At a Glance:
Plex Systems, Inc. is hosting an informative Plex Online Webinar for Precision Metalformers. This live demonstration is an effective way to learn precisely how Plex Online’s comprehensive ERP system streamlines operations, cuts costs and improves a manufacturer’s bottom line.
The demonstration provides a hands-on view of this industry-leading and comprehensive enterprise software solution which spans ERP, MES, SCM, Quality, Traceability, CRM and more, delivered as an industrial-strength Software as a Service (SaaS) solution.
Hosted by Plex Cloud ERP system experts, participants have the opportunity to ask questions about how the system could meet their particular challenges.
Thank you, Doug. Am I presenting, Doug? Yes, I am. Okay.
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining the webinar today. I’ve put together an agenda today that myself and Carl Wurster is going to be presenting today. Real quick, a little bit of background on myself. Again, as Doug mentioned, I’m a senior account manager for Plex. I have 18 years of experience in the metal forming industry with a focus as head of operations and on the finance side as a controller. I have implemented ERP Systems in the past. For the last four years, I’ve been with Plex Systems. In that time I’ve seen the company more than triple in size in revenue.
With me today is Carl, one of our senior solution engineers. Carl has over 20 years of financial accounting with automotive, industrial equipment, and high tech companies and 14 years of experience as a solution consultant working for ERP Systems.
We have set the following agenda which will allow us to talk about key differentiators of Plex Online, provide a brief demonstration of the software, and allow some time for questions at the end. This presentation is not intended to tell you all there is about Plex Systems and certainly not intended to demonstrate all the functionality of the software. Rather, the intent is just to provide you enough information to allow an introduction.
Today, I’m sure you’ve been hearing a lot of things about SAAS ERP or cloud ERP out there in the market. If anybody is new today, for anybody that’s not sure about SAAS, the terminology for SAAS is Software as a Service, but the new terminology is cloud. You’ve been hearing that a lot. It’s basically a new way of applications for ERP system. It’s very similar to how, in the past with encyclopedia books of doing research. You used to have a set of books. The problem with that is that you’re always outdated right when the books were printed and you’d have to wait until the next volume came out to update everybody from the last year, year and a half, and you would add that new book to your library.
Now, today, everyone goes to Google, Wikipedia. Within minutes or seconds you’re able to find out information of an event that just happened. The same thing with music. In the past, people have built up a large library of music, records, CDs. Now, today, people go to iTunes and they can tailor their music to what they want to listen to and the kind of personality or mood they’re in at that time of music they want to listen to.
Same thing with software. Any new software company today is going to start in a cloud or SAAS ERP solution. Because you don’t have to worry about having the on-premise, worry about versions and upgrades, you’re always live and you’re in a living system every day that’s growing and getting better. I’m going to talk a little bit about that further on that.
A couple of high level points about Plex Systems, the company and Plex Online, the application. We’ve been in business since 1995. We’re headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan where the state of the art data center is located with a backup and hot site in Ashville, North Carolina. Customer base is 100% manufacturers. Currently, today, we’re over around 612 plus customers right now. The great thing about metal stampers, we’re an extremely great fit for metal-formers and metal stampers because of those 600 plus customers, 102 of them are metal stampers. We definitely have a lot of, almost 20% of our customer base is in your industry.
Right now, we’re around 215 employees and continuing to grow. We hired 40 employees over the last couple of years. When I started with Plex four years ago I was the 80th employee, so we’ve definitely grown. The unique thing about Plex, it’s one integrated system. It’s all been developed and managed by Plex. There are no versions. It’s one single source code of the application. I’ll talk about the one integrated solution in the next slide. The other nice thing about Plex, you do not need any infrastructure or footprint. All you need is a user interface or Internet Explorer to log in. Wherever you can get internet, you can log in to your application.
