Why Your Powder Metal Technology Partner Should Use Plex.

Posted by Horizon Technology - August 30, 2018

We are huge fans of Plex cloud-based manufacturing software. Here’s why you should be, too -- and why those who rely on powder metal technology are missing out if their manufacturer doesn’t use Plex:

Powder Metal Technology Demands Equally Top-Tier Software

Over the past few centuries, industry has gone from steam engines, to electricity, to computers. Now we’re on the cusp of the next step of industrial technology -- mass connection and immersion.

This new version of manufacturing is popularly called Industry 4.0. It’s all about how we continuously monitor our processes digitally to run our businesses --- and therefore your business -- more smoothly.

To do that, Horizon uses the Plex Manufacturing Cloud. Manufacturers with strict and exhaustive traceability and quality goals are considered ideal fits for Plex. This software connects the physical world to the computer world and manages a manufacturer’s day-to-day, including:

  • Procurement
  • Production
  • Inventory
  • Shipping
  • Supply chain management
  • Quality
  • Sales
  • Accounting
  • Human resources
  • Much more

Less tech-savvy readers may be wondering what the point of all this connectivity is. Uses of a cloud MRP include:

  • Information security
  • Ease of access
  • Ability to use Plex through mobile devices
  • Off-site supplier portals
  • Customer portals

Traditional ERP (enterprise resource planning) or MRP (material requirements planning) “solutions” involve painful implementation, followed by rare updates -- companies often go years without updating their system. Those manufacturers -- and in turn, their customers -- lose value each day.

Not with our system.

How You Benefit

Plex updates its system daily, allowing your vendor to continuously improve efficiency and customer responsiveness. Your lead times will decrease, and you’ll receive quicker customer service from people who’ll have all the answers literally right at their fingertips.

What an MRP System Does

With Plex, everything physically on the manufacturing floor is represented by the same exact entity in the computer system. So if anything gets used or put through a process, Plex is following that to a T, step by step. This includes:

  • Quality systems
  • Manufacturing systems
  • How many tools on hand for a certain part (tool requirements planning, or TRP)
  • Which materials are needed
  • What time production will be finished (production requirements planning, or PRP)
  • Any issues that need troubleshooting

Electronically accounting for each manufacturing step eliminates confusion and loss of product.

Here’s an example of the cloud’s troubleshooting capabilities: At most factories, if a press goes down at night, a manager has to drive to the building. But thanks to Plex, a operations manager or quality manager can quickly get your project up and running again from home via computer or phone app.

How You Benefit

Downtime goes down dramatically with Plex in place. Your project is less likely to fall behind schedule while waiting on your vendor to fix something or clumsily manage your inventory.

We at Horizon love being paperless. Keep reading for more reasons you’ll love it, too.

Business Intelligence

Your vendor makes a lot of different parts at the same time.

Plex manages this for users by tracking:

  • Capacity of the presses
  • Materials need to use for a process
  • Capacity of the furnaces

So Plex can tell your vendor, “You need these 10 parts to be good to go by Friday, and you can use them at these operations and these times.”

Plex neatly arranges all the logistics you can’t possibly keep in your head or on a notebook.

Because Plex sends a notification when each step of the supply chain is complete, the next person up instantly knows when he/she needs to perform a task. While that sounds simple, this heavily contributes to the 30% increase in operational efficiency Plex promises on its website.

And if for any reason there’s a hiccup, Plex users can go in and look at every single component that passed through a process. We can identify every single person who touched that component, down to a very small window of time.

How You Benefit

Thanks to that traceability, the vendor can follow your product back through the entire supply chain. The vendor can then provide you accurate data so that together, you know how to solve any problem.

How Horizon Uses Plex Vs. Other PM Companies

Powder metal manufacturers can, for example, use only the “quality” features of Plex while using a different, cheaper software for production, transactions, etc.

At Horizon, Plex is literally our entire manufacturing system and then some. We use Plex as a closed-loop system for:

  1. Accounting
  2. Training
  3. Quality
  4. Reporting
  5. Tooling production (TRP)
  6. Much more

How You Benefit

There’s a great feeling of security knowing you can trust a manufacturer’s process. We can actually give you a Plex login ID and show you our data collection. We can recall data from every single component we’ve made in the last 10+ years with Plex:

  • Component specifications
  • Time and day of creation
  • Settings of equipment used
  • Communication, both internal and with the customer

It’s a quick and easy way to check on your project. Transparency is a beautiful thing!

Your Vision of the Future

Customers and suppliers familiar with Plex breathe a sigh of relief when they find out we use it. Remember, a cloud-based system doesn’t just help your powder metal company -- it also helps you via:

  • Quicker lead times
  • A smoother passing of the baton that eliminates mix-ups
  • Fewer bad components and less scrap

A lot of other software companies have tried to match Plex. In our estimation, Plex has kept a pretty good lead on them and will continue to do so.

On our end, we’re working toward further process improvements we can pass on to you.

One day, we’d like the presses themselves to tell us, “Hey, I just made a bad part. I'm going to scrap it and log this issue in the system.” Similarly, we’d also like our sintering oven to someday be able to tell us, “My temperature just dropped below a certain range, so I’m shutting down and notifying the system directly.”

The end goal with these “talking machines?” Leaving no room for operator error.

It seems like an ambitious dream now, but so did the idea of a cloud computing system 10 years ago. Let’s work together to keep optimizing your powder metal parts!

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Topics: Tooling, Materials, Costs

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