At a Glance:
For automotive parts suppliers and OEMs, reducing costs, streamlining production, and increasing efficiency are the demands of the day. Plex Cloud ERP software supports the specific requirements of automotive manufacturers.
Plex’s features for automotive manufacturers include integrated data, EDI, barcode labeling, ECR tracking, warranty management, PPAP and APQP, supplier quality management and much more.
Thanks, Doug. Hi. As Doug said, this is John Oehlers. I’m a rep with Plex. I’ve been with Plex for several years. I’ve been in the automotive space, specifically in software, for about 25 years. So we’re going to through any of the advantages and things to think about today as you’re looking at systems, and most definitely the advantage of Plex. So here’s the agenda. Why do companies choose Plex, some of the key differentiators, and then I get a pass the baton to colleague Dave Broccardo. He’ll take you through a demonstration.
That will take about a half hour. So, normally as we would engage with prospects, we’d spend more time talking about you and understanding you. But the way this is set and the format is set is for us to hopefully whet your appetite with some things to think about Plex. I’d like to think about this as a paradigm shift. I imagine some of you have seen some of our presentations already, but, if any of you are anywhere near my age, a lot of the times when we did research in the past, we were pulling out an encyclopedia to get information and the information was as fresh as the year in which the encyclopedia was published.
In today’s day and age, each and every one of us would hop out to Google and probably get more information than we need, but it’s instantaneous. Same goes for music. I imagine every one of you has some form of an iPod or an electronic device like that. It wasn’t long ago that we were buying CD’s and even records. Same thing’s happened in the software space.
For many years, you had no choice but to buy software that you would run and support within your own four walls. And Plex has been around for many years, really broke the ice in what is now called SaaS or cloud computing, and we’re going to go through some of the many things that we do that help to differentiate the way we manage Plex as compared to what the competitors do. At a very high level, Software as a Service or SaaS, as you may hear the acronym, basically means you don’t have to buy the hardware and the systems software to support your infrastructure for your business systems.
We do work closely with our clients. Because it’s Internet-based, we have a very tight-knit community. I’ll elaborate on that. But when we say it’s purpose-built for today’s climate, 100% of any modifications that we do, or the enhancements within Plex are coming directly from the customer. So it’s not as though I can get crazy as a sales rep and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea, I want to make this thing look sexier,’ to potentially sell the next new customer, but instead, every enhancement in Plex is as a direct result of a customer request.
We do focus on manufacturers and to take that to the nth degree. The vast majority of our customers are automotive suppliers, although we technically use the term that we’re approaching motor vehicle suppliers, because we have customers that also make parts for cars, trucks, buses and heavy equipment. Why do companies choose Plex? What is then the definition of a living system, for us? None of our customers has to apply any version upgrades or release upgrades.
You access Plex via the Internet. It’s very secure. Needless to say, to be able to say that we have customers such as BMW and Nissan and American Axle, Magna Corporation, and Inteva that was a part of Delphi, we needed to make sure that it was very secure and reliable, but what’s different is, everybody’s using the same instance and you don’t apply updates. We, in fact, and this is probably a topic for a different session, but we have a way where we actually apply about 40 enhancements every single day. So we don’t have to take the system down.
And in your world, you don’t have to take advantage of all the enhancements. We publish them there’s ways in which our customers are alerted to what we’ve done, and then you opt-in to those things that you actually want to use. So we may have, at one extreme, some customer that haven’t actually opted in to any new functionality in seven years. But they are on the most current version as of right now. Our customers, needless to say, when they have made the decision to go with Plex in years past, they were more of the mavericks five or six years ago.
But now, it’s becoming a standard within the industry. People are accepting software that delivered, software as a service or a cloud model. There’s total coverage, so, when you partner with Plex, you get access to all the modules and there’s unlimited users. A lot of times, when we get to the one-yard line with our prospects and they make that final decision to go with us, it gets lost in translation that there’s no limit to the number of users, be it your users, your customers given access to certain data via customer portal, or conversely, your suppliers.
But many of them tell us after the fact that this is one of the biggest benefits for them. They’re not counting users. They’re not worried about whether it’s an administrative user, a main user, a concurrent user and having licenses for different applications because we have over 360 modules. I’ll take about that in a little bit. But you don’t have to have a separate license for ERP and something else for reporting and something for EDI and barcoding and the like. And once again, we can show you as much as you want to see in terms of how solid it is for us to manage data on our end.
