externally
- Increased productivity
- Massive time and cost savings
- Visibility and complete business oversight
- Seamless integration
- Enhanced data security
- Improved customer relations
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing ERP
The undeniable benefits of ERP within aluminium extrusion processes are evident, but the very specialised nature of this industry means that the ERP chosen has to be carefully considered. When deciding on software, there are some common mistakes that can be easily avoided. These include:
- Insufficient research: The ERP will impact all departments and operations which is why you need to research the software required and get your ERP implementation team together.
- Lack of needs’ evaluation: Discuss the business weaknesses and areas of improvement with the ERP team so that you can narrow down exactly what you want out of your ERP software, and identify the necessary features.
- Underestimating resources: Implementing a new ERP system requires time and resources, but once done, you’ll immediately begin to see the value.
- Poor communication: Although ERP will streamline your business operations, there will be some disruption while it’s being implemented. Ensure everyone is on board with the new changes so that you don’t rock the boat unnecessarily.
- Taking on too much: ERP implementation needs to be done step-by-step, starting with the most important features first.
- Overlooking training: Staff will need to be trained in the ERP system before implementation, with ongoing training sessions to refresh staff and introduce any new features.
- Forgetting maintenance: This will impact the functionality of ERP and a valuable supplier will ensure you’re keeping up-to-date on your software maintenance.
- Dropping redundant software: ERP will replace many current software applications. By keeping these running, you’re slowing down the system and wasting money.
- Overlooking key features: Make sure you’re getting the full use out of your ERP software by utilising all key features.
By partnering with a reputable industry supplier, you’ll be able to avoid the mistakes related to ERP selection and implementation, allowing your operation to benefit fully from all the industry-changing benefits of this innovative software.