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When Rock Solid Supply opened for business in 2003, owner Mike Brunelle delivered countertops from the back of his Nissan Pathfinder. Encouraged by initial success, Brunelle evolved towards a more sophisticated business model, offering high-quality, mass-produced granite countertops and bathroom cabinets. The company, headquartered in Barrie, Ont., differentiated itself by allowing its customers to mix-and-match colours of wood product with colours of granite, and by offering fixed prices with no surcharges or delivery charges. It was a winning combination – since its inception, the company has grown 30 per cent to 40 per cent per year. Jason Treslove was hired in the spring of 2010 to function as Rock Solid's operations manager. “I was brought on board to manage the company's growth,” says Treslove. “Rock Solid was working to capacity and having problems with organization. When I got here, the operations were being run on QuickBooks, and they had purchased a QuickBooks inventory module called Advanced Pro. I wasn't impressed – they'd spent over $5,000 preparing the information for Advanced Pro, and it still wasn't working.” With 15 years experience in Operations Management and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, Treslove had the skills to successfully implement Advance Pro. “As soon as I saw it running, I knew that we needed to upgrade to a different system. QuickBooks is great for a one-man-band, but as a business grows more complex it needs added sophistication.”Rock Solid spent six more months operating on the old system, in order for Treslove to demonstrate its limitations to the owner. “Change can be hard, and it was important to gain the owner's confidence in the decision to move away from Quickbooks,” says Treslove. “I was asking him to make a leap of faith that would determine how the company operates for at least the next 10 to 15 years. We knew going into it that changing the whole operating system would keep us up at night – especially with the company experiencing rapid growth. In February, 2011, we agreed that we needed a change to remain competitive, and that the best way to ensure our future success was to replace the old system with a fully integrated ERP.” The choice came down to Syspro ERP or Microsoft Dynamics NAV. “We compared them both, did our research, and had both companies give us demonstrations,” says Treslove. “It seemed to us that Syspro was able to offer more features and more out-of-the box functionality. That allows a business to get up-and-running quickly, for less cost and effort. With Syspro, you can essentially flip the power switch and run the business. We operated for a full year out of the box, whereas NAV would have required immediate customization.” The system Rock Solid ultimately chose was Syspro ERP. “We appreciated the robustness of Syspro,” says Treslove. “In addition, Syspro had many specific modules I wanted, such as Landed Cost Tracking (which allows you to track shipping and estimate its arrival time), a fail safe accounting system, Sales Analysis by customer and product, as well as Inventory Management and Distribution.” Because of Treslove's familiarity with Syspro, the implementation went smoothly, and Rock Solid did not require outside consultants. “The accounting required some thought,” says Tresolve. “It was more involved than in QuickBooks, but once you understand how an ERP functions, solving problems becomes fairly simple. To make things even easier, Syspro has a phenomenal self-help menu.” One of Treslove's first priorities was to optimize the company's inventory system. “It's critical for us to have accurate, real-time information on our inventory,” says Treslove. “We have several hundred SKUs, and we're always expanding that to increase customer selection. To make things more complicated, we order a lot of our product from overseas, and for some SKUs there's a three-month lead time.” Without proper control, inventories can become large and costly, in terms of capital, operational efficiency, and even business agility. “Inventories tend to grow with sales,” says Treslove, “but despite our own growth we've managed to resist that. We now keep larger quantities of fast-moving SKUs, and fewer of the slow. Whereas we used to store massive amounts of popular items, we now order smaller amounts more frequently. By dramatically increasing our inventory turns, we've reduced our inventory investment substantially. We're able to do that because Syspro anticipates our inventory needs, and keeps us from ordering as a knee-jerk reaction.” With the new inventory system, Rock Solid also enjoys much more accurate open orders. “Before Syspro our purchase orders were made by an e-mail from the owner. Now I can use Syspro to measure supplier performance – I can tell when they have open orders, and I can manage an active priority list using the inventory module.” Syspro has also automated Rock Solid's load planning. “We ship all over Canada,” says Treslove, “but maintain our own fleet of trucks for Ontario. Syspro allows us to break the province into zones, and plan our distribution over a two-week period. This week we're going to Windsor, next week to Ottawa. We can accumulate on a load for two weeks, and when it's ready to go we push a button and receive an automatically generated manifest. Syspro knows where the customers are geographically, what's being sent to them, and the volume of the truck. It sets up our loads accordingly, and we build into the truck using the manifest. That saves on double-handling and makes everyone's life easier. Shipping is a breeze, now, because Syspro does the entire process automatically.” Using the same load planning information, Syspro creates packing labels for Rock Solid's products. “In the past we used a specialized label system,” says Treslove. “Syspro wrote us a custom label program – it was inexpensive and saves us about six to eight man-hours a week.” The new labelling system has improved Rock Solid's order accuracy considerably. “The old way,” says Treslove, “relied on a human bringing information into Excel. The system was fraught with error - we were probably making mistakes on one out of every three orders. Now, because of Syspro, our order accuracy is up to near-perfect levels.” Syspro has also resolved a great deal of confusion around SKU numbers. “There used to be five or six SKU numbers for each item,” says Treslove. “Thanks to Syspro, everybody is now referring to the SKUs with the same information – that's crucial, because the next step is online ordering for our customers.” In the near future, Rock Solid plans to push its technological capabilities towards EDI (electronic data interchange). “Already, we transmit all of our documents electronically,” says Treslove. “All of our order acknowledgements and invoices are sent or faxed right out of Syspro. That's reduced our paper consumption significantly, and lowered labour costs. Even more significantly, we make a private label line, St. Lawrence Cabinets, for Lowes – the second largest hardware store in the U.S. Lowes is very automated and computer savvy, and they're pushing us to take the next steps. Right now we're moving into bar-coding, and soon we'll be matching up our systems through EDI.” According to Treslove, Rock Solid's investment in Syspro has been instrumental in allowing the company to grow and become increasingly profitable. “As a very rough measure of ROI,” says Treslove, “during all our recent growth we've only needed to add one person to our administration staff. But to me, that's not nearly as important as the fact that Syspro lets us keep our finger directly on the pulse of the business. We no longer need to transfer information to Excel and massage it – everything we want to know about our business is at our fingertips. Syspro has given us one-hundred percent confidence in our information, from order intake to final invoicing, and everything in between.” For more information on Rock Solid Supply, please visit: Odete Passingham is marketing manager for Syspro Canada.
