Impact meets ERP

Arden Software has successfully completed a project with Stora Enso Packaging in Finland to integrate its Impact CAD installation with the packaging group’s new ERP system, proving the versatility of Impact CAD and its ability to operate in a wide range of IT environments.

Stora Enso’s Aleksi Koskinen, who was responsible for the integration project, says that the group’s Finnish packaging plants have been using Impact CAD since 2001. “When we first evaluated the different design software available, Impact CAD was the one that convinced us most, particularly with its layout creation and die- design capabilities. Additionally, one of the essential factors for us was its very flexible possibilities for integration with other software.”

This capability became particularly important when Stora Enso Packaging launched a project to switch the enterprise resource planning system (ERP) of its Finnish operations from an AS/400 environment to one using Microsoft Dynamics AX.  “Our old ERP system was seen as a potential risk, mainly due to its highly tailored structure, which had largely been developed in house,” says Aleksi Koskinen. “The new ERP-system was chosen to give us a more standardized solution which would essentially remove this risk because we could get support from a wide range of sources.”

The modular nature of the Microsoft Dynamics AX environment gave Stora Enso Packaging the option to integrate third party solutions into it. A key system the group chose was Lean Projects’ Print & Packaging Solution, which provides functionality for sales, production, and materials management.  This Swiss software company’s system has been specifically designed for use in the manufacture of corrugated and litho-laminated packaging and displays, covering processes from cost estimating and quotation, to order confirmation, and the automatic generation of production orders.

Stefan Andersson from Arden Software Scandinavia says that it was vital to Stora Enso Packaging for their existing Impact CAD installation to integrate seamlessly with the Lean Projects system. “What you don’t want in a modern manufacturing business is duplication of data, especially information such as sales contacts, order details, or paper and board specifications. Manually transferring information from one department to another, say between sales and design, can lead to very expensive human errors. And even if you have the information being transmitted electronically, it’s hard to ensure that users always have the very latest data. Because Impact CAD is so versatile we have been able to totally integrate it with the Lean Projects’ Print & Packaging Solution so that they both work from the same databases. It means that there is no possibility of data being replicated or outdated, and so it is a much safer solution for the user.”

In practice this means that pre-order information from the ERP, such as quotations, customer details, and specifications, are automatically picked up by Impact CAD so that the designers can quickly go about preparing the job for production. “Once the designers have finished,” says Stefan Andersson, “the sales and production teams can view the designs inside the Dynamics AX environment.  And if the customer asks one department to change something, it is instantly visible to all the others on the system.”

Stefan Andersson says that the unsung hero of the Stora Enso Packaging integration is Arden Software’s nServer, which he describes as being like a CAD system without a user interface. “It’s our nServer that the Lean Projects system uses to read information and to print reports, so it is a key part of the project. Implementations like this show just how versatile and powerful Impact CAD is, whatever the environment.”

Impact CAD performs impressively in virtually any environment, from small stand-alone configurations to multi-site, multi-country installations. The Stora Enso Packaging plant at Lahti, 100 kilometres north of Helsinki, is where the central Impact CAD database and nServer are housed, and these serve both the Lahti plant and plants hundreds of kilometres away.

Alongside its integration possibilities, Impact CAD delivers impressive design capabilities and is suited to both the corrugated packaging and the display industries. Using Impact’s design components, users can quickly and easily create drawings from scratch, while libraries of standard designs maximise productivity without compromising customisation. These standard designs include literally thousands of design styles for corrugated packaging and point of purchase displays.

A key feature of Impact is its range of design and manufacture tools for die-cutting. These extend from tools for designing cutting layouts, rubber lay downs, matrix, strippers, and blankers, to drivers for a host of manufacturing machines such as plotters, lasers and water jet cutters.

For the 8,500+ Impact users worldwide, having a web-based support system is vital, which is why Arden Software has established Impactcad.net, the support and download web site for its systems. Here, Impact CAD users can ask questions, make suggestions, and get access to troubleshooting articles, frequently asked questions, product tutorials and downloads. The site also supports RSS feeds, which allow users to be automatically notified about new content via an RSS newsfeed reader on their office or home computer, PDA, or smart phone.

