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By managing a company using industry standard methods, you can produce an industry standard company that produces industry standard profits.  Who wants that?

A modern tool and die facility is an unusually complex business organization requiring the integration of many different technologies.
  The people capable of successfully operating such a business are very capable, expensive to retain, and difficult to find.  With labor and overhead being 75% to 80% of the cost of the product, you simply cannot afford to have them interact with an inefficient information system. Simply put, generic manufacturing or job shop software cannot provide you with an efficient information system.

You can determine whether your current information system architecture works for you by answering a few simple questions:
  How many Excel spreadsheets and different software programs are in the background behind the software that your company runs on?
  How much time do your managers spend routinely filling out screens with redundant information that have already been entered somewhere else?
  How many extra positions do you have at your company, in the background, to do the data entry or to "just make things work" with the computers?
  How much time is lost to conversations about the progress of the jobs and making sure that the process's required for timely delivery of the tool are being carried out?

Your tool and die facility needs an information system that is designed by tool and die people for the tool and die industry. You need a system that deals with the problems unique to your industry - not for a machine shop and not for manufacturing.

Let's look at a few processes that you deal with every day.
  Quoting:  We know that Tool and Die shops are often made or lost in this mission critical area.  Most die shops are awarded jobs on less than 5% of what they quote.  Quoting complex progressive or transfer dies is a complex process that requires very knowledgeable, expensive people.  They need to quote quickly and accurately, and they have a lot of information to record.  To squeeze the most out of their part processing abilities, we have written quoting modules that allow them to do this with an absolute minimum of typing.  The larger your company grows, the less the estimator is involved with the floor, and the less he can rely on job specific knowledge to estimate costs.  We design processes that leverage job history and customer specific multipliers to instantly calculate cost information. Quotes that don't need to be mailed, can be emailed or faxed directly to the customer.  Managers can use the powerful analysis screens to easily analyze the sea of historical job and quote information and use it to adjust quoting system parameters and make sound business decisions.
  Job Control:  A progressive or transfer die is a highly complex mechanical device that is the result of a great deal of planning and production.  There is a great amount of coordination required to produce tooling in a quality controlled work environment.  This area provides a centralized area to record dates for items ordered and received such as designs, fixtures, samples, tryout stock, as well as engineering changes, customer information, drawing levels etc.  It is important to have a clear, easy to use interface that allows everyone involved to quickly find or record the information that they need.  The job control system allows you to quickly and easily manage all the tools you are building.
  Stock lists:  The stock list is the starting point for the entire build process.  It is important to have a stock list that is easily filled and interacted with.  A progressive die has hundreds of different details, and each one needs to be accurately specified and tracked on the bill of materials.  In a well architected tool and die information system, the bill of materials is only completed once by the engineering department and is utilized by other systems without reentry.  It is possible to export and import stock lists from Excel or other formats when outside designers produce the stock list.
  Purchasing:  It is essential that purchasing and stock list be integrated to avoid having to re-enter the thousands of items that are purchased every year for your jobs.  Generating purchase orders is as simple as a mouse click with systems that we write.  Powerful analysis tools need to be available to negotiate with your vendors.  How much steel did you buy last year from that supplier that you like so well?  Do you really know?  Were they on time with their deliveries?  Can you track what is going on simply with a few clicks of the mouse?  A good purchasing system also allows less skilled people to be involved with the process because it is driven by the stock list and doesn't require the purchasing agent to be the "checker" for the design.  You also need to control purchasing for outside vendors.  We know that from time to time you have outside machining done, maybe wire-burn or welding too.  You need to easily generate these purchase orders.  The foreman needs to know on a job by job basis whether these services have been ordered or not.  He doesn't have time for the bureaucracy, yet you need it, by the book, for your QS system.  We've done this and more.
  Supply purchasing:  A die shop buys a large number of shop items from drill bits to grinding supplies to fluids and bearings.  We track it all on a unique supply purchasing system that really gains control of this important cost center.  How much did we spend on carbide inserts last year?  We can tell you very easily, from either one supplier or all of them.  Our supply system purchasing is easy to use and has powerful analytical capabilities.
  Shipping:  Your shipping people need to quickly generate shippers without a lot of typing. They need to be able to select and print, and have a place to enter a few notes.  We know how it works.  Our software works for you.
  Job Costing:  This is one of the most important areas for management.  I have yet to see accounting software that really tells me what I need to know.  For example, can your accounting software answer questions like this: Show me the profit on all complex transfer dies made by die maker John Doe from customer ABC for the last three years (variables searched on = complex, transfer, die maker, customer, date range).  Show me all the jobs on screen that we did last year for customer ABC.  As I scroll through them, I want to see instantly and together on screen the labor, material, overhead, and profit or loss for each job.  I also want to see the totals for all the jobs.  We have powerful interactive tools that allow you to slice and dice the information any way you need it to determine what is really going on in your business.  We recognize that you may capture the costs somewhere else and would import them to our program.  This is easily done.  How can you really understand your business without this kind of integration of operation and costing detail?  You can't.  It's simply not practical to do manually or on a spreadsheet.
  Percentage of completion accounting:  Percentage of completion accounting imposes requirements that most accounting systems cannot accommodate.  A tool and die information system needs to incorporate tools that support percentage of completion accounting.  You need to be able to easily and accurately generate your WIP statement, without all of the spreadsheet gymnastics that are usually done to finish the WIP.  An effective WIP generation tool that supports percentage of completion accounting is essential to producing accurate income statements and to maintain credibility with your banking partners.
  Machine scheduling: With industry standard overhead rates that amount to 120% of labor...   Well, you get the idea.

Leading Edge IT Architects is in the process of developing a vertical market package aimed specifically at the Tool & Die market.  Two of our IT Architects have worked in the Tool & Die industry for years.  They have worked in the capacity of Die Maker, CNC Manager, and Die Shop owner.  This package will be a total rewrite leveraging the latest technologies.  If your company could benefit from such a solution and would like to have a pioneer role in shaping the solution, contact us and let us know that you would like to be part of the Tool & Die solution.

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