Discrete manufacturing systems are designed to give control and visibility to the manufacturing process. Discrete manufacturers focus on reducing costs by limiting waste and reducing the time to produce. A typical system will implement a lean manufacturing philosophy, matching the inflow of parts, materials and subassemblies with the production of finished goods.
The key modules for discrete manufactures are inventory—including purchasing and receiving— accounts receivable, and customer relationship management (CRM). There is a special emphasis on process control. Manufacturers of discrete goods can implement a full-on enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, or choose best-of-breed components to integrate with an accounting system. Firms with automated shop floors will be interested in incorporating manufacturing execution systems (MES). Integration with project management is available on some manufacturing systems as well.
For most manufacturers of discrete goods, general ledger and accounts payable are standard. Payroll is standard but some companies have bonus pay and overtime that must be charged against specific projects or products. On-premises installations are the norm, but software-as-a-service (SaaS) options exist. The key driver of cloud-based installations is the existing information technology of the company, usually based on the complexity of the shop floor technology and integration.
In evaluating software, discrete manufacturers should consider the following functions to meet their unique requirements:
|Supply chain management||Discrete manufacturers need transparency into suppliers’ systems. Order status, supplier inventory, current pricing, order entry and payment can all be integrated between supplier and manufacturer.|
|Make/buy reporting||Products require subassemblies. Make/buy reporting applies job estimating to subassemblies to see if it is more profitable to make or to buy components. Advanced systems will factor in time to build or to buy as well as cost.|
|Process planning reporting||In order to estimate and track jobs, the process for each step for fabrication must be planned and documented. The process of planning reports track the development of the process plan for each product.|
|Material supplier planning||Part of make/buy process, material supplier planning assigns a bill of materials to each subassembly. This also allows make/buy decisions to be based on current market prices for material and labor for each product and production run.|
|Component substitution||If a preferred component is not available, the inventory system should provide any alternative components. The production runs with alternative components should be tracked for recall management.|
|Bill of materials management||The system should create BOMs directly from orders. The system should allow revisions to the BOM to provide additional levels of detail. In advanced systems, a conceptual BOM is used as part of the process to develop a quote or new product.|
|Work load planning||As part of the manufacturing planning process, shop floor managers can adjust the work load of employees and machines. Managers can adjust the work load to leverage the most expensive equipment to depreciate or minimize usage of the most expensive to run. Managers can also manage work loads of shop workers, taking into account workers’ preferences.|
|Engineering change management||The system should track engineering changes and their impact on time and cost-per-unit. It should also be easy to enter the changes into the system so that the adjustments can flow to other products and the overall production schedule.|
|Serial number management||If the products are serialized, the serial numbers must be managed. Numbers must be linked to specific products, including any variations such as color options. Serial numbers must be tied to production runs as part of recall management.|
|Certified design management||If the manufacturer produces certified products, the system should provide compliance reports for the certification authority. It should also enforce the stipulations of the certification, such as no component substitutions or no changes in software.|
|Recall management||The system should support product recalls by identifying which runs are affected and which customers received them.|
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