With the implementation completed earlier this year, the Stora Enso Packaging plants are now exploring the new possibilities of the Dynamics AX environment. “We are still in the process of developing the system to better meet both our customers’ expectations, as well as our own,” says Aleksi Koskinen. “However, the potential of the new system is starting to show as we are developing it and as the users are getting more familiar with its functionalities. That is especially true of the interface between our Impact CAD system and the ERP, which enables real-time, reliable communication as regards the structural drawings. We are also looking further on, where we want to use new functionality that we have available for getting drawings directly from the ERP system during different phases of production.”

Mondi commitment to innovation fostered by Impact and Enterprise

Arden Software has rolled out its Impact Computer Aided Design (CAD) solution across twelve Mondi Corrugated Packaging plants as part of Mondi’s project to integrate CAD and design workflow management across four countries.

“At Mondi we are strongly committed to any innovation that we believe will benefit our customers,” says Pierrick Vincelot, Mondi’s European Product Innovation Manager for Corrugated Packaging.  “The design of the packaging we make for them is a critical part of this and last year we decided that we needed a new solution that would combine CAD with enterprise-wide design workflow management across twelve plants in Austria, Germany, Poland, and Turkey.  The objectives behind this decision were to improve efficiency, increase productivity, offer our customers more product possibilities, and to retain our competitive edge.”

For this solution, Mondi turned to Arden Software.  “There is no better CAD system for packaging than Impact from Arden Software,” says Chris Rogers, General Manager of Arden Software.   “Furthermore, Arden Software is the only supplier able to offer Mondi a fast, and fully integrated, enterprise-wide design solution.”

The initial challenge was to replace a variety of CAD systems used at the Mondi plants with Impact and to train the staff involved in its use.  To minimize disruption, and to start gaining the benefits of Impact as quickly as possible, Mondi specified an ambitious roll out programme, one which challenged the supplier.  “Over the final quarter of last year we installed Impact throughout the twelve plants and trained forty people to use the system in English, German, Polish, and Turkish languages,” explains Chris Rogers.  “Given that the installation and training was spread across four different countries, and that production still had to continue unhindered at each plant, it needed quite an effort on our behalf to deliver this.  However, once we commit to a roll out schedule then we will move heaven and earth to make it happen, and this project was no exception.”

Impact includes highly automated and powerful features for structural design, product development, and 3D virtual prototyping.  Uniquely, the system utilises a highly integrated design database that allows users to store projects and manage associated documents (such as customer specifications and artwork), control access, search and locate legacy designs, and track revisions.  Impact performs strongly in all the commonly used network environments and supports SQL Server, MySQL, SQL Express, and Oracle databases.

Recognising that designers work in different ways, Chris Rogers says that Arden Software designed Impact so that it can be easily tailored to suit each user’s ability levels and personal preferences.  “We realise that most installations of this kind will have novice, as well as more experienced users, and that every designer works in a slightly different way.  Some of the other great strengths of Impact include an extensive, and customisable, design standards library, an intelligent nesting feature which maximises material utilisation and minimises waste in the layout, an integrated graphics feature which marries structural and graphic elements perfectly, and the new 3D TruView technology for virtual sampling.”  This latter element enables users to produce virtual packaging prototypes that incorporate ultra-realistic finishes such as foiling, embossing and de-bossing, Braille, varnish, and true board textures. 

As a suite, the level of functionality that Impact provides as part of its standard toolset was a key factor in Mondi’s decision.  “The much more efficient tools that Impact offers completely superseded those of the various CAD systems that were used previously at Mondi Corrugated Packaging plants,” says Pierrick Vincelot.

