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Room to grow: Mass spectrometer maker integrates supply chain and engineering tools with ERP


July 21, 2010
By Kelly Poffenberger

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To bolster a critical new product launch and cut down on repetitive data entry (as well as to anticipate future needs), Ionics Mass Spectrometry Group took the plunge and deployed a company-wide enterprise resource planning (ERP) system – and saw immediate results.

Founded in 2001, Bolton, Ont.-based Ionics manufactures solutions for customers in the mass spectrometry market. Over the years, the 50-employee company has emerged as a leading player in this market and its research has led to world-leading patented developments. Most recently, this included its small-footprint 3Q molecular analyzer, a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer with the highest of standards in performance, ease of use and serviceability, which the company launched in 2009.

As Ionics was planning to expand its existing product line, the company realized it needed integrated supply chain planning and engineering tools to manage product development and inventory. With thousands of parts per machine, using spreadsheets for engineering revision control and material planning was no longer efficient.

"With no MRP or ERP solution, we relied on manually entering data into spreadsheets," said Ionics vice-president of operations Vince Hamilton. For example, its new molecular analyzer "includes nearly 12,000 parts and we needed a better process to understand our inventory."

With no previous inventory management solution, the company turned to Epicor and Six S Partners, an Epicor certified partner, to implement a new ERP system with integrated supply-chain planning and engineering tools that could support the company’s critical new product launch and scale to support future needs. The company also selected Epicor 9 for real-time material requirements planning (MRP) and next-generation ERP functionality delivering in-context business insight and flexibility to meet both current requirements and future needs.

"Epicor’s staged implementation process was extremely beneficial for us," Hamilton said. "We took a ‘crawl, walk and run’ approach, starting off with a cost-effective manufacturing process platform that allows us to add other solutions down the road."

Epicor is delivered ‘out of the box,’ with built-in workflow processes that enable manufacturers to manage the entire order cycle: from marketing and sales through production and planning, sourcing and procurement, installation and service and, finally, financial recognition. It also offers a range of supply chain management and distribution capabilities, delivered within a single business platform.

After a four-month implementation period, Ionics went live with Epicor. During the beta testing period, the company was able to complete the Epicor training and see the benefits of a proven, formal planning and control tool. It also allowed the company enough time to input their inventory to support the upcoming product launch. It now has the ability to manage materials consumed, forecast end-product requirements, adjust production as forecasts change, and generate suggested purchase orders to fill anticipated gaps in raw material inventory.

"We started to see the value and capabilities of Epicor 9 on the shop floor right away," Hamilton added.

Ionics outfitted the Epicor platform with quality assurance, inventory management, purchasing and procurement modules. The solution provided greater visibility into the status of the inventory to determine what purchases needed to be made and when. The implementation also provided full engineering change control and management, and multiple revision control of products within a single solution

"And we see this as just the beginning," Hamilton continued.

Moving forward, the new platform will grow with the company, providing the ability to add new capabilities as needed. While Hamilton says Ionics plans to extend the use of Epicor by implementing CRM, quotation, sales, finance and accounting modules in the future, he says the company saw benefits right from the start.

Kelly Poffenberger is a consultant with Lutz PR.