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THE COMPANY: Incorporated in 1992, and headquartered in Montreal, Que., WeighPack Systems is a packaging equipment industry leader with an extensive, high-quality product line, and leading-edge packaging equipment designs. For more than 18 years, WeighPack has delivered packaging equipment for applications throughout the world, within industries as diverse as food, hardware and pharmaceuticals. "Our core business is the manufacture of weighing and bagging equipment," says company president and founder, Louis Taraborelli. "Our machines process snack food, frozen food, candy, hardware - anything in a bag." While WeighPack's primary market is the U.S., the company is rapidly expanding its international presence with locations in Chicago, Las Vegas and Shanghai, and a new location in Southern Florida. THE CHALLENGE: "We're not a high-volume business," says Taraborelli. "Most of our sales are build-to-order. Our products are extremely variable, and our customers typically require a high level of customization. In consequence, we need to maintain a huge inventory of stock codes and componentry across multiple warehouses and subsidiary companies. We require an ERP that gives us complete control over our inventory, and provides us with real-time financial information." THE STRATEGY: During the early 1990s, WeighPack hired a third-party consultant to research the ERP products available at the time. "We considered several brands of ERP," says Taraborelli, "but there was one product that clearly came out on top. In 1995, we implemented Syspro." Today, WeighPack has been leveraging Syspro for more than15 years. To prospective ERP users, Taraborelli offers a word of advice. "To gain optimal benefits from your ERP system, a company must be willing to make some changes to both workflow and work processes. After making the decision to buy, dedicate a project team to speed the implementation process, and facilitate the necessary changes." THE RESULTS: "We now have a standard platform across all our warehouses and subsidiary entities," says Taraborelli. "Using a centralized server, we can access real-time inventory information from any of our warehouses. We can also access the bookkeeping records of our subsidiary companies, allowing our accounting department to stay on top of our financial health. To get the same level of information without Syspro, I'd need double the accounting staff." Syspro lets WeighPack know to the penny what a job will cost in advance. "We can now predict the cost of a finished product before we do the job. And within seconds of the job being closed, we know the real cost, and can advise our sales department if they need to adjust the price for future business opportunities. "Syspro continually upgrades and revises its software to make use of emerging technologies," Taraborelli says. "Syspro invests in keeping its product leading edge. From my perspective, everyone at Syspro Canada is accessible, personable and interested in the well being of our company." For more information on WeighPack Systems, visit www.weighpack.com. For more information on Syspro, visit http://canada.syspro.com/?//.
THE COMPANY: B.C.-based StructureCraft Builders Inc. harnesses master-craftsmen traditions, sophisticated engineering and modern construction techniques to create complex structures. The company recently demonstrated its engineering and design prowess in building the now iconic roof for the 2010 Richmond Olympic Oval.  THE CHALLENGE: StructureCraft has earned particular recognition for its exposed wood and timber structures. But designing wood structures does have its challenges - in particular, balancing aesthetics and function. Not only did the Olympic Oval roof need to be beautiful, it had to control and dampen echoes, as well as hide electrical, mechanical and sprinkler systems. In addition, StructureCraft co-ordinates and communicates with a wide range of stakeholders on projects, from the project owner and architect to manufacturers and subcontractors. THE STRATEGY: Co-ordinating a project such as this without visual models would be nearly impossible. StructureCraft relied on Autodesk Inventor software, which helped the company to iterate complex design options more quickly, co-ordinate with subcontractors and project partners, communicate designs clearly to stakeholders, and streamline fabrication. To meet the acoustical and aesthetic requirements of the Richmond Oval roof, StructureCraft explored in Autodesk Inventor software the many different options for the pattern that ultimately drove the WoodWave roof panel design. For project co-ordination, Autodesk Inventor incorporated components from other trades and manufacturers into its design. StructureCraft credits the interoperability and extensive user base of Autodesk software with making co-ordination with trades and manufacturers easier, allowing them to efficiently share data with subcontractors. And if an issue arose, StructureCraft could pass along the information to the appropriate trade accurately and quickly. THE RESULTS: By making the data manageable, StructureCraft was able explore design changes easily, and keep complexity at bay. With help from Autodesk Inventor software, StructureCraft completed the Richmond Olympic Oval project on aggressive schedules, meeting the complex design requirements within budget.
THE COMPANY: Magna Advanced Technologies is a division of Magna International Inc., a global automotive parts manufacturer based in Aurora, Ont. The company designs, develops and manufactures automotive systems, assemblies, modules and components, and engineers and assembles complete vehicles. The Advanced Technologies division focuses on the development of new products and technologies - from prototyping to tooling. THE CHALLENGE: The automotive market is very competitive, and has faced many economic challenges in recent years. As a result, "capital is always constrained, [and] companies, Magna included, are always looking to conserve capital expenditures where possible," explains Durward Smith, director of Magna Advanced Technologies. "We need our programs and processes to be running as fast as possible." The company aims to develop new products and technologies that will help make parts faster and better without sacrificing quality. THE STRATEGY: Magna Advanced Technologies chose PowerSHAPE and PowerMILL, from Delcam, to machine parts because the software allows them to easily transition from prototyping to tooling. PowerSHAPE CAD software provides a complete environment to take product ideas from concept to reality. It offers the freedom to manipulate surface form of the CAD model, to build from wire frame and make global changes with solid feature operations and editing. PowerMILL CAM software is designed for the manufacture of complex shapes typically found in the aerospace, automotive, medical device and tool making industries. The solution allows for high-efficiency roughing, high-speed finishing, five-axis machining techniques and fast calculation times, and provides powerful editing tools to ensure optimum performance on the machine tool. THE RESULTS: Paul Miranda, a project leader for Magna Advanced Technologies, and a designer of many of the company's inventive and inspired creations, couldn't be happier with the Delcam solution. "I've used several softwares in the past. PowerMill, by far, is the quickest, easiest to use," he explains.