The value of the data generated by Impact is greatly enhanced if it can be readily accessed by business management and ERP systems across an organisation or enterprise, and it is this capability that Arden Software are currently implementing as phase two of the Mondi project.   “Harnessing the full power of the Impact database means that Mondi can maximise its investment in Arden Software’s technology and allow them to make vital information accessible to anyone who needs it, whenever and wherever they need it,” explains Chris Rogers.  “Put simply, installing Impact Enterprise means that a single, centralised Impact database can be accessed from multiple remote locations without the network performance issues that often make such a configuration impractical.” Chris Rogers says that even if network connectivity is lost for some reason, Enterprise is designed to automatically resume communication once the network is available again.  “This means that Impact Enterprise delivers the flexibility, performance, and availability of site or hub databases, together with the centralised management of a single, enterprise database.  The synchronisation of all data occurs automatically without the user ever having to manage or upload files manually.  This is something that no other system on the market can offer.”

Chris Rogers says that Mondi Corrugated Packaging sees Arden Software as a highly reliable business partner at a time when continuity of supply is a key issue for packaging manufacturers and their customers.  “We are a good fit for Mondi.  We’re a stable supplier, having been under the same ownership since we were established some 25 years ago.  Add to this our philosophy of actively working with and talking to our customers, the excellent support delivered through our growing number of subsidiary offices, and our commitment to innovation, and you can see that we work very much like Mondi.   It makes us unique in the marketplace as a software systems supplier.” 

Impact and WEBcnx gain traction at North American board converting plants

With a keen eye for ways to streamline operations, Justin Hill, President of Lawrence Paper Co. in Lawrence, Kansas is always on the lookout for new technology.  One recent investment is software powerful and broad reaching enough to tie in manufacturing, sales and design.  In 2011, the company purchased a full suite of CAD and workflow automation tools from Arden Software North America.  The installation includes Impact packaging design and manufacturing software and WEBcnx, a design workflow management solution.

Impact incorporates features for structural design, product development, and 3D virtual prototyping while WEBcnx is a browser-based application that provides Lawrence Paper’s employees instant access to jobs for quicker and easier quotation, design and manufacturing, all through the company’s own database.  Last fall, Arden Software received the AICC/Board Converting News 2011 Innovator of the Year award for WEBcnx.

“Impact is your CAD system and Database that collects information and WEBcnx is the product that allows you to share that information through a web interface that has workflows associated with it,” says Jim Silianoff, President and CEO of Arden Software North America.

For Hill, the key is integration.  “One of the beauties of WEBcnx is if a salesman is on the road or at home he can log into the Internet and enter a job electronically.  That job might be a request for a quotation and he might tell us the size of the box, the board combination, and how much is printed,” Hill says.  “It’s immediately available to everybody on our system and we can assign that job as tasks to various people to either estimate the cost or do a design in the lab.”

The integrated database, or what Arden Software refers to as the “enterprise database,” is central to the product’s effectiveness, according to Silianoff.  “It is the database aspect of the software that is really the cornerstone of the product.  Its ability to connect multiple users no matter where they are and store all of this data, which is configurable so that companies like Justin’s can collect data that may be very important to them.

“You have the ability to capture information that is important to you, and with WEBcnx you have the ability to make that data accessible to the sales team, your customer or customer service reps, in real time” he continues.  “Once this data is captured it’s very easy to share and it’s very easy to integrate and manipulate.”

Silianoff says Arden Software’s approach to the marketplace is different.  “We don’t go in to sell CAD.  There are any numberof CAD systems that can design a box.  Whilst we have our strengths there, the whole point about WEBcnx is what you do with the resultant design data.  It’s not creation of the data.  That’s the easy part.  It’s how you distribute it, how you share it, how It’s used to calculate costs.  It’s all about design cycle time reduction.”

Instant Access

Prior to using Impact and WEBcnx, Lawrence Paper was managing and sharing jobs through its homegrown computer system and Sire Technologies.  “The integration is the big difference from what we had before,” Hill says.  “The Sire system had no electronic link.  You could attach documents and emails but you had to manually drag them across one platform to another.  With Impact, when they create that design it becomes part of that same electronic folder.  Now all of that is tracked electronically so we can see that it might be assigned to a designer and once he signs off we know what time he finished, we know the version and then it might go to an estimator or the job needs to be signed off by production planning, but we can all see the status of the job.”

Information can be accessed through the company’s home page or an offsite server.  “Even though they’re going to a different server, we can make it look like it’s operating from a company’s home page,” Silianoff says.  “Their view of it looks like a folder, but it’s really not a folder.  It’s stored in the database.  That’s a key differentiator between us and anyone else in the market.  They’re working in the database, which is highly configurable.”