Another key differentiator of Plex is the unlimited users. We give you unlimited users for the whole organization. What that provides you is complete traceability of what people are doing in the system. So if anybody makes a change in the system, you’ll know who did it, time and date, and what it was before and after. We also, of course, do a high level of traceability that Carl is going to show in the presentation of bringing the raw material in, producing it, and shipping out the finished good. We’ll keep that traceability so you can go from the finished good all the way back to that raw material, source material that came in so you can do a full order backward trace. Carl is going to definitely show that.
Another thing about Plex is customers drive the product enhancements. The customers drive it, not a sales and marketing team. You’re getting best practices in an industry that continues to keep the living system of Plex growing every day. Here are some high level information numbers about how Plex has done over the last few years. We continue to grow. 2012 is going to be a very strong year as well. Last year, we ended up over 29% growth last year.
I mentioned it’s one integrated solution. I bring this layout of what Plex offers. Where Plex shines is on the shop floor. We’re very strong on the traceability, shop floor reporting quality. We have a full database driven quality system that’s integrated into the system. And then of course, the whole ERP function, accounting, HR. But then we also go out to whole supplier management – EDI, program management. What’s nice about that is it’s all on one system. It’s all been developed by Plex and managed by Plex. It’s not third party [bolt ons] adding on and trying to integrate it and things like that. It’s all been managed and driven and new functions being added by our customers.
Everything in dark blue is what Plex does. Areas in light blue, payroll, that’s the only thing Plex does not do is payroll. We link up to an internal payroll system or ADP or Paychecks, or Dominion, but we do hours tracking, timekeeping on the HR side. We’ll track the indirect and direct hours, but we’ll upload the hours to a payroll provider. Office applications, we won’t replace your Word, Excel applications but since we run on IE, a lot of upload/download capability into Excel and stuff like that.
I mentioned unlimited users. This is one of the key things that is really one of the key differentiators about Plex from the competition is because we give you unlimited users. We want everybody in the organization to have access to the system. What this does is it prevents companies or individuals going out and creating their own Access database or Excel spreadsheet. Everybody is communicating in one system and everyone is connected within your organization. But then with that as well is then you can extend that out to suppliers, customers, and sub-contractors that are around the world.
Right now, we have around 95,000 people logging into Plex worldwide. Those are customers, but those are also suppliers for those customers. The advantages of this, and Carl is going to show some of the functionality of how you can connect with your suppliers and communicate all on one system. It’s not a portal and you’re trying to integrate it and add it on to Plex. It’s live. It’s right in your application. It’s obviously controlled based on security settings, but the way you can be connected with all of these other entities of your organization is huge. Again, it goes back to we want everybody in the system and connected.
I mentioned about the difference of cloud ERP. There are a lot of differentiators out there right now. Some cloud ERP systems host the application, but it’s still an on premise version of just being hosted on the thing. Plex is not like that. Plex is one single source code and it’s all database driven. Basically, you’ve got a multi-tenant of that application so when a new feature is added, everybody gets that benefit of it.
I want to show this slide versus traditional software, or license based software. What happens is you’ve got that version one come out. The software company has already got a team working on version two. They’ve already got a team working on version three that’s four, five, six years out that’s going to be released. What happens is when you buy your version on day one, it may not be 100% fit. You’ve done some enhancements in there or customizations within that version. Then when version two comes out a year and a half later, you either do, make the jump or upgrade, or most companies that we see don’t because they’re just finally up and running. They wait. And then when version three comes out, the software company is forcing you, because it may not be supported anymore, to make that jump. What happens then is those enhancements and customizations you’ve done can be costly to make that jump into that new version.
With Plex Online, like I said, it’s one integrated solution, multi-tenants. So when a new feature is added, it’s turned on for that customer and then other customers can opt in to those new features. The system is growing and the core functionality continues to grow and grow. Customers that had started Plex Online back in 2000, 2002, 2003 are on the same version they are today. They’ve never had to go to an upgrade, to a new version, to a new platform. It’s always growing and getting better.
