SMEs share insights on adopting new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems

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Well HERD is in the business of designing, manufacturing and selling specialized bumpers for transport trucks. They are very unique and their purpose is really to protect the truck against wildlife collisions and other mishaps on the road.

BioChambers has been providing plant growth chambers and rooms for about 40 years now. A plant growth chamber is specialized equipment to create an environment that is just optimal for doing research on plants. We are a relatively small company providing a complex customized product to quite a large world market.

At Carlson Engineered Composites we are dedicated to supply the composite parts for the bus industry and the Agra industry. We have close to 250 employees working in 2 facilities.

What we realized a few years ago is we were going to bottle neck on the IT side, the invisible infrastructure and those tools that we need to to communicate and work effectively as a team.

We had a whole set of systems that we wanted to combine into one umbrella system and that is why we were hopeful that an ERP system could bring a lot of benefit and efficiency to the company.

To understand where a specific part was in the production pipeline was hard to determine and that was our biggest issue.

You need to be extraordinarily diligent in your selection process of the software and of the people that are going to deliver it.

We actually set our sights pretty high and we picked out a large ERP system, something probably larger than most small companies would have taken on at the time with anticipation for growth and that in the future we wouldn’t have to go through this process again.

You must not spend much time on demonstrations. You must actually test software.

The surprise to me was how much introspection we needed to do as a company and how much work it was and important work. It was the sort of stuff that otherwise the company would not grow or develop.

It would be rare for any company, manufacturing company to buy an out of the box product and really expect it to do everything they wanted it to do.

The solution that we tried to find was to bar code our product so that we could trace it throughout the production floor. We tried to tweak the process on the floor and the software to a certain degree where we could blend those two together.

We were quite impressed with some of the advances that the CAD systems can now provide. Our design time is less. Errors are less.

The first thing that most visitors that have been in manufacturing notice is that there are no travellers. We tell every employee through a digital portal what to do next and how to do it at their terminal all the time. We have taken care of CRM, taken care of order entry. We are all on our way to configurator.

We have grown quite fast into the digital technology with the acquisition of the two robots and with the implementation of the bar coding tracking system but at the same time we needed some type of reports telling us how many parts we had in certain types of areas which at the same time would provide us information where the bottleneck or the constraint is in this moment in the plant which is very helpful information just to allow us to send some extra resources to that particular department. Over the last six to nine months our productivity or efficiency on the floor increased by 30%.

We need to constantly add value to the market and our employees need to be alleviated from doing mundane work that also tends to be problematic and errors can be made.

We are proud of our ability through our control system, through the access to the controller to be able to do diagnostics from a single location here to service the world.

Digital technology is very compatible with the LEAN concept that we implemented. It is an additional tool that helps us to be leaner every day.

We would love to give customers access to designing their own product.

Today we are just building the infrastructure and the basics of our IT plan; it is absolutely intended to reach out through a customer portal of some sort so that the customer will be able to configure their product online.

The next step would be capturing the amount of time we are spending on each part.

The next step for us is to become a global provider.

When I look at the DTAPP program I think to myself, it just gave me the edge that I needed to pursue the journey.

When we heard about the DTAPP program we were very interested because it covered training costs. DTAPP offered that support to get us to a point in a year that probably would have taken us five years to do on our own.

We at Carlsons consider us very lucky in a way that we had a connection to DTAPP because we found that there was an open door to connect to other firms, to other manufacturing plants. I just cannot imagine having done this without that help. We probably would have a) spend way more money and b) wasted way more time. The opportunity is huge. We are just seeing the tip of the ice berg. There is much, much more to come.

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