It is this instant access to information that is particularly useful, Hill says.  “Everyone can inquire to find a customer name or customer number or various board combinations or board tests.  They can get that information off of our main system.”

It’s a useful tool, says Kevin Gray, Customer Service Representative.  “When a sales representative says, ‘I just want a sample,’ he is immediately assigning that to the design group and it doesn’t have to go through multiple layers of people or departments to figure out what needs to be done.  The designer will own that request until he is finished with his design.  And if the salesman also wanted a quote, the designer can send it to the person who handles that and it doesn’t have to go through another layer of sitting on someone’s desk waiting.

“The advantage of this system is it is a project management system that has enough fingers out there that I can embrace it from the customer, from my plate makers, my production people, the sales people and the estimating department to put it all back together in one folder and we don’t lose anything in the shuffle for very complex projects,” Gray continues.  “In a nutshell we have a lot of displays that go through here and simply by entering the job information into WEBcnx we can track it all the way so that’s the beauty of it from my standpoint and it also has the history in here forever.”

With each new order, Lawrence Paper is generating a comprehensive database that details every comment and design change.  “It’s your entire history with everything that has happened with a particular job or project,” Silianoff says.  “Since this is all database-driven, we can store all the revisions of the job and all the data that’s associated with that project, such as the quotes, the email, spread sheets and graphics, and anyone who opens the information has the ability to add a document, as long as they have the correct authorization.”

Silianoff adds that the record keeping is a powerful tool.  “When anyone touches that project it’s automatically date and time stamped and what they did is recorded.  So you have what we refer to as an audit trail.  Even if someone just went in and looked at the project, all of that is tracked in the job history.”

While Lawrence Paper has yet to go online with customers, WEBcnx has already served as an important marketing tool.  “We obtained a contract for a large amount of business and this was part of my proposal, that we would have this type of system,” says Mike Sullivan, Sales Manager.  “It was a very strong selling point.”

“We have had available for a very long time through our own programming effort the ability for customers to look at files and designs in our system,” Hill says.  “Because that system already exists, we haven’t felt like there was a huge hurry to roll it out within the WEBcnx program.”

Beyond Design

Lawrence Paper uses Impact and WEBcnx in a variety of ways.  “We might have a customer that we want to do a tent job for, and has nothing to do with design or estimating,” Hill says.  “Mike Sullivan might enter a job that says, ‘Someone go out to the ink kitchen and give me a drawdown on a sample and leave it on my desk so I can show it to the customer.’  The advantage of WEBcnx over email is it will actually send the information in a job format to where if Mike bills on that he will have a lot of details connected to that job,” Gray says.

Files can be routed to anyone at Lawrence Paper.  For example, an industrial engineer might need to see the design in order to prepare a time study, says Susan Pearson, Senior Programmer.

What do Lawrence Paper employees like best about Impact and WEBcnx?  “For me it is all about flexibility,” Pearson says.  “I look at it from a data standpoint more than anything.  Suppose part of Arden Software’s basic installation does not include a field that calculates the percent of waste on a die cut item.  I can go into the system and with a little bit of code, create that field and put a formula behind it and that field can be transferred to WEBcnx.  From there I can send it to our AS/400.  It gives me great flexibility in maintaining the data and having whatever we need.”

“As an owner, I’m looking at the integration that we have here between our computer database, our design database and various art files,” Hill says.  “Files can be held in one place and we have a gold copy that cannot be duplicated with erroneous information.  To me, that is number one.  Number two is just being able to track files and not lose them.  You always have the risk that the customer or the salesman accidentally takes version 5 and nobody has anything marked as to which is the current version and maybe version 7 is the latest one that everybody signed off on.  The system will tell us, which is the current gold copy.  If someone wants to change that it only takes a little bit of work.”

Lawrence Paper also uses Impact in its die shop to make cutting dies.

