Business digitalization for sheet metal manufacturers in 5 easy steps


Shane Langston Solutions Sales Manager at Lantek UK explains the benefits of digital transformation and how it can be achieved in 5 easy steps.

Digital transformation can seem a daunting task for sheet metal manufacturers but, in reality, every company can go at the pace that suits it best, minimising the effort of implementing changes while maximising the benefits from each step. The five steps we can offer are installed with little or no customisation so that they are operational ‘out of the box’ making it easy to get familiar with the software from each step before moving on to the next.

Manufacturers can stop at any step if they feel that is as far as they wish to go with digital transformation, giving them the flexibility to do what is best for their business while still having the option of continuing along the path at some time in the future.

Step 1: Quotations

When preparing manual quotations, it is typically possible to produce about 3 to 10 quotes per day. With Lantek’s quotation module you can produce as many as 100 per day depending on their complexity while at the same time achieving greater accuracy and consistency.  Customers using this module report that there is a link between speed of quotation and the likelihood of an order.

With Lantek’s quotation module CAD models and DXF files can be imported and, via links to the Lantek Expert CAD/CAM software, provide accurate cutting times and material consumption. It stores hourly rates for the machines, employees, non-CNC operations and subcontracted operations as well as material costs which can be updated as they change. Calculation formulas are part of the system so that the results are repeatable, predictable and accurate. The layout of the quotation is customised to suit your company style.

Step 2: Sales Management Module

 This module controls the paper trail for each order, generating internal sales orders for each job, producing order acknowledgements, delivery notes and invoices. Traceability is increasingly important for many manufacturers and the tools in this module provide a way of keeping track of each order, its manufacturing status and communicating with the customer in a professional and timely way while reducing administrative effort. This module also helps in keeping track of where business is coming from, which are the best customers and which customers are not accepting quotations – information which can help in optimising the sales process.

Step 3: MES Manager

It is often difficult to find where parts are in the workshop and, depending on the customer mix, it is often important to bring together parts from many different orders onto one sheet of material. With MES Manager it is easy to release multiple sales orders to the workshop and nest multiple parts from different customers on one or more sheets of material. Tracking provides valuable information about the status of each job as it goes around the workshop together with data about manufacturing times for each operation. This data can be compared with the quotation to highlight any discrepancies. Gathering this information can be used to optimise the quoting process, identify manufacturing problems and to evaluate the efficiency of machines and other processes. Of course, MES can operate in a paperless environment which is faster and more reliable with higher accuracy by using data capture. However, Lantek software allows these options to be added as and when it best suits the customer’s business.

Step 4: Inventory tracking

This provides information about the stock of material and remnants in the factory. It also tracks the material and its cost as it is purchased, automatically updating the material costs in the quotation module. It links to Lantek Expert making it easy to use remnants and material that is available  during the nesting of a mix of different jobs. Full traceability makes it possible to see exactly which batch of material is used for each job.

Step 5: Data capture

Implementing data capture will have a major impact on the ease and accuracy of the information collected from the workshop. Manual systems rely on conscientious use of paper-based reporting systems. Automated operator reporting takes away the need to fill in paper reports and produces results in real time, allowing any necessary corrective action to be taken immediately. There are several ways in which this can be done. For newer machinery the machine control can be connected so that as soon as the operation starts and stops, the times are automatically recorded. Other options include barcode readers or tablet enabled verification. These options are ideal for secondary operations such as welding or painting. The key benefits are high accuracy for operation times and quality control data sent back to the system as it happens. It can also give an early warning should processes be going wrong. With more accurate information quotation accuracy will be higher, profitability of each job can be verified and changes to manufacturing processes made based on live data.

Training after sales support and integration with other systems are important factors in any investment decision. Lantek has mature products designed for sheet metal manufacture and, its experience in integrating with accounting systems and other ERP systems such as SAP is far reaching, as is its experience in special customisation requirements for more complex needs, for example, multi-plant operation, specialized KPI reporting and online ordering platforms.

It has a worldwide support network and its commitment to an extensive software development programme provides the user with confidence in the software supplied by Lantek now and for the future.  The system is extremely intuitive so training concentrates on best practices to deliver the highest possible return on investment. With these five steps, which can be taken in almost any order and at any pace, every company in the industry can start on the path to digital transformation.