How CAD-ERP Integration Improves the Engineered-to-Order Purchasing Process

Engineering schematics involve hundreds, if not thousands, of individual drawings representing components of a final, manufactured product. Although engineers used to draw schematics by hand, most modern engineered-to-order (ETO) firms use computer-assisted design (CAD) software to streamline and optimize the process.

Engineers use CAD software to configure and test components digitally. After completing the design, they will manually input parts into a bill of materials (BOM) document to send to purchasing. Unfortunately, entering SKUs and quantities for each component takes time, and manual data entry often results in costly errors.

With an unstable supply chain and frequent supplier stockouts, any error can cause production delays and revenue loss, especially if your team has to send the wrong part back and wait for a replacement. If your procurement team doesn’t discover a mistake before the purchase order moves forward, production will suffer.

One of the best ways to avoid these problems is by integrating your CAD software with your company’s ERP system to enable data entry automation. Here’s how CAD-ERP integration can help engineering firms prevent costly mistakes and delays.

What is CAD-ERP Integration?

Manual data entry takes considerable time and effort for your engineers or data entry specialists to transfer item SKUs from your CAD to ERP software, leaving the door open for human error. Although you may not end up with such a drastic discrepancy that you find yourself with a fish tank instead of a steering wheel (your procurement team should spot that problem a mile away), you may end up with the wrong size or number of items.

Mistakes, even minor ones, can result in sometimes-devastating delays and revenue losses. Your engineers create and test hundreds of sketches, each with unique components, descriptions, quantities and measurement units that must be perfectly keyed into the BOM. If any part of the BOM is incorrect, it will throw off your order.

With rampant supply chain disruption and stockouts, you may have to wait weeks to receive your initial order. Then, if a component is incorrect or missing, you will have to return the item and wait another several days or weeks for a replacement to arrive. If you opt for standard shipping, your firm won’t be able to move forward with production. You could pay for expedited shipping to minimize disruption, but depending on the size and type of item, you could wind up with an enormous transportation fee.

Regardless of how you handle a purchasing error, your firm will have to deal with unforeseen and unjustifiable costs, production delays and ultimately, unhappy customers.

To solve this problem, link your CAD and ERP systems to automate data entry and reduce errors. With a continuous flow of information between systems, your engineers won’t have to spend hours manually inputting data into a BOM. Instead, the system will identify the products needed and forward the information to your company’s ERP system, ensuring your purchasing department receives the correct SKUs and quantities.

Additionally, your purchasing team won’t have to spend excessive time double- and triple-checking orders. They will also be able to see real-time BOM updates, so if an engineer changes their schematic, your purchasing team will see that change reflected in real-time and have an opportunity to adjust the order.

ERP-CAD integration reduces error on both sides of the equation and frees up valuable time for employees who otherwise already have a lot on their plates. Automatic data entry also reduces ramp time for new employees, who won’t be pressured to spot and correct last-minute mistakes for items they are unfamiliar with.

CAD integration doesn’t just save you time and money; it enables your business to operate more flexibly and productively.

What Does Integration Involve?

You can connect any popular CAD solution to your ERP, including AutoCAD, SketchUp, SOLIDWORKS, FreeCAD, Fusion 360, Onshape, LibreCAD, and others. There are two options for integrating your CAD and ERP systems.

An integration application like CADLink will connect your systems, but it won’t do much else. On the other hand, Sikich’s HEADSTART ETO solution doesn’t just link systems; it enables two-way data flow and smart automation so engineers can plug CSV data into the BOM with the click of a button. HEADSTART is powered by Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and allows ETO firms to streamline production from design and procurement to manufacturing and beyond.

CAD-ERP integration is quick and easy, so your team can take advantage of enhanced workflows in a matter of weeks. Integrating your systems means you won’t have to worry about time-consuming data entry or unforeseen delays. Instead, your teams can focus on what they do best – creating world-changing products and technologies.

To learn more or schedule a consultation, contact our team of experts.

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.

About the Author