North America Installs

Arden Software North America was established in 2008.  There are approximately 9000 installations of Impact worldwide with users equally split between corrugated converters, folding carton plants and die makers.
There are 1300 Impact installations in North America and more than 50% of North American corrugated production is now designed with Impact, says Silianoff.  “It’s had a lot of traction on the integrated side because of the database aspect and the ability to integrate business systems.  We’ve completed major integrations at International Paper all from one central database, so everything is centralized in these organizations.”

WEBcnx is intended for any size of packaging operation.  “It’s not a question of technology, it’s just how you scale it,” Silianoff says.  “The same technology that the big guys are using can also be applied to mom and pop brown box shops.”

And every company configures the workflow system to their unique needs.  For example, Lawrence Paper is tying it into their legacy AS/400 system, processing orders through Arden Software’s WEBcnx system.  Rock Tenn has purchased WEBcnx for its Folding Carton Division, and Packaging Corporation of America has also invested in WEBcnx.

To date, WEBcnx has been successfully integrated with business systems, such as Amtech, HRMS, Solarsoft, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, Witron, Kodak and custom systems, such as that installed at Lawrence Paper.  “We designed the system to be completely configurable so integration is very easy,” Silianoff says.

WEBcnx saves time and money at Firstan

Firstan Limited is one of the UK’s leading independent packaging manufacturers, producing over 500 million cartons a year at its Cambridgeshire plant. As part of the company’s continuous improvement programme, Firstan has installed Arden Software’s WEBcnx workflow management system which is significantly reducing design cycle times, saving time and money, and is delivering improved information flow between everyone involved in the pre-press lifecycle. Firstan say that as well as the financial and workflow benefits, WEBcnx is helping bring the company even closer to its customers.

Making The Information Flow Profitably

In 2010, Firstan embarked on a ‘Vision in Print’ project designed to reduce their production costs by increasing automation and removing the number of ‘hand off’ points in the company’s processes. Paul Hartwig, Production Director of Firstan, says, “We’ve always tried to automate things as much as possible, because it’s part of our company culture to be lean and profitable. The ‘Vision in Print’ project helped us to cut out a lot of steps in our processes, but to go further we needed something that went beyond what our management information system could do.  That’s where Arden Software’s WEBcnx came in.”

WEBcnx is a secure, browser-based system that makes design related information available to whoever needs it, whenever and wherever they need it. WEBcnx features powerful workflow automation capabilities that keep projects moving, often without any manual intervention whatsoever. Together these features dramatically cut the time internal processes take to complete and so help to cut costs, freeing up staff to handle other tasks.

Paul Hartwig says that the savings in time alone in the first year of WEBcnx use will pay for the system several times over. “Just by automating one process – creating a master estimate on our management information system from the CAD project file – WEBcnx will save us over a thousand hours of staff time. That’s without all the time saved by not having to chase people for information and not needing to check that manually entered data has been copied across correctly. Whichever way you look at it there’s a substantial saving.”

After just a few months of use Paul Hartwig says that he and his team can already see many further areas that WEBcnx will be able to help the company automate. “Over the longer term we could see those cost savings multiply two or three times,” he adds.

WEBcnx is capable of handling every aspect of a project from the first point of customer contact, through structural design, graphic design, virtual 3D sampling, design approval, tooling manufacture, pre-press, plate making, and on to production. 

Automated email notifications and a system dashboard using ‘traffic light’ indicators ensure that everybody involved in a project is made aware of the tasks they have to complete, as well as notifying them of key milestones as they occur. As a result, all projects maintain the highest possible visibility and are never ignored, misplaced, or stuck with any individual for longer than is necessary. “The system helps with day-to-day prioritising, flagging up when people need to do something, but can also be set for one-off events,” explains R&D Support Manager, Paul Stevens. “Say we have an urgent job that we need to get on press as soon as we can, but we also need new tooling for it. We can set up an automatic notification so that as soon as the tooling is dispatched from the diemaker, everyone involved in the project is informed,  be they managers, press operators, sales staff, whoever we want. Similarly the same group of people can be informed when the tooling arrives and is scanned by our good inwards staff. The result is that the job is on press with the minimum delay possible. WEBcnx automates all the mundane processing and passing of information needed to keep our day-to-day production efficient and in doing so, reduces our production costs and makes us leaner.”