At Autodesk University 2012 in Las Vegas, Luke Mihelcic, Simulation Product Marketing Manager at Autodesk, explains the experience and possibilities of the next generation of simulation tools – Autodesk Simulation 360. The simulation in the cloud service provides: • Full scope flow, thermal, and stress analysis capabilities for predicting and optimizing designs • Cloud integration offering unrivaled computing power • Intuitive CAD-driven interface built for mechanical engineers • A solution said to be a fraction the cost of traditional simulation tools
Caleb Funk, a solutions consultant with IMAGINiT Technologies and Autodesk University 2012 presenter, explains how the Autodesk Product Design Suite offering assists designers with providing the correct tool for the task at hand. The Product Design Suite takes the design workflow from conceptualization and engineering through to simulation and documentation.
Sabian Limited is one of the world's foremost cymbal manufacturers. The company was founded in 1981 in Meductic, New Brunswick, by Robert Zildjian, who coined the company name by combining the first two letters of his children's names Sally, Billy, and Andy. The name “Zildjian” means “Son of the Cymbal Maker” – a title that dates to the Ottoman Empire in 1623. At the time, cymbals were clashed at the head of the army, to frighten the Sultan's enemies. Today, Sabian cymbals have a gentler, but still dynamic position atop the drum kits and cymbal stands of some of the most famous drummers and percussionists in the world. Sabian employs some 125 people in nine offices, and distributes cymbals and other percussion instruments, along with stands and accessories, into approximately 120 countries worldwide. “We're in a niche industry,” says Greg Hartt, CMA, Manager of Information Systems for Sabian. “The market is dominated by four or five large players, and half a dozen smaller ones. There are no reliable statistics, but I estimate the worldwide market in cymbals to be from $150-million to $250-million per year.” Hartt, who joined Sabian in 1997, was the first-ever graduate of St. Mary's University in Halifax to matriculate with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Computer Science. “I'm your worst nightmare,” he quips, “an accountant and a geek.” In 1997, says Hartt, Sabian ran on an accounting program that was purchased the year before for $150,000. “In 1999 we had to deal with the fact that our accounting system wasn't Y2K compliant. The vendor informed me that the cost of compliance would be another $200,000 – for a program that didn't have a manufacturing system, or many of the other components we depend on today. Not wanting to throw good money after bad, I decided to take a look at an ERP.” Sabian, says Hartt, chose Syspro after a detailed search of product reviews, reference checks, and a thorough evaluation. "Our priority was to purchase a system that could be highly tailored, to play to our strengths and conform to our business processes. Syspro was exactly what we were looking for. Our initial investment was approximately $100,000. Half of that was spent on software and the other half on consultants. It was the best $100,000 we ever spent.” Over the years, says Hartt, Sabian has pushed the boundaries of what Syspro can do. “We've worked extensively with the Syspro Halifax office, and with other third parties, to write custom software. Syspro head office has even written scripts for us that are now part of their product. These days, we're writing our own software with Visual Basic. The beauty of Syspro is its flexibility – we can leverage our investment without affecting the core reliability of the software.” Despite having thousands of SKUs, Sabian manufacturers only three major product lines. The company's basic cymbals are formed from brass “uniroll” blanks, purchased from suppliers in whatever thickness desired. Sabian's premium “cast metal” cymbals are made of bronze, forged from an ancient family recipe in the Sabian foundry. When the metal is molten it's poured into discus-shaped ingots, which are cooled and allowed to rest before being subjected to a lengthy manufacturing process: rolling, shaping, cutting, hammering (by machine and hand), two stages of testing, and a period of maturation in what's known as the Sabian Vault. Before Syspro, says Hartt, Sabian had no way to track its products through the manufacturing process. “We didn't know how much copper or tin we had on hand, or how many uniroll blanks we had – and those have a 20-week delivery time. Syspro allows us to track the movement of product on the floor, and when we issue a job the system tells us how much materials and product we still have on the shelf. When we do a forecast we can see what we need over time. And when the customer places an order, we can provide a very good estimate of when that order will be filled. Syspro allows us to be more proactive, which gives us a definite competitive advantage.” Barcoding can present problems for manufacturers. “It used to be a nightmare for us,” says Hartt. “Each individual stock code has to have a barcode, and we have approximately 6,000 stock codes. We cannot buy labels ahead of time – we manufacture 500,000 cymbals in a year representing 1000 or 2000 SKUs. An economic quantity from a printer would be 10,000 labels – but we have SKUs we may never manufacture 10,000 times. Syspro allowed us to create a simple system that lets our factory people key in the stock code and get the barcode returned. By using barcode software that ties back to Syspro we've made the system much more efficient.” In 2003, the Syspro Halifax office authored a custom module to conform to the flow of Sabian's packaging process. “We brought the packaging system in six years after the barcode system,” says Hartt, “and now we're using the barcode to tell us what's in the box. When we hit the final function – close order – the barcode tells Syspro what we're shipping. All of the effort that used to go into packaging is now being done by computer – the whole process has flattened out for a substantial gain in efficiency.” Syspro has also made it easier for Sabian to process vendor invoices, such as credit cards. “There are close to 60 credit cards that we don't have to enter information for anymore,” says Hartt. “That's knocked a whole lot of processing time off at month end. All-in-all, Syspro creates better and more accessible information. That in itself makes us more efficient, because we're no longer dependent on a filing system – everything we need is right at our fingertips.” Although Sabian has never subjected Syspro to a formal ROI, Hartt is positive that the numbers add up to success. “When I came here in 1997 the company was making X-dollars in revenue,” he calculates, “selling about 480,000 cymbals annually. Fifteen years later we were at 2X-dollars in revenue, selling about 900,000 cymbals per year. During all that growth we only hired one additional person in an Administrative capacity. That's twice the volume with only one more body, and that would not have been possible without Syspro ERP.” For more information on Sabian’s products please visit their website: Odete Passingham is marketing manager for Syspro Canada.