Our data centers that we have, we have concurrent data centers both in Michigan and down in Asheville. In the unlikely event that anything were to happen to the state of Michigan . . . We take them down almost on a monthly basis to make sure everything’s in sync. So what really removes that concern of yours purchasing and sizing hardware and upgrading hardware and keeping the databases is that as long as you can get access to the Internet via wireless connection with your laptop or a hardwire through the Ethernet, or in some cases customers are using mobile devices and iPads, you can get at Plex.
We really break out of the box of what is traditional ERP, so when you look at your business system today, more than likely, if you’re doing anything automated in these other areas, you probably have had to purchase bolt-on applications to handle EDI or manufacturing execution, or your quality management system.
Personally, one of the reasons I was really impressed by Plex, with such an automotive background, is that, just the EDI piece is fully integrated. You don’t pay any additional dollars to add EDI libraries to your configuration, and that includes that mapping, the coding, the testing the debugging, and it includes the business rules of managing queues and NATs [sounds like 7:34] ], routing the standard pack, heading behind schedule, model-year changeover, retro invoicing . . . All of those things are integrated, incorporated with Plex.
This is not an all-inclusive list of the modules within Plex, but as you’ll see over here on the left, these are typically the things you’ll find within the quarry or ERP systems, but we also have full sales and CRM support, supply chain and inventory, manufacturing operations and management – so, whether we’re talking about things like integrating gauges, or having real-time check sheets, managing quality control and control plans within the system, communicating with your suppliers, or doing things like document control – so that for each and every part and customer, we have a full document control system such that there’s unlimited storage for the type and quantity of documents that you would store within Plex.
Likewise, there’s full workflow management all throughout the system, so that where it makes sense to get proactive alerts when things are out of bounds or out of tolerance, you’re noted. And most importantly, this is all real-time. So there’s no batch processing whatsoever throughout the whole system. As I talk about this, this is a living system, community driven.
So what happens is, if one of our suppliers or one of our valuable customers says, ‘We want to do this enhancement within Plex,’ once that enhancement is complete, it is immediately applied to the live system, and every one of our customers has access to that enhancement. In the old way, you probably had a vanilla version or release, and then most likely, you would have some modifications that might be custom mods that reside only on your box.
And then every time there’s a version or release upgrade, you’ve got to go through the process of saying, ‘Jeez, was the custom mod that I paid for now a part of the vanilla code, or do I have to continue to maintain my custom mod and perhaps do some enhancements or modifications to that mod to adapt it to what’s the current system?’ Once again, that all goes away within the world of Plex. A few tell-tale numbers here. 90,015 that’s actually the number of users that logged into Plex yesterday, representing over 500 companies across the world.
I’ve thrown this out before, but there are 360 modules. So when we work with you, basically, we work with you and say, ‘Let’s talk about sales of your company.’ And then you are not charged by module, by the number of users, by the number of sites, where you have any concerns about the platform that the product is running on. And finally, there is one instance of Plex that every single one of our customers is sharing.
So whether it’s a startup company that’s a customer of mine, like Bilco Fasteners, that’s just approaching $1million in sales for the North American operation, or we’re talking about Nissan or Honda Trading or Inteva or some of the other customers that I’ll show you in a minute, everybody is using the same wise version of the software. They have their own customer numbers or tenants within Plex, and we have a very easy-to-understand way of managing that for you, so that there’s certainly no exposure at any of your information could drift its way into somebody else’s environment or tenet.
And, like I say, the reason I throw some of the names out that I do that are larger companies is, not that they’re our most important customers, but you can just imagine they’ve really taken us through the wringer, to make sure that everything is secure and it’s reliable. Validation on the outside, Arberdeen conducted an independent study and a survey of the customers of those companies that are listed here.
They approached approximately 500 customers of each of those listed and there were a variety of things on the survey that we’ll get into more detail on, but the net result is, when you combine market-readiness and value delivered, our customers were blowing everybody else away. So we’re very proud of that. Why is that? These are just a couple of the metrics companies that were similar size and for similar operations. But Plex customers were carrying less inventory, had greater inventory or accuracy, and they were a whole myriad of metrics, including on-time shipments and compliance, where our customer are doing very well with Plex.
A little more about Software as a Service. This is a window into the world. It’s reinforced more than a bank vault at our primary data center in Auburn Hills, and as I mentioned earlier, we have a sister data center down in Asheville, where we’re constantly streaming data back and force, so that in the unlikely event that something were to happen to one of the sites, the other could take over. But just in the way that each of the individual sites is reinforced, it is really a sight to see.
I would strongly encourage any of you that are looking forward to moving forward with us or investigating Plex to check out that data center and you’ll see what we’re talking about. Further validation on the outside from the customer base, from the consulting community . . . Revstone Industries, they’re a couple billion dollar company, global. They were using SAP and they decided to bring Plex in. There’s a case study that’s available touting a 456% ROI by implementing Plex, where they had already implemented SAP.
