The choice of two types of software has been a vital aspect in helping engineers develop a production engineering subcontractor’s thriving business during the two years it has been trading in these harsh economic times.
While Dark Sheet Metal Products’ engineers run their entire CAD/CAM operation through the world’s most powerful sheet metal CAD/CAM software Radan, the overall administration of the company is monitored through the multi-purpose management system e2i.
e2i – estimate to invoice – enables Dark to integrate all their activities from initial enquiry, through the production stage, to final delivery and payment. “It’s the only production control software we use,” says Dark’s Technical Director Simon Latham (pictured right).
He says Radan and e2i, both of which come from the Vero Software stable, have been instrumental in helping the business succeed in so short a time. Dark Sheet Metal Products works for around 50 customers, mainly in the retail sector. Operating out of a 20,000 square foot factory in the West Midlands with 25 employees, they produce in-store racking systems for end-users such as Tesco, Primark and Marks & Spencer; and segregated recycling bins for Spar. They also manufacture a range of cycle lockers, and systems for gas and electric fires in static caravans.
Both of their Amada sheet metal cutting machines are driven by Radan – a 4 kilowatt FO 3015 laser with a feeder tower capable of holding nine tonnes of raw material, and a VIPROS 2510 King punch press (left). With steel, aluminium, brass and copper accounting for around half of their total annual spend, they rely on Radan’s Project Nester to ensure maximum sheet utilisation. “It’s a tremendous asset for us – we’ve had parts for up to 40 jobs managed through one nest, and because we attach route cards created through e2i to each nest print-out it’s easy for the operator to pick and pack the parts on to separate pallets.”
And Simon Latham says using Radan’s Remnants feature, which nests parts onto offcuts, has reduced metal wastage even further.
Both he and his engineering manager have used Radan for several years, so it was the only CAD/CAM software he considered when setting the company up. “I’d already decided on Radan before we finalised our arrangements with Amada for the machines. Even on sorting out the punching tools and the order to use them, which is considered to be relatively complicated, Radan is easy to use and self-explanatory.”
And another aspect of Radan makes it easy transmitting the NC codes from computer to the laser and punch – Radan DNC. “I’ve actually got two options for the laser; directly to the machine via DNC as it does for the punch, but because the laser’s memory is quite limited, I have to use another method if I need to send code for multiple jobs. I search for the program in Radan as normal, and then download the blocks into a Notepad file on the desktop and drag those into the Amada software which picks up the code created by Radan and feeds it line by line into the machine.”
The company has two full-time Radan programmers, with another two staff who can use it. And he says Radan’s online knowledge base can usually answer queries they have regarding specific applications. “On the rare occasion we haven’t been able to find the answer, we’ve used the online support portal and had a phone call or email solving the issue within hours.”
As a production engineering subcontractor he says they regard their business as selling time on machines rather than selling products – and this is where e2i really comes into its own, giving them a real-time snapshot of the company showing the status of every job, and every aspect of its administration.
“The Shop Floor Data Capture feature is particularly valuable, and will become even more so when we’ve got full bar coding in operation throughout the factory.” The e2i Support Team worked with them to link one bar coding station to the software. “We’re going to integrate three more and then start back-costing to ensure we’re making money where we think we are. Shop Floor Data Capture will record the actual time spent on each operation of a particular job. If we think a job takes ten minutes on a machine, we charge for ten minutes, so if it takes 12 minutes we need to know.”
e2i effectively models Dark Sheet Metal Products’ environment, managing all aspects of their business including purchasing, sales, engineering, administration, production and despatch.