CIMdata, Inc., a PLM strategic consulting and research firm has published a new white paper, Product Lifecycle Management and the Data Deluge, that reports on new research on PLM and “Big Data,” a phrase used to describe data sets so large and complex that they cannot be readily analyzed using traditional database techniques.Based on CIMdata’s global market research, companies all over the world rely on product lifecycle management (PLM) strategies to enhance their product development and manufacturing processes. Through the use of advanced information technology (IT) solutions, design tools, and other technologies, companies generate large amounts of data that document the evolving product across the lifecycle. Most data and process management solutions used at the core of these strategies include numerous ways to leverage managed data, including classification schemes to organize information, associative linking of related information, and search engines that can find information of interest. While this works reasonably well for the volume and type of information developed across the extended enterprise, companies also use information from the Internet to support their product development processes. Some of that information is well structured and easy to incorporate. But increasingly, companies are looking to the open Internet and World Wide Web to gather information from unstructured sources as well.The paper focuses on the intersection of PLM and what has come to be known as “Big Data.” The increasing volume and growth rate of data applicable to PLM is requiring companies to seek new methods to turn that data into actionable intelligence that can enhance business performance. The paper describes methods, including search-based techniques, that show promise to help address this problem.Product Lifecycle Management and the Data Deluge is available to be freely downloaded from CIMdata’s website at
The world of technology is no longer just reserved for technical experts – consumer technology now spearheads the technologies which businesses later adopt. Clever user interfaces (UI) and stylish hardware has also resulted in users building emotional bonds with hardware, such as their smartphone or tablet - something that was unheard of not so long ago.Most people have heard of ‘consumerization,’ where a technology first emerges in the consumer market and subsequently gets adopted into the corporate one. This transition of business as a technology driver, to that of merely an educated adopter, has been termed: ‘The consumerization of IT.’ The trends that drive consumer IT are also blurring the lines between business and consumer needs. Generally, this has focused on hardware, with the increasing adoption of smartphones and tablets in the workplace. More recently, it has expanded into the software market. Even the traditional Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) market has not been immune to this trend.Beyond significantly impacting the way in which people interact with one another, the rise of social media has also affected the software that they use. A new way of doing things has arrived. Enterprise software typically has to do with numbers, transactions, and so on. Social software is more focused on stimulating engagement. Changing the way of doing businessThere is now a new way of how technology can help businesses. The rise of the social enterprise is seeing social media elements being used in business and commercial contexts. Many companies have started to use social media elements to promote collaboration between their employees.In addition to collaboration, these elements are being implemented to get employees to share tips and ideas of how to improve the workplace, as well as best practices across teams. Imagine using elements of the Facebook experience, such as event invitations, user comments, and photo and video sharing, and applying that to a customer order on an ERP system.In the old days, orders were simply loaded into the system. Now, one can tag an order as an event, and make it more descriptive of its various elements. As the order goes through the system, people who are involved at that specific stage can leave a comment, for example: “There is going to be a delay in implementation time because a spare part had to be ordered.” Suddenly, the entire community of the organization involved in that order is not only updated but, engaging with one another.This also means that employees could be trading documents in real-time. Gartner estimates that half of enterprises will be using some sort of social network within the next two years. These social networks are not necessarily the mainstream ones that are currently in operation, which we hear about everyday, but rather customized ones developed by companies themselves, featuring similar elements. Collaborating on solutionsOn the group side, you can have an engineering department who is busy solving a particular problem, and have other departments discussing and working collaboratively on it, without being pulled into unnecessary meetings. This different way of doing business will require adjustments in the organization and indeed adaptation, no doubt.The social enterprise may prove difficult to embrace for those people who have more than 10 to 15 years of business experience. It will involve a significant culture change. On the flip side, it is highly probable that new employees will find their feet quicker in this collaborative environment. Going mobileThe rise of mobility will also benefit those employees on the factory floor, where computers are difficult to operate. Mobility allows a factory worker to walk around with a tablet, have wireless internet and intranet access, and flag potential issues that could delay an order.There are already a few large organizations that are using collaboration across multiple divisions and locations to improve the effectiveness of their operations. Social enterprise is about improving collaboration and not about slowing it down.In the past, ERP solutions allowed companies to do process integration. Today, with the rise of the social enterprise, companies can now do people integration as well. Phil Duff is CEO of Syspro, one of the world’s largest independent vendors of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. The company is operational in more than 60 countries across six continents. He regularly blogs on SYSPRO’s Smarter ERP blog:
