American Software Inc.AtlantaFlow Manufacturing

Although there are a few other software packages that support the concepts of lean manufacturing, American Software's Flow Manufacturing system is designed to work with leading enterprise-resource-planning (ERP) packages. The Flow Manufacturing product had been integrated with JBA International's ERP system in 1998, but this year American Software extended the software package to work with numerous ERP systems by using IBM's MQSeries of messaging and integration software. Flow Manufacturing now can be integrated with ERP systems from a number of software vendors, including Baan, SAP, J.D. Edwards, MAPICS, and SSA. "The benefits of integrating ERP with Flow Manufacturing are immediate and impressive," says Karin Bursa, vice president of marketing at American Software. "Optimized production flexibility, lowered manufacturing leadtime, and increased labor productivity are all direct rewards." Flow Manufacturing supports a variety of lean concepts on the plant floor, including production-line configuration, line balancing, engineering-change support, kanban, in-line quality checking, method sheets, and product costing. From the start, the software has been positioned as an add-on module for ERP. American's integration of Flow Manufacturing with ERP systems is a big step toward bridging the gap that exists between ERP and lean-manufacturing concepts. "ERP vendors have refused to acknowledge that users need additional flow-related functionality," states a report by AMR Research Inc. entitled "ERP and Flow: The Status Quo Meets Its Replacement." AMR recommended that ERP-software vendors "sell flow manufacturing as an extension to ERP." John Teresko, John Sheridan, Tim Stevens, Doug Bartholomew, Patricia Panchak, Tonya Vinas, Samuel Greengard, Kristin Ohlson, and Barbara Schmitz contributed to this article.

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