Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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Syspro: Steel fabricator leverages ERP to automate production, track products


September 11, 2009
By André Voshart

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THE COMPANY: Mississauga, Ont.-based Atlantic Tube & Steel (AT&S) is a manufacturer of automotive and structural steel tubing. It runs two mills: one makes mechanical tubing, predominantly for the automotive aftermarket; and the other manufactures larger-sized structural tubing used in a host of applications, such as conveyor belt rolls, jackposts and trailer hitch tubing.

Click to expandTHE CHALLENGE: “Over the past 30 years,” president Frank Cancelli says, “the business has grown increasingly complex on all fronts.” AT&S controller Marvin Bavcevic, who was in charge of the implementation, said that before the transition, they were using a DOS-based program with a very limited ability to analyze results. “It was a dinosaur, and our management decisions were being made in the absence of sufficient data.”

THE STRATEGY: “To compete effectively,” Cancelli says, “we needed to implement an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. After researching the alternatives, we chose Syspro ERP because we believed it would create business efficiencies, help us maintain our inventory and volume advantage, and ensure that we conform to our industry’s strict quality requirements.” They made the decision to go with Syspro in August 2007, and then in December, they ran Syspro in parallel with their old program. Finally, on Jan. 1, 2008, they went live.

THE RESULTS: One of the ERP capabilities AT&S needed the most was product traceability. “Quality, and the perception of quality, are of paramount importance in our industry,” AT&S sales manager Larry Brandon says. “That’s why Syspro’s lot traceability component is a key benefit.” Steel, Brandon explains, can be manufactured in many forms using myriad components. “Too much or too little of certain components (carbon, for example) will affect the product’s malleability. And since many of our customers need to bend and shape the steel they buy, it must conform precisely to exacting specifications.”

If an order of steel does not conform to specification, and if AT&S receives a customer complaint, the company can now use Syspro to quickly identify the relevant production run. “With that information, we can take all the rest of that steel out of stock,” Brandon says. “That way we avoid sending the wrong product to other customers, which helps us eliminate, or at least minimize, any negative quality perceptions that might arise in the market.” Lot traceability also allows AT&S to drill down to the source components of any production run.

Implementing Syspro has enabled AT&S to fully automate its production floors. “That allows us to look at the shop floor in terms of reducing man-hours,” Bavcevic says. “In addition, with Syspro we no longer need our manual production reporting process. … These days, the whole production process, from input to output, is all recorded and reported by Syspro.”

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