Vessix Vascular is a privately held, venture-backed company developing novel radio frequency balloon catheter technology directed towards a variety of clinical applications including the treatment of medication resistant hypertension via percutaneous renal denervation, and peripheral in-stent restenosis. This new technology has the potential to help the one in three adults in the world who suffer from hypertension–a condition that is more common than cancer, diabetes and coronary artery disease combined. The company’s newest product, the V2 Renal Denervation System for hypertension, recently received CE Mark and promises to greatly simplify the renal denervation procedure. But Vessix Vascular also faced a unique challenge. As a small group, Vessix could ‘get by’ with their paper processes for managing engineering changes, product documentation and Bill of Material (BOM) information but knew this process would not be effective as it grew-particularly where they needed to track engineering change history with full audit trails to meet regulatory requirements. “Even as a start-up, we faced multiple challenges using a paper-based system to manage product revisions,” says Rinda Sama, director of operations and quality for Vessix Vascular. “Documents would pile up on people’s desks, which meant that items were not reviewed right away, causing delays, and many times by the time it was reviewed, the product was already in the next revision.” The team at Vessix had previous experience with Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software as a tool to automate product design and development processes. They wanted to implement PLM early on as a best practice for managing BOMs, engineering changes, product documentation, training records and Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPAs). “Implementing a solution early on prevents the company from being bogged down by legacy data and processes when transitioning to an automated system in the future and also helps to eliminate resistance to change from employees entrenched in those practices,” says Sama. “Tools that are affordable, already configured to meet the needs of medical device manufacturers and can adapt to a company’s processes make it easy to adopt PLM as a start-up and get off on the right foot.” As they evaluated PLM vendors, they were looking for a solution that did not require huge backend support and one they could install on their existing servers. A colleague at another medical device manufacturer recommended Omnify Software. “We looked at Agile due to previous experience with the software but found it to be very expensive and not quite what we needed as a start-up,” says Sama. “After viewing a demo of Empower PLM we found the tool to be identical to Agile, and even better in some areas, but with a much more affordable price tag.” Vessix selected the Empower PLM solution because it met their needs as a small start-up with an easy-to-use and configure system and also delivered the features they needed for controlled product development processes to meet compliance requirements. The scalability of Empower PLM ensured Vessix that they would be able to continue to use the tool as the company grew. Empower PLM has supplied Vessix Vascular with a scalable solution as they have already grown from ten users to 25. “Empower PLM is part of our day-to-day life at Vessix and the employees here love it,” says Sama. Empower PLM addressed Vessix Vascular’s manual revision management issues by providing team members with the ability to see all Engineering Change Orders (ECOs) in real-time. “ECOs no longer pile up on people’s desks. All of our product design and development processes are streamlined and viewable in a single snapshot and the time to process an ECO is transparent,” says Sama.  “We converted the Vessix Approved Supplier List from a static Excel spreadsheet to a dynamic Omnify list,” says Joseluis Espinosa, project manager and Omnify administrator at Vessix Vascular. “In this way, vendors are now able to be linked with individual parts and assemblies. Opening a vendor record displays every part acquired from them. Another advantage to dynamic vendor management is the simplicity with which secondary vendors are able to be qualified and linked to pre-existing parts.” Omnify Empower Vendor Management provides an additional layer of information not available through the legacy paper system. Similarly, all tools and equipment are now managed through the Omnify Empower Training Management Module to track calibration and preventive maintenance. “Since we have test and manufacturing equipment both in-house and offsite at various contract manufacturers, using Omnify Empower PLM for automated equipment tracking and maintenance has substantially increased our overall efficiency,” says Espinosa. Vessix Vascular is ISO 13485:2003 compliant, which specifies requirements for a quality management system. The company has already been through two ISO 13485 Quality System audits using the Omnify Empower PLM system. Prior to Empower PLM, they would have to find and print documents to pull for an audit. Now, they can quickly search in Empower PLM to show the necessary documents along with change history, who approved the change, when it was released, change justifications, and links to any other Omnify items relevant to that part. The company recently received their CE Mark, which will allow Vessix to begin marketing the product throughout the European Union, making their Renal Denervation System available to the wider number of people suffering from drug-resistant hypertension. “Omnify PLM offers some subtle yet powerful advantages to the CE Marking application and review process,” says Espinosa. “Design History Files and Phase completions were enhanced by citing project deliverables with dynamic links through the Omnify BOM structure, which increased the response speed when regulatory bodies inevitably requested more information. In addition, the web interface kept overseas employees in the loop with time-sensitive signoffs and item releases, and uploading legacy design documents en masse was a breeze, facilitating research into previous-generation projects to address regulatory concerns.”
