Adapt your enterprise software to meet your company’s unique needs.
Choosing an enterprise system designed specifically for metal service centers has enormous advantages over customized generic systems. Service center software systems have specific core industry functionality built into their foundation to address the distinct business requirements. Generic systems need major customization to perform the many special service center functions. In the words of Will Rogers, “"It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble; it's what we know that ain't so."
All service centers are not the same, however, and even software designed specifically for service centers needs to be flexible and adaptable to accommodate differences within the industry and across product lines. Flat-rolled products have different requirements than tubulars, structurals or plate products, for example. To handle these differences, systems must include a vast and rich array of standard service-center-specific system options and parameters, eliminating the need for software modifications. For instance, when setting up a process, special settings should be built in for sawing, plate cutting, heat treatment, grinding, drilling, slitting, cutting to length or oscillate winding. Furthermore, when setting up products, the system should have options to cost the product by weight, lineal measure, area or piece.
Beyond operational differences, some service centers have specific or proprietary business strategies or customer requirements that may not be handled by any service center software product. This requires companies to make changes to the program that can be costly and problematic, as this creates a custom “frozen” version of the software.
To adapt to these unique service centers requirements, software solutions should enable customers to make their own extensions to the standard software. Below are some examples:
- Metal Price Book—A company has a proprietary pricing model. When a quote or order is entered, the software should enable the company to either use the standard price book or the service center’s own proprietary price book. To the sales staff entering the order, it should be seamless.
- Forms/Documents—A company may wish to make minor or major alterations to the standard forms in the software to meet specific internal, customer or vendor requirements. The software should enable companies to add or remove information, change the font, size, position of the information, or completely alter the document. The new document should be fully integrated with the standard printing, e-mail, faxing and archiving functions of the system.
- Data Capture—A company may need to capture certain data elements unique to a process, marketing strategy or customer requirement. A service center may wish to track sales and orders for a given project, as well as break the information down into three separate components: End Customer (ex. Boeing), Major Project (ex. 757) and Project Segment (ex. Fuselage). A company can then track and analyze orders and sales by these components.
- Third-Party Interface—A service center may wish to integrate third-party software or a custom system with their enterprise software product, eliminating duplicate entry and streamlining operations. For example, a company may want to integrate with a spectrometer to eliminate the need to re-enter chemical composition information or interface the system with an automated material storage system or gauge-recording device.
Metal software systems should allow companies to utilize extensive service center functionality, as well as define their own additional functions, without affecting the core product. “Customer specified extensions" should be implemented in such a way that they allow for future upgradeability without excessive difficulty, cost and time.
Properly implemented, customer specified extensions enable companies to meet specific business needs while maintaining the operational integrity and controls of the core enterprise software and taking full advantage of future software product upgrades.
Editor’s note: This article was contributed by the experts at Invera.
Houston, Texas, offers the STRATIX enterprise management systems designed specifically for metal service centers. For more information, visit www.invera.com