TOP-end brands in the automation software sector, over the past 12 months, have become so integrateable that fabricators of any size can make the leap into the highest of industry technologies.
Until recently, there was tendency for companies to consider single brand 'universal' software to perform a variety of automation functions right across the shop floor.
But, according to Ingo Bentrup, managing director of Advanced Sheetmetal Technologies , the industry now finds itself at an interesting crossroad where those companies looking to take this step forward can affordably do so.
"There has been a lot of debate in our industry regarding low-cost single brand software versus the implementation of function specific software (of various brands) which is slightly more expensive but far more powerful," Mr Bentrup said.
"But there is now a new level of integration which holds the key. Top end automation software has headed down the same path as, say, products from the Microsoft suite, which have a strong level of integrateability with non-Microsoft products.
"So in the sheetmetal automation sector there are now similar standards of change for generic information that allows information to pass from one software to another, hence different machines on the same shop floor can use a variety of specialised softwares which can talk to one another across the processes.
"Sheetmetal and fabrication shops recognise they can now make an informed move into the arena of specialised software gradually and as specific needs arise."
Mr Bentrup believes one-brand-does-all software can sometimes lack facilities in individual modules primary because it functions as a universal package and technically it is difficult for them to be completely strong and detailed in every module.
The options are extensive, but the detail is often limited, and fabrication shops which take this step from manual operation into software driven automation often overlook this important fact the first time around.
"On the shopfloor, operators often find a universal software creates a management problem as it takes a lot of specialisation across all the automation fields to manage it at an optimum.
"Why our company moved in the direction of brand specific supply is that our clients, when they buy specific software, receive a completely dedicated line of technical assistance from experts that thoroughly know the capabilities of their product.
"Gone is the common scenario with universal software where refinement of one module may cause an operator to overlook another section of the overall function, thus causing it to fall well behind in capability across the whole production chain."
Advanced Sheetmetal Technologies is a recognised distributor in Australia and New Zealand of quality automation software including Metalix, JetCAM, VBend and AutoPol.