Headquartered in Burlington, Ont., Higginson Equipment was founded in 1945 as a manufacturer of pneumatic and hydraulic NFPA-style cylinders, and as a distributor of fluid power and industrial product lines. In addition, the company manufactures “Economax” corrosion-resistant cylinders for the trucking industry, custom designs and builds special cylinders for a variety of uses, and leverages its expertise in pneumatics to create C-frame air presses.In 2009, Higginson decided to part ways with its 15-year-old business software. “There were three factors motivating our decision,” says company president Bill Allan. “First off, we'd been with our old system for 15 years. It was simplistic, and it didn't have a materials resource planning (MRP) component. The writing was on the wall. Secondly, the recession – we needed to increase our productivity without increasing our manpower. Finally, we received funding, in the form of two government grants, one through the Yves Landry Foundation, and the other through the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters' SMART Program. I was already a big believer in ERP. With government assistance I couldn't say no.”A 20-person company with revenues in the $7 million range, Higginson recognized the necessity of optimizing itself for the future. “We've been steadily growing,” says Allan, “but we needed something to help us get to the next level. We wanted to eliminate the inefficiencies and bottlenecks in our processes, and in doing so, we wanted to build a solid base for improvement and growth.”To facilitate its strategy, Higginson engaged its long-time VAR to perform an assessment and recommend an approach. “Our company-wide processes were analyzed in detail,” says Allan. “As a result we were advised to implement a new, more advanced ERP system. After doing due diligence, and on their recommendation, we chose Syspro.”When it came time for implementation, Higginson did it with alacrity. “We took what is usually a six-month process,” says Allan, “and did it in two months. We spent late nights, inventing on the fly, even made some rash decisions. Fortunately, the VAR that sold us Syspro gave us amazing support, and at the end of the day we got what we wanted.”Bill Allan says the company's new ERPbrought new efficiencies.As Higginson implemented its new ERP, says Allan, most of the old, inefficient processes were funnelled into one of the following categories:• Automated functions available in Syspro (e.g., automated work order creation from sales order; automatic serial numbers generation for manufactured parts) • Product configuration (to automatically define product specifications, Bill of Materials and cost at the time of quotation)• Integration with office productivity tools (such as Microsoft Office)• Electronic faxing and remote connectivity. “Syspro has made us much more efficient,” says Allan, “especially as far as the Bill of Materials (BOM) and work orders are concerned. We used to have to do an excel spread sheet for every job, and then more spreadsheets to calculate cut-lengths of different materials. Now we just put the model number in and Syspro calculates everything for us.” Before Syspro, adds Allan, Higginson's system supervisor, a highly skilled machine operator, sat at his desk three hours a day doing repetitive calculations. “Thanks to Syspro,” says Allan, “he's now gained three hours a day in production time. We've also managed to eliminate a good number of mistakes. Occasionally, in the past, we'd cut a batch of tie rods incorrectly – not anymore.”Because of Syspro's modular nature, one can add efficiencies to work-flow as time and energy allows. “One thing we want to do more of is load leveling,” says Allan. (Load levelling is the process of evenly distributing demand, in terms of orders or schedule, over a given period of time.) “We haven't quite figured out how to take advantage of it, but load levelling will give us a bird's-eye view of production. That will help us smooth things out, and see problems that might be coming down the road. It's a nice feature that we still have to leverage completely.”Asked to consider Syspro's ROI, Allan gives thanks again to the government-sponsored grants. “The grants considered,” says Allan, “Syspro is going to pay for itself in a year. The company is out-of-pocket approximately one person's yearly salary. For a relatively small amount of money, we automated our business processes and removed the repetitive paperwork. But the real money-saving consequence of Syspro is that we can now do more with fewer people – and that makes us more competitive. I would definitely recommend Syspro to any manufacturer.”For more information on Higginson Equipment, please visit Passingham is marketing manager for Syspro Canada.
The Company: Tigercat Industries is a full-range Canadian forestry equipment manufacturer. The company has established a leadership position in its market by developing premium-quality heavy-duty off-road equipment for use by logging professionals. With manufacturing facilities in Canada and Sweden, Tigercat has grown to become a worldwide distributor of a diverse line of forest harvesting systems.The Challenge: The company’s success rests partly on its commitment to using the latest, most-efficient product design and manufacturing technologies, according to Corey Vantilborg, engineering systems administrator. “At Tigercat, we have a history of pushing the envelope when it comes to technology, so we can quickly react to market and customer demands,” Vantilborg says. “Improving our efficiency and speed is part of our culture and we utilize the tools that best allow us to maintain our competitive edge.”The Strategy: Tigercat implemented the SolidWorks 3D design platform, installing 43 seats, to increase productivity in equipment development. The company later acquired SolidWorks Simulation software to realize additional time and cost savings by validating equipment designs. To gain even greater product development efficiencies, Tigercat implemented a product data management (PDM) system.“We had a number of designers and engineers who were working across four different plants accessing four different development servers,” Vantilborg recalls. “We believed that a PDM system would allow us to become more efficient by integrating our resources into a single operation, thereby realizing better revision control, more efficient workflows and greater access to design data.”For its PDM system, Tigercat chose SolidWorks Enterprise PDM software, implementing 200 seats, because of its ease of use, integration with SolidWorks software, customization potential and the support of Javelin Technologies, Tigercat’s local reseller. “At first, I did not think integrated PDM was a big deal,” Vantilborg explains. “But now that we are up and running, I can clearly see the efficiency benefits of interfacing with the vault directly from inside SolidWorks software.”The Results: By implementing SolidWorks Enterprise PDM software, Tigercat has integrated data management for all of its product lines – ranging from harvesters, bunchers and loaders to skidders, mulchers and attachments – with operations at all of its fabrication and assembly facilities in Canada and its manufacturing plant in Sweden. This integration has resulted in tighter revision control, reduced documentation costs and greater engineering and manufacturing efficiencies.“The ability of our engineering groups to communicate about models, maintain a revision history and capture design innovations has substantially increased efficiency,” Vantilborg stresses. “We have several hundred thousand unique design archives, all of which in the past required documentation with a paper drawing. The combination of digital signature capabilities and a heavily replicated system has led us to obsolete our costly, physical storage system. While we need to maintain some paper documents to meet legal requirements, we will otherwise eliminate paper altogether.”With PDM, Tigercat also has realized the ability to refine, automate and standardize its workflows. SolidWorks Enterprise PDM software provides a framework within which Tigercat can more efficiently develop products and manage design changes. “The PDM system eliminates shortcuts and immediate solutions in order to preserve quality and capture innovation,” Vantilborg notes. “The system forces you to follow the workflow procedure and provides accountability and traceability. As a result, our personnel give greater attention to detail and are faster at completing our processes. “There are no longer any quick fixes, which might solve an immediate need but have long-term, undesired ramifications. With the PDM system, all of our plants run differently and more efficiently,” he adds.Another positive impact of the PDM system is the way it has opened up Tigercat’s design data to departmental functions outside of engineering. By providing personnel in departments such as manufacturing planning, assembly, purchasing, sales and technical publications with access to the vault, the company has enjoyed additional productivity benefits.“Tigercat has always been an engineering-focused company,” Vantilborg points out. “By providing every department in the company with controlled access to the vault, we are realizing improved productivity throughout the organization. Purchasing uses the data to obtain quotes, manufacturing planning uses data for setup and shop floor computers give assembly personnel immediate access to the latest revisions. The system enables us to leverage our product design data throughout the organization.” www.solidworks.comA version of this case study ran as part of the 2012 Software Case Study Guide in the September 2012 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.
