Sept. 29, 2014 – The Company: Privately held and based in Ottawa, Ont., TrueNorth Avionics is an airborne connectivity company that designs, develops and manufactures satellite communication solutions for high-end corporate jets and VIP aircrafts.
TrueNorth enables jet owners and operators to offer airborne telecommunications equipment that allows passengers to stay connected while they’re in flight. Because TrueNorth delivers the ability to make critical phone calls, send and receive faxes, connect to the Internet and send email — regardless of travel schedule and location — the company’s products are in high demand, and its client base continues to grow rapidly.
The Challenge: Six years of rapid growth — including the establishment of international offices — put a strain on the company’s product development processes. TrueNorth needed to accelerate time-to-market for new product introductions without sacrificing quality.
The difficulties of managing fast-changing inventory figures and customer demand magnified the impact of business decisions. In order to out-maneuver and out-innovate the competition, TrueNorth made a strategic decision to move towards lean manufacturing, seeking to eliminate any expenditures not focused on creating value for the end customer. But TrueNorth introduced a twist into the lean manufacturing equation — cloud computing.
The Strategy: TrueNorth implemented cloud-based NetSuite ERP to provide greater control over its data and operational processes, while eliminating the high capital costs of in-house servers and software, and the exorbitant IT resources required to troubleshoot and maintain those systems.
With the ERP system in place, TrueNorth’s executive team recognized the need to make sure that precise, up-to-date product revision data and document approvals were reflected in NetSuite. To help control product changes, co-ordinate their supply chain and continue scaling production to meet demand, TrueNorth turned to BOMControl, a cloud-based product life cycle management (PLM) application.
The Results: Since the PLM implementation, TrueNorth can more readily maintain accuracy within and across multiple bills of materials (BOMs) without having to open up each BOM individually. Engineering change orders (ECOs) move quickly through review processes with less delay, fewer opportunities for error and greater efficiency. TrueNorth now keeps all core product data within PLM, which in turn seamlessly integrates with NetSuite. When a change takes place on the engineering side of the house, NetSuite is automatically updated with the information in the appropriate areas. Everyone has access to the up-to-date and accurate information that lets decision-making move along quickly.
The company now enjoys timely inventory views across the entire supply chain. The views are integrated with a demand planning module and real-time executive dashboards for comprehensive business decision-making.
As a result of the NetSuite and PLM integration, TrueNorth completed a critical audit and earned its first-ever AS9100 certification, demonstrating the company’s ability to achieve the highest level of quality in manufacturing in the aerospace industry. This certification is required to sell to OEMs in TrueNorth’s target markets, an important expansion of its sales opportunities.
This case study originally appeared in September’s Automation Software Case Study Guide.