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The Ultimate Guide to Integrating CAD and ERP for Better Manufacturing

CAD ERP integration is crucial in today’s digital-centric manufacturing world. Here’s why:

When it comes to modernizing or enhancing manufacturing operations, one of the best solutions is to introduce advanced automation. To meet growing, complex demands, along with an ever-changing supply chain, you must be on top of your game.

The right automation and data-driven technologies make it possible. Any problems that tend to creep in happen because of legacy systems, like when teams are using a CAD tool that’s siloed and not accessible through their primary ERP. There are a lot of operators still using CAD software and platforms in this way.

That’s why CAD ERP integration is such a hot topic and why knowing how to integrate ERP systems with these siloed or legacy platforms is so critical in today’s landscape.

Translating the Data

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions are incredibly useful for manufacturers and industrial operators. They help manage and control everything that goes into running the business, from finance to direct manufacturing tasks and beyond. Integration with computer-aided design (CAD) helps improve automation, reduce clerical errors, speed up data entry, and optimize workflows. The entire operation moves faster, better, and more accurately. But the data sets from these two platforms don’t always play nice.

It raises the question: how do you actually integrate CAD and ERP systems? There are two core ideas here. The first is that you can use a CAD ERP integration that was specifically designed to work together. These types of solutions are relatively new and may still require some tooling from time to time to adjust the experience – there may be sticking points.

The other idea is that you take two separate pieces of software that weren’t specifically designed to work together, and integrate them via data translation. The CAD tool may provide assembly or reference documents in a format that’s not compatible with the ERP software. It’s a matter of taking that file and the included specifications and making them available to the ERP. Choosing a native CAD ERP solution is the best option.

In most cases, the ERP software can ingest the CAD file and it will translate all of the information into a workable solution for manufacturers. As an ERP is designed to route the relevant information to the appropriate tasks and parties, that’s precisely what it will do after translating the data. The right information will go to assemblies and subassemblies, workers, and various systems – creating a seamless operation.

Streamline Team Communications

Before learning how to integrate ERP systems, or even taking the big step to opt for a CAD ERP integration solution, you need to make sure your teams are not siloed, and that communication is happening regularly.

Engineers, for example, must be interacting with other teams to understand how their designs impact general operations. How do their creations influence tool wear, inspections, fixturing, and general hardware? Alternatively, machinists may not understand why a design has certain specifications, in which case it’s beneficial for them to be able to communicate with the engineers. That tight tolerance they don’t agree with might be necessary for the inner workings of the finished product.

Deconstructing the walls between departments and teams can be difficult, but it’s a necessary step for achieving integration – especially between engineering and machining.

Ensure Data Quality

Ensuring data quality is paramount to successful integration, but compatibility is a major hurdle here, too. With the right CAD ERP integration, the data sharing between these systems is usually seamless. But that’s not always the case, so regular data audits are necessary – at least initially.

This is where software engineers and information technology specialists are a great boon to have. They can facilitate the data transfers and translation, configure the solutions until they’re ready for primetime, and make sure they’re truly working together.

Align Product Engineering

The technical support and designs from your engineers have to align with the systems you’re using. In other words, it needs to be a more collaborative process where they understand the requirements and limitations of the software.

There may be times when they need to adopt a final design to meet the capabilities of the CAD ERP, but if they’re not familiar with it, the process is going to be incredibly challenging. Training is a great idea eventually, but you might also consider looping them in from the start and involving them in the integration process – at least to test performance and identify any sticking points.

Test the Cyclical Elements

While a design might be considered “finalized” after passing through CAD solutions, that’s not always so. Clients may change their requests or specifications, or various challenges may require a new design, like when parts don’t fit as intended. It’s not ideal, but it happens.

To make alterations, the designs have to go through engineering, which essentially means you’ll need to take the data from the ERP and pass it back to the CAD software. This is where “smart” and “seamless” interplay truly comes in handy. But it’s something you’ll want to test beforehand when you’re trialling the CAD ERP integration.

Be sure to consider these cyclical motions, particularly when it comes to the design documents, to ensure it’s possible and that it works as intended.

From Client Inquiry to Invoice

CAD ERP integrations create a seamless operation from start to finish, allowing the interconnected processes and teams – or machines – to work freely with a degree of automation that’s unachievable otherwise.

Of course, before streamlining is possible, the tools need to play nicely. With a vast majority of integrations already designed to work together, it’s easy to do. For legacy solutions, it’s all about translating the data to match software guidelines. A CAD file, for example, must be ingested by the ERP and converted into action, with the right information going to the appropriate channels.

But the operation itself, and the teams making it all work, need to be ready for the integration too. Engineers need to be able to collaborate with machinists and other teams. Product engineering must understand the design requirements when creating and then passing details down the chain. And there must always be cyclical opportunities in place and potentially designated consultants to work as a liaison when designs change or obstacles are met.

Learning how to integrate ERP systems correctly and efficiently starts by considering many of these changes and ensuring the manufacturing operation is truly ready for the upgrade.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over three years experience writing articles for the tech and industrial sectors. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily at https://revolutionized.com/subscribe/
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