THE COMPANY: Based in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Wesgar Inc. is one of the largest precision sheet metal manufacturers in Western Canada. The company's slogan, "Artistry in Metal," reflects Wesgar's innovative approach to manufacturing and its overall mantra. Wesgar prides itself on being the premier provider for companies throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico with precision sheet metal requirements. In business for nearly 45 years, Wesgar designs and manufactures products for a wide variety of industries.   THE CHALLENGE: Wesgar began implementation of Epicor's Vantage manufacturing solution in 2008, and moved to the next-generation Epicor 9 enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution in June 2009. "We wanted a modern manufacturing platform that offered better access to data for reporting and customization," explains Troy Richman, IT manager at Wesgar. "We also were looking for improved scheduling capabilities, and the ability to leverage fully integrated financials."     Richman says the move to Epicor took less than three months to implement and go live, and the process was pretty smooth throughout. "Everything worked out very well," he says, adding that one of the biggest challenges was getting users comfortable with the system in a relatively short time period. "We definitely took advantage of Epicor's online educational tools, and the onsite support from Epicor consultants who were at Wesgar for about a week and half."    THE STRATEGY: The company maintains a total manufacturing space of 80,000 square feet, and its 5,000-square-foot assembly cell has the capability to perform simple to complex mechanical and electrical assemblies. Richman explains that the company is "viewed internally and externally as a branch plant for each of our customers." The company's goal is to ensure its customers become the most cost-effective manufacturers in their industry.    To achieve this goal, Wesgar employs state-of-the-art machining, highly skilled personnel and systems, as well as Lean Manufacturing practices combined with Continuous Improvement methods to simultaneously increase the quality, decrease the costs of component parts, and increase velocity to the market. Wesgar looks to Epicor's fully integrated suite of manufacturing and distribution management solutions to help support such initiatives.    THE RESULTS: Among the new features of Epicor that Wesgar is leveraging is the solution's streamlined graphical user interface, which enhances visibility of data by making it easier to drill down for more detailed information, and "right-click" features, which facilitate customized reports. "Users know how to get the data they need. This is very empowering to them, and it saves me a lot of time not having to show each user how to find the information they are looking for," explainS Richman.     Integrated scheduling functionality allows Wesgar to schedule more resources more efficiently than ever before. It vastly improves the visibility and access to schedules throughout the plant, and reduces lead times.     Wesgar has been able to improve its operational visibility and efficiency via Epicor's Material Requirements Planning (MRP) capabilities, which help 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. For custom jobs, this enables Wesgar to closely manage costing of each set of production; and Epicor's comprehensive Quality Suite automates the regulatory compliance process, helping Wesgar meet ISO requirements.     Richman also says the company has benefitted from Epicor's integrated financials, which provide users with the ability to drill down into financial reports to provide the requisite high-level "big picture" information, as well as access to more detailed information for financial "power users."    "Prior to Epicor, our accounting was mostly a manual process," says Richman. "Now it's all in one place, and we have visibility to all transactions. Our accounting group is particularly happy with the system's support for FIFO (First in, First out) costing. We're also now able to quickly see and track our estimated costs versus real costs, for improved financial control and management of the business."
THE COMPANY: Davis Controls, based in Oakville, Ont., is a distributor, representative and licensed assembler for international manufacturers of instrumentation and control products, offering a range of products for the industrial market. Founded in 1933, Davis employs 50 people in seven offices, working with more than 30 suppliers to serve thousands of customers across Canada and the United States through local sub-distributors and representatives. THE CHALLENGE: In an organization such as Davis Controls, seamless communication and information exchange with the entire value chain is crucial. When the company's sales and distribution began to excel, the organization started to take another look at their internal business processes to insure they could meet competitive pressures, one of which was customer service expectations. Davis Controls was having difficulties wrapping their arms around their growth and accelerated internal processes, putting a real strain on their relationships with customers, partners, suppliers and distributors. The company kept their information in separate silos, and frequently did not have instant access to their own workplace information, leading to timely delays and poor communication. THE STRATEGY: Davis Controls immediately recognized the need to streamline its business processes and consolidate its workplace information for real-time review and analysis across the entire value chain, aiding in customer support. "Integration of both disparate solutions and multiple processes was critical to us, not only between departmental information and function, but between employees, customers and suppliers," states Neil Montgomery, president and CEO of Davis Controls. THE RESULTS: Davis Controls was already using Exact Macola ES for its back-office ERP needs, so the integration with Exact Synergy was an easy transition for the company because it provided what other solutions did not - one holistic view of the company's business operations, and the ability to enhance its existing ERP investment. Exact Synergy's web-based collaboration platform brought together the essential people, processes and knowledge by allowing real-time collaboration between departments, offices, countries and, just as importantly, Davis Controls' outside partners, so that everyone was working with the same, accurate information. "Synergy, by default, breaks down functional silos through its integration of workplace data, while its workflow facilitates function through communication," explains Montgomery. "We have complete management of value chain, financial, workflow, document and project information through an online browser. You can't get more powerful than that." Davis Controls continued to invest in the Exact Software e-business suite, with the purchase of Exact Event Manager, which enables organizations to define the events important to their business and the actions they would like to take in response to these events. This application, along with Synergy workflow, truly provides a complete business operations system for Davis Controls, helping to streamline processes across the entire organization. With Exact Synergy and Exact Event Manager, Montgomery believes the possibilities are endless. "Synergy grows as Davis Controls grows, and has improved our bottom line and increased productivity," says Montgomery. "Bringing the value chain into our organization has resulted in faster customer feedback, true collaboration and greater efficiencies. We can't imagine our corporate life without Synergy." For more information about Exact Software, visit www.exactamerica.com.