One of the last slides I want to show before I hand it over to Carl is basically one of the key things also in Plex is the traceability. Right in Plex is embedded barcode and serialization of the product. As we receive it in, we want to label that material. As we move it on we’re going to give it a license plate. As we move it around and move it to locations, we’ll keep traceability of where that material is. As we manufacture, we’re going to back flush the material right away and add that cost onto that container of new, assembled, or finished good product. And then as we inspect it or send it out to outside process, we’ll keep the traceability.
One of the things that Carl is going to show is where suppliers can log in and print your labels. When your product or raw materials hits the door, it’s already got your label on it. You have visibility that’s in transit. This is huge in Plex. It’s not a barcoding system. It’s not a third party add on. It’s embedded in Plex and very core of the system. As you record production, you’re basically going to know who created it, who produced it and all of that in that container. The traceability and genealogy is huge in Plex.
So what separates Plex systems from our competition? Number one rated ERP solution for manufacturers, unlimited users for suppliers, and then software is a service, or Cloud ERP. Zero footprint. You don’t need huge, large data servers and infrastructure. It’s great for companies with multiple locations because all they need is internet access and they can get in and get running right away. There’s no large setup. Once your people move forward with Plex, you’re in the application right away from day one, configuring the system how you want to use it and using it right away. And then there are no upgrades. The other beautiful thing is your data is stored in a state of the art data center here in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
All right. So let’s go to the demonstration. Carl?
|Carl||I guess I’m off mute. Good morning, everybody. The areas I want to cover today are introduction to Plex Online, the navigation, some of the unique features and benefits of the system in general. Then I want to talk about a couple of other things – top floor to shop floor. How do we capture critical data and the paperless workplace and why that’s important. We’ll talk a little bit about portals and how our metal-former customers are using both supplier and customer portals to collapse their supply chain and get the information moving faster and in real time. Then finally, a little discussion on consigned inventory. This is vendor managed inventory that you place at your customer that they will consume. And also we’ll talk about your supplier’s VMI at your location and how you consume it. Hopefully that’ll give you a good feel for the functionality in Plex.
So, with that, I will share my desktop and we’ll jump into the software. One of the places that I like to start with is the public website of Plex, www.plex.com. We’re going to be touching a lot of areas in the software today. There is much more to the software, so I want to give you a little roadmap of where you can find additional information about our functionality. If you come to our public website and hover over the software icon and then click into Software Areas, we give you a lot of information about the various components of the software where you can click in and see some details. We’ll show you screen captures. We’ll show you little two minute videos. We’ll give you a little text information about what that means in terms of the software. A good resource to learn a little more about Plex after the demonstration.
From here, I’m going to log in to Plex. As Dave said, all you need is a browser. I’m logging in to the same software that everybody else is using. We typically have 22,000 users a day. That’s exactly where my demo system is in, so I’m sitting in California and I’m logging in to the data center in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
Here is the opening view. These menus are rôle based, so depending on your rôle, and I’m a demo guy so I get everything, but the first view here is various companies have access to Plex systems. Up in the top left there, that’s where we run Plex. I put in my expense reports there. I put in my meeting minutes. I put in all of the information I need to do to report my activities for the job. The other three companies are demo companies used for various prospects.
Today, we’re going to go into Acme Manufacturing. When I go to Acme Manufacturing, I’m presented with a page of what we call nodes. These are nodes into the software. Add nodes, these are highly configurable. They’re rôle based. They allow us to do a lot of different navigation through the system and make it look the way you want. Later on we’ll be talking about customer and supplier portals. They could be extended to employee portals, sub-contractor portals, to temp agency portals. Again, unlimited users. We want to get everybody connected through the system so that we know what everybody is doing and they’re all working towards the same goals as the corporation.
What else can we do from here? One of the things is if you click on the Plex logo up here in the left, you can file a user support request directly to Plex from just about every screen inside the system. I think that’s pretty awesome where I can quickly grab as it’s happening and say, ‘I have this issue.’ I can send it off to the support desk, in Plex. You can have an internal champion who may help you with functional instructions that they can assist with. If it needs to be escalated at that point, you can go to the next level. This is available throughout the system in virtually every screen. I think that’s pretty awesome.