Fewer Steps Means More Time For Everybody

Paul Hartwig says that the time saved by using WEBcnx allows staff to handle more through put and gives them more time to devote to relationship building with customers. “They can make more visits to their customers, which helps them better understand the customer’s business and builds a stronger partnership.” For further flexibility and functionality, Firstan’s staff can access WEBcnx from wherever they are. “If one of our designers is with a customer who has an urgent project, they can open their laptop or tablet, take the brief and raise a design request there and then that will go straight into the WEBcnx workflow and notify all of the other people who need to be informed. The customer could also be a member of that group, perhaps being advised when a draft design is available to view and approve. It brings us closer to our customers on a daily basis and gives them another reason to continue to place their business with us.”

One of the objectives of the WEBcnx implementation was that Firstan customers should be able to access those parts of the system that could help them to order and progress jobs. CAD & Design Manager Chris Hunt says that Firstan is rolling out this functionality among its customers. “One facility we are able to provide is ‘self serve’ access to the library of tools we hold for them. This means that when they are preparing new jobs, they can see the tools they already have, which may save them money through their re-use. Our customers can also raise design requests, so instead of them emailing a request to us, they enter it directly into WEBcnx, which guides them through the process so that they include all the information we need. They can do that at any time of the night or day, to suit themselves, and the design request will appear on a work list in Impact CAD here for our designers to progress. Customers can also approve artwork through WEBcnx. Once approved, WEBcnx automatically notifies our MIS and the job will appear on the production planning board. The customers we have already given WEBcnx access to say that using it is a really easy user experience.”

At Firstan, WEBcnx is fully integrated with the plant’s EFI Radius management information system, as it can be with systems from all of the main MIS and ERP vendors. One of the key benefits of this is that it completely eliminates duplication of data entry. “An order is raised in WEBcnx, passes directly into the CAD system and straight into the MIS without anyone touching it, which greatly reduces the chance of introducing errors,” explains I.T. Systems Manager, Tom Donaghey. “WEBcnx also maintains a secure, auditable record of every request, amendment, and associated document to ensure that you can access all of the information you need at the touch of a button.” This facility also allows Paul Hartwig and Chris Hunt to analyse the throughput of the CAD department so that the company has accurate figures for the design commitment needed to service each customer. “Previously we could only estimate how much time we spent on design, sampling, re-design and re-sampling for individual customers,” explains Chris Hunt. “Now we have that data to hand so we can identify which customers need the most servicing.”

Continuous Improvement

Prior to choosing WEBcnx, Firstan reviewed similar products available in the market, but favoured the Arden Software system because of its flexibility, recalls Tom Donaghey. “With WEBcnx we saw that we could add a lot of tweaks to parts of the system just to suit the way we work, or the way we want to work in future. Mostly we can implement these ourselves, but where we can’t Arden Software is happy to implement items for us. The other systems we saw didn’t have this flexibility. With them, what you get is what you get, and that sort of approach is no good to us.” These sentiments are echoed by Paul Hartwig. “We selected WEBcnx specifically because of its power and flexibility. It’s been designed in such a way that we can make it do pretty much anything we want it to. This applies to who we allow access to, and what they can see and do, as well as expanding the range and number of tasks we use.”

Firstan has been a keen development partner to Arden Software, with Tom Donaghey, Paul Stevens and Chris Hunt working closely with the Arden Software team throughout the implementation. “Having specified our requirements during the pre-implementation meetings, the implementation was painless,” recalls Tom Donaghey. “And since then the support we have had from them has been fantastic.”

Paul Hartwig says that Firstan are now starting to carry out ‘blue-sky’ thinking and are considering linking WEBcnx to some of the company’s systems beyond its MIS. “One idea is that when we receive an order we will get WEBcnx to check whether our ink stock levels are sufficient and order more ink if necessary. That’s the beauty of WEBcnx. It has the flexibility to deliver a workflow solution that meets any scenario we face, both now and in the future. It’s helping us ensure that we deliver a first class service to our customers and, importantly, a service that is profitable for us.”