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timeline and “buckets” of time and money are discussed, for instance. Traditional construction software helps manage this information; traditional ERP software does not. At the conclusion of the meeting, the department manager may work with the engineering manager to schedule 400 hours of labor within the next three months. Traditional ERP packages allow companies to slot in graphically who will work when, while traditional construction software packages will not. ETO vendors bridge the gap between traditional ERP and traditional construction software solutions. The ETO Institute (www. is a nonprofi t organization committed to helping North American engineer-toorder manufacturers compete more effectively in an increasingly competitive global environment. From articles to white papers focused on manufacturing and, in particular, engineer-to-order, there is also a bulletin board providing a forum for organizations to share ideas and information and to discuss challenges and business issues. While there are many trade organizations focused on specifi c industries, ETO manufacturers are defi ned by the characteristics of their business processes rather than by a single industry group. The goal of the ETO Institute is to help companies with similar business issues, regardless of industry. In the repetitive manufacturing world, the loss of one order may not have a signifi cant impact on the company; in the ETO world, the loss of a single contract can be devastating. Many domestic ETO companies are weaker and some have closed their doors forever because they could not survive the loss of “the big order.” Those ETO companies that thrive are doing so in part because the products they Who is ETO? With so many industry sectors addressed in the ETO manufacturing process it is often diffi cult to determine which fi rms constitute ETO. Below is a partial list of some of the ETO applications: Dies, tools & molds Machine tools Industrial cranes and hoists Farm machinery & equipment Metalworking machinery Construction machinery Foundry machinery Mining machinery Industrial automation equipment Oil & gas equipment Medical equipment Industrial tractors and trailers Custom boat builders Power generation equipment Food industries machinery Conveyors & material handling equipment Paper industries machinery Transportation equipment Communications equipment Custom sign makers manufacture cannot be outsourced globally, when so much of the installation must occur on the plant fl oor. While this distinction does provide a competitive advantage, ETO companies must operate at optimum lean effi ciency to prevail over others in similar circumstances. North American manufacturers can be competitive in the global economy but must adopt new technology and business processes. Unfortunately many ETO companies that decide to invest in new technology make the wrong choice. This is primarily because many of the vendors that provide solutions to ETO companies are niche players in their respective markets and are not as well known as their larger rivals. ETO manufacturers’ competitive advantage will quickly evaporate if they do not fi nd the right solutions to maintain a lean methodology and appropriate technology. Supply chain Businessexcellence May 07 30

Infrastructure May 07 Businessexcellence 31 In any warehousing or manufacturing operation, errors can creep in at all stages of the process, the most common cause being human error. Whether in putting a product away in the wrong location, or picking the wrong product or an inaccurate quantity of the right product, the root cause of problems in the warehouse can almost always be traced back to something involving an error on the part of an individual. Short of having a fully automated receipt, movement, pick and ship warehouse, no system will ever completely eliminate the human component of warehouse operations. However, systems can help to significantly reduce the opportunity for human error and, at the same time, improve overall productivity throughout the warehouse. One of the most common warehouse problems is a large scale write-on or write-off of inventory at year-end. This occurs because of three factors. First, the control of the movement of inventory within the warehouse is not adequate to insure that material movement of any kind in the facility is accurately tracked. Second, there are inadequate controls over the receipt of material to insure that the quantity received is accurately recorded. Finally, the controls over the shipping process are similarly inadequate, resulting in shipping of either the incorrect product or the correct product in incorrect quantities. Material in the warehouse is often not located where the system thinks it is. This is a common problem which, unfortunately, results in a significant loss of productivity. When product cannot be found where it is supposed to be, the individual needing the material must spend An integrated warehouse management system is essential to an efficient manufacturing facility, says Thomas R. Cutler warehousing Joined up