The planning and control of the intra-company and extra-company logistics for the plastics industry pose a great challenge for ERP systems. Characteristics of ERP Usage in the Plastics Industry Production procedures like die casting or extrusion are widely used in the industry. Among others, the distinctive characteristics are:
- a pronouced process character with batch production,
- coupled production,
- a very distinctive tool management (basic tools, moulds) considering availabilities and idle times as well as
- an intensive use of machine data acquisition (MDA) for in-process quality management (e.g. inline recycling) and manufacturing control (e.g. number of shots, machine status).
Finally, many companies in the plastics industry are subject to additional requirements from their customers‘ side which have a great influence on ERP usage: Thus, automotive suppliers often have to support very complex packing regulations or suppliers for medical engineering companies must be able to guarantee a consistent retraceability of components. Aims of ERP Usage in the Plastics Industry The Trovarit survey „ERP Practice: User Satisfaction, Benefits and Prospects“ shows that the plastics industry in special uses ERP to optimise the degree of capacity utilisation of their (often expensive) machinery, reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction with order processing (e.g. adherence to delivery dates). In order to achieve these aims companies in the plastics industry place great value on adequate software functionality even during software selection. In addition, the software is expected to be suitable for mid-sized companies, user-friendly and as flexible as possible. The cost/benefit ration and the ERP vendor’s expertise are also important selection criteria. ERP Systems: The Specialists Against the background of these pronounced characteristics, it is no great surprise that the specialists among the ERP systems are the leaders of the pack in the plastics industry. Next to AlfaPlus (SWP Irma), STEPbasic (STEPSOFT), PPS-Plus (HKS-Systems) and FOSS (Ordat) the „ERP giants“ can also be found: Sage (wincarat) and Infor (Infor ERP COM) are directly offered for the German speaking market while Microsoft (e.g. Modus Plastics/Modus, Dynamics Plastic Technology/KCS) and SAP (All for Plastic/All for One Steeb, it.chemicals/itelligence) enter their partners with „industry solutions“ in the race. ERP Usage: The Plastics Industry’s Verdict The ERP infrastructure used in the plastics industry must not only be able to map many distinctive features but is also very complex: In addition to the ERP core (finance accounting, order processing and PPC) many companies also use modules for production data acquisition (PDA), MDA and CAQ as well as for CRM and SCM. In everyday business, these challenges are certainly felt which is also mirrored by the assessment of the used ERP systems by the companies of the plastics industry: Hence, a great number of these companies criticise the expense needed for updates and release changes as well as the systems‘ unability to really map their business processes because of functional deficits. Obviously, the high degree of integration in combination with – often necessary – extensive customisations of the software standards has a negative impact on the ERP softwares’s releaseability.