Todays general market situation can be characterised by intense global competition, shorter product-life cycles and an increasing product variety. The survival of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) depends heavily on the ability to satisfy changing customer demands very quickly. Compared with common SMEs, Laser Job Shops can be characterised as small enterprises with 5 to 40 employees having very short planning horizons of some hours up to a maximum of 10 days and a very heterogeneous product spectrum. In order to produce their wide variety of offered products more efficiently, Laser Job Shops need a tool that will assist them in order planning and control to shorten delivery time and to improve the transparency of the actual loading situation. Most of the Laser Job Shops already have high quality support in the sense of technical information systems, such as CAD/CAM integration. But they still lack of an improved and affordable order planning, control and cost estimation system that can be integrated in their existing technical information system environment. Currently available production planning and control systems (PPC) are not flexible enough to support the user in such short time cycles as typical for Laser Job Shops. The reason for their insufficient flexibility is that they provide too many functions that are not used by SMEs since their manufacturing process can be mostly described as a one step production. PPC systems simply are too oversized for Laser Job Shops. Furthermore, available systems are too expensive and difficult to learn to be implemented easily in a company that has only 5-40 employees. This is why Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.(LZH) one of Europe's largest research and development institutes in the field of laser machining, and the Institut fur Integrierte Produktion Hannover gGmbH (IPH), a well known research organisation in the field of production planning and control, have been asked by Laser Job Shops throughout Europe to develop a low cost order planning and control system that satisfies the needs of SMEs, especially those of Laser Job Shops, but which can also be adapted to related branches, such as water or plasma cutting. The system that will be developed in the scope of the INFOLAS project will be designed for the specific needs of Laser Job Shops. It will provide specific functions, such as the possibility to keep track of any interrupted order on the machines. Furthermore, the system supports the planning team to get an optimised order sequence concerning the technical constraints. But even more, in a "put-on" architecture INFOLAS will allow to integrate separate software systems already implemented at the Job Shops site. Since INFOLAS will act as a work-flow management system, it will be able to call separate software modules, such for order administration or for CAD/CAM-design, and will handle the data flow between them. The purpose of INFOLAS is to give Laser Job Shops an easy tool to plan their orders in a graphical environment and integrate existing software modules with their specific databases in an Over-AII-Solution. With the help of INFOLAS SME's can keep track of their orders from order intake until delivery which will lead to higher transparency for cost estimation and hence to an improved ability to react flexibly to changing customer demands.
Funding SchemeCRS - Cooperative research contracts
1170 Villarreal De Alava
NG7 2TR Nottingham
7100 AB Winterswijk