THE COMPANY: Backed by 40 years of experience, Drayton Valley, Alta.-based Surefire SCADA Inc. creates web-based hosted SCADA systems that encompass all aspects of industrial automation. The company designs and implements industrial control systems and maintains information technology. THE CHALLENGE: One of Surefire SCADA's customers was looking for a solution to get a fast, reliable update performance. Previous solutions from industry leaders couldn't deliver both. Kyle Chase, a systems integration specialist for Surefire SCADA, describes the dilemma: "One product gave them the reliability, but it could only give updates once every eight seconds, and the customer needed updates every second. Another product they tried provided the performance needed, but it would shut down every day." THE STRATEGY: Earlier this year, Chase found Ignition by Inductive Automation, which included an OPC-UA server, making the entire software system Linux compatible. Having used Inductive Automation software for the past three years with much success, he was confident in trying out the company's newest release for the distillation refinery project. THE RESULTS: After conducting dry runs with the system, Chase has been more than pleased with the results. "The performance is absolutely crazy," he says. "Ignition is actively subscribed to 30,000 tags with updates every second. We can finally monitor all of our tags at the speed we want, with the reliability we need." Chase is sold on OPC-UA and being able to use Linux for control systems. "To me, the move to a true cross platform environment is important," he explains. "This holds many advantages, especially when it comes to system flexibility and security. It helps keep costs down as well." For more information about Ignition by Inductive Automation, visit www.inductiveautomation.com.
Dassault Systèmes, a provider of 3D and product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions, recently launched V6R2011, the latest release of its PLM 2.0 platform, as part of its Lifelike Experience strategy. The release includes advances in collaborative creation with 874 new features, additional collaborative innovation enhancements, as well as an entirely new V6 Academia solution. V6R2011 includes CATIA advancements in systems functionality and content, such as various automotive-focused Modelica libraries, as well as Lifelike Human and Lifelike Conveyor - two new DELMIA production solutions for enterprise resource modelling. V6R2011 also updates Dassault Systèmes' PLM Express offer with new key attributes for the mid-market. A complete list of functionality enhancements in V6R2011 is available at http://www.3ds.com/products/v6/latest-release/.
Imagine waking up one day to find out that your company's supply chain has grinded to a halt, making it impossible to fulfill $100 million worth of orders. This is what happened to Hershey's confectionary manufacturing and distribution operations in 1999. When it cutover to its $112-million IT systems, Hershey's worst-case scenarios became reality. Business process and systems issues caused operational paralysis, leading to a 19-percent drop in quarterly profits and an eight-percent decline in stock price. In the analysis that follows, I use the Hershey's case to offer advice on how effective ERP system testing and scheduling can mitigate a company's exposure to failure risks and related damages.   Here are the relevant facts: In 1996, Hershey's set out to upgrade its patchwork of legacy IT systems into an integrated ERP environment. It chose SAP's R/3 ERP software, Manugistic's supply chain management (SCM) software and Seibel's customer relationship management (CRM) software. Despite a recommended implementation time of 48 months, Hershey's demanded a 30-month turnaround so that it could roll out the systems before Y2K. Based on these scheduling demands, cutover was planned for July of 1999. This go-live scheduling coincided with Hershey's busiest periods - the time during which it would receive the bulk of its Halloween and Christmas orders. To meet the aggressive scheduling demands, Hershey's implementation team had to cut corners on critical systems testing phases. When the systems went live in July of 1999, unforeseen issues prevented orders from flowing through the systems. As a result, Hershey's was incapable of processing $100 million worth of Kiss and Jolly Rancher orders, even though it had most of the inventory in stock. This is not one of those "hindsight is 20-20" cases. A reasonably prudent implementer in Hershey's position would never have permitted cutover under those circumstances. The risks of failure and exposure to damages were simply too great. Unfortunately, too few companies have learned from Hershey's mistakes. For our firm, it feels like Groundhog Day every time we are retained to rescue a failed or failing ERP project. In an effort to help companies implement ERP correctly - the first time - I have decided to rehash this old Hershey's case. The two key lessons I describe below relate to systems testing and project scheduling.  Systems testing Hershey's implementation team made the cardinal mistake of sacrificing systems testing for the sake of expediency. As a result, critical data, process and systems integration issues may have remained undetected until it was too late.  Testing phases are safety nets that should never be compromised. If testing sets back the launch date, so be it. The potential consequences of skimping on testing outweigh the benefits of keeping to a predetermined schedule. In terms of appropriate testing, our firm advocates a methodical process that increasingly simulates realistic operating conditions. The more realistic the testing scenarios, the more likely it is that critical issues will be discovered before cutover.  For our clients, we generally perform three distinct rounds of testing, each building to a more realistic simulation of the client's operating environment. Successful test completion is a prerequisite to moving onto to the next testing phase. In the first testing phase - the Conference Room Pilot Phase - the key users test the most frequently used business scenarios, one functional department at a time. The purpose of this phase is to validate the key business processes in the ERP system. In the second testing phase - the Departmental Pilot Phase - a new team of users tests the ERP system under incrementally more realistic conditions. This testing phase consists of full piloting, which includes testing of the most frequently used and the least frequently used business scenarios. This testing is also conducted on a department-by-department basis. The third and final testing phase - the Integrated Pilot Phase - is the most realistic of the tests. In this "day-in-the-life" piloting phase, the users test the system to make sure that all of the various modules work together as intended.  With respect to the Hershey's case, many authors have criticized the company's decision to roll out all three systems concurrently, using a "big bang" implementation approach. In my view, Hershey's implementation would have failed regardless of the approach. Failure was rooted in shortcuts relating to systems testing, data migration and/or training, and not in the implementation approach. Had Hershey's put the systems through appropriate testing, it could have mitigated a significant failure risk.    