How specifics of the Steel Industry is crucial for the Accounting ERP system being implemented

Metal Fabrication & Steel Distribution

Many years back a client of ours approached us with an unusual problem. This steel distributor would receive a bunch of orders for the 6 meter pipe to be cut in smaller pieces by multiple vendors for multiple jobs. In order to figure out how to do it properly, the son of the owner would open up the excel spreadsheet and spend more than an hour figuring out how to most efficiently cut these pipes so that they’d have a minimum of scrap. Then he’d send the printed spreadsheet to the shop floor where cuts would be executed. This started as a 30 minutes exercise, but as this company grew their operations significantly in the past year, it became an hour and a half daily endeavor. Furthermore, the son of the owner was the only one capable of doing this excel manipulation, thus ensuring that under no circumstances can he get sick or go on vacation. 

How did we help to solve this problem?

    When we initially took a look at the algorithm, it did not seem that complicated, and we quickly wrote a program that would export into excel (per client’s request) all of the values they would feed the application in the form of a CSV file (again, client’s request). After running the program in their business for a few weeks, the client was ecstatic except for one thing. It quickly became apparent that the program did too good of a job, which could potentially lead to having 15 cuts for one 6 meter pipe. Because the width of the cut itself was not accounted for, it could lead to the last piece being too short. We quickly adjusted the programming to account to the width of the cutting blade, deployed the updated version, and a happy customer proceeded to use the application instead of figuring multiple times. End of the story.

ERP can more than you thinking!

    Well, Not really. Many years later, this client came to us with another upgrade to their Accounting ERP & WMS (Warehouse Management System). And they reminded us of a little utility that we wrote to them. They carefully asked us if we could potentially improve on it. See, as their business grew, they started getting the cut requests for multiple types of pipe. So, they would have to export from their ERP all of the Orders for each type of the pipe, feed the utility the CSV file, run the algorithm, rename the resulting excel files appropriately (to make sure not to mix raw materials), and repeat the process for other group of orders. This was getting cumbersome on its own. Even though there were no manual calculations, It was now taking over an hour each day just to do the process for each raw material.

    This time around the client wanted to have the utility fed a file that would be marked with the type of pipe. We’d also have the initial length of each raw material specified. We’d then figure out the cuts and produce a paper report for the shop floor grouped by each type of the raw material. We analyzed the request, and offered the client to implement the utility within their ERP solution itself. This would be done so that no file exports would be needed – instead, we’d go over the orders that are ready for the current (or next) day deliveries, compare against the list of raw materials that needed to be processed by cutting algorithm, and do the processing right in this ERP screen, producing at the end a report and an excel file if it was needed for some reason. Client analyzed the proposed solution and was very happy with the implications that this new way of doing daily runs would mean. They could potentially even schedule it to run automatically, and have reports waiting in the metal fabrication shop right there on the office printer each morning. 

    Together with our FiduciaSoft development team, we executed the programming, and delivered it together with the new Accounting ERP & WMS version upgrade. Client went from a lengthy daily activity to something that was fully automated. Furthermore, doing customization directly in the ERP ensured that each following ERP upgrade would have the updated and fully tested utility delivered with it. 

The industry-specific knowledge is important for Software Vendor

    This story from the past is a good demonstration of the power of properly implemented programming that is very much industry specific. If we were starting with this client from the very scratch this day in age- we’d probably end up executing the programming within ERP from the start. But with this post I wanted to make a broader point. It is very important for the software vendor to be knowledgeable of the industry specifics. It is true of any industry, of course, but from the many examples I have in my bag of stories, it is doubly crucial for the Steel Distribution and Metal Fabrication industry specifically. From the most optimal ways of organizing raw materials in the warehouse to processing multiple order requests, from pre-staging next day shipments to scheduling work orders, from receiving raw materials direct to bin location to picking based on bin priority and many more specific little things that are often critical to steel distributors can make or break Accounting ERP implementation for the Steel Distribution client.

You can learn more about Steel Distribution focus of bluCurrent here, or you can just browse our website for more useful information…