The Company: Lynch Fluid Controls Inc., a Canadian manufacturer of motion control manifold systems, is known in the industry for high quality system design, first-class manufacturing and diverse integration. With the largest dedicated manifold design team and the most automated manifold manufacturing plant in North America, Lynch’s systems support a variety of industries, including aerospace, mining, oil & gas, forestry, material handling, construction, entertainment, military, medical and many more.The Challenge: Lynch’s management team knew they were overdue to replace an outdated ERP system that could not grow in the way the company envisioned. Their terminal-based system had many limitations in the areas of reporting, material & resource planning and end-to-end process integration. Gavin Lynch, chief information officer, says, “We were looking for a solution that would solve complex problems like real-time data acquisition and reporting, forecasting, business intelligence and mobile access, all within a system that was visible and accessible by everyone at Lynch.”The roadmap for a technically advanced ERP system was far more complex than an upgrade of their old system. One of the challenging tasks of the ERP migration was moving away from old methods and accepting new and improved business processes and functions. During the migration, Lynch improved the efficiency of the business by redefining job roles and responsibilities, increasing the visibility of all operations using reporting capabilities, adopting paperless methods and automating what once were manual, tedious and time-consuming tasks.The Strategy: Lynch implemented SAP Business All-in-One, a business management solution as well as an analytics tool, SAP BusinessObjects, with the help of SAP partner Contax Inc. By leveraging industry best practices built into the solution, Lynch increased visibility into their business areas and procedures with minimal customization. With SAP’s advanced data management, Lynch realized newly acquired reporting and forecasting opportunities. Lynch describes SAP as, “the best ERP system that incorporates strategies employed by some of the biggest and most successful organizations in the world. In places where SAP was different from our current process, we were generally open to making the leap to standard SAP functionality. We didn’t want to customize SAP to be backwards compatible to our old ways. Nothing would be gained by doing that.”For phase one, Lynch implemented the Materials Management (MM), Financial Accounting (FICO), Sales & Distribution (SD) and Production Planning (PP) modules. Together, these application components carry out most of Lynch’s current business processes while providing the ability to extend such processes according to the changing needs of their rapidly growing business.Part of the strategy for their successful go-live was recognizing what the company could support on day one. Lynch says, “I am confident that an outsider could ask any one of our staff about what they think of SAP and the response would be positive.”The Results: Now, after six months of running SAP, Lynch is seeing better control over the production process, inventory management and job costing. Customer service has also been improved with more accurate quotations and up-to-date order status using SAP BusinessObjects. With their growth plan still on track for expansion, company officials feel confident that their SAP foundation gives them a better view of goals and obstacles that are down the version of this case study ran as part of the 2012 Software Case Study Guide in the September 2012 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.
The Company: Remec Broadband Wireless, with facilities in Kirkland, Que. and San Diego, Calif., as well as manufacturing in the Philippines, is a unique supplier of integrated microwave and millimeter wave subsystem solutions for the telecommunications market. The company designs and manufactures products that operate throughout the radio spectrum, from RF to microwave and millimeter wave frequencies, specializing in complex, high performance point-to-point radio modules and Outdoor Units (ODUs).The Challenge: Remec was challenged with arduous paper processes that had to be replicated at three facilities. The engineering change process at Remec required printing out a hard copy bill of material (BOM), redlining the BOM, scanning it in, distributing it via document control to obtain signatures and returning it to engineering for review. Complicating the problem even further was the fact that the two North American facilities had to communicate with the manufacturing facility in the Philippines - which added even more resource burdens and posed a high potential for user error. “In some instances, one person or site would do the engineering change correctly and the other would do it incorrectly so the changes were not in sync at both locations,” says Karla Spitz, document control, for Remec Broadband Wireless. “We needed to more effectively track changes in our products throughout our growing global company.”The company wanted to implement a system for paperless capture of Engineering Change Orders (ECOs) with online approvals and complete tracking of all changes, as well as maintain links to CARs (Corrective Action Reports), FAIs (First Article of Inspection) and TDAs (Temporary Deviation Article) for any given part. A single repository for product documentation and controlled product revisions across remote sites was extremely important to get everyone in sync. As a fast-growing company, Remec looked for an affordable, scalable Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution that also integrated tightly with their existing Intuitive ERP environment to avoid displacement of the current technology and provide one common database that sent data to and from the ERP system. “We were ultimately looking for the best bang for the buck in a PLM solution,” says Michiel Van Meurs, IT manager for Remec Broadband Wireless. “When we were introduced to Omnify Software we were amazed at how robust the solution was with a price that could be easily justified.”The Strategy: Prior to implementing Omnify Empower PLM, tracking ECOs was laborious both in recording the dates at each step and actually updating the spreadsheet for each ECO. It was a completely manual process and therefore subject to the vagaries people can create. Empower PLM provides a central, secure location for their global team to access and manage product documentation and engineering changes. Empower PLM has helped to eliminate the scenario of having several sets of hard copy redlines, that may or may not contradict each other, to add to an ECO. Remec Broadband Wireless created ECO workflows within Empower PLM that apply to all of their prototype and production work and created workflow stages to capture the activity that happens as well as the necessary electronic approvals. “Because Omnify Empower is flexible, we can continue to refine the workflows, add more functionality to our ECOs and continue in our effort to reduce the cycle time as well as devise new ways to be even more automated in the ECO flows,” says Spitz. “One way we plan to enhance our workflow process is by adding a notification stage to the TDAs in order to notify the responsible engineers (via adding their names into that stage as required) that the TDA is in work, rather than manually routing the hard copy and emailing them to