Since Lantek Systems was founded in 1986 in Vitoria-Gasteiz, which is located in the Basque Country of Spain, it has grown to the point that it is now active in some 100 countries around the world. A designer of CAD/CAM software for oxy-fuel, plasma, laser, water jet, and punching operations, the company is now widely regarded as a pioneer of on-demand Management Software solutions (MES/ERP).
Lantek’s U.S. operations were established in 1998 in multiple locations that are now consolidated in Mason, Ohio, just northeast of Cincinnati. Kevin Must operates out of that city as the company’s U.S. marketing manager. “In the mid-eighties, our founder saw the transition to CNC machining and recognized the value not only of developing a productive interface between the human operator and the machine but of compiling a database of process information for future use,” he says. “Building that database into the DNA of our software systems is really what set us apart from the beginning.”
The first iteration of Lantek’s software technology was for the 2D coding of sheet metal, followed by a move into the manufacturing execution space around the turn of the century. This was followed by an avalanche of new products in a variety of categories (see sidebar), instigated by the founder’s observations of the industry, reports from the company’s sales force and field technicians, and especially solution-based customers requiring custom software packages. “We would take what we learned from meeting their needs and apply it to future releases from which everyone would benefit,” Must says. “In addition, we maintain an ongoing relationship with all of our customers to identify their pain points, and then we reinvest 20 percent of our annual revenues back into R&D.”
Lantek also relies on more than 100 OEM relationships, providing them with a huge library of machine tool knowledge to fine-tune their designs across process platforms to enable solutions for any potential customer, no matter their market specialization.
As for training, Lantek utilizes a number of methods, depending on the customer’s size and needs. The first level is conducted in company headquarters, where classes of no more than eight individuals meet for three days of in-depth preparation headed by Lantek experts, most of whom have shop floor/machine operator experience themselves. The second option involves onsite training by a technician generally suited for three employees or more, and the third is also held onsite for management-level instruction. The fourth mode is online training primarily utilized as a periodic refresher course.
Software updates are provided both annually and on an optional service pack basis. Lantek understands that each customer is unique and schedules individual updates for all eligible customers as their maintenance contract is up for renewal each year. Systems are backed up, then reloaded and tested before the Lantek experts sign off on their work to ensure that all machines are operational and running at top capacity.
Looking to the future, the company has a number of systems in development, including the Lantek 360 cloud-based suite of services. They will include Lantek Analytics, which configures with MES to store data for cross-checking and comparison; Lantek iQuoting, which will provide the automatic verification of stock availability and capacities to aid in quoting for non-technical sales staff; Lantek MetalShop, which is basically an online metal part shop for clients; and the Lantek Control Panel, which will allow data to be viewed and analyzed in real-time, showing the current status and availability of the machines, their workload, and receiving notifications regarding changes, providing a complete picture of a plant’s operations.
“As proud as we are of our existing lineup, we’re really excited about what the future holds,” Must says. “We’re also venturing into augmented reality and next level nesting which will allow machine operators to utilize inline cameras, making them more efficient and autonomous.”