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Creative Shop Solutions

Simple software

By Julie Sammarco

May 2011- Many job shops like Ameritex Machine and Fabrication have experienced difficulty tracking orders and parts, a costly problem that decreases productivity. Yet with software capable of handling the entire sheet metal production process, many issues can be avoided.

"I got to a point where I was having trouble keeping track of the individual items that were in the shop," says Kenny Fennell, owner of Ameritex Machine and Fabrication, Willis, Texas.

To solve the issues, the company invested in MetaCAM Enterprise from Metamation Inc., Reno, Nev. It is an integrated production environment software that manages and automates sheet metal production from a single window. MetaCAM Enterprise is an add-on to MetaCAM software.

Enterprise maintains the shop’s inventory so workers can see which parts are being used. Data shows which machines are most productive, which produce the most scraps and which require maintenance. Because the software does this automatically, workers make fewer mistakes and spend less time in training.

"Enterprise helps me track the availability of machine time and the location of individual items. So far it’s helped tremendously," says Fennell. "Enterprise is very easy, especially on the shop floor. It’s literally punch and go. It’s as hands-off as you can make a system. It’s pretty good."

Job shop benefits
Intended for small and large job shops that do a lot of sheet metal work, Enterprise supports all sheet metal fabrication including plasma, press brake, punch press and laser, and it is compatible with previous MetaCAM software.

"It’s very simple to implement. It’s simple. It uses all standard CAD files. There’s nothing really to learn on it," says Fennell.

The software works by connecting to a variety of material requirements planning or Enterprise resource planning packages that use custom bridges to import order data into production software. Once the customized bridge is set up, Enterprise pulls orders into production automatically. The software automatically tools parts for multiple machines and can locate tooling errors and rectify them. It also can suppress machines from programming certain types of parts and update revisions across all machines on the shop floor.

"Another issue was a lot of times, especially in a large job shop environment, you don’t want a lot of settings to be changed. But here, once you’ve done the settings, you can restrict changes without any issues. You can keep running job after job without changing anything. It’s much easier to navigate. It is definitely an improvement of MetaCAM," says Anupam Chakraborty, vice president at Metamation.

"We have a customer who is running this [software] on a daily basis. His programming time has been drastically reduced by almost 50 percent," Chakraborty says. "He is in the process of realizing savings in materials, too."

Fennell expects to see a quick return on his investment in Enterprise. "It looks like it’s going to save me money, definitely. We’ve been using Enterprise for about four or five months. It should be fully implemented and saving us money in about a month," says Fennell.

Ameritex is moving to a paperless system in the shop, and the software is helping with the transition. "Enterprise has a console that runs on a PC screen by the machine, so visually the guy that is unloading the machine can look at a part on the screen and OKs it and moves on to the next step instead of looking for the piece of paper to see what part he needs to find," says Fennell. "It takes out a full step altogether."

"If you know your material, time and manpower, you can make decisions better, which will ultimately help customers make better investments. This is really where Enterprise is going to help people," says Chakraborty. FFJ

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Sources

  • Metamation Inc.
    Reno, Nev.
    phone: 775/826-1717
    fax: 775/826-1723
    www.metamation-us.com

  • Ameritex Machine & Fabrication
    Willis, Texas
    phone: 936/228-5070
    fax: 936/228-0206
    www.ameritexllc.com

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