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(OP)
Hi all,

I'm hoping for some insight on an effective (and not highly priced) piece of kit for managing purchases. We run-off a large BOM from Solid Edge, and it gets quite difficult having everyone update an Excel file on what's ordered, PO number, ETA, status, etcetc...

The software needs to be capable of

- 8+ PC users accessing and contributing / viewing
- Show clearly the status of individual parts ordered (maybe with colour coding)
- Show PO numbers and Job numbers for each order
- Keeps an inventory of stock codes, description and qty's already in possession (to prevent unnecissarily ordering more of what we already have on hand)
- Ideally, compliments Solid Edge directly

There's likely more useful features, but that gives a decent idea I think. Thanks so much for any help!
First post, new member, and new to the industry. Here's hoping for many prosperous years for all!

Cheers
David

So you may want some kind of data base software, if you're starting with an excel file from Solid Edge then perhaps Microsoft Access?

If you want it integrated with Solid Edge talk to your SE vendor or SE directly. Maybe one of the PDM/PLM systems can do what you want up to a point or they may have a plug in.

However, you may really need some kind of ERP system or a portion of one, we use SAP which aint cheap or simple.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

If you are looking for something inexpensive, can you cobble together a Microsoft Access database? It can handle fairly complex types of data... and a program can be written in Delphi (and, likely others) that can provide you with an executable relational database program. I was going to do this to track clients, projects, documents, etc. for the firm I'm with when I first started about 10 years back, only to find out that the IT department only had access installed on two of fifty stations...

Dik

As KENAT suggested, what you're looking for is a part of an Enterprise Resource Planner (ERP). There are many on the market, each with benefits and drawbacks.

dik's suggestion is not a bad one, although at face value, using access with a single set of centrally stored files is eventually a recipe for pain, but is a lot easier to set up than a centralised database designed for multiple user access. LibreOffice has a database package with a much more appealing upfront licence cost that can do a lot of the things that Access can, but compatibility with other programs can be problematic.

In terms of ERP, more options can be considered when whatever accounting or procurement functions are also incorporated into your requirements. The excel spreadsheet will obviously need to be used by multiple business functions (i.e. updated from Solidworks with component details, updated by procurement with purchase order details and so on). How that relates to your current accounting and procurement options will govern just how far you might push for an ERP.

Odoo is an open source ERP Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that may be able to combine some of the functions for you, but that's without knowing any more specifics. Expect a fair amount of cost in customisation no matter what platform you choose though.

(OP)
Thanks for your input. Microsoft Access has been used, but as Freddy mentioned - it did run it's course as far as useability goes.

Odoo looks interesting, and a SAP or EXO system would be ideal but the outlay and cost of customisation is tremendous, for sure!

Has anyone experienced 'Invoice Expert' at all?

Check out aligni.com. Its tag line is, "Cloud-based software for product lifecycle and manufacturing management." Given that you're operating with Excel spreadsheets and almost getting by now, I suspect it would be a good right-capability / right-cost / right-implementation time solution for you.

A while back, I signed one of my clients, a medical device startup managing prototype builds of up to 10 units consisting of about 75 parts, counting PCBs as a single part. I was driving the adoption from the mechanical side and never got the PCB BOMs into Aligni, but it would have handled that quite nicely. Their site is pretty nice in explaining the features, which can carry you from engineering BOM to production.

At the time I used Aligni, I would say the feature set and user-friendliness put it closer to the "manufacturing management" end of the spectrum than the product lifecycle management end. In my mind, that means it's tilted a little more toward the operations side than the engineering side. As an example, check out the BOM examples shown on the feature page. They show part number, manufacturer, and manufacturer part number, but not description. That's probably fine for purchasing and may be okay for manufacturing (although I think most mechanical assemblers would also appreciate part descriptions). But engineers working on a prototype think primarily in terms of functions and descriptions. If I recall correctly, you can turn on descriptions in BOMs. But at the time I used it, this part-number centric approach was a real hassle. For certain operations, I had to keep two windows open: One to see a list of part numbers, the other to look up what a given part number was.

They could have addressed this in the two years since I used it, but I would be on the look out for things like this while checking out their demo site and taking advantage of their 30 day free trial.

The pricing is reasonable, based on the number of parts in your database and the number of users:

• Up to 1500 parts - $79 +$7/user per month
• Up to 3000 parts - $99 +$17/user per month
• Up to 10000 parts - $199 +$27/user per month
For my consulting business, I went with BOMControl from Arena Solutions, a much more advanced (and expensive) PLM-only system with no operations functions beyond quoting and generating buy list.

- Rob Campbell, PE
Learn precision engineering at practicalprecision.com

For those familiar with the classic Parts&Vendors program, Aligni markets themselves strongly as a cloud-based P&V replacement. It is a wonderfully modern, cloud-based solution. I just wish the workflow for engineering-related tasks such as BOM building and searching for existing parts and COTS components were as smooth as in P&V.

- Rob Campbell, PE
Learn precision engineering at practicalprecision.com

FreddyNurk... I would not use a single file, but a series of files with binary data for all parts of the database. I would set it up as a relational database with each part of the data as a separate file. Easy to do with Delphi...

Dik

dik,
The reference in using access and single files was more to do with Access mostly being set up as a desktop application that accesses (sorry...) files stored somewhere, as an IT implementation aspect, rather than the specifics of what one can do with Delphi. The comparison was a bigger database (MySQL, PostGreSQL, MariaDB) which requires more effort from an IT point of view to set up and administer but handles some of the other issues better.

A lot of places end up implementing Access DBs by storing the DB files in a shared folder structure, which then does all sorts of awful things in terms of allowing multiple users to query the DB at once, allowing for errant users to relocate the DB files inadvertently and so on. I'm aware that its possible to separate tables out into discrete files and so on, but that isn't the issue.

Basically, even with Access, a lot of places end up with the same issues that would be experienced with use of excel files, just with better query capabilities and custom forms. One of the big restrictions in terms of getting such things off the ground is the relationship with IT, which is similar to your statement that there weren't enough Access licences provided.

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