The other thing, as I said, is this top page is roll based. You also have the ability to personalize it as an individual. If I click on this Main Menu icon, I can change the view to My Favorites. These are places in the software that I go to on a regular basis and I want to have quick access to them. A couple of other things you can do with this is if you float over the Acme logo, you can see your favorites there. Here’s where you would personalize your favorites. We’re multi-language capable, so if we go in and say, you know what? We’re in southern California. Spanish is quite popular. I can quickly change my desktop to be Spanish and just as quickly change it back to English. People sitting next to each other can have different languages based on their log ins to the system.
Dave talked about the depth and breadth of Plex. This is a quick view of some of the things that we have from CRM to sales management to engineering to purchasing, production, inventory management, accounting. This is a full breadth of product. Probably one of our more important activities or functionalities is our quality. We have a very strong quality module.
What I want to do today is take you now through a rather brief look at what the system looks like from a data entry perspective. I’m going to go into a particular place and that’s Estimating and Quoting because it shows all the features I like. A page like this, this is what we call our filter box. From here you can filter many different ways. I could run this thing wide open. When I do, it’s going to go back and retrieve all of the information in the system. We do have some limits on how many lines it’ll bring back, but in this particular case I don’t want to exceed those. When I look back at this, I’ve got the customer 1,000, light control, I have all of this stuff co-mingled and it’s in quote order.
You might notice the conditional formatting that we’ve put in. Statuses, you can assign unique colors to status. New is blue. Win is green. Loss is red. We can make those sort of distinctions so very visually you can quickly grab your eye. I suspect all of you have noticed this red box to my right by now. That’s telling me that I’ve missed a date, and that box turned red when I missed that date. When I got up to that date it was yellow, but I ignored it.
Let’s see if we can filter down a little greater in terms of this filter list. I just want to look at customer 1,000 because right now I have too much to manage. We’ll filter on that. We’ll see this customer column turn to just customer 1,000. Now I’ve filtered down lower. I’m really only interested in customer 1,000 and their part number that starts with 123. As you can see, I’m starting to winnow down the data. I can do that throughout the system and use the hyperlinks to drill into the detail and so forth.
What I’ve done here is what I think of as my ultimate reporting tool. From here I can print it. I can scrape it off and put it into a spreadsheet. I can do a lot of things from this point. I can email it to somebody. First line of reporting sits right here. We also have a full on report module where we have standardized reports, several thousand of them here. We have query writers where you can write your own query and create stored procedures to run. We have Vision Plex which you can actually develop some very sophisticated reporting screens. Finally, in addition we have an ODBC driver where you can actually access the database and extract information in Excel. We have many different ways to review data, get it out into the field, and use it in other ways.
One other thing that Dave talked about-, let me back up just for a second here, is, let’s go into the Part List for a second, is the opt-in functionality. Every day, new functionality is released into the software. Of course, everything we do is customer driven and it all becomes standard software. There’s none of this upgrade issue. How do I access that, is going to just fall in my lap or can I manage the process? Well, of course you can manage the process. This opt in software really comes as an opt out option.
So how do we do that? We have a database server where we can actually select one of four databases that we have. What we tell people is you go to the test database. This is a copy from midnight of the database that you have. It’s your database. It doesn’t affect production so you can actually use it for planning scenarios, reorganizing the shop floor, whatever it might be, changing BOMs and routes. What we like to use it for also is testing out these op- in enhancements. If I float over the Acme logo under System Setup, I can see something called Application Setup. I’m going to click here and just show you that here is the page where we can select, turn on and off various functionalities. Attribute System Use, yes it’s turned on. Auto-generate Part Number, no it’s not turned on. We have the ability to turn on and off functionality for your company, given the appropriate rôles. The beauty here is that you can test it in the test database before you decide that you need to make the change.
