Crane manufacturers have specific business system needs
What crane manufacturers have in common with other types of manufacturers is that they must plan for material requirements, schedule jobs, and execute the production of those jobs. However, crane manufacturers have many requirements and needs that are unique to their industry. In this article, we’ll review how those unique requirements can be addressed with crane industry software or crane manufacturing software.
The crane manufacturing process
For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the primary products that are manufactured: overhead cranes, mobile cranes, fixed cranes, bulk handlines cranes and varying hoists associated with the crane industry. These cranes are typically made-to-order, often engineer-to-order, either as one-off, custom jobs or jobs where a manufacturer has a contract to build multiple cranes for a specific company.
Let’s take a look at functional requirements that are unique to the crane manufacturing industry and how crane software like Infor CloudSuite Industrial/SyteLine ERP can be used to address those specific needs.
Using crane industry software, all the activities that go into the entire process of building a Crane are tracked as a project. Typically, crane manufacturing companies have project managers who coordinate and track the vast array of activities involved in the process of making a crane.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial ERP provides crane manufacturers with tools to manage, track, and cost all project-related activities.
The ability to create a project within your crane software system is especially important. Having a centralized project with enterprise-wide visibility is critical for ensuring tasks get done and project timelines are kept. Project visibility allows for improved communication with not only the customer, but also with the multiple parties involved in production as the project progresses.
Project managers can plan the project with a focus on planned costs.
Project managers using Infor CloudSuite Industrial ERP can see all project costs as they occur, as well as percent complete, forecast to complete, and expected costs to complete.
Communication and Approval Management using CRM
A big part of an engineer-to-order crane manufacturing project is creating drawings and specification for customer approval. This process can be a component of a project, and you can use the native CRM functionality to track approvals, including communications with the customer, sales, engineering, and project manager.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial ERP provides crane manufacturers with a complete 360-degree view of all customer and prospect activities. CloudSuite Industrial CRM allows all communications and interactions to be easily viewed and captured.
Outlook Email Integration
In addition to having a CRM system as part of the crane software, you can integrate other tools like Microsoft Outlook to track all email communications between the manufacturer and customer. Capturing these email interactions in the CRM provides history for that account and valid audit trails if there are any discrepancies on approvals.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial ERP provides a complete Outlook integration for tracking all communication within the ERP, as well as an add-in for users to see account information directly within Outlook.
Another important feature that is often overlooked is the ability to have a document management system as part of the native crane industry software. Many ERP systems do not have a true document management system and this results in using an outside system to keep up with the artwork, renderings, permits, and other associated documents. Crane manufacturers benefit on many fronts by having a system with integrated document management: manufacturing, service, and support have quick and easy access to documents; plus, there is document check-in and check-out capabilities, as well as revision controls.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial ERP comes with the robust Infor Document Management application, which provides Crane manufacturers with a central repository for storing all drawings, instructions, warranties, and quality information.
Levering a Configurator
There is an opportunity to take advantage of a Configure, Price, Quote tool to not only assist with the engineering process, but it can be levered by the sales team as well. Leading industry enterprise configuration tools such as Infor CPQ allows for either or both sales and engineering to go through selecting options to build out a crane. This build includes generating pricing proposals, both a bill or material and routing, and having a live two-way communication with the ERP.
Crane manufacturing companies can position themselves stronger in competitive sales cycles with the use of an enterprise level CPQ. Prospects and customers can have access to CPQ on your website and can independently configure cranes and hoists, generate pricing if allowed, and generate 2D drawings or even 3D visualizations of the crane. An effectively used CPQ is a great sales asset.
Engineering and Material Planning
Once there is customer approval and sign offs, the crane is engineered. Engineering creates the bill of materials, including electrical and other materials, in the crane software using various CAD programs. Also, the engineering team can create the manufacturing routing in the ERP. The Engineering Masters will provide material requirements and demand in the system as well—the purchasing department can see the parts to be purchased and production sees demand for fabricated items and assemblies.
Due to the extensive number of materials typically needed, we find many of our customers are interested in levering CADLink as it allows for the automation of pushing bill of materials from the varying CAD systems into the crane manufacturing ERP system. This automation reduces errors and saves a significant amount of time.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial ERP’s Engineering Window makes it easy to manage and create complex engineering masters for crane manufacturers.
The Infor CloudSuite Industrial ERP application provides the Material Planner Workbench for easily managing material demand and orders.
Production Scheduling releases the job or work orders to fabricate the varying assemblies, marry with purchased parts, and perhaps even send some parts to outside processors. The crane manufacturing ERP system should have a robust scheduling engine, like Infor CloudSuite Industrial Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS), to take into account the desired finish date, available capacity, material availability and arrival, outside processes, and even transfer times. A quick word of warning: Exclude any ERP systems that are reliant on third-party scheduling engines. Scheduling is too important to the overall efficiency of the organization to not be part of the native crane software system.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial ERP comes with Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS), allowing for managing all production and ensuring orders are completed on time or as early as possible.
Shop Floor and Material Transaction Management
The traditional manufacturing component for cranes requires tools for capturing labor transactions and material transactions. The benefits of capturing actual labor time are numerous. The three most important benefits from labor barcoding are: (1) Capturing actual labor costs, (2) actual labor time used to provide valuable information for run rate data, and (3) labor completion also relieves the production schedule. Capturing actual labor costs are important for custom crane manufacturers as the ability to see costs during the job are important, as well as rolling up to the overall project costs. Other benefits of a modern shop floor execution system include the ability to: be paperless; have an electronic dispatch; get easy access to drawings and work instructions; and capture quality inspection data.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial Factory Track captures and tracks all labor transactions on the shop floor using mobile devices.