Timing Hershey's project timing decisions are textbook examples of how not to schedule ERP projects. The first lesson: do not force an ERP implementation project into an unreasonable timeline. Over-squeezing implementation schedules is a sure-fire way to overlook critical issues. The second lesson: never schedule cutover during busy seasons. Even in a best-case implementation scenario, companies should still expect steep learning curves and operational performance dips. By timing cutover during slow business periods, the company gives itself more slack time to iron out systems kinks. It also gives employees more time to learn the new business processes and systems. In many cases, it is even advisable to reduce orders in and around the cutover period. This tactic is aimed at minimizing exposure to damages caused by potentially undetected errors and less-than-perfectly-trained users. In closing, any company implementing or planning to implement ERP can take away valuable lessons from the Hershey's case. Two of the most important lessons are: test the business processes and systems using a methodology designed to simulate realistic operating scenarios; and pay close attention to ERP scheduling. By following these bits of advice, your company will lessen its exposure to ERP implementation failure risks and related damages.   Jonathan Gross is vice-president of Pemeco, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in ERP implementation. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
These days, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) need enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) to be competitive. ERP helps companies manage their global supply chains and forecast demand. SMBs, though, are advised to approach ERP very cautiously. Casualties from failed ERP implementations are like bodies strewn across a bloody battlefield. According to some studies, up to 70 percent of all ERP implementations fail. And the consequences of failure can be crippling. An implementation failure reportedly cost Hershey's 27 percent of its market share. Another failure put FoxMeyer Drug - a $5 billion a year company - out of business. More recently, Waste Management claims that a failed SAP implementation cost it $500 million. Two of the major causes of ERP failure are runaway implementations and organizational resistance to change. Failure risk 1: Runaway implementation According to IT research firm, the Aberdeen Group, cost efficiencies drive most ERP acquisition decisions. If the implementation reins aren't held tightly, though, service costs can make this cost efficiency goal unattainable. One reason is that most implementers charge hourly (full disclosure: our firm implements, but on a fixed-fee basis). So the longer a project takes to complete, the more it will cost. To wit, the IRS spent over $50 billion on an out-of-control ERP implementation that took 10 years to complete. One way to keep tight control on an implementation project is to define its scope relative to the costs and benefits. Without proper definition, the scope can creep like ivy up a building. Scope creep happens when a company decides to "ERP-ize" more business processes than is economically feasible. Proponents of widening the scope usually make a compelling argument. They say that integrating the additional business processes will lead to greater efficiencies. They also say that implementation is the right time to do the extra work because consultants are on site and the teams are dedicated. Experience has shown, however, that implementation is seldom the right time to widen the scope (except for dealing with unforeseen items that must be addressed). This is because the incremental costs generally exceed the incremental benefits. These incremental and oft-ignored costs include direct service costs and opportunity costs of delay. With respect to the latter, every unplanned day that an SMB is unable to operate under the new system is a day of lost efficiencies. Failure risk 2: Improperly managed change Stakeholder rejection of the new system and the restructured operating environment are risks that should also be mitigated during the planning phase. A failure to effectively manage these risks could allow certain groups to undermine the project's success. Opponents of change lurk among all stakeholder groups. Common examples include: • A union that objects to revised job duties that fall outside of the collective agreement; • Employees who are afraid of or do not want to learn new processes; • Managers who object to donating their "A-players" to the implementation team;  and • Executives who stand to lose performance-based incentives because of short-term disruptions. By anticipating and addressing possible resistance during the planning phase, an SMB will be better positioned to direct all of its organizational tentacles toward the same goal. In other words, it can focus its efforts on managing the restructuring project instead of having to focus on managing internal conflict. Project plan: An overview A good implementation plan mitigates scope creep with a clearly marked and easy-to-follow road map. It mitigates change resistance by nipping it in the bud. At a minimum, the project plan should address a project champion, include project plan documentation, and define the project teams. A project champion should be assigned to ensure top management's continued commitment to the implementation project. Countless ERP case studies show that an absence of project championship can be fatal. Commonly, an executive or top manager's negative views translate into insufficient resources being allocated to the project. Without proper resources, the project becomes doomed. A project champion is responsible for legitimizing the project among the executives. This person should be a top-level manager who is both fully committed to the project and capable of influencing others. The project plan is a formal document that sets out the project deliverables on a timeline and allocates a specific budget to each deliverable. Each of the deliverables should be reduced to manageable and measurable tasks. At the very least, a well-conceived project plan should include: a project charter; a scope statement; target dates and costs; a reporting structure and staff requirements; and subsidiary plans dealing with scope management, resource management and public relations. A successful implementation also needs to have a strong enabling structure. Project teams should include: a steering committee with executive-level strategic responsibilities; a core team with managerial-level delegation authority; and functional teams with responsibility for implementing the changes. To ensure interdependence and to facilitate timely communications, our firm cross-pollinates each team with a member from the reporting team directly below. So, for example, we would place the ERP project manager on both the steering committee and the core team, and certain key users on both the core team and a functional team. With the commoditization of ERP, SMBs can now reap the informational and economic benefits of integration that were historically reserved for the largest of companies. With proper planning, your company can put itself on the success path that most others have never found. _ Jonathan Gross LL.B., M.B.A., is a lawyer and consultant who specializes in aligning business with IT, selecting IT systems and implementing IT systems. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and followed at http://twitter.com/Pemeco.