That’s how we roll out the options and functionality changes. That’s how you can manage them and decide what you want to use versus what you don’t want to use. You’re never forced into it.
Let’s take a trip up to the executive level and talk about the top floor to shop floor and what we mean by that. Here, I’ve created an executive dashboard that says on a daily basis, the senior executives, the management of the company can go look and see what’s happening today. This is driven off of data that’s generated by the system. This isn’t created by some analyst sitting in a corner scooping up spreadsheets and plotting and writing out a PowerPoint. This is driven by data today.
In our example here we’ve got cash on hand forecasts, we have work center availability, quantity of scrap by part, net income, number of deliveries. All of these are hyperlink-able to the next level down. If I click on the work center availability report and open the downtime analysis, it will tell me that I’ve got a 67% uptime, but my very next condition or situation is a 23% problem area. From here, I can drill in as the executive or manager and say, ‘What’s driving my problem? Well, my biggest issue is turning into a temperature problem. Boy, what’s going on?’ One more click, and now I’m drilled down to the level of detail that’s been generated on the shop floor by our paperless process. We have a screen called the control panel. It is the most used screen in our system. By using the control panel, we can capture this level of information. I quickly look at this and I say, ‘Well gee, that’s four hundredths of an hour. Whoa, what happened here? 129 hours of problems from a temperature on a specific machine. It’s the spin welder. It’s a temperature problem. It’s start date. Here are the log ins and the information associated with it.’ That level of detail can be so powerful.
Now I know I don’t have a widespread problem. I know I have one machine to review and understand and fix. We allow this information to get right from the shop floor up to the top floor so that people can quickly understand what’s going on in the business.
Let’s take a look at a part number. We keep parts under a category called Engineering. We have a lot of different functionality here. A couple of things I’m going to talk about are part numbers and its associated information in management engineering changes. Let’s quickly look at the part number. My favorite part number of the day is a particular part number.
But before I go there, I need to mention that we have what we call an attribute management system. These parts can have various attributes. You see them over here on the side. What’s really neat is that attributes can be dictated by the part type. If I come over here to Part Type and I search up Bearing Cone, this listing up here will now be reflective, when I click on it, to reflect that sort of part. I get a different set of attributes which I can search, sort on, and capture data on and use to manage my part list, my inventory, things like that.
The attribute system is very powerful, but let’s go back to the standard view. I’m going to go to a part 5T. By putting in 5T it gives me all of the parts that start with 5T, which in this case is only one. A couple of things to talk about there is, we feel very important about the visual aspects of the software. Because we’re sending information down to the shop floor, images are very important. An operator looks on the screen, sees this part, looks in the bin, ‘Yeah, I’ve got the right thing. I’ve validated the license plate, or container ID, and I’ve visually validated the parts in the container. I feel good about having the right thing.’
You see this little paperclip on the right? This is our universal attachment system. You see it throughout. When I click on it, it connects to our document control system, which is a full on, check in, check out, rev control, limited access, or wide open access vaulting system. For instance, in this part, this 5T-4869, we’ve related CAD drawings, Visio documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, PowerPoints, videos, Word, any sort of document or information that you need attached to that record can be attached here. If you look down in this Edit column, you’ll see there are locks, these are little padlocks. These are locked out by the author who says nobody can edit it. Others are open for edit if you have the right authorities. We can see we have a revision control column and the revision control dates. Over here, we can set rules on whether you can email it, print it, download it, what you can do with these documents.
Finally, this little green book is yet again a revision log. Jody Hunt created this document on 6/13/2010. It was the initial load. We have a lot of control of the document control system. We’ll see these universal attachment points throughout the system.
Let’s drill into the part number. When I drill in, I get what we call a sub menu. Again, you see the Edit button up here. You can modify this to reflect whatever your business needs are. We’ve pretty much built it out to say, here’s everything we want to know about this part from part information to the process routing, bill of materials, customer part number, inventory, engineering change requests. We have all of this information attached to the system. If I drill into the Part Information, it brings back to me, here’s the part number, the part number in the image. Here are descriptions, categorizations that help me search and sort on this information. Responsible engineers and program managers can be added.
