Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

IT for SMEs: the right tool for the job

28.01.2008
How can small manufacturing businesses work more efficiently together and respond faster to customers? Web-based software currently under development in Europe is aiming to do this by giving companies a complete picture of the entire supply chain.

To remain competitive in an increasingly global market, businesses need to be more dynamic. Large organisations have long used IT tools, such as enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs), to gain a complete and timely picture of their entire operations – from orders, to stock, to materials, to personnel.

Such systems have traditionally been bound to single companies and way too costly for small businesses, which may only have a few employees and limited IT resources.

A research team drawn from five European countries is developing the IT infrastructure to apply resource-planning principles to chains of small businesses that work together as part of integrated supply chains. The solutions being developed are aimed mainly at Eastern European tool and die making workshops, but their efforts will be applicable to small companies in many other sectors.

Skills to die for

Tool and die makers are highly skilled workers in the manufacturing industry. They produce specialised tools, dies, and guiding and holding devices that enable machines to manufacture diverse products – from clothing and furniture, to heavy equipment and parts for aircraft. The sector is increasingly dependent on export markets and must compete against low-cost producers in the Far East.

They can be asked to make a range of highly customised – and labour intensive – products. Only by a number of workshops pooling their knowledge and technology can they respond to the varied demands of customers, mainly large automotive manufacturers in the case of the Tool-East project.

But having a number of businesses depending on each other like this down the supply chain can lead to inefficiencies – a delay in one part can have a domino effect on others. Tool-East is adapting existing open-source software ‘Open Taps’ to the specific needs of tool and die makers.

“We are developing a common platform that the business clusters will be able to use to cover all stages of the manufacturing process – from supply of raw materials to the transport of finished products,” says Margherita Forcolin of Italian IT consultants Insiel.

The planning, designing and production stages will be included in the system, as well as standard ERP functions. A further step will incorporate customer relationships management (CRM) functionalities.

“If businesses in a cluster use the same software, they can understand each other,” says Forcolin. “They will speak the same business language.”

Prototype on its way

Providing an affordable solution has been paramount for the developers. “Especially important is that it is low cost. That is why we have based it on an existing open source application,” explains Forcolin who is Tool-East’s technical coordinator.

Flexibility is also important. “Businesses need to be able to adapt it to their needs without so much cost and effort,” she adds. The final product will be available in three versions that clusters can adapt to their needs – a stand-alone version, an ERP-hosted application, and a virtual marketplace.

The prototype for the generic model was completed at the end of 2007 and it is now ready for release. The next stage of the development will be to work on interfaces to enable the Tool-East system to interoperate with the IT applications that businesses already use, such as computer-aided design (CAD) software, or to import and export data to and from the Tool-East data base.

The EU-funded Tool-East project involves toolmakers, IT specialists, and businesses and research institutes from Germany, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Italy and the Slovak Republic. It should be completed in the summer of 2008.

Christian Nielsen | Christian Nielsen
Further information:
http://www.esn.eu
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/id/89470

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world
18.05.2017 | RMIT University

nachricht Internet of things made simple: One sensor package does work of many
11.05.2017 | Carnegie Mellon University

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists propose synestia, a new type of planetary object

23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria

23.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Medical gamma-ray camera is now palm-sized

23.05.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>