Remtec Inc., a subsidiary of Remcor Inc., designs and manufactures tanker trailers for petroleum products. These are the big tanks you see delivering gasoline to service stations but they also transport other petroleum products, such as asphalt. While from the outside it may look like one big tank, on the inside, it is divided into four to six separate compartments. Remtec is the main petroleum tanker trailer manufacturer in Quebec, based in Chambly, but its parent company owns a similar business in British Columbia as well as two in the U.S. (in Nebraska and South Carolina). According to Remtec's director of research and development, André Bourgault, the market for these tanker trailers is not as large as for other truck trailers, so competition is strong. Customers expect faster and faster delivery times, so "the ability to design and assemble a trailer fast is a competitive advantage," he says. In addition to the pressure to deliver tankers quickly, Remtec faces other challenges in the design of its products. First, these tanker trailers consist of many parts (some designed in house, others provided by suppliers) and it's necessary to keep track of everything with an accurate bill of material (BOM). Second, because Remtec's tankers are oval rather than round (to lower the center of gravity and prevent rolling over), designers must work with complex shapes, in particular where the front and back "heads" of the tanker interface with the main portion of the body. Third, the majority of these designs involve sheet metal, making the creation of accurate flat pattern drawings crucial. Remtec's previous CAD system was 2D AutoCAD. It claimed it was difficult to do this work in 2D, especially when creating the complex surfaces of the heads as well as keeping BOMs up to date. It was necessary to create a new BOM each time a design variation was made. This was also true for the sheet metal flat patterns. With AutoCAD it was also more difficult to detect interferences prior to having parts made. Errors that were detected on the shop floor delayed delivery and increased development costs. Realizing that 3D modeling could address these issues, Remtec evaluated a number of solid modelers, and the first couple was ruled out due to cost. SolidWorks and Solid Edge were put through a thorough benchmarking process that led to the selection of Solid Edge. "The Solid Edge guys took better care of us and we were satisfied with the capabilities of the software," Bourgault explains. "Also, Solid Edge is easy to learn and use." WORKING QUICKLY, VIRTUALLY Remtec now builds virtual, complete tanker assemblies in Solid Edge, parameterizing the model so that it can be changed quickly to meet a customer's needs. "We have several models and depending on what the customer wants, we simply modify variables such as length, height, width, number of compartments and so on," Bourgault says. "With parametric modeling, this happens much quicker than it used to with AutoCAD." Once a parametric model is done, it takes Remtec about half as much time as it did in the past to tailor a design to a customer's specifications. One very important benefit of Solid Edge is its sheet metal modeling environment. Once a sheet metal part is designed, the flat pattern is generated automatically. "With 2D this was very time consuming, but with Solid Edge it is just a mouse click," Bourgault notes. A BOM is also just a mouse click away once the model is finished, saving the company the 12 to 15 hours that used to be required to generate a single BOM from drawings. The BOMs are also more complete because Solid Edge counts all the small items such as fittings, washers and bolts that used to be omitted in the past. When a customer asks for something unique and a new design is required, Remtec no longer builds a mockup. Remtec is confident about doing this because the company is able to detect interferences in the software. The accuracy of the designs created in Solid Edge has made it possible to design and build a first production unit 20 percent faster than before. And because there are fewer errors and scrapped parts, the company saves money on development costs. Solid Edge brings other advantages as well. Production drawings are now easier for shop personnel to understand. "They are clearer than before because now we can do exploded views and 3D views. The guys in the shop all like that and there is less error in assembly now," Bourgault says. "Another advantage of Solid Edge is that designers like it. It is a lot more motivating to work in 3D." Remtec also sends its 3D images to its customers for design reviews. The customers find the 3D images much easier to interpret than 2D drawings. John Smith is a technical writer for Siemens PLM. (c)2010 Siemens PLM Software Inc. Reprinted with permission.