What I like here is, here I can actually create some information for the planning side of the world that is this part number dependent. The metal grade that we’re using, what’s the standard job quantity, do I have standard scrap rates, minimum and maximum inventory, and standard and minimum order quantities. I can actually set up part number specific planning parameters from this screen.
If I pop into the Process Routing, we can see the operations associated in the material and what operation that material comes in. If I have a long process with expensive material, I may not want it to be added to the job until later in the build structure, and so I can put it later in the process where it will be delivered just in time.
If I drill into the Operation, one other thing that I can do, this is the part number operation combination. It allows me to identify the work center, the setup times, the standard processing rates, crews, setup crews, which allows me to calculate the financials, standard cost, at a very discrete level. I’m down here at the part number, work center, operation level. It will calculate standard costing based on that information for me. As an old finance guy, I find that to be extremely important.
Even from this screen, I can go see the inventory on hand. Again, over on the right hand side we see the conditional formatting. I have some non-conforming material. It’s red. The other two containers are green. Dave talked about traceability. We can always find all the history about this container, this serial number, this license plate for this part and this quantity of parts.
One of the key things that we can do is look at the traceability tree. The traceability tree will always tell me where did it come from. I bought some raw material and I used it in this job. This could be deep and wide. It could be hundreds of these boxes stringing into a complex assembly at the end. I know if I find out later that I have a problem with this material, I always know where I used it so I can always trace it back. I can do that all the way through the finished structure of the product.
Another important capability that we have is our engineering change request system. A lot of products, this would be bolted on to the system or maybe freestanding driven by email and spreadsheets. Here, it’s fully integrated into our system so that when you select the ECR, a couple of things you see. Off on the left hand side, here is a wizard that takes us through the steps. It does a couple of things for us to make sure that we tick off all the boxes, if you will, in building up the engineering change request. A couple of things that I just want to point out are, this now creates that formalized process. Here is the initial engineering change request, what it’s all about. Our ubiquitous universal attachment system, it’s yellow. You know there is an attachments under it.
If we go from here to Cost Estimates, for instance, I can now start accumulating up what do I expect this change to cost me. I’m going to spend more on materials engineering, I’m going to spend less on quality. I have $15,000 in tooling that’s billable to my customer. Maybe it’s a design change for cost reduction so they’re willing to pay for it. We have a few bucks we’re going to spend internally to get this program going.
Given that, we can look at the inventory analysis and say, ‘Okay, what does this mean to my current position?’ When I click on that, it goes back and tells me about all the components I have in inventory. It tells me about my purchase orders that are on order and tells me about jobs that are scheduled for production. Now I can make a decision. This is a cost reduction, so maybe I want to build out the current inventory. Maybe I will just modify the POs, kill the futures, if you will, that haven’t been shipped yet and maybe modify the jobs to delete the jobs that are in a schedule mode. That allows me to make a conscious decision on the three elements of my inventory. What I have on hand, what’s coming in the door, and what I plan to do with it. I think that’s really cool.
When you’ve done all that, you can then accumulate the information, the cost if you will, of what we call accounting jobs. This is the accounting job that’s associated with this engineering change request. At the end of the day, when somebody says, ‘What did that cost us?’ We will know. We’ve obsoleted this much inventory. We spent this much on tooling, so on and so forth. We can aggregate it all here.
To help us with the execution of this, we have Workflow which is embedded throughout the system, but here is a workflow that’s attached to Engineering Change Request. It’s specific to this and it has the various functionality of what’s going to happen and what has to happen and who has to do it and what have they done. Have they completed it? In this case, we skipped a bunch, but do they send it back for review? And then we can take that all the way through the process to make sure that the proper parties have been involved in the decision.
At the end of the day, when we’ve finished this job and we want to see what went on, I can click on the History button and see the history of this ECR. We can see who did it, what was the before situation, and what’s the after situation on every one of these. For instance, here we added the accounting job. We had that full document control.
I back out of there and I just want to now touch very briefly on quality because quality is such an integral part of our system. Again, in many other places, quality is a bolt on, a first article inspection they might do in their system and then pass data back and forth. It’s really not very well integrated. Here we are fully integrated, which we’ll see a little bit later.
I want to drill in on the Control Plans. Control plans are the formalized road map on how we want to manage a quality program for a part. Again, we’re on my 5T-4869 part and its control plan, 504. What this allows us to do is follow the router and attach an inspection step where we deem it’s important. For instance, here under Inspect we have a production critical points inspection step. When we drill in that, we can see a couple of things. We have four different specifications we want to measure. It tells us what that specification is. Over here, it gives us the range of specifications within tolerance, 18 to 22 millimeters, for instance. And then the sample frequency, so once a container we need to make this with. Some of these down here, five times per container.
What’s the control method, and more importantly, what’s the reaction plan? What do you do when you have a failure? From here you can drill in to Reaction Plan, or in this case it’s just segregate the materials. You have some options on how you want to roll this out. You’re going to design this control plan to fit your company’s needs.
Where does all of this come together? The part numbers, the inventory, the control plans, the top floor to shop floor. Well, it comes together in something that we call the Control Panel. Let’s go off and look at the Control Panel. We’ve got a couple of ways to get there, but what I like is the Shop Screen. Many of our customers will take this Shop Screen, and you can design these for yourselves. These are functional representations of the activity on your shop floor. Each one of these represents a work center and the color represents its current status. I can see this guy is in the off mode. We have maintenance going on here and here. We’ve got a problem over here. We have that sort of functionality that’s available to us.
If you’re the VP of ops or the director of operations or something and you’re looking at this and you want to know what’s going on in a particular work center, it just refreshed the data. You can click in here and go to the Control Panel and see what’s going on in this control panel. This control panel is our most used screen. It replaces the paper traveler. It replaces the ISO binder sitting on a desk. It replaces work instruction. It replaces gauge instructions and tooling instructions. It takes all of that paper of the former shop foreman and puts it electronically and brings the correct information to the user based on the part and the operation or the work center that’s going on.
What do we have here? Let’s start off with Setup. When I click in the Setup, I see an electronic dispatch list. They are created by the planners in the office, these guys who are organizing – Ooh, I’m wondering if my internet went down. ….they create these dispatch lists. As they rearrange these jobs, moving between work centers or not, the work center itself gets that current, instant information. No longer does the planner have to run from his desk up to the shop floor, grab up travelers, move them around, redirect people to the next job, pass out new printouts, whatever it might be, this is all paperless to the work center. You just select the job and off you go.
What else do we need to do here? We talked about the control plan. Here is the control plan at this job, work center combination, part number combination. I have one that has to happen at setup, one that happens at first piece inspection, but then I have one that’s every ten minutes in process. Until I do this one, until I fill it out, I can’t perform any production. So I’m going to go in there and quickly fill it out. The range is from 21 to 24. If I put in 20, it immediately tells me I’m out of spec and if I’m out of spec I need to explain why. Then there’s a reaction plan of what I want to do. I’m going to just stay in spec and fill this thing out. Then I answer these questions as I go down the list. Now I’ve got calipers. Which calipers do I want to use? And then max diameter information, and then finally straightness.
When I fill that out and it all passes, I can add that check sheet to the system. It will return me the statistical process control report center associated with this part number, operation, work center combination so I can toggle through these and look at the various reports. Now, when I return back to the screen, I’m full green. Now I can run production.
