Although there are some customers who are using Eclipse as a stand-alone application, most have connected it to one or more outside software systems. The most common applications are:
- ERP (enterprise resource planning) software
- CAD/CAM software
The most common connection we see to Eclipse is with an ERP system. Once an order is released to production, it is transmitted to Eclipse by a variety of different technologies (see below). Orders can be already scheduled in the ERP system or sent to Eclipse to be scheduled there. There are also provisions to modify, delete, or place on hold orders that have already been sent to Eclipse. If Eclipse is maintaining a parallel coil inventory, new coil information is sent from the ERP system when the coil is added to the inventory.
As production data is uploaded from the machine controls to Eclipse, this raw data is also uploaded to the ERP system. This includes information about order completions, coil usage, scrap generation, operator performance, etc.
Very often, customers ask if we’ve worked with a particular ERP system (SAP, Oracle, Symix, etc). The answer is of course, yes. Unfortunately, with very few exceptions, we have been interfacing with a highly-customized manufacturing module. Out-of-the-box versions of these systems do not handle the needs of most companies in our industries. Fortunately, creating an interface between these ERP systems and Eclipse is a very straightforward process and has not been a problem so far. The work mainly involves mapping data fields between Eclipse and the ERP system.
There are a number of specialized applications where companies are designing parts in some type of CAD or engineering software and would like to transfer this engineering data to the manufacturing equipment. This is a very common practice in the metal machining industry and has started to become more popular with some roll forming and folding applications.
The following are examples of CAD/CAM connections that are commonly used with Eclipse:
- Punch patterns for purlins or other structural parts from metal building design software.
- Light gauge metal framing and roofing design software (i.e. Keymark, Argos, StrucSoft, John Butts, Applicad, etc.)
- HVAC design software.
- Custom-written design software.
Data Transfer Methods
There are currently three standard methods for transferring data between Eclipse and another application:
- ASCII comma-delimited text files
- XML files
- Direct SQL access via ODBC
ASCII text files have been used for this purpose for more than 20 years. This is the “least common denominator” since it doesn’t take much to create or process this kind of file. XML is a structured text format which offers a higher level of flexibility and is less sensitive to evolving standards. XML is certainly gaining broader industry acceptance and many software systems have XML-based formats for data exchange.
Since Eclipse and all ERP systems are based on databases, it often makes sense to more or less directly connect the databases together. This bypasses the otherwise necessary step of exporting information from the database of one system to a text file then importing the text file into the database of the other system. Because of its speed, this method is becoming more common for the purpose of coil validation.
The data exchange methods currently used with Eclipse were the result of customer requests. Please let us know if you have any suggestions for additional methods that would help your organization.