Since its creation in 1997, Erpro has pioneered the use of new production methods. It acquired an additive manufacturing machine equipped with selective laser sintering (SLS) technology – an additive manufacturing process that belongs to the powder bed fusion family.
In 2001, it was the first company in the world to acquire a high-resolution stereolithography machine. In 2005, Sprint, another subsidiary of Erpro Group, acquired its first metal powder sintering machine to create injection moulds for plastic parts. "Erpro has made additive manufacturing part of its DNA," says Cyrille Vue, the holding company's director.
The Erpro Group comprises six companies: Erpro (prototyping); Sprint (metal additive manufacturing, plastic injection and machining); 3D Nord Factory (small series plastic moulding); Dpn (plastic injection); Silinov (manufacture of silicone parts in 3D and moulding); and Erpro 3D Factory (a start-up specialising in large-scale additive manufacturing)
The Group uses the powerful WorkPlan production planning software from Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division to automate and manage processes such as job costing, quotations, sales order processing, planning, quality, time, purchasing and stock management.
Workshops in a number of companies throughout the Group also use WorkNC, Hexagon’s automatic CNC software for surface and solid models in mould, die and tooling businesses for 2- to 5-axis CNC programming.
The synergy of these processes enables the company to produce prototypes, pre-series and large series, with materials ranging from metal to plastic. A good example of this capacity: 18 million eyelash brushes, manufactured by the start-up Erpro 3D Factory, were delivered to luxury cosmetics brand Chanel in two years.
The essence of 3D printing is digital: an object is designed in 3D then a toolpath is generated and used to manufacture it after its transformation into ISO programs by the post-processor corresponding to the machine.
In addition to the digital thread for manufacturing, there is also the thread for the management system: "We abandoned the first enterprise resource planning (ERP) system we had acquired because it was not suited to our needs,” recalls Cyrille Vue. “A new contract we were tendering for required simplicity, speed, agility and flexibility from the future software package. At the end of our comparison of various systems on the market, we chose the WorkPlan software from Hexagon."
Implementing WorkPlan was simple, and easily adopted by all employees in the departments using it: sales, quality, production, and admin for example. The speed of WorkPlan's operation can be measured in a few clicks, such as the conversion of a quotation into an order, then into an order form to the relevant department.
Its agility is put to the test every day thanks to its ability to accompany clients right up to the launch of the manufacture of their products. For example, an order for 100 green cups can be changed in a few clicks to an order for 25 magenta, 25 yellow, 25 cyan and 25 black. Flexibility is also important: a delivery can be distributed differently from initially planned, just before it leaves.
Mr Vue says: "The flow of information in WorkPlan must be continuous and precise. This is particularly important when we’re looking at the profitability of an operation. In this respect, WorkPlan has fully supported the growth of Erpro Group, acting as its production planning backbone.”
Specialising in thermoplastic injection, from prototypes to small series, another group company Dpn works mainly in the automotive sector. From design through to the manufacture of the finished product, the company assists companies in carrying out their projects. As a market leader for more than 20 years, the business is regarded by car manufacturers and equipment suppliers as a ‘go to’ mould maker. Dpn has now integrated WorkPlan to optimise and organise its production cycles.
Pascal Renoud, director of the Dpn plant in Tremblay-en-France, says: "WorkNC also plays a part in programming machining toolpaths to reduce cycle time, freeing up the machines much quicker, ready for the next job.
“After being checked and validated, the moulds that come out of the machining process can be used to produce complex thermoplastic parts in all types of plastic, including PEEK, which is widely used in the aeronautics industry, thanks to its mechanical characteristics and resistance to high temperatures,"
WorkPlan serves as a guideline in the production processes and is also a valuable working tool for the sales administration. It manages both the digital and physical flows once the tender has been won.
Pascal Renoud concludes: “WorkPlan allows us to monitor the progress of the project in real-time and to produce a business report to assess its profitability. This database is invaluable for similar projects in the consultation process, allowing us to rectify our estimates if necessary, in a very quick, reactive manner."
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