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, 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.”