let them know it’s in work.” Addressing the company’s goal for a common database that tied into its Intuitive ERP environment, the Omnify Empower PLM system is integrated with both the Canadian/U.S. Intuitive ERP database and the Philippines Intuitive ERP database. Data from approved change orders in Omnify Empower PLM is sent to one or both Intuitive ERP systems, depending on parameters set on each change order, ensuring both design and manufacturing teams have access to accurate product information. The Result: As a leading broadband wireless technology provider, improving and streamlining their product development processes supports the company’s focus on meeting the increasing needs of the growing customer base of communications industry leaders. Since implementing Omnify Empower PLM, the product data inconsistency rate at Remec Broadband Wireless has dropped dramatically. “Previously, we had about 20 per cent inconsistencies and we now have less than one half per cent,” says Van Meurs. “In addition, our ECO cycle time has gone from 39 days to 22 days – about a 46 per cent reduction.” Omnify Empower PLM has made it easier for remote sites to communicate with each other and the company is able to better track data and easily identifies bottlenecks for faster resolutions. “Omnify has become an integral part of our suite of business tools,” adds Van Meurs. “It has helped us begin to achieve our product development goals by allowing for more accurate data tracking, supplying a common database for all of our product documentation, providing workflows that everyone accesses the same way and being a common repository for changes that are to be reviewed by a global team. It has contributed to more effective communication between our sites and that helps everything run much more smoothly and quickly.” www.omnifysoft.comA version of this case study ran as part of the 2012 Software Case Study Guide in the September 2012 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.
The Company: Garland Industries, Inc., a leading manufacturer and distributor of high-performance roofing and flooring solutions for commercial, industrial, and public properties, has 11 different companies with eight offices in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. and more than 500 employees. The Challenge: The company’s home-grown Informix application simply did not offer the integration options, quick data access, and reporting capabilities Garland Industries needed to stay on top of its growth and expansion. “We were looking for true business intelligence,” says Bruce Emrick, director of IT for Garland Industries. “We needed a way to effectively analyze our data and workflow to improve our business processes.” The Strategy: Garland Industries’ process manufacturing is similar to that of chemical manufacturers; its various roofing products and coatings are made from formulas of rubber, sand and asphalt. While the company maintains a base stock level of its most popular products, other production is in response to orders. The company needed software with an MRP function and chose Sage ERP X3.“MRP allows us to see the entire scope,” says Dan Healey, Garland Industries’ plant manager. “Before I would have to look at every single order. Now, I can break down demand by dates and products. I also can track where our products are sent.” Computers in the warehouse enable staff to record manufacturing data in real time, driving efficiency throughout the organization. “We know precisely what inventory we have available at any time,” Emrick says. “There is no longer a delay in recording activity on our work orders.” The Results: Garland Industries is in the process of rolling out Sage ERP X3 to each of its 11 companies. Each successive implementation has been faster and easier that the one prior. “Most recently we converted our Canadian company to Sage ERP X3,” Emrick says. “It required only minimal man hours and was accomplished quickly. And we were able to accommodate the unique processing they required easily.” A version of this case study ran as part of the 2012 Software Case Study Guide in the September 2012 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.
The Company: Camille Cotran founded Densigraphix in 1979 in Montreal, Que., when he saw an opportunity to provide copier dealers with a lower cost alternative to OEM electrostatic copy paper. As the company’s dealer base migrated to selling and servicing the first generation of Japanese plain paper copiers, Densigraphix introduced generic toner to lower the cost per copy and increase the dealers’ profits. In 1989, Densigraphix saw the potential of the fledgling laser cartridge remanufacturing business. Ten years later, Densigraphix acquired Sel-Drum Corporation, a company that targeted the same customer base as Densigraphix, but focused on replacement copier parts such as drums, blades and fuser rollers. With the acquisition, Densigraphix has given its customers the ability to one-stop shop for both toners and copier parts.The Challenge: In today’s increasingly rapid and competitive business environment, the ability to communicate and share relevant information across the entire enterprise, as well as up and down the supply chain, is critical to satisfy a demanding marketplace. To achieve this goal requires an ERP system with a flexible, open architecture. Densigraphix chose to leverage the open architecture of the Syspro ERP system to refine and extend its business processes to sharpen its competitive edge.The Strategy: Densigraphix implemented Syspro Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. Syspro’s open architecture leverages Microsoft.NET component architecture and XML standards to deliver “ solutions,” an open communication framework that provides users with a standardized method for directly accessing Syspro’s business functionality. Through the use of business objects, in-house applications can be created to enhance, simplify and extend Syspro functionality onto websites, into warehouses and on to the shop floor. Since business objects use the core system’s security, third party developers are relieved of the burden of duplicating Syspro security settings in their external applications. Furthermore, since business objects are separate from Syspro source code, external applications will continue to work after upgrades to future versions of Syspro.The Results: B2B integration facilitates the transformation and exchange of information between Syspro ERP and other applications, including legacy systems. Densigraphix’s partners and customers can order, query and update their information, regardless of the conversion requirements and data formats used. “Our Internet applications write orders to Syspro using business objects,” says Cotran. “That enables us to quickly establish and manage Internet relationships with other organizations. It also makes it possible for us to automate document interchange effortlessly.”Using business objects and Syspro, Densigraphix has taken advantage of an open architecture to optimize its IT investment. “For many businesses, Syspro ERP works right out of the box, but for companies that are actively involved in refining their business processes, Syspro’s focus on flexibility and integration can open up a world of opportunity,” Cotran says.www.Syspro.comA version of this case study ran as part of the 2012 Software Case Study Guide in the September 2012 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.