Another customer of ours I mentioned before is Inteva. They were a part of Delphi, and they were told they had to get off of Delphi’s systems within a year. They had 14 plants in 4 countries, and we were able to migrate them from multiple instances of a competitor’s system in less than a year. Here’s a partial list of some logos of our valued customers. I’ve mentioned some of them already. We’ve talked about the fact that they are global. Grand Rapids Spring & Stamping is the company that took over the business when Toyota was having problems with the gas pedals. They’ve being growing exponentially. So that’s the front end, that’s my quick overview of Plex and the company, and at this point, I’m going to pass the baton on to Dave Broccardo, who will then be putting you through the live code. Thank you.
Thanks, John. I’m going to take control here. My name is Dave Broccardo, I’m a senior solutions engineer with Plex, I have about 25 years experience working with motor vehicle supply companies, automotive suppliers and for today’s demonstration, I’m going to be covering about four basic areas. I want to cover the areas that I’ve seen over the past 25 years that a lot of automotive supplier companies have challenges with.
Manufacturing, most companies have that down pretty well, but it’s the ancillary functions around that of EDI, release accounting, barcoding, shipping. It’s integrating a quality system into the manufacturing process that I find a lot of suppliers, that I’ve visited over the years, still have problems with. There’s also an issue in automotive, especially if you make parts that are related to safety of being able to trace parts and material back to suppliers and operations that were done on it, and what is growing more and more every day is extending the information you have to your suppliers so you can form more of a collaborational effort with them, more of a partnership with suppliers.
So what I’m going to do today is hop into the application and walk through each of these areas. Plex is a very broad and deep application, so it’s going to be impossible for me today to give you the full flavor of Plex, but I hope to show you the look and feel of the application, the ease of navigation, and touch on what John talked about, the integrated single database, where everything I show you today is built by Plex and maintained by Plex. There is no third-party products that we’ve purchased or acquired and interfaced into the product.
Everything I show you today is totally integrated under the cover so that when information is entered in one place, it’s automatically available in all the other modules that require it. So let me share my desktop here, give me one moment. And I’m going to just start out with Internet Explorer. Everyone should be able to see Plex, an online information system. Plex does not require any hardware or software on your end to access.
If you have a PC running Internet Explorer anywhere in the world, with the proper login, password and company code, you’re able to access Plex to look at your information, look at reports, do whatever you need to do in the system. So I’m going to log in with my unique ID and the company code is Plex, because Plex itself uses the application, so we are a tenant, and we use it for HR purposes and for quality purposes, and what comes up here first is a list of companies.
If you had multiple locations, you would see multiple buttons on the screen if you were allowed to do that. So we have full role based security. Very robust security that only lets each user see the companies they’re allowed to access and the functions within that company of payroll, manufacturing, EDI. I’m going to click on Acme Manufacturing, because that’s the demonstration environment that I have today. And keep in mind that I have just about every option turned on in this demo environment.
So you’re going to see menu that have had every menu option turned on, every function turned on in modules, so definitely consider that when you’re looking that this. That typically most customers don’t have all these menu options turned on, and the screens definitely don’t have all the options turned on behind that. I’m going to just show you the capabilities here. As a global system, we have the ability to support multiple languages in multiple currencies. So at any point in time, each user could define how they want to see the application.
So if I want to see it in Japanese because I speak Japanese, I would get the application in Japanese. And what supports this capability is the glossarization [sic] feature that you have access to. So each customer has the ability to go in and rename these titles. And all the fields on all the screens can be renamed. So if I want to say that ‘part number’ is not called ‘part number’ in my company, we call it ‘item number’, the glossarization feature allows me to change that once, and it’s reflected automatically within the entire company.
I’m going to change this back because I do not speak Japanese. So what I’m going to do first is drive really quickly into EDI. I want to show you what EDI is and my experience has been with EDI is that it’s usually a bolt-on application. A lot of customers make it a manufacturing system, but they’ve got this bolt-on application that they have to, as John was saying, buy an EDI library or trading [sounds like 19:38] partners and what Plex does is provide an EDI engine behind the scenes that’s always running at our data center.
And what I’ve done here is, I’ve brought up a typical menu in the system. The system was designed around touch-screen capabilities so a lot of our screens have big buttons on them so that people, especially in the plant floor, can just touch the screens to record production, look up part information, bring up a document to understand how to do something. So we’ve carried that forward into the menu-ing structure to keep it very easy to use. John had also mentioned the unlimited user licensing within Plex.
