In the Beginning…
Spreadsheets are often used as a convenient way to store reference materials when other solutions are unavailable. Unfortunately, for many tasks they are more convenient than capable and part management is a very good example. Spreadsheets are initially an attractive tool for part management; they’re easily accessible and engineers are usually familiar with the tools (Excel, Open Office, etc). Unfortunately, the limitations reveal themselves quickly.
When Spreadsheets Break Down
While spreadsheets are adequate for keeping a list of commonly-used parts, a part list on an assembly, or even inventory at a particular location, the cross-linking among these sheets is virtually non-existent. For example, given a part, it is difficult to see which projects make use of that part. It’s also very tedious to reduce inventory when parts on an assembly are converted to finished goods during the assembly process. This is where the Aligni’s relational database becomes essential. With a database, the tool can quickly link a part to all part lists, it’s purchase history, inventory history, and so on.
Having all this information at your fingertips increases efficiency and productivity across your collaboration: Engineers can see which parts can most effectively be re-used on new designs. Managers can easily view cost information for an assembly at various build quantities. Purchasing personnel can view past quoting activity. And inventory managers get perspective on lead time and availability to schedule assembly slots.
The flat representation of a spreadsheet descends into chaos as your organization grows from even a small handful of projects. On the other hand, a well-crafted database with a thoughtful user interface becomes more important as you expand.
A Normalized Relational Database
Your Aligni database begins life as a clear slate. We’ve defined the “schema” or organization of the database, but the entities within it need to be provided by you. The Getting Started process will walk you through the initial entry of data for your site. This process normally doesn’t take too long and, when you’re done, you’ll have a database that is well-linked and easy to maintain. During normal operation, the addition of new parts and suppliers is a lightweight operation as you work on new projects and form new relationships.
Meet “Consolidated Diversified”
Consolidated Diversified is the company behind our demo site. They manufacture a number of electronic widgets, including a highly sophisticated Quadcopter flying vehicle.
Marcus – Owner / Founder / CEO
Marcus is the owner of Consolidated Diversified. He keeps a good handle on his operations with a relentless drive for efficiency and employee satisfaction. He discovered Aligni several years ago and now can’t imagine doing business without it. “Aligni has dramatically reduced our overhead and improved operational efficiency.” — Marcus, CEO Consolidated Diversified.
Clive – Chief Engineer
With a background in Electrical Engineering, Clive runs a small engineering team working on a handful of products. They’re perpetually understaffed, but motivated to produce great products. On a typical day, Clive might work on schematics in their CAD software, review a circuit board layout, write some Verilog for an FPGA design, and maybe even code a little PHP on the company website.
Veronica – Procurement Specialist
After working for several companies over the years, Veronica met Marcus at their last company and decided to help him start Consolidated Diversified. She’s a procurement maven and really knows her way around electronics distribution with an expert knowledge of terminology like “registrations”, “book-to-bill ratio”, and “expedite!”. She loves Aligni’s ActiveQuote and Purchasing features!
Tobias – Manufacturing Guru
Tobias was born on a factory floor. Literally. He knows everything there is to know about inventory management, SMT manufacturing, and has every ISO standard committed to memory. His biggest pet peeve? “A line-down situation. Between Veronica and Aligni, that doesn’t happen. Not on my watch.” He collects vintage quadrotors and has several models dating back to the early 21st century.
Quadcopter – Flagship Product
A fully-autonomous (or manually-controlled) quadrotor design, the Consolidated Diversified Quadcopter was conceived by Clive and Marcus several years ago as a “helper robot” to perform odd jobs around the house. It quickly gained widespread market acceptance and has been the envy of robotics firms the world over.