Arena PLM

Consolidation, Collaboration & Cost Savings in the Cloud: ETO Engineer to Order ERP Software

The world of manufacturing is in constant motion, as are software developments to assist manufacturers.  Advances in Engineer to Order (ETO) software solutions aim to bring many facets of manufacturing operations together seamlessly to increase productivity, reduce re-entry of data, and smooth communications between manufacturers and their clients.

Typically, manufacturing engineers work inside Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) applications to design or revise parts. Bills of material (BOMs) in those systems track the items used for each design. But management is done in an Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) business system separate from CAD and PLM, with yet another system for Customer Relationship Management (CRM).  Companies are faced with the challenge of keeping these various systems in sync.

Cloud computing solutions like CADTALK offer manufacturers the opportunity to automate data between previously disparate systems. For example, engineering data from CAD/PLM can be transformed directly into manufacturing BOMs, item master files, inventory records, and routing data (including labor operations) – all within the ERP. This not only avoids duplicate data entry and eliminates errors; it can improve the engineering to manufacturing hand-off by as much as 80%.

Collaboration is key for the future of manufacturing.  Cloud-based solutions can allow the parties involved – from CAD engineers and purchasing agents to finance staff and clients – to work from the same platform for data processing and communications.  For instance, many popular ETO ERP products include security to allow clients direct access to annotate designs and documents, reducing costly communications delays and increasing customer satisfaction.

Software suites such as Infor CloudSuite and Total ETO are at the forefront in providing  integrated platforms to support Engineer to Order manufacturers and clients from concept through delivery. Here are just a few of the ways today’s most popular cloud computing solutions address today’s demands for successful ETO:

  • Improved productivity  Reducing overhead and costs is at the top of the list for ETO, and highly configurable software suites such as Infor CloudSuite Industrial (formerly SyteLine) make this their primary goal. In addition to providing specialized functionality, the software offers configuration options to allow each segment of staff to see what they need to see, when they need to see it.
  • CAD integration and enhancement – CAD capabilities of existing software packages like SolidWorks and Inventor are well known, and ETO software providers are wise to integrate with these products rather than try to duplicate them.
  • Versatile viewing of files and documents  Engineers and CAD designers view their files one way, but clients, inventory staff, and purchasing or finance departments often prioritize differently. Cloud platforms such as Flatter Files provide the capability for specialized views of design files and documents, presenting them within a structure that reflects the specific needs of each individual group.
  • Purchasing, inventory and accounting integration – Equally important is supporting the flow of data to specialized systems. Staff in various departments including purchasing, inventory, accounting and management need insight into impact of design changes.  Hybrid cloud platforms such as Total ETO (formerly Questica ETO) facilitate this flow by maintaining fully integrated products to meet these needs.  They also support popular packages like QuickBooks or Sage50.
  • Collaborative communication  Clients and engineers collaborate best when feedback can be provided directly on designs in progress, and many ETO solutions enable this powerful capability. Flatter Files, for instance, allows engineers and clients alike to view designs, exchange messages, and incorporate annotations directly on the designs right where they are stored, enabling intrinsic communication of details as desired.
  • CRM integration – Client-centricity is the heart of ETO, so integration with CRM platforms such as Salesforce is essential. Products like Rootstock Cloud ERP boast functionality geared toward bridging the gap between ERP and CRM by providing greater visibility into customer interactions, within and across partnerships and projects.
  • Advanced reporting and dashboards  Storage of data is essential, but equally important is the ability to interpret it as needed. Products such as Aptean Encompix ERP provide a wide range financial and operational reports, as well as dynamic spreadsheets and real-time dashboard capability.
  • Standards and compliance  Government contractors must meet rigorous standards set for the industry. Products like JOBSCOPE ERP Manufacturing Software help teams comply with standards such as AS9100, ISO9000, and DCAA by providing the capability to view comprehensive data by contract or by sub-contract.  Fully implemented, transactions including contract changes, quality control adjustments, and engineering change notifications (ECNs) can be captured and stored as they occur.

Smaller operations for which an integrated solution exceeds budget can still make headway toward ETO using specialized products.  Here are a few examples:

  • Scan2CAD – A standalone utility, Scan2CAD converts raster designs to the vectors and arcs used by CAD packages, supplementing them with text labels via OCR technology.
  • Cortime – A SolidWorks add-in, Cortime can generate iterations of CAD designs, supplement them with annotations, and optimize them based on widely accepted simulation algorithms.
  • OpenBOM – Whether installed for personal use or purchased as professional licenses, OpenBOM allows for sharing of designs, revision tracking, single- and multi-level BOM, and parts catalogs which can include images. OpenBOM is cloud-based, and offers free collaboration among all registered users (personal and professional).

The challenge for ETO is to reduce or eliminate barriers to productivity, both in data flow and in communications among the various parties involved.  Cloud technology makes that possible, and employing ETO software suites such as CADTALK ( automates the transformation of data and opens the door for clients, giving manufacturers a clear pathway toward the future.