We want everybody in the application to be able to use the application. So this is another way that we make the application easy to use because it looks very easy. So I’m going to just talk a little bit about EDI. From an EDI perspective, when you purchase Plex, you get immediate access to every single trading partner we’ve built since the beginning of time. And that is literally hundreds and hundreds of trading partners. I don’t have all the trading partners turned on in this demo environment, but I can drill down into Cooper Standard, Decolith, Delphi, and you will have access immediately to these trading partners and all these transaction steps.
So you’re not loading on libraries, you’re not loading software code on, you’re not having to modify any software. It’s all pre-built into the system, and all you need to do is specify your supplier code. Are you using a value added network? Are you going directly to your customers servers? Do you send and receive EDI. You also have the ability to set up an EDI schedule. How often do you want to pull EDI schedules from your customers? Is it once an hour from Ford or once a day from Toyota, or is it every 15 minutes or is it just once a day? So we give you the flexibility to define that.
The key part of EDI is tracking the information. It’s been said that EDI is the most standard non-standard there is, and what we’ve tried to do here is simplify the whole EDI process, where traditionally you may have had to receive that data, print it out, verify it, process it in, handle any errors, reprocess. In Plex we’ve really simplified it because behind the scenes, we are handling 99 percent of that for you. If there are no errors whatsoever in the EDI that’s coming across, it just flows into the database automatically.
Those orders and releases show up automatically in the system. There’s nothing that you need to do. But in the off case that there is an error . . . I’m going to bring up a sample here for Freightliner. And you’ll notice that every screen I go into has the filter criteria up top. This is an ad hoc report writer if you will. I can search very quickly into the database to find exactly what I want, and what you see here are two transactions that came over from Freightliner. One is a test that we sent, one was partially loaded.
John talked about the workflow in this system. You’re able to set up email alerts in many different areas in the system, and especially in EDI. Typically, we find the customer service folks manage the EDI process, and you can set up the system to kick off an error message, an email message to your customer service folks and say, ‘I received something from Freightliner), and there was an error.’ So I can drill into the EDI key here, and take a look at the specific areas and it looks like, in this case, they’re sending over a whole lot of parts that you don’t have set up in the system.
But if we go right down to the bottom here, there was one part set up that successfully loaded into the system. So part of the real-time nature of Plex is that we’re going to do whatever we can now to get the data in. Whatever isn’t in the system, because you don’t have setup. Once those parts are set up, it’s a simple manner to pull that information and reprocess that file and the information flows into the system. Now, John mentioned that we store all data indefinitely.
We don’t delete anything off the system, so you can go back for as far as you’ve been using Plex and look at the actual raw EDI data, if you’re familiar with that, or come in here and look at, sort of, the human-readable information from that release file. So here’s the buyer information, all of my EDI dates and times. We also do take care of all the cumulative functions, the cumulative quantities.
So we will take into consideration Freightliner unique business rules when we process this into the system, same as we do for Ford, Honda, Toyota, Kanban [sounds like 24:00] all the special fields that each customer requires, we’re taking care of behind the scenes and making sure it flows through the entire system. I mentioned down here the email notification setup. Each user can decide what kind of messaging within the system they want to receive. So it could be, within email, when an EDI successfully loads into the system, I just want to know I got orders from Ford, or I had Ford parts kick out because they weren’t set up.
So Plex is all really set up around managing by exception, instead of having to print out 100 page reports and flipping through it to see what processed and what didn’t. So now that we’ve got the EDI information, the next part that’s a challenge is, ‘How do I manage those unique automotive requirements?’ Because as you probably are aware, automotive EDI and release accounting is a little bit different from just standard purchase orders. So what I’m going to do is bring over another window, because in Plex, I can have open as many windows as I want.
I’m going to go to the customer order and release menu. And I’m going to drill into the releases tab, because this is going to show me the actual data from my customer that was processed in, and Plex is going to give you a lot of different ways to look at information. I can look at it for a specific customer, all customers, I can only look at releases with specific ship dates, I can sort this a dozen different ways or just look by ship due. But I’m going to default here to Chrysler as one of my customers.
I’m not going to bring this up, but it’s going to show me all the releases that I have for customer, my different part numbers, and because of the integrated nature of Plex, this EDI system is not standalone. It’s integrated tightly with the rest of the system. It’s going to show me what I have, inventory available to ship, and you’ll notice the color coding. We using color coding throughout Plex to easily tell users, green is good, red means there’s a problem, yellow means you’re in between.
