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
UT professor develops algorithm to improve online mapping of disaster areas
29.11.2016 | University of Tennessee at Knoxville
New standard helps optical trackers follow moving objects precisely
23.11.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy