Software Solutions

In the cloud

By Gretchen Salois

No longer tethered to a physical server, one metal solutions provider is the first to shift its entire operation to this cloud-based software

May 2021 - When COVID-19 hit, Kloeckner Metals UK became the first SigmaNEST customer to switch its entire operation to a completely cloud-based infrastructure, and the change has proven to be invaluable. In 2020, fabricators of all sizes were forced to adapt to a world in shutdown. Many businesses scrambled to establish remote options for employees while others were more prepared with remote desktop or similar applications to continue operations away from the job site. But a full-cloud solution, which includes both the company and clients in the cloud, can be accessed anywhere with little to no latency.

Kloeckner has many locations throughout the U.K. Previously, employees logged in to a server in Germany to access orders and production process updates. “Users logged in to SigmaNEST software using a remote desktop app, and that worked quite well for a while,” says Darren Craven, engineer. “But the pandemic forced the majority of us to work remotely. We quickly realized it was time to consider a faster solution so the decision was made to transition to a cloud-based solution.”

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(Top) Load Manager offers load balancing for each machine and adjusts the schedule based upon unexpected downtime or priority projects. (Below) Part list view of SigmaTUBE.

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SigmaNEST offers end-to-end solutions and advanced CAD/CAM, giving users advanced industry nesting algorithms used for nearly every type of cutting, punching and bending machinery. Shop floor management solutions give the user complete control and access to real-time data on production status, quoting and transactions. The software also provides customer, supplier and inventory information, as well as calculates true cost of shop floor operations. Business system tools integrate directly with SigmaNEST and provide a full range of fabrication workflow, from quoting to production to shipping.

Easy access

Kloeckner made the transition to the cloud and noticed immediate changes. “Speed improved significantly and we are now much quicker when processing inquiries into orders,” Craven says.

Before switching from standard to cloud-based software, Cognizant, Kloeckner’s IT supplier, was able to perform testing of the cloud infrastructure to ensure a smooth transition. Kloeckner’s SigmaNEST server and clients are both in the cloud through Windows 10 Azure. “This removed any lagging issues and gave Kloeckner the speed gains they were looking for,” says Fraser Cooper, U.K. sales director at SigmaTEK Systems LLC. “SigmaNEST attended a few meetings to go over the required infrastructure. Newer versions of user controls and soft licensing [were introduced at this time].”

Since switching in March 2021, Kloeckner has used its cloud-based SigmaNEST system without interruption. “The team can easily log in to the cloud, add profiles, monitor at what stage the order is and most importantly, our customers get a lot quicker response when they require tailored solutions,” Craven says.

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Easily track, unload and resubmit any damaged parts for recutting.

Kloeckner Metals is one of the largest mill-independent multi-metal stockholders and distributors in the U.K. offering a wide range of ferrous and nonferrous products sourced from mills throughout Western Europe. It provides services including tube laser cutting, profiling (laser, plasma, oxy-fuel and waterjet), de-coiling, drilling, fabrication, sawing, shotblasting and painting.

Kloeckner’s digital transformation strategy is focused on both internal and external operations with an aim to achieve better productivity, save costs and improve processes. The company continuously adopts and develops new technologies such as artificial intelligence–based Kloeckner Assistant and cloud-based solutions like SigmaNest.

Cloud-based SigmaNEST has enhanced Kloeckner’s ability to provide faster responses to customer inquiries. “The system is easily configured for new users and enables fast accessibility,” Craven says. “When this is coupled with the ability to effectively monitor and manage workflow, it enables us to drive throughput efficiently. These are important attributes to our distributed network of users and all contribute to us improving our responsiveness.”

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Kloeckner Metals UK provides services including tube laser cutting, profiling, de-coiling, drilling, fabrication, sawing, shotblasting and painting.

Digitization push

“Adopting the cloud-based SigmaNEST solution has enhanced Kloeckner’s capability to provide timely, accurate responses to customer inquiries,” says Craven.

Shifting away from remote desktop and similar apps is catching on, and SigmaNEST expects more interest in its cloud-based software going forward. “More and more larger clients are investigating [a cloud-based system],” Cooper says. “Smaller clients won’t really justify the cost [to switch] yet.”

Quick access to real-time data includes updates to the software, as well. “Now, when Kloeckner wants to upgrade to newer versions of SigmaNEST, they only have to upgrade the server,” Cooper says. With a traditional server and client SigmaNEST setup, every client’s PC would need software installed, whereas one install in the cloud affects the entire system.

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Kloeckner Metals UK uses SigmaNEST nesting strategies to optimize money, time and material.

“The metals industry continues to lag behind other industries, but as IT and AI technologies advance, innovators and early adopters seize a competitive and sustainable advantage,” Craven says. “Companies and industries that don’t evolve run the risk of falling behind or potentially no longer existing at all.”

COVID-19 has been a catalyst for digital transformation and has forced companies to accelerate and strengthen digital strategies. “The pressure is on to maintain a competitive advantage by continually differentiating ourselves and remaining the first movers towards digital transformation in the metal industry,” Craven says.

The digital tools that Kloeckner has created have the potential to create a more collaborative and transparent supply chain. “We can improve efficiencies and reduce costs whilst providing a customer-centric responsive experience,” says Craven. “As we continue to accelerate our digital transformation, B2B transactions will become increasingly automated, freeing up time for people to be more strategic and add value.”  FFJ



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