You may not have enough to ship, but you’ve got something to ship. So in this case here, I’ve got quantity on hand, I’ve got nothing work in process, and it’s going to come down here and tell me what kind of schedules I’ve got, and because this is an Internet application, you’re users will be really familiar with just clicking on a link to be able to drill down and get to more information. I don’t have to go to another screen and look at the purchase order for that. I can drill right down here on the purchase order and take a look at it.
Part of the error-proofing, the mistake proofing in Plex is only allowing users to do what is correct for that customer. So down here for this one customer, 479988, this part number I’ve got a check box here. That means I have enough parts on hand, I can go ahead and schedule that shipment and create a shipper in the system, that then, my shipping department would have a different module that they would go in on a daily basis, they’re looking at all the shipments that have been scheduled by customer service to be shipped out today, tomorrow, maybe the next ten days, depending on the frequency that you ship to your customers.
I’m going to go back out here real quick and just show you how simple the shipping process is. And again, if this was a separate standalone application, users would have to be going between your manufacturing system and the shipping system and maybe EDI, but customer shipping is very straightforward. This was designed from the shipping clerk coming in here and saying, ‘I need to find out what shipments I had today, what’s going out, how do I stage them.’ and again, the system is going to use color coding to help identify what’s going on.
And of course, being demonstration data, I’m really behind on some of these shipments, but I do have some parts on hand here, and for those parts that I have 400 on my shipper that I need to ship, I’ve already loaded those 400 parts consisting of four containers, the system is going to tell me I can now ship. I haven’t loaded anything on these, I can’t ship anything yet. So if I hit the ship button and say, ‘I’m ready to print the paperwork,’ it’s going to ask me, ‘Is there a tracking number that’s involved here, is there a trailer number?’
And when I hit update, the system is going to go ahead and say, ‘Let’s start printing out all the documentation that I need.’ So it’s going to come up and know, because I set up ahead of time in the ship to file, and the customer file, I need a material certification document to print. I need Canadian customs because I’m going to a Canadian destination. My certificate of conformance. My customer shipper. If I need two of those to print out, it’ll print out two. And you’ll notice, most of our screens have print, email and fax.
You can turn those on or off in the different modules, so I could automatically have the shipping information, all these documents, emailed to my customer as soon as the shipment leaves the door. All of this is done without your end-users needing to remember that, ‘I need a certificate of conformance. I need an export paper,’ or ‘I need an after-document.’ The system is going to print out the labels of all the documents automatically, based on what was set up in the system, previously.
We also have the capability to do RF scanning. If you have the RF scanners that are on the Internet, that can handle Internet Explorer, they would see smaller versions of these screens. You’d be able to scan the shipments and verify the right containers are going on to the right shipments. I also want to mention that our barcode engine is built into the system. There is no stand-alone barcode labeling software that you need to purchase to use Plex. We manage the engine that prints, we manage all hundreds of label formats that we have, and we literally have hundreds, if not thousands.
We also can print internal labels that you use just for inventory purposes, and of course, we support all the customer-specific labels that you might need for mixed loads, master labels, specific labels for Honda, things like that. I want to move quickly here into quality, because quality is another area that I’ve seen a lot of automotive suppliers struggle with.
A lot of them still are paper-based, Excel spreadsheets, Access databases, and when you begin to understand the design principle behind Plex, when new modules are developed, they aren’t developed in a vacuum of ‘We need to do this’. It is, ‘How do we integrate this so the data flows naturally from the engineering side, whether spec-ing out this part and building in the specifications? How do I flow that into my process flowcharts and my FMEAs and control plans?’ So what you see here on this screen is, everything in green consists of our core quality functionality.
We start with our parts list, that you collaborate with engineering on, we work with the part specification, we build up our FMEAs and control plans, and that all rolls in to check sheets that are used on the production floor. So, with Plex, we try to remove as much paperwork as possible, because paper, you can scan it in, but you can’t use the data on it without somebody hand-keying it into the system. With Plex, our idea is that we want you to go paperless.
On the plan floor, we want a screen to come up and say, ‘Before you start production on this, there’s a check sheet you need to measure characteristic of the first part, perhaps, that came out’, and record that electronically in the database so that any time in the future you can go back a year later if necessary, two years, and look up the individual quality check sheet that was done on that container of parts. If there’s ever a quality issue, you know who did it, on what machine, at what time, what the specifications were.
So I mentioned that the core part of the system is the green here. But we also collect that information to make it available on our SPC modules. So we have complete SPC charting, histograms, automatically kept up to date in a real-time as production is happening, as people are making parts. This information is being updated in real time. We also have a complete PPAP process so that you can submit documentation to your customer. The PPAP process is tightly integrated with the control plans and process flow charts, so as you’re building parts, as you’re defining the quality process for this, it’s automatically building all of these other databases.
