Reducing complexity with engineer-to-order (ETO) automation is finally possible.

Some of the industry sectors represented by the ETO manufacturing process include:

  • Custom Architectural Woodworking
  • Custom Cabinets, Caseworks
  • Custom Store Fixtures
  • Custom Doors and Windows
  • Custom Furniture
  • Custom Oil and Gas Fabrication
  • Custom Solid Surface
  • Custom Metal Fabrication
  • Custom Yachts
  • Custom Electronics


This is of course a partial list, as more than 50% of all manufacturers now acknowledge aspects of plant operations include customization. Many ETO companies assume it is impossible to automate the entire end-to-end process surrounding product configuration, design, engineering, and production.

Complex manufacturers must determine ETO status

 ETO manufacturers build unique products designed to customer specifications and each product requires a unique set of item numbers, bills of material (BOMs), and routings. Estimates and quotations are required to win business; as technology gains from efficient software systems ranging from ERP (enterprise resource planning) to knowledge-based engineering, business operations have improved for ETO manufacturers as well as profit margins.

Products are complex with long lead times, typically months or even years, material is purchased for a specific project not for inventory.  All actual costs are allocated to a project and tracked against the original estimate.

Automation honors the engineering-centric ETO manufacturer

Until recently few ETO technology solutions were truly best-in-class. Technology which improves the manufacturing process by honoring the engineering teams has been distinctly absent for those managing ETO projects. Engineer-to-order manufacturers have many active projects with long lead times, require project-management capabilities to plan and schedule the stages of a project and communicate to customers.

COUNTERPART automation technology empowers engineers with the knowledge whether a project is on-schedule and on-budget. Automation provides real-time visibility of potential problems or overruns which must be corrected before costs escalate. Only when project management and the ability to collect and report costs are automated, can the potential profitability be realized.

ETO and Repetitive ERP Compared

ETO ERP Features Repetitive ERP Features
Unique products Standard products
Job order Sales order
Actual cost Standard cost
Purchase material to project Purchase material to stock
Ship from work in process Ship from finished goods
Product lead time in months/years Product lead time in days/weeks
Low-volume production High-volume production
Progress billing by milestones Invoice on delivery
Focus on production scheduling Focus on material planning
Project-driven Forecast-driven
Plan with project management Plan with master schedule
Installation on site Delivery to customer
Job-order-based Part-number-based
Many engineering changes Few engineering changes
Cost variances to original estimate Cost variances to standard
Deep bills of material Flat bills of material

Enter SOLIDWORKS® integration

Without integration to SOLIDWORKS engineers must manually enter data into property fields (causing potential human error). Alternatively, non-engineering administrators may manually enter data into fields inaccurately as well.

These fields can be directly automated into an ETO ERP technology, but sadly are often placed into a spreadsheet. It makes no sense with an automated technology model that someone is manually reentering data. These mistakes cause incorrect parts to be produced, costing both time and money.. continue reading the full article here.