ERP system and laser cutting machine understand each other
Efficient production automation starts with people work
SixPointTwo has various in-house techniques for sheet metal processing. Laser cutting is one such technique. A Trumpf laser cutting machine was purchased for this purpose in 2018. Before the machine was delivered, consideration was given to the optimum method for the machine to communicate with ECI Bemet’s ERP system that SixPointTwo had been using for many years. Gerrit KleinJan of ECI Bemet and Tomáš Kautcký from Trumpf tell us what that entailed.
Sheet metal cutting is all about quality and cost efficiency. Therefore, the ERP system and the laser cutting machine must communicate well with each other in all phases of production control. “The biggest challenge is to always ensure the correct data gets from the ERP system to the laser cutting machine so the machine can provide feedback. Working with SixPointTwo, it was decided to first define the optimal process of production and control”, says KleinJan. He knows the ERP system through and through. “At the time, I was also involved in its implementation.”
Include outsourcing as an option
Together with the SixPointTwo team in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, KleinJan and Kautcký went through the process step by step. Specific wishes were formulated during this process. “SixPointTwo wanted to be able to decide during the process whether to outsource an order if this offered a more cost-efficient option and/or if it was a better fit after considering planning and available capacity. The decision is made partly on the basis of the information that the machine sends back”, says KleinJan. How does that work? ”The ERP system communicates the orders the machine will execute. One of the things used for this is the start date and the delivery date of each order. The machine must then return information for each order: How much time will it take to complete the job? Is there enough time, or does the job require too much capacity from the machine? In the latter case, the order will be returned to the ERP system and the order outsourced.”
KleinJan noticed the option of integrating outsourcing into the production management process was not being utilised very often. “After internal processing had been chosen in the process, an option to choose outsourcing based on available capacity was still required. This was a challenge, particularly for the programmer. We solved this within the link between ERP and laser cutting machine by including fields within the ERP that state which cutting jobs are already nested in the laser cutting system and which jobs are not. For each of these fields there is a definition about which data must be supplied from the laser cutting machine. This two-way street offers real communication. And it’s necessary for optimal control. As soon as the laser cutting machine has completed a job, the machine returns specific data for a subsequent calculation, such as the duration of the cutting operation and the material consumption.”
Another challenge focused on the exceptions: “What do you do if something goes wrong during the production process, if the order is cancelled, or the order is only partially completed? We also thought about this beforehand”, says KleinJan.
Defining the process was a smooth operation according to Kautcký. “We quickly came to our agreements: we took just two days to decide how we would go about it all. For Trumpf, the challenge was not as great as it was for ECI Bemet. Our first task was to provide documentation about the machine and adequate descriptions of the interfaces.” After completing the programming work at ECI Bemet, the necessary tests were carried out. The link appeared to work from the outset. “SixPointTwo played an important role in achieving this positive result”, says Kautcký. “They had a clear picture of the process and knew exactly what they wanted. You don’t see that often in projects like this.” KleinJan: “They gave us the time to ensure we had good preparation. This enabled us to deliver a great product with Trumpf.”