So when I go into the PPAP in a little bit, you’ll see that it’s going to bring in all the information of engineering quality and pre-fill all the sheets for me. But what’s really important, because it is a single database, when quality and engineering makes a change in one place, it flows automatically to those forms, and it says, ‘Oh, this form is now revision two, I need to update this and send it to my customer or make a copy of it and store it away in case my customer asks for it.’
So I’m going to go really quickly here into my parts screen, because that’s really where everything starts in Plex, is, I have to have a part to work with. So I’m going to bring up, very quickly here, part 5400, and again, I have a filtered criteria that I can filter a number of different ways, but I’m just going to go into 5400 and we use images a lot in Plex. We want to provide confirmation to the user that you’re actually looking and going into the correct part. And I wanted to mention something that John had mentioned in his presentation, the document control system.
Just about everywhere in Plex, you’ll see this little yellow paperclip icon. If it’s yellow, it means there are documents behind it. And documents can be associated with orders, with individual parts, they could be associated to an individual billing materials or process routing. The idea here is that you’re associating documents at the specific area of the application, and when it comes time to produce that part, Plex automatically makes available all those required documents to the person on the shop floor.
So if they have a question about how to set up the press, how to run this operation, all the documents associated with this part are available to them. Instead of having to have paper documents in a three-ring binder, someone has to remember to update every so often when something changes in the production cycle. So what you see on your screen here is what we call a submenu. This brings together all of the information in Plex. All the different modules that have anything to do with managing this part, which we can manage engineering change requests, we can look at the Bill of Materials.
Here are those same modules that have to do with quality that I can go directly into the control plan for this part that I’m working on and manage it. We also have tooling, we can manage customer orders, inventory, and you can add to this if there are other modules you want to directly access, you can customize this automatically. So I’m going to go into the control plan just to show an example of the integrated nature. So it’s going to go into the database and say, ‘I need to bring together the quality information’ and what quality has done, is worked with the engineering department and collaborated on this and defined the specifications and made sure the system is set up to say, ‘For this part, I have an assembly operation with two inspection steps. And for that inspection step, there is a check sheet.’
I’m going to click into the spreadsheet to show you what it looks like. This is the exact same check sheet that the operator on the plant floor would see when they go to run this and run their first piece, it’s going to identify the container that that material’s going to go into. Because in Plex, we track everything at the container level. So until the end of time, this check sheet will forever be associated with the parts being produced in this container, along with the operator, the date, the work center, the day and time, and the part.
And these are the specific specifications associated with this operation and part that quality says ‘We need to track’. I need to track using this gauge, torque wrench, for this one I’m going to use a six-limit gauge, for the camera, I’m just going to use a visual check on that, and what we’ve done with Plex is, we’re tracking all this electronically in the database.
We are storing check sheet after check sheet electronically so we can do SPC charting and reporting, but the real-time nature of the system means, if there’s a problem and I say I measure 19 on that, right away, the system is going to come back and say there’s a problem. You’re out of spec, don’t continue production. So at this point, the operator can type an explanation, ‘Hey, that’s what I’m reporting, what do I do?’ Typically customers put under here under the reaction plan, a Word document.
‘What do I do if that’s wrong?’ It could say, ‘call supervisor.’ It could be a Word document that says adjust machine and run another test part, but the idea here is that the system is not going to allow the operator to start production or continue production if none of these specifications are met. So when I do meet these specifications, all I do is go down here, check these, add it. This check sheet is now forever associated with that container, and if I want, on their plant floor, I can tell the system, ‘I want my operator to start taking a look at this SPCF.’ I’ve trained them in this, I want them to start understanding this and taking a look, and being proactive with us in quality engineering to make sure we’re putting out quality parts at all times. So this SPC charting is the same thing the quality department could bring up at any time on any part to see what’s going on.
I mentioned a moment ago, looking at the part, the document authoring is a huge part of our quality module. You won’t have to worry anymore about Word documents or Excel spreadsheets. Authoring the documents in Plex means you’ve got one single database and we keep multiple revisions, so as you’re making changes to this, every single change in every single master file is being tracked down to the user, the date and the time and what the value was before and after it. So if a quantity is changed from 50 to 100, we’re tracking that from an audit perspective so you always know what’s being changed to all the master files in the system.
I’m going to cut over to our control panel, because I wanted to show you real quick here, what our customers use on a daily basis. This is a representative sample of a plant floor. And what you should be seeing, if it’s coming across through the Webex, is these machines are moving. The ones that are moving are in production, the one that are in brown are in maintenance mode, the ones that are red are in problems status mode. So a lot of customers use this on a big screen somewhere, so at a glance, I see my plants operating, and I can also drill down into one of these, like press 16.
