Software Solutions

E-commerce evolution

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Lantek software enables users to choose the best machine for the application, whether cutting, punching or specialized tube cutting.

Fabricator expands its selling power by launching an online shop for consumers

September 2021 - Over the years, Southern Designs has refined its processes both on the fabrication floor and on the business side. In April 2021, the fabricator launched a Shopify store for its on-demand laser-cut metal wall art. Shopify allows Southern Designs to make its products available to other merchants. But before that could happen, CEO Tance Hughes had to make sure the company could meet demand and keep track of every step along the way.

“Our parts are complex, with deep contours and shapes that change with each design,” says Hughes. “We needed software to help us make the back-end to final-product process as efficient as possible. And we just launched what we believe is the first of its kind Shopify app. Now we can make on-demand laser-cut metal wall art for other merchants to purchase—or whoever is interested.”

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Southern Designs uses Lantek software to keep track of order volume that can vary from a few hundred to over 3,000 orders per day during its busy season.

Connecting the Vidalia, Lousiana-based shop’s production floor and back office involves a few different software suites. “Lantek’s software supports everything we need; it brings it all together. The software is flexible and has helped us manage challenges with personalized products from the programming side of things as we’ve scaled up from a few hundred orders to over 3,000 orders daily (during our busy season).

“There are different parts flowing through the software constantly,” he continues. “We have three direct consumer brands, laser cutting metal decorative metal wall maps, and also a peel-and-stick wallpaper product that we digitally print in-house.”

Southern Designs is leveraging its flexibility as merchants can now download the Shopify app and the My Easy Monogram app to link to the store. “Our list of products is easily accessible in Shopify,” Hughes says. “We saw a need in the market. Other people want to sell decorative products but they don’t want to buy all the equipment and labor/design talent associated with that. They can support their sales efforts by using items they purchase from our site.”

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Southern Designs offers precision laser cutting, powder coating, digital printing, laser engraving and other services.

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Southern Designs offers precision laser cutting, powder coating, digital printing and laser engraving, among other services. Lantek is able to seamlessly connect to Southern’s custom software.

“We’ve only been live since April and sales are picking up as each week passes,” Hughes says. “We had about 120 merchants on within the first six weeks. Since the launch, that number has grown to 160 merchants that have installed the app. Sales are slowly but surely building. We’re offering print-on-demand or manufactured-on-demand services.

“We’re going through the entire process, from raw plates of steel to laser cutting, cleaning, powder coating—there’s a lot more to it than simply printing a picture onto a coffee mug,” he continues. “We expect sales to skyrocket around the holidays. We have customers from totally different bases with completely different interests; one does pet products, another is camping and RV, another [caters to] motorcycle enthusiasts—so it’s really opening up our market reach a lot more. We’re partnering and manufacturing with others.”

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Southern Designs sells decorative products directly to merchants. Merchants can download the Shopify app and the My Easy Monogram app to link to the store.

Easy collaboration

Lantek fits easily into Southern Design’s Shopify e-commerce software. It nests and sends parts to the laser. A different software partner developed My Easy Suite for design and personalization. Lantek is able to integrate each step of the entire process. “Lantek organizes things and ensures that our shop processes parts smoothly and on time,” Hughes says.

The Global Release 2021 is Lantek’s 35th Anniversary version, a culmination of 35 years of experience and expertise rolled out into the latest update. Some updates included in Lantek Expert allow users to drag and drop as well as be notified of duplicate parts. Users can import 3D models as assemblies and sets of parts from virtually every CAD system available in the market. With Assembly to Nesting Importer, the software can unfold all the sheet metal parts in the model, while taking into account what bending tool will be used in order to arrive at an accurate 2D shape ready for nesting and cutting.

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Draft Parts updates will flag parts that need further design approval. New Clean Cut technology can be applied to contours to ensure no lead-in or micro-joint imprefections. A new Expand Nest option allows the programmer to make use of blank space on the sheet by increasing the space between parts. The Spiral Cutting function for making holes creates clean cuts and automatically empties discarded material onto the machine bed, eliminating the need for manual scrap removal.

“The ability to program and generate the cutting path for almost every different type of cutting and punching machine in the market, including specialized tube cutting machinery, enables the customer to choose the best machine for the application and run it using Lantek software,” says Victor Munoz, technical manager, Lantek Systems Inc. “Customers can also expand the software to manage every aspect of their business including quotations, shop loading and KPIs.”

The flexibility afforded by linking different software suites together has proven the best fit for Southern Designs.

“Lantek has allowed us to grow where we need to grow without constraints,” Hughes says. “Software continues to be more important and integral to the manufacturing process. It’s essential to have reliable partners. I encourage people to invest time and energy into understanding how each segment of the software works and how it’s linked to your entire manufacturing process. It’s so critical for running an efficient company in today’s economy.”  FFJ



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