Growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector continues to rise, according to a May report from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM). That rise is also reflected in the country’s 50,000 small to medium-sized machining and metal working manufacturers. But, for many of these companies, this growth also means accepting a rapidly changing manufacturing world.
Although 3D and Additive manufacturing have become industry buzzwords, they may not be the most important technology smaller manufacturers need to embrace to stay competitive. Although it may not seem as “sexy” or “cutting edge” as 3D printers, a more important technology for these companies to implement may be software-driven shop control systems known as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
But less than half of America’s 50,000 smaller manufacturers are using ERP software, according to estimates from Realtrac, a Michigan-based shop control software company focused on small to medium-sized manufacturers with 5-100 employees.
One company who recently made the switch to ERP software is Elite Manufacturing, a CNC machine shop co-founded by three seasoned machinists in March 2013. The company is based out of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, and manufactures a variety of high-quality inspection fixtures, machine parts and machine modifications.
While all three founders have been in machining for decades, they were fearful of diving into a bloated resource-planning system. It was safer to do what they knew, which involved a bare-bones job tracker, Excel spreadsheets, QuickBooks, and lots of manual entry.
“Most ERPs out there are going to run you twenty or thirty thousand dollars just to get started,” said Elite Manufacturing’s co-founder Paul Fiege. “That was NOT going to work for us, but we knew we needed to find something better than what we had.”
With that in mind, Paul began researching the ERP and MRP solutions that might work for his machine shop. He attended IMTS in September, and happened to see a live product demo from the Realtrac 10 Performance ERP. The Realtrac team was running simulated live jobs through the system to show attendees what their job control software could do.
“As soon as I saw the interface I could see the Realtrac resource planning system was different. They were getting real-time feedback!” Fiege said, enthused. “It took less than fifteen minutes for me to see that it did everything we needed - better than any other planning software I’d seen.”
Because Realtrac was designed to help growing job shops get to the next level, metal working shops and smaller manufacturers can get started with Realtrac’s lease-to-own program for as low as $150 a month.
Another usual barrier to embracing ERP software is typically the fear of implementation and the overwhelming learning curve of the software itself. Usually these systems are cumbersome to learn and use. They are built for large manufacturers, so smaller shops will have to make major changes in business practices.
Jeremy Klosowski, Director of Sales, said: “At Realtrac, our sole purpose is to make shop control software implementation easier, so smaller machine shops don’t get left behind.”
For Elite, that promised ease of implementation couldn’t have been more true. Just two weeks after seeing the Realtrac 10 Performance ERP at the IMTS show, and after a short initial training, the company had the software up and running. It gave them complete control of their jobs, from initial quote to completed and shipped parts - with no complications.
“With Realtrac we can literally go from quoting a job to having it running on the shop floor within an hour. It takes one click from estimate to job,” Elite’s co-founder Paul Fiege said. “Before we implemented the software it would take at least a day just to get a quote out for a bid. Now I can put half a dozen or more drawings into the system, input the part specs and other details, and have a quote out in as little as 15 minutes… It has helped us become an established company and a legitimate player in a very competitive industry.”
Realtrac is a software company specializing in shop control systems for machine shops, job shops and make-to-order metal working manufacturers. The company was founded in the heart of a machine shop and has served the manufacturing industry for over three decades. The Realtrac 10 Performance ERP is used by thousands of shops across North America. For more information about Realtrac, contact Jeremy Klosowski at 734-793-3811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Elite Manufacturing
Elite Manufacturing is a Minnesota-based CNC job shop, co-founded in 2013 by three expert machinists and toolmakers. With forty years of experience, Elite handles all types of jobs, from inspection fixtures needing a single piece to full-run production jobs. The shop uses Hurco conversational vertical milling centers, and can take parts from prints and CAD to complete products with quick quotes and turnaround times. For more information about Elite Manufacturing visit www.elitemanufacturingmn.com or call Paul Fiege at 651.340.0088.