This is the control panel I was speaking of a moment ago. This is how we support quality. This is how we support the electronic capture of information in real-time, so that instead of waiting a month to understand how your quality is doing and how you’re shipping, the operator is actively using the control panel at the work station to say that you’re in production, or perhaps there’s a problem, ‘I have a maintenance issue, I can track the kind of maintenance issues that I’m having’.
The idea here on the control panel is, the operator has different check sheets that they need to complete. If these need to be completed, they’d be in yellow right now, but it looks like another person is demoing the same control panel somewhere in the world, and they’ve accessed the same process inspection in the last ten minutes, and it could have been me a few minutes ago here.
So the idea here is that, this control panel is capturing real-time electronic information, and on this one screen I can view all of my documents from my document control system, information about the part, and as John mentioned it’s unlimited. It could be videos, audio files, drawings, Visio’s, Excel spreadsheets of any size, no limit to the number of documents you can store in the system. Now I’m going to bring over here another screen. This is our document control system.
This can be considered similar to a file server you might have on your network right now, that is shared, that different departments have access to, but this is our online system, where I can go in and say, ‘Here’s all of my purchasing procedures that everybody can look at, but only purchasing folks can go in and modify.’ Behind this whole document control system is an audit system that allows you to check in, check out documents, use the workflow process built into Plex to say, ‘If I change a quality document, it needs to be approved by three or four different departments, before it goes back into circulation, it’s made available to everyone to reference here.’
Then we go into a couple different areas here. Problem control is another area that I’ve seen a lot of customers struggle with, and problem control, to Plex, is a problem either internally in your facility that you’re trying to manage, it could be a customer-reported problem of rusted or damaged parts they received, or it could be a problem of parts you’ve received from your supplier. So we keep a comprehensive tracking system within Plex. And the idea behind this is, because every user in Plex has a user ID.
Every person can be assigned tasks. So if I go into one of these, and I’m going to go into this first one here as an example, Plex has the ability to have any number of problem forms created in it. We have a 8Ds system audits, nonconformance, warranty problem records, if you have a product that you track warranty information on . . . These are forms that come with Plex, but you can also create your own forms.
You can have 8Ds, you can have 5Ys, whatever makes sense to you to have a standard process within your company when there is a problem, we follow the standard process. And the idea here is that we are tying this problem form to corrective actions, we are tying it back to specific parts. We are assigning people to it, so we have approval processes, we are assigning tasks to people with due dates, and each user has a dashboard that says, ‘You’ve been assigned activities’ and tracking those activities, as opposed to just sending out emails that there’s a problem and hoping someone’s going to get around to taking a look at those issues.
PPAP is another area that a lot of customers struggle with. And what we see there is, using PPAP automates that process. So I have a PPAP here for a product that we supply to a customer, and when I drill into this, you’re going to see sort of a standardized process for doing PPAP, and you have the ability within Plex to customize this process. You can define the PPAP reason codes, you can define the submission levels, severity codes here, the kind of results . . .
But what’s key here is, at the very top here you see PPAP submission package. This is where we are going to take all the documents and give you a chance to say, ‘Here’s what I want to include in this submission package.’ And then I can bundle that together, send it out as an email from Plex, I can download it into a PDF or into an Excel spreadsheet and send it off to my customers. So, part of the integrated nature is that as changes are being made, as issues are coming up, everything is interlinked and you’re not having to deal with your own maybe home-built Access databases or multiple spreadsheets that nobody is sure what the most current version is.
Another area that I want to touch on is traceability and what we call genealogy. It’s really important in automotive that when something is reported, perhaps, wrong with the product from your customer, being able to quickly figure out where it went wrong. And I’ve seen a lot of customers struggle with that because a lot of their information is paper-based and they have to dig back through filing cabinets to figure out where the traveler was, who signed off on that job at operation 50 and 40 and what happened.
What I’m going to show you here is, the idea behind Plex really simplifies that, because we track everything at a container level. From parts coming in from your supplier to going out to your customer, we track everything through a serialized barcode label on those boxes or palettes or coils of steel whatever you consider a container. And I’m going to go into it very quickly, to our inventory menu, and bring up a specific serial number. So by bringing up a specific serial number, you’ll see here that the system was going to obviously keep track of the location that it’s in what is the quantity, 186 yards of this material, what job this product was last used in.
When I click into the serial number, the system is going to go back and pull together from all the different modules, all the entire integrated database, and talk to me about this part. It’s going to tell me information about this part right now, but more importantly, I can come back down here to what we call a traceability tree. Because we track what happens to this container down to an operation level, instantly I have the ability to know that at the top here, the parts in this container went into these containers.