Here, I’ve already loaded the inventory. These boxes are green. I want to report production of 20 pieces. I’ve got 60 in this bin. I’m going to add 20 more. When I do that, it’s going to up the ante. It’s now up to 80. The other thing it’s going to do, and this is where our integrated bar code system comes in, is it will create a bar code label. I can change this to container full. I can actually print this label, paste it directly on the container so everybody knows that there are 80 pieces, it’s been through op ten. Here is the license plate number, if you will, for this job lot. This is the part number. Bar coding is inherent in our system throughout everywhere we look.
What’s been happening with this? Every transaction that’s been made in this system has been captured. This is for the last day. I can see I had a problem here and I’ve done basic production. This is where we’re grabbing that shop floor to top floor data. It is coming from what the operator is seeing and experiencing at their work center.
We can also assign here the gauges that are used at this job combination, this tooling work instruction, a suggestion box. We have a customer that saved $1 million last year in suggestions. And finally, work instructions for the work center, the building, can be presented here so people can be kept abreast.
That’s the top floor to shop floor, capturing that critical data and allowing us to have the paperless workplace which reduces errors and promotes speed, if you will.
Let’s look at the customer portals here just for a second, customer and supplier portals. The customer portal, there are a couple of things about it that are really good that I like. One is because of the unlimited users, you can define the portal that you want your customer to have access to. When they log in they’re only going to see their data. A couple of things here. They can log in and see the history of shipped products. Of course, if I were a customer, my customer number would be hard coded in there. I can see in the last couple of days, here’s what I’ve shipped. I can start seeing what I have coming to me without having to make a phone call. I can see my online orders. I can do order entry. I can add an order into the system and get it in right. Who knows better than I what I want to order? I can see the releases and what’s the ship history plan for me. I can see that here are my customer leases and they’re going to be scheduled for assignment and the dates associated. I can see in the pipeline what the plan is for my materials.
We’re going to talk about consignment inventory in a little bit, but this is where a customer could look at, for instance, his consignment inventory that’s vendor managed inventory, your materials sitting at his site waiting for him to consume. If I look up under this part number, there are three containers for 750 pieces. He can consume them right from this screen. Yes, I’ve used this. I hit the Used button. It causes a replenishment order to be generated. He now can take that material from that work location and put it to his stock knowing that we are now triggered to resupply that quantity.
However you think that you have information that your customers would prevent having to make a phone call and tie up your CRM guys, a lot of that can be provided right on the portal which closes in that supply chain that much more. There are engineering change requests, customer concerns. They can put in a problem report and respond to it. It’s got great value and a lot of our metal-former customers are starting to use the customer and supplier portals to collapse down their supply chain.
Consequently, if we go over on to the supplier side, there are a couple of things that we can see that are pretty awesome. The first one would be the online releases. I’m ready to ship you something and maybe you have some labeling requirements. Here, we can show them the releases that they have with us and they can then use this label and ship to create the container of inventory, create the bar code label, and then stack that into the box and send it on its merry way. It will automatically be recorded in our system as Supplier Labeled and then it will move to Supplier Shipped upon shipment. That’s a way for them to make their life easier in addition to your life easier. Usually when you have that close relationship with your suppliers, a lot of good things can come from it.
Let’s see, what else did I want to talk about? Payment statuses. They can look at their outstanding invoices. I don’t have a whole lot of data here so I’m going to run it wide open. Let’s see, invoice date begins, well let’s just pick this month. From here, your suppliers could look at and see have they been paid, is the check in the mail? We haven’t cleared it yet but we’ve sent it. We can see there are some outstanding. That will prevent our supplier from having to make a phone call to find out a status of payment. What we want to do is take a lot of the conversation out of the mix, the phone calls, the emails, and give people the ability to answer their own questions in real time. As we all know from our own experiences with travel, for instance, we all like looking at air flight arrangements on our own rather than being tied to some travel agent and saying, ‘I have these three flights.’ You’re not meeting my requirements. You’re giving me things all over the map. This way I can really hone in on the information that I want.
Another nice thing is you can present planning schedules. If we look at my Supplier 3000 here, we can tell them