Now as before, for many companies, Industry 4.0 refers to the digitalization of their production.
This makes sense, for topics such as machines and workpieces that communicate digitally and the use of robots and predictive maintenance are important in order to set the course correctly for future production environments.
However, sometimes the fact that the digitalization of communication with customers, suppliers, and partners is the prerequisite for creating a true “smart factory” is overlooked. People who dream of automated production while stacks of faxed orders, which frequently requiring time-consuming clarifications on the telephone, still characterize their everyday business, are not dreaming big enough; their order processing becomes a bottleneck.
Online instead of fax
Digitalization of the quotation, PO, and ordering processes between market partners must be the highest priority. For one thing, it reflects customers’ changed purchasing behavior in the private sector. You can order online around the clock, and increasingly on mobile devices. Why not also in the commercial sector?
Many innovative companies in the glass and window industry understand this and have started to build webshops. A+W iQuote, a next-generation product from A+W Software, is a product in great demand, for it was developed especially for use on mobile end user devices. People who are already using A+W iQuote in real-time operation are enthusiastic.
Ordering via webshop: flexible and secure
Ordering with A+W iQuote provides customers with the greatest flexibility, mobility, and time savings. They don’t have to install ordering software or an office terminal; all they need is a mobile end user device on which they can use a Web browser.
Users can work with the end customer on-site, playing through product variants, prices, and other options, and create correct quotations, for they are always working with the current data in the producer’s ERP system: products, prices, conditions, everything fits.
Each user has a personal login with the manufacturer. A+W iQuote guides the user intuitively through the configuration process, right on through to the completely-calculated quotation or order including graphically-appealing drawings.
One of the first users in the flat glass industry was the Swedish insulated glass manufacturer Osby-Glas, and Managing Director Joel Rosenqvist is enthusiastic: “With A+W iQuote, our customers cannot make any more entry errors; that which they order can also be built.
The entire order runs through a restriction check based on our master data stored in A+W Business (an A+W ERP system, mk). Customers only send us technically correct orders. There are no queries and time-consuming clarifications on the telephone or via e-mail. This is how we achieve much greater efficiency throughout the ordering process.”
Benefits for customers and producers
All of the measures described above eliminate unproductive work for the customer and for the producer. Most online orders can be transferred to production directly or after a brief check, entirely without any duplicate order entry. This saves time and money in order processing and results in shorter throughput times; if customers order online, their products are delivered faster. The savings on the producer’s side are so significant that some producers are granting discounts for orders placed with A+W iQuote. In addition, customers can get an idea of where their orders are at any time and they can download all necessary documents (invoices, delivery notes) via the integrated info portal.
Is everything in stock? Deliver reliably with digital materials management
Unfortunately, the following picture is still part of everyday life at many companies: an employee armed with pen and paper wanders through the warehouse and checks whether the necessary materials for an important order are in stock. If something is missing, he returns to the office, where he places an order or has an order placed, of course also manually, via telephone, e-mail or fax. Valuable time is lost, and it is possible that delivery dates in the near future cannot be confirmed.
Digital materials management and stockkeeping should therefore be a fixed component of your company’s software, and they should be used consistently! Each exotic stockplate, every package of spacers, each barrel of sealant; in short, everything that you need to process an order must be known in the system!
With optimal configuration, minimum inventories can be stored in your materials management. When stock drops below the minimum level, your software sounds the alarm and triggers the necessary re-orders automatically if you so desire.
Of course the prerequisite for this is that all employees play their part in digital materials management. This means that all inputs and outputs must be booked consistently and stored in the system. This is easy with an appropriately configured barcode solution. Only then can your digital stockkeeping ensure that all necessary parts are always available.
In particular, good materials management as with the A+W systems A+W Business and A+W Enterprise, must be integrated completely into the order entry system. This way, you cannot confirm any delivery dates if you haven’t gotten the “OK” from materials management. If your system is configured properly, the system queries the stock situation automatically before you confirm an order and can plan it for production in production planning.
Networking of all partners
It goes without saying that for such automated stock and procurement processes, companies have to be networked internally; otherwise, it is impossible to assemble real-time information about the material and procurement situation.
The incorporation of suppliers into this network is becoming ever more important on the path to Industry 4.0. Here, to simplify order communication, digital platforms for communication and the provision of critical information are arising, for in the end, all partners in the supply chain have to be networked digitally. This way, it is conceivable that your procurement system will be able to compare various suppliers’ delivery capability at lighting speed and react independently to the current situation.
With “materials management 4.0,” you not only guarantee your flexibility and delivery capability, you also save a huge amount of unproductive work, for the colleague who previously had to run around with paper and pen in the warehouse can now do more productive things in this time.