At a Glance:
- ERP from the Plex Manufacturing Cloud enables a plastics supplier to improve efficiency, quality, scheduling and parts tracking — meeting demands of a new customer segment.
- Champion Plastics reduces production scheduling man hours by more than 50 percent and inventory by nearly 30 percent.
- Plex’s barcoding capabilities, precision scheduling, and tighter inventory management lead to improved quality.
About Champion Plastics
When Champion Plastics, Inc., landed a coveted Harley-Davidson account, owners Mike and Matt McDermott knew they couldn’t afford any missteps, especially with their EDI. Current customer General Motors was changing its EDI system, and they knew they could adapt their current system to integrate with GM’s. But they weren’t certain it would work for Harley-Davidson. Rather than pay for a GM adaptation that might not work for Harley-Davidson, they decided to research and shop for a new system.
“Initially, we were looking at systems only for EDI purposes,” says Mike McDermott, president. “We weren’t looking for a complete ERP system. But we knew our method of inventory control was a high hurdle. We are unusual in that we use our customers’ part numbers instead of generating our own, and we didn’t want to go through the hassle of changing that. We also knew that we had a different system for each area of our business, and that integrating all these systems was going to be an issue.
“We spent four months evaluating ERP systems, and we realized none of them integrated as well as Plex. Most other systems would have required us to generate our own part numbers. Plex allowed us to keep our current processes, so the transition to a new system would be faster and less disruptive.
“We were able to adapt Plex to us instead of us having to adapt to other software. We saw that Plex had a lot to offer in terms of systems integration, and it could all be beneficial to us. So we decided to go with the entire system. It has paid off in ways we hadn’t anticipated.”
Improvements in Operational Efficiency
Champion Plastics started its Plex Cloud ERP implementation with the EDI module and worked its way into Shipping. Once Inventory Control was up and running, the company moved into Quality, Control Plans, Production Planning and Purchasing. Champion Plastics quickly evolved into a lean manufacturing organization.
“We’re a quick turnaround company, and we have to be flexible and aggressive,” says Mike McDermott. “We found that Plex is a very time efficient system. Preparing shipping documents, sending ASNs, creating purchase orders, and
more are only a click away. Plex has greatly affected our parts traceability, which is a key requirement, especially for our automotive customers. With just a few clicks, we can easily find what material was used, when the material came in, when and who manufactured the part, and when and how it was shipped out.”
“Before Plex, when there was a quality issue, we had to spend hours manually going through paperwork,” according to Director of Operations Matt McDermott. “Our former system was effective, but it was paper-driven, and, quite frankly, archaic. It took two hours a day and was designed just to record the outgoing serial numbers. Plex has allowed us to reduce our entire company’s paperwork by over 50 percent, and what little we now have, we don’t have to store. All data is stored on the Plex system, and we can access it at any time. This gives us about a 33 percent savings on manpower at the manufacturing level. In addition, Plex allowed us to stop the redundancy of checking work.”
The Plex Cloud ERP browser-based system allows Champion Plastics managers access to all business information from their homes or while on the road, which has greatly simplified their lives.
“We can log in from literally anywhere,” Matt McDermott says. “If there’s a problem
on the second shift, I can log in from home and fix it within minutes rather than having to drop everything and run back to work or face a mess in the morning. It’s extremely convenient.”
Improvements in Quality
“At our size, we can’t afford quality or shipping problems,” Matt emphasizes. “It would kill us.”
In the past, Champion Plastics would occasionally ship the wrong box to the wrong customer. Now that Plex barcodes everything, shipping errors have virtually been eliminated.
“Before Plex, the person getting the orders ready the night before would sometimes grab and ship the wrong box,” says Office Manager Amanda Lamb. “This was a major problem because we ship for just-in-time manufacturing. When this happened, we had to manually search serial numbers to find the error, and it took forever. To avoid shipping errors, we spent a half-hour every morning manually inspecting every box. It was time consuming.
“With Plex, nothing can be shipped without being scanned. When each container is scanned, the information goes into the computer to prepare a shipping label. If anyone accidentally grabs and scans the wrong box, an error message saying ‘Invalid Serial Number’ pops up on the screen. It’s almost impossible to ship the wrong parts.”
The Plex Scheduling function reduced man hours required for production scheduling by more than half. What used to take 12 to 15 hours weekly now
takes only six or seven despite a large increase in customers. Champion Plastics has also been able to reduce its inventory by nearly 30 percent and still meet customer demands.
Precise Parts Tracking
“Our business is a little different,” Mike explains. “We ship to meet our customers’ just-in-time requirements, but it’s cheaper for us to run several weeks or months worth of orders and then store them in our warehouse until it’s time to ship. With the Plex serial numbers and scanning systems, we can easily find the parts when we need them.
“With Plex, our information and planning are more accurate. We know exactly how many parts we have on hand and can easily determine how many to run. This saves us machine time because we aren’t running parts we don’t need. Our raw materials and finished goods inventory counts are now precise. We couple our inventory counts with parts planning to determine production runs. We are now running the right parts at the right times for increased efficiency.”
The MRP function (Materials Scheduling) has vastly simplified raw materials purchasing. The MRP looks at current inventory, what Champion Plastics currently has on order, the minimum inventory they’d like to keep on the shelf, and sales requirements. After looking at all of these figures, Plex generates recommendations of what needs to be ordered in what amounts and when the order should be placed.
Movement From Good to Great
“It’s a wonderful thing,” Matt says. “The whole Plex system has helped us elevate the effectiveness of our operations. The fact that each system for each area of the business— purchasing, inventory, quality, manufacturing, shipping, and accounting— integrates with the others makes it easy to run a great operation. We were a good company before, and now we’re better. The competition in manufacturing is only going to increase. We’re confident that we are well-positioned to compete and grow.”