For manufacturers looking to add, upgrade or replace ERP software, one of the most apparent concerns is what the system can do. Can the system handle the company's scheduling needs? Does it offer production monitoring and quality control? Can it streamline communication? While these are important, what an ERP system can and cannot do is only one consideration. In fact, functionality should be considered against the backdrop of the entire package: its technology and its vendor. Only by doing so can manufacturers ensure they make a right and lasting choice. • Platform. While platform (e.g., .NET, SQL, hosted, etc.) is important, an ERP system should not be selected based on platform alone. Doing so may distract from the real value an ERP system can provide. Choosing based on a pre-conceived idea that only one platform will fit the selection criteria may eliminate viable options before they are considered. Instead, look for high-caliber functionality then consider whether the functionality compensates for the platform difference. • Technology. As technology evolves, so too should a good ERP system. If a vendor is not on the leading edge of technology, chances are that vendor is not a viable option for the long haul. Check to see how they are keeping up with technology. Are they focused on research and development for future applications, or are they focused on past technology that will soon be outdated? • Number of vendors. It is important to understand how many total vendors will contribute to a package. Some are built upon technology developed by and acquired from multiple sources, but packaged as a single system. Sometimes the number of vendors can be as many as the number of system components. Sustaining multiple vendors can be cumbersome and should be a factor in determining the long-term affects on an information systems department. • Product demo. Product demonstrations are often a good way to see an ERP solution first hand, and knowing what to look for will provide the clearest picture. Consider whether questions are answered clearly and concisely. Be persistent when gathering desired information. As well, the most valuable tool is personal experience, so test-drive the system, too. • Customer referrals. While existing customer referrals are beneficial, remember three things: customers are on the referral list for a reason; vendors don't typically give out the names of problem customers; and vendors will most likely provide only the number of references requested (if two are requested, only two will be provided). Then check the vendor and customers' websites for case studies, quotes, customers in the news, etc. Ask for referrals from companies that used the same system, are similar in size or are in the same product industry as your own. The vendor may not have an exact match, but a software vendor that can offer a variety of customer referrals is more likely to have many happier customers than one who cannot. • Implementation time. When provided with an estimate for the number of days to complete an implementation, ask how the vendor arrived at the number. They may have a proven plan that does not match what their competition is offering. Times will vary from package to package, but don't take for granted the number of days noted by the salesperson. Get feedback, so when contacting a reference customer, ask whether the vendor met their implementation schedule. If they did not, how much longer did it take, and why? • Customer retention. It is one thing to have a short list of current, happy customers - but it is something else entirely to maintain the customer relationship for years to come. Ask the vendor what their customer retention rate is. Do a majority continue on with them for years - even decades? With the buyouts and recession of past years, no ERP vendor can claim 100-percent retention, but anything less than 80 percent should raise a flag to ask a question. • Think realistically. While it is always good to think about where you want to be in five or more years, also think about where you are now. Buy a package that focuses on your current market position but can carry you to your next goal and beyond. An over-the-counter ERP system bought at the local office supply store will not see a company through to its multimillion-dollar goal. On the other hand, the software solutions used by the Nikes of the world may be too big. An ideal package is one that can be purchased with only the components that are needed but expand with a business as it grows. • Consultant catch. The utilization of consultants in the ERP selection process can be useful and informative. However, beware of the consultant who has affiliations with a specific ERP system. Hiring a consultant should be paying for an unbiased opinion of which software truly is the best match for your company and not a test for them to see how they can sell you their ERP system. Daniele Fresca is the director of marketing for IQMS.
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.
ERP implementation failure is a pretty easy topic to write about – fresh material is delivered to my door almost daily.  Consider, for example, the California County of Marin’s recent $30 million lawsuit against Deloitte Consulting LLP.  In that case, Marin County hired Deloitte to implement an SAP ERP system.  Marin spent $18.6 million on system and implementation costs.  For all of that money, what did it get?  A malfunctioning system, administrative lock-ups and headaches.  The system was supposed to automate and simplify Marin County’s finance and HR business processes.  Instead, reporting and system functionality are a mess.  Marin County hasn’t issued financial statements for the past two fiscal years.  It can’t yet reconcile its cash balances.  Nor can it administer payables, receivables, fixed assets and inventories.  Pension administration – a key component of public sector finances – has been partially stalled by an inability to extract current information from the databases.  Recently, pension officials had to rely on an outdated 2007 actuarial report because it had no current alternative.  These are but a few of Marin County’s 26 reported ERP system problems.  In its legal filings, Marin County claims that Deloitte botched the implementation project because it “was utterly incapable of providing the County with the necessary expert advice, guidance or leadership”.  Marin further alleges that Deloitte had “staffed the project with dozens of neophyte consultants, many of whom lacked even a basic understanding of SAP”.  Predictably, Deloitte has denied all of the allegations.  Deloitte says that it did what it was hired to do, and that Marin County had approved of its performance.  Deloitte has countersued for $555,000 on account of alleged unpaid consulting bills and interest.  Marin County’s ERP implementation project was unequivocally a failure.  Regardless of which party the court ultimately sides with, Marin County is still stuck holding the bag.  While Deloitte is busy collecting fees on other projects, Marin County is still figuring out how to issue its financial statements.    The moral of this story is that companies implementing ERP (or any other complex software) need to find the right implementation partner.  Oftentimes, finding the right partner means finding the right project manager and consulting team.  The project manager must be adept at running complex business projects that include: corporate restructuring, business process re-engineering, change management and IT systems integration.  The consulting team must be made up of seasoned consultants who are experts in a given functional business area as well as in the specific software. Here are four tips to help you pick the right project manager and implementation team:     •    The Project Manager Must Be Independent And Impartial.  