The Company: Trimlite is a multi-site manufacturer of doors, specifically with glass inserts in the door or surrounding area. The company has two major sites in Canada, in Surrey, B.C., and Burlington, Ont.The Challenge: Trimlite had a legacy IT system in place that was not fully integrated across the company’s global operations. There were two disparate systems in place in Canada and the U.S., making it impossible for management to get a full picture at any given time of was happening in the business. In addition, only a few employees had the knowledge to run the dated IT system properly. The approach was very hands on and hard to run. Trimlite also had an arduous process in place for locating inventory in a timely manner and needed a new system that would provide accurate and timely order management and financial information. The old system had no bills of materials created, no structures, inadequate product costs due to manual entry and no KPMs. The system was not centralized and the hands-on approach made day-to-day activities very inefficient. Trimlite was in the market for technology that would be able to run itself, give the company accurate data to make informed decisions, and integrate global information into one easily digestible report.The Strategy: Once Trimlite identified these pain points in its business, the company turned to Infor10 ERP Business (Syteline) to streamline day-to-day operations across the network in real-time. Infor10 ERP Business provided the foundation to improve business efficiency, customer service and overall manufacturing productivity. The application delivered the complete package, with tight integration to tools for managing sales and customer service relationships, production, supply chain inventory and financial service management. In addition to gaining access to real-time information, Trimlite staff was able to seamlessly use this new and updated technology, increasing efficiency in day-to-day processes. The staff was able to create specific rules for the technology to perform upon and gain instant access to specific parts of the business. Manual entry and data redundancies were a thing of the past.The Results: Today, Trimlite has access to information in real-time, resulting in better customer service. Management and staff know immediately what they have, when they will have it, and how quickly they can get it out the door. In addition, the history that is built into the systems provides the team with greater visibility and knowledge into existing deals. The staff has gone from doing the work manually to letting the system do the work and managing the system. www.infor.comA version of this case study ran as part of the 2012 Software Case Study Guide in the September 2012 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.
If your organization is planning to implement ERP software without restructuring its operations, you can stop reading right now. In fact, you may as well take the money you're planning to spend on the project and throw it in the bin.  No matter how sophisticated your selected software may be, it can't make your organization significantly better in and of itself. In a best-case scenario, your organization will become marginally better. And, you can be sure that the value of the marginal improvements won't be anywhere near the costs of an expensive, time-consuming and resource-intensive implementation project.I’ll even take this assertion one step further. If your organization doesn’t use its ERP project as an opportunity to restructure its business, the project is very likely to get buried in the ERP graveyard, alongside the thousands of other ERP failures.Rather, your organization should use the project as a catalyst for change. It's an excuse to streamline and improve the business. ERP isn't a software project. It's a restructuring project; an organizational change project. You should look at your ERP project according to the 80/20 rule: 80 per cent of the benefits are driven by business process improvements and 20 per cent by the software itself.It’s important to keep these operational considerations in mind when evaluating ERP implementation proposals and service providers. If your organization is mid-sized, for example, and a service provider proposes end-to-end implementation in a couple of months' time, warning alarms should go off. Think about it. How long has your organization known that certain sub-optimal business processes have been hurting its performance? Probably for a long time. Yet, it has likely stuck with those sub-optimal processes because changing them has seemed too daunting or complex.So, given this context, do you really think a service provider can accomplish the following in a short two-month window: restructure the business processes, migrate data, properly train the users on the new processes AND system, implement the new processes and system and test everything thoroughly? The answer is a most probable no. Doing all of these things well takes time, skill, hard work and commitment.All too often (seemingly more so recently), companies come to us for re-implementation or project rescue services. In many of these cases – and this is perhaps an oversimplification – the initial services provider loaded the software, migrated some data, did a bit of testing and gave basic training on what system sessions (screens) look like.The service provider didn’t help with the restructuring – i.e. the main project component –  and didn’t ensure that the users learned the new system and processes (among many other problems we typically encounter, including testing and data migration).What ends up happening is that these companies run systems that don’t jive with their ways of doing business and their businesses still have the same operational inefficiencies as before. The only difference is that they now have fancy, shiny software systems that spew out meaningless financial reports and operational recommendations. The bottom line is this: there’s no magic bullet. There are no secret shortcuts. ERP implementation success is all about successfully integrating the ERP system into an optimized business environment.I’ve given the context that ERP implementation is first and foremost an operational restructuring project, it’s very important to evaluate your ERP service provider through the lens of business expertise (among other lenses).Jonathan Gross is vice-president of Pemeco, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in ERP selection and implementation. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . This article originally appeared on Pemeco's website at

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