The Challenge: The Whiting Group previously used a combination of systems for ERP, manufacturing, warehouse management, CRM and an in-house developed ISO tracking system.
"Our system had become bloated, so to speak," says Steve Kopelchak, who manages IT for The Whiting Group. "We had multiple databases talking to each other and some systems with their own database that didn't talk to the others easily."
Ultimately, they had five different systems, each with different logins.
"We were looking for something that was integrated and would do everything for us in one software package," says Kopelchak.
A next-generation ERP solution from Epicor Software fit the bill.
"We were afraid that we wouldn't be able to afford Epicor because their technology was so cutting-edge," says Kopelchak, when describing their ERP selection process. "But when we got the quote, Epicor was the lowest priced solution. One of the other solutions came in at twice the cost of Epicor by the time services were factored in, even though the offerings were similar."
The Strategy: The Whiting Group paired up with Epicor's local partner Six S Partners and followed Epicor's implementation methodology, but added a few ideas of its own. Five of those key ideas were:
• Own the system - The Whiting Group decided to take whatever time was necessary to learn the system thoroughly so that they could implement the new system as opposed to someone else setting it up for them. This would save money over the long run if they understood how the system functions and how they set it up when it came to troubleshooting and customizing.
• First you get good, then you get fast - The Whiting Group's philosophy was to make sure that their staff understood how the basic processes worked in the system first before they looked for shortcuts or more efficient ways to accomplish those tasks.
• Involve the key individuals who can shape the system - The Whiting Group started with a 10-person implementation team who brought process experience from many different parts of the company. As they built their Epicor process flow, the team was always challenged to ask, "Is there a better way?", to ensure they were always thinking outside of the box.
• Train and communicate - The Whiting Group involved everyone who would interact with the system early in the process by having weekly training sessions on Epicor. They started the training process immediately after the initial setup was done so they were able to have something to demonstrate with. This served as a twofold benefit: Users were able to interact with the system early on, and they were able to see the key functionality demonstrated, which helped them relate to how they would use the system. It also led to many good ideas that might otherwise have been missed by the implementation team.
• Implement in phases - Epicor came with many valuable tools that The Whiting Group did not already have. Even though it was tempting to "go live" with all of the new added functionality, they decided to implement Epicor in phases, starting with the core modules first to help in the transition.
"We wanted to give users time to learn their current functions and roles in the new system," says Kopelchak. "After everything was running smoothly, we started to phase in the 'new' and more advanced functionality that Epicor offers to help us get the most benefit from the solution."
The Results: Having one system to manage its multiple companies was the immediate advantage.
"It's been fantastic," says Kopelchak. "The ability to get real-time data and offer live feedback on what's happening within the company is the biggest advantage. This has helped us to make more strategic decisions on how to operate the business.
"We can't say enough about the ability to customize the system with updateable dashboards, business process management tools, and personalized business activity queries. Plus, with Epicor we now have an automated kanban system that supports our Lean manufacturing initiatives," Kopelchak continues.
"We are thrilled with our choice of Epicor as a partner, and look forward to our ongoing program of phasing in new modules and opportunities for further improvements."www.epicor.com
A condensed version of this case study ran as part of the 2011 Software Case Study Guide in the September 2011 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.