ERP implementations are saturated with decision points that require the company to choose between changing the business and changing the software.  Your project manager has to advise you on these decisions.  To ensure your company is getting advice that is unequivocally in its best interests, your project manager had to be independent from and impartial to ERP vendors.  This means that his company should not be an ERP reseller (a.k.a. VAR or value-added reseller) or a consultant working for the ERP vendor.       •    The Project Manager Needs To Have A Proven ERP Implementation Methodology.  A proven, time-tested ERP implementation methodology demonstrates an ability to deliver a complex implementation project on time, within budget and up to performance standards.  When assessing a methodology, your company should look for answers to the following questions: has the methodology withstood the test of time?  How many ERP projects have been delivered with the methodology?  How is final project success measured?  How are incremental project phase successes measured?  Has the methodology been used in any failed projects?  Is the methodology published?     •    Hire The People Not The Firm.  Remember: a firm name on a door can’t implement ERP.  So, when selecting an implementation partner, your company needs to hire the right people with the right experience.  This means looking behind the firm name at the people who will be staffed on your project.  Your company should interview all of the prospective consultants and look for implementation experience, experience with the specific software, and experience in your company’s particular industry, among other things.     •    Protect Your Company Against The Bait-And-Switch.  Unfortunately, we continue to hear stories about consulting firms using a bait-and-switch tactic.  In fact, this tactic is a central allegation in the Marin County lawsuit.  A brief explanation of the bait-and-switch is as follows.  A consulting firm sends its “A-Team” to make the sale, effectively representing that these people will manage the project.  Once the deal is signed, however, the consulting firm replaces the “A-Team” with less experienced and less skilled people.  To protect itself against the bait-and-switch, your company should ensure that the desired consultants will be assigned exclusively to your project for its duration.  Also, your company should retain a veto right over any staffing changes that might occur.      •    Conduct Detailed Reference Checks.  Remember, with an ERP implementation project, your company is putting its operations and administration on the line.  To protect itself against failure, your company needs to make sure that the consultants are qualified to manage the project, the change and the risk.  Since projects are run by people and not firms, you should check references for previous work done by the proposed consultants.  If the proposed consultants do not have directly relevant experience, you probably don’t want them learning on your company’s dime and at the expense of its operations.  For every failing ERP project our firm has been parachuted in to rescue, for every ERP failure story I’ve read, I’ve come to one conclusion: each and every one of those failures was avoidable.  I continue to be floored by the billions of dollars, hundreds of jobs and number of years that are collectively wasted on ERP failure.  The most upsetting part is that this wastage is both unnecessary and avoidable.  Your company can help break this cycle.  Before it starts an ERP project, it should do its due diligence on prospective ERP implementation partners.  Jonathan Gross LL.B., M.B.A., is a vice president at Pemeco. Pemeco specializes in aligning business with IT, selecting IT systems and implementing IT systems.  Do you have IT or ERP questions? Feel free to email Jonathan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  Also, follow him at http://twitter.com/Pemeco.
Industry reports and promotional materials make ERP sound like manna-for-business, dropped down from the heavens above.  They say that ERP can make your business more efficient, responsive, integrated, transparent, profitable, productive... and the list goes on. What you really want to know, though, is how ERP can help your business.  What’s the catch? Let’s talk about two catches.  The first: ERP doesn’t make your business better.  It can’t.  It’s only software.  What it can do, though, is give your business the potential to become better.  Filling this potential doesn’t happen by merely installing the software.  Rather, it happens by installing the software and restructuring the business. The idea behind restructuring is that operations need to be cleaned up and primed for automation.  Restructuring often involves reengineering business processes, re-jigging reporting structures, learning new systems and managing change. These are many of the reasons why implementation projects are so grinding.  Once ERP is implemented, though, business performance can really improve. The second catch is that ERP implementations are risky and expensive.  Depending on the study you read, you’ll learn that 40 percent and 70 percent of all implementations fail.  With the total cost of ERP ownership for small to medium sized businesses ranging between $150,000 and $2 million (over a 10-year period), the high failure rates don’t encourage investment.  The good news is that good project management can drive almost any ERP project to success.  So, how exactly does ERP enable business improvements? For one, ERP integrates business electronically.  It does this by using a central database as a repository for information originating in far-reaching corners of the business.  An airport hub-and-spoke model is a good way to analogize the ERP model.  The central database acts as an informational hub.  The various application modules represent the spokes.  Each of the modules supports a particular business activity, such as: finance, supply chain, planning, manufacturing operations, and HR (among many others).  Electronic data originates at the module level, is validated for overall consistency and gets deposited in the database for storage.  Once deposited, users of the different modules can access, combine, manipulate and analyse the deposited data.  This repository of business data can really enhance a business’ ability to plan and forecast.  One of our Canadian aerospace clients implemented analytics to help it take advantage of its vast library of data.  As one example, this client used analytics to help it understand and respond to volatile market shifts.  In so doing, it uncovered relationships between inventories and booking patterns that it had previously been unaware of.  A simple adjustment to its procurement practices helped it shave off significant inventory and warehousing costs.  ERP offers much more than centralized storage.  It also allows companies to automate business processes according to pre-defined rules.  Such automation reduces administrative costs and times relating to manual process handling.  For example, we automated that aerospace client’s financial reporting and budgeting processes.  Automation eliminated most of the manual work and human errors relating to data entry and manipulation in Excel.  The finance department’s annual budget preparation time was cut by 75 percent, allowing it to reclaim about 220 hours per year.   Financial management is but one example of an ERP module.  Below, we take a closer look at this and other modules: Financial Management (FM) Financial management modules can help a company automate many of the costly and time consuming tasks relating to finance and accounting.  