Metalforming–Can You Do More with Less?

By Ray Kimble 
Removing the need for time-consuming, manual data entry
If metalforming is a central aspect of your business, you know it demands precision, accuracy, but also a lot of time, especially when connecting information from the shop floor to the office. What few companies know, however, is that this time-consuming process can be automated. Every action performed on the shop floor can be sent as it happens to your IT system, removing the need for manual data entry. 
Connect the Shop Floor to the Office
One major bottleneck of metal businesses is the misalignment between their IT system and what happens on the floor. With admin operators having to verify and re-enter tedious information, every action performed is entered a day or two behind and managers run the business with an obsolete picture of the company. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems have been designed to resolve these problems, and those catered to the metal industry merge with your existing infrastructure. By integrating with metal forming machinery, they bring all the actions from the shop directly into the office, removing the need for admins to manually enter data a second time. Information is instantly available across the company, giving every stakeholder a live, accurate image of the operations.
Houston-based ABIS Inc., for example, integrates with CAD systems to take all of the pieces, parts and design into the shop and transfer this live information from the controller as the products are being manufactured. By scanning the pieces and CAD drawings that go into the welding shops and then into the controllers, your operators are giving your managers instantaneous and accurate information. From the usage associated with each piece, to where that item gets delivered to, they can lean on complete traceability from the job site all the way back to the steel manufacturer.
What are the Benefits?
One of the main benefits is that it takes away the re-do work. The operator in the shop is already writing down or tracking all of his work. He then turns that information to the office where someone else is re-recording it into a system. The fastest way to operate is to allow the shop floor to communicate directly to the system by scanning or recording all information from the shop itself and the controllers. This eliminates the need to retype the information a second time.
A client we’ve worked with had four admins whose full-time job was to record and update the inventory system based off the operations ran in the shop the day or two days before. Once it brought in an ERP System and scanning capabilities into its system, the client allowed its operators to record every action performed and update it live as it happened. The inventory count became accurately updated by the minute, and there was no more delay between knowing how much they had in the back and how much the inventory system thought that they had.

They were also able to move those four admins into roles better designed to their knowledge of the inventory products. The company put processes in place to ensure that shop floor operators followed the same exact process to record raw materials and scraps into cycle counts and into packing for specific jobs. This developed a higher sense of responsibility throughout the company as the shop floor operators became more accountable for what they were really writing down and the entire business grew to become more productive.

Ray Kimble manages sales and marketing at Houston-based ABIS Inc., an ERP software catered to the metal construction industry. To learn more, visit or call (713) 357-6483.