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.