And of this container, it went into this container, and if I slide this over here, like, if I grab the top here, this container went into the make parts for this container and finally got shipped out to customers in this container. So at any point, I can drill down and say, ‘Well, show me this container. Oh, okay, so this container was sourced from this container, which came out of this container.’ So very easily, I can track all the way back, if I need to, all the way back to the shipping documents that I stored as a PDF from my supplier, and take a look at any check sheets that maybe I had during the receiving process that my indicate the parts came in, they weren’t 100 percent of what they should have been.
So traceability is really a by-product of using Plex. There’s nothing users have to do to get this level of traceability. It’s all happening behind the scenes. We’re tracking all of the costs associated with producing those parts, we can track source material, where it came from the supplier, we can track container history and know exactly what happened to the parts. This container was created at receiving, we assigned some jobs to it, it was consumed, and we depleted it at this weld center.
So it’s pretty powerful when you can take a look at any part in your system and know exactly what operations were done, by what operator and trace that part to all its constituent parts, all the way back to your supplier.
That also leads into lean manufacturing. When we talk about lean manufacturing, it’s pulling waste out of the manufacturing process, the engineering process. And if I go back to the control panel, this is one way of us reporting production.
It is basically showing you, here are the parts that I need to make this part, and I’m going to track every time I fill a container so the system knows I’ve consumed those parts. But more importantly, we also support Kanban. A lot of customers just want to know a trigger signal. When I’ve consumed this container, I’m going to need another one, keep it really simple. So it I go to another work center here that I have set up for Kanban, the system is going to present me with a different view.
So as an operator, when I come in here to look in at what I need to produce . . . Whoops, excuse me. Let me go back to this one here. I’m going to look at it a little bit differently. These are all the parts that I could run at this work center. As an operator, I have the discretion and the requirement to keep track of the Kanban cards in this loop that I have going on here, and produce the parts that I need to produce quickly, so that I fulfill those containers, get it back in the cycle.
So I’ve just told the system that I’m not going to produce this part, and guess what? I have no check sheets, I can start producing right away. So the idea here is that we support both push and pull, and you can mix and match this throughout your plan. You don’t have to be just one way or the other. We support multiple methodologies throughout your facility.
The last area that I want to show you that I mentioned was the supplier portal. It’s really great as long as you’re able to reduce your manufacturing times, get a handle on quality.
But we’re seeing a lot more where customers want to extend that information, expose some of their information. Maybe it’s inventory level to their supplies so they can manage to min or max levels. Perhaps they want to do supplier PPAP. So we have pulled together a lot of the modules and the demonstration environment that we’ve seen customers say, ‘Here’s what I want my supplier to maintain for me.’
It might be as simple as, ‘Just maintain a list of contacts so I, as a customer, know who to call if there’s a problem.’ You can elect to give your releases to your supplier electronically through EDI, but what about those smaller mom and pop suppliers that don’t do EDI, they can come online and look at the same information that you see. It’s the same database so when you’re looking at your releases that you’ve pushed out to your suppliers, they can go online and look at those releases and even check a box to say, ‘Yes. I’ve seen these releases and I’m going to be able to ship on time.’
Those suppliers that perhaps don’t have a shipping application. They can come online and use your shipping application. The benefit there is that as they’re shipping through this application, automatically, you know you’re going to receive four containers of 100 parts each. They’re in transit, and there’s a two-day transit time, you can begin to use that information in your planning cycle. You have more visibility down your supply chain.
It goes all the way into keeping your supplier’s access to payment information. So instead of calling up your accounting department, they go online and see what you’re going to pay them based on payment terms, when you’re going to pay them. So there’s just a whole host of information that you can decide to open up to your portal, including engineering change requests and supplier PPAP. So if you want to extend the PPAP process down to your supplier, they can come online, fill in a lot of that information electronically, upload documents, uploads pictures that’s needed, and eliminate a lot of that paper-based shuffle and emailing that goes back and forth with all of your supply base.
So, yeah, we’ve sort of gone full circle here. We’ve taken EDI from your customer, we’ve managed that into the integrated database and flowed that into requirements, Plex, of course, does the full MRP cycle and planning and purchasing and scheduling jobs. I’ve shown you how the control panel can integrate all of that activity into one screen so you’re tracking that production information in real-time. Then you can extend that information downstream to your supplier so you’re starting to get them into your system, more real-time interaction with your suppliers.
That really is, in a nutshell, some of the areas that I’ve seen.
I think I’ll thank you for your time and I’ll turn this over to Doug and see if there are any questions.
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