ERP Package Smoothes Manufacturers Growth Path

Auto parts maker doubles size and improves order accuracy after implementing software that provides a "single version of the truth" to suppliers, customers and internal departments.

"Inventory is king," said Andy Hrasky, controller of Victor Manufacturing, a midrange enterprise that has doubled in size over the past few years with the use of "supply-chain intensive" ERP software from CMS Software Inc., choosing the solution over ERP products from SAP AG, Microsoft Corp. and other competitors.

Since adopting CMSs product in the year 2000, the auto parts maker has boosted order accuracy to 99 percent from a previous level of 94 percent, while also reducing inventory costs, increasing its inventory turns, and dramatically improving on-time delivery, Hrasky said, in a Webcast on Tuesday.

"In our business, on-time delivery isnt just a goal. Its a requirement," Hrasky said.

Essentially, the software provides a single, enterprise-wide view of the status of raw materials, work-in-progress, and finished goods, allowing employees throughout a company to work with the same real-time information, said Brian Angle, vice president of sales and marketing for CMS.

According to Julie Fraser, principal of the Industry Directions analyst firm, each enterprise needs this sort of "single version of the truth," so that various company departments, suppliers and customers are all on the same page. "But very few [enterprises] are able to be confident that they are doing this," the analyst said.

Organizations today face "gorilla demands" from customers and suppliers. "[And] if you cant look back and forth in your supply chain, then youve got some challenges. That, historically, is where a lot of systems have fallen down," Fraser said.

CMSs event-based reporting is giving Victor Manufacturing this kind of full visibility into the supply chain, according to Hrasky.

"Our business has more than doubled over the past four years. We couldnt have handled this [without CMS]," he said.

But the "right software" alone isnt enough, Hrasky said, pointing to cultural factors that include "discipline, accountability, [and] the right attitude."

For instance, employees of Victor who make mistakes might be embarrassed to find themselves the recipients of the parts makers "Pinhead Awards," Hrasky said during the Webcast, which was moderated by Stephanie Neil, a senior editor at Manufacturing Automation magazine.

Victor Manufacturing, a division of Magna International, Inc., is running CMSi5 software on IBMs iSeries 5 platform. Angle said that CMS plans to continue to support the iSeries.

Recently, though, CMS rolled out a similar product for Windows environments, known as CMSm5.

Other CMSi5 customers include Hughes Manufacturing, Inc., Kay Home Products, and ARJ Manufacturing. Grooms Engines is now using CMSm5.

Beyond SAP, Microsoft and CMS, the midrange enterprise software market is also populated by a number of holding companies, who are rapidly buying up smaller software vendors, said CMSs Angle.

Yet CMSs approach to vertical market needs differs from those of competitors. Instead of providing a broad range of customizable components, the vendor has opted to specialize in seven areas, and to "tie them together in a vertically oriented way."

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CMS drills down on e-business requirements through its Web suite, The software maker is also tackling EDI requirements; bar code compliance; zero defects and lot tracking; agility; real-time data acquisition; and "blanket orders for multiple releases" of goods.

As a result, users typically need "very little if any" modifications to their software, according to Angle.

Hrasky said that Victor Manufacturing is now getting a number of these "blanket orders" from customers. Some auto makers are putting in a years worth of orders for multiple parts.

For communications with outside customers and suppliers, CMS translates between hundreds of different flavors of EDI, Angle said.

CMS uses serial bar coding for tracking. The software now includes an interface to RFID, too, but generally, customers are using RFID only for shipping and logistics operations, Angle said.

RFID, he said, provides accuracy that is sufficient only in situations where the scanner comes within eight feet of the bar code label—and this doesnt usually happen on the manufacturing shop floor.

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