Capturing material transactions are critical as well. Ideally, you tell your system what you did when you did it—not after the fact. Provide decision makers with real-time information, including material transactions, so that you benefit from actual material costs applied to the work order and rolled up to the project, accurate inventory counts and values, and the ability to track material transactions with barcodes or material issues.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial Factory Track captures and tracks all material transactions, including material barcoding on the shop floor and warehouse, using mobile devices.
Quality control is especially important for crane manufacturers. Their cranes need to be tested and inspected, with numerous control points, and this data should be captured in a system of record. Having a native Quality Control System as part of the crane manufacturing ERP will help meet these needs. Crane manufacturers often need to comply with many ISO standards including ISO13001, ISO1292, ISO3691, ISO13411, and ISO 1677. The Quality system can be used for incoming inspection, in-process inspection, and final acceptance testing.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial Factory Track allows for quality inspections on the shop floor using mobile devices.
Installation and Delivery
A big part of the overall crane manufacturing project is managing the installation or delivery components. The project manager needs to ensure all transport and permitting is in place and then collaborate with local contractors.
Some ERP applications have a Service Management module to address the Service Management activities. Schedule all crews, get routing information, capture travel and expenses, and have GPS map visibility of crew locations.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial ERP includes a full-service management dispatching and scheduling system with GPS mapping.
Transportation is another item to be scheduled. Once again, many of the larger companies have their own trucks, flat beds, and low boys that are available for transport. Other companies have transport companies they need to schedule.
A proper Service Management application can handle these requirements, from crane rental to truck scheduling. The prep and transport and set up costs also need to be captured as part of the project, so that true profitability can be measured and analyzed.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial ERP provides crane manufacturers with a robust Service Management toolset to manage service activities, from installation to maintenance.
Warranty and Service
Once the cranes are installed, many manufacturers have warranties, service contracts, or perform break/fix maintenance. The Service Management module within the ERP can assist with scheduling warranty work. The field service teams that perform corrective actions, repair work, and parts replacement on cranes can access complete unit configuration via their mobile devices. The as-built unit configuration is available to the service team because of the complete integration with the manufacturing part of the crane software system. Not only can the field techs see the original configuration, but they can also see the history of repairs and current unit configuration where new parts have replaced existing parts. In addition, they can see serialized components.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial ERP’s Service Management provides visibility into unit configuration and current configuration from previous repair and warranty work.
The Service Management application can facilitate field techs taking pictures, getting electronic sign off by the customer, and recording the labor and materials used on the service repair order. These costs can be attributed to the warranty, or against a service contract, or billed to the customer for repairs. The billing can happen instantaneously due to the accounting integration, which leads to increased cash flow and fewer days outstanding for the service department work.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial ERP’s Service Management also includes full mobile capabilities for field techs performing installs, warranty work, service and maintenance contract work, or unscheduled repair jobs.
Another requirement often needed is the ability for crane manufacturers to handle the retail side of the business. Some crane companies do a large number of rentals in addition to selling the cranes. The ability to manage the rental contracts and have visibility of assets in the field is important. Conversely, maintenance on those company owned rental assets is critical. Teams must go out in the field for preventive, planned, and break/fix maintenance. The assets also must be maintained, repaired, and overhauled once they are returned from rental engagements. Again, the Infor CloudSuite Industrial Service Management suite can help facilitate all these activities.
The ability to provide top level customer service including profitable replacement part sales is an important requirement for crane manufacturers. The ability to see as built configuration for the specific serialized cranes allows for those in part sales to quickly identify primary replacement parts, as well as alternates. The crane ERP system should provide visibility into inventory available across multiple warehouses, or if a replacement component needs fabrication and assembly. Customer service should easily be able to see if the part is available to ship from stock, needs to be purchased and drop shipped, or requires the need for a production work order to be created to fulfil the demand.
Crane manufacturers can also provide Customer Portals to make it easy for customers to purchase parts. The portals can show pictures of parts, availability, customer pricing and past order information. The use of the e-commerce option for replacement parts has been extraordinarily successful.
Financial management should not be discounted when considering an ERP for crane manufacturers. Many of the larger crane companies have multiple branches and even different manufacturing locations. Some even have multiple financial entities to manage. Given these possible complex requirements, it is imperative that crane manufacturers validate the software’s ability to effectively address your company’s needs from an accounting and performance management perspective.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial ERP provides multi-site and multi-company operational and financial capabilities.
Your crane manufacturing business system should have a robust reporting toolset and Business Intelligence toolset. Being able to gather data, trust the data, and access it in a timely manner is often a challenge, given the large business footprint of crane manufacturers. This challenge can be addressed by having a fully integrated, single system and single database to help your company make better business decisions. Then you need analytical tools to mine this data, and a user-friendly system to help you easily see the metrics and data visualizations.
Infor CloudSuite Industrial’s Role-Based Home Pages include performance management indicators, reports, and graphics.
Infor Birst Analytics are included with Infor CloudSuite ERP
Crane manufacturers have specific requirements that are different and much more encompassing than traditional manufacturers. It is particularly important when looking for a new crane industry ERP software system to validate that it has the many functional characteristics that have been outlined above. Otherwise, it will be a challenge to improve your business and address those unique requirements.
If you are beginning a search or considering a new ERP to help your crane manufacturing operation, please reach out and schedule a free consultation here. Visual South has helped hundreds of manufacturers leverage Infor ERP to improve their competitiveness and grow their business. Click here for more information about Visual South.