Examples of tasks that can be automated include:     •    Posting transactions to the general ledger      •    Preparing the financial statements     •    Preparing and adhering to budgets     •    Scenario analysis     •    Managing accounts receivables, billing and collections     •    Managing payables     •    Managing multiple currencies and languages     •    Administering rules relating to cash and budget management     •    Managing compliance with regulatory, tax and other reporting requirements Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) MOM modules extend e-integration to the plant floor.  By automating manufacturing operations, businesses can get better insights into overall equipment effectiveness, process efficiency, productivity and performance.  Automation can extend to:     •    Job costing     •    Bills of materials preparation     •    Product data management     •    Master production scheduling     •    Production planning and scheduling     •    Capacity requirements planning     •    Work order management     •    Shop floor control     •    Equipment lifecycle monitoring, including scheduled maintenance Supply Chain Management (SCM) SCM modules are intended to streamline the flow of materials through an organization’s supply chain.  Automation can extend from input procurement all the way to final product delivery; and often includes:     •    Forecasting demand     •    Master and material requirements planning     •    Order management     •    Procurement     •    Inventory management     •    Warehouse management     •    Logistics management Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) SRM modules are intended to streamline procurement processes by centralizing and automating sourcing practices.  Automation includes:     •    Supplier evaluation, ratings and approvals     •    Contract management     •    Procure-to-pay     •    Catalogue management Customer Relationship Management CRM is intended to help drive revenues and reduce the costs of earning those revenues.  Automating processes relating to sales and customer management is aimed at enhancing existing client satisfaction and attracting new clients.  Automated functionality can include:     •    Customer quotes and order processing     •    e-commerce     •    e-account management     •    Customer preference tracking     •    Flexible pricing     •    Customer service scripts     •    Searchable knowledge database to facilitate customer support     •    Rules for product returns     •    Marketing campaign management and lead management Human Resources Management (HRM a.k.a. HCM) HRM modules can standardize and automate many of the time-consuming HR administrative tasks.  Automated tasks can include     •    Employee performance management     •    Payroll and benefits administration     •    Labour tracking     •    Benefits administration     •    Recruitment functions, including: electronic resume submission and review     •    Training, development and skills management Using MBA-speak, consultants will often tell you that ERP can offer a “real-time, transparent and holistic views of the enterprise”.  What they’re saying, in other words, is that ERP can give you a live view of the business.  With standardized and automated processes, ERP can also help your business become more efficient, productive and profitable.  Catch our ERP educational column, printed online the first Monday of every month.  Jonathan Gross LL.B., M.B.A., is a lawyer and consultant with Pemeco who specializes in aligning business with IT, selecting IT systems and implementing IT systems.  Do you have IT or ERP questions? Feel free to email Jonathan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  Also, follow him at http://twitter.com/Pemeco.
Flexpipe Systems masters product traceability with handhelds and IFS Applications Project delivers lean improvements, environmental protection for oil and gas industry vendor THE COMPANY: Flexpipe Systems Inc., of Calgary, Alberta, manufactures and sells proprietary non-metallic, corrosion-resistant pipeline products and crimped steel fittings primarily for oil and natural gas producers. The company was acquired in 2008 by a global energy services company, ShawCor Ltd., and migrated from its existing Epicor Vantage enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to Shawcor’s version of IFS Applications. THE CHALLENGE: Because Flexpipe Systems’ products are used in oil and gas gathering systems and other environmentally critical applications, lot tracking is critical. Flexpipe Systems has not had a fitting recall in recent memory, but wanted to proactively ensure the company could quickly mobilize a precise recall if necessary. Early on, Flexpipe Systems recognized the need to record the location to which each fitting was shipped, but their only means of collecting this data was doing so manually.  This manual process was slow and labor intensive and was not practical, particularly in an emergency situation.  “We provide pipeline systems and services to a highly regulated  industry; keeping concise records, including the fabrication specification of each individual fitting is key,”   inventory control manager, Colin Moyer, said. “In the very unlikely event of a pipeline failure, a thorough investigation into the possible cause is paramount to the reinstatement of that pipeline.” Flexpipe Systems was also performing extensive non value-added work by recording inventory and shop floor transactions manually and entering into them into IFS Applications. “We were recording everything on paper, which was then physically carried to an IFS station,” said business analyst, Grant Clarke. “Shipping or receipt details including the part number, serial tracking numbers, etc. would then be entered into IFS by someone when they had time… not necessarily at the exact time of the product shipment/receipt.”  THE SOLUTION: Flexpipe Systems retained Cinqcon, of Vancouver, British Columbia to help them integrate Intermec bar code scanners with IFS Applications. Cinqcon leveraged IFS Applications’ service oriented architecture, using web services to drive data directly through IFS Applications’ business logic. Handheld devices now read barcodes generated by a Loftware, Inc. enterprise labeling solution, capturing serial, lot and batch data automatically and entering it in IFS Applications. “We offered Flexpipe Systems a standard transaction package to which when added a few enhancements to fit exactly what the company and its parent, Shawcor, had in mind,” Cinqcon Consultant Ilona Pretorius said. Cinqcon found that Flexpipe Systems did not require IFS Applications’ existing and very robust handheld interface, and instead chose to develop its own simplified data capture environment, easily tying this interface into the open architecture of the ERP solution. “Flexpipe Systems gained working efficiency and speed by opting for a more minimalistic interface and passing just the essential fields back and forth” Pretorius said. Despite a concurrent networking project that sapped resources from the handheld integration process, the entire project took less than four months, according to Moyer and Clarke. THE RESULT: The project has delivered lean improvements and allowed Flexpipe Systems to mitigate the risk of a recall. “It definitely helps purchasing, it helps the MRP planners for distribution orders, and it will soon be rolled out to other areas of the company,” Moyer said. “Prior to the implementation of the handheld devices and IFS interface, we had limited visibility on serial, batch and lot numbers.  With our manual processes it may have taken days to identify and recall a potentially problematic batch of products,” Moyer said. “We have streamlined the process into a query search that now takes no more than 10 minutes.  This also increases the speed at which we can ship our fittings.  With our new system, were are able quickly scan each barcode as the products are staged prior to shipping; the manufacturing details, serial numbers etc. are captured and logged instantly increasing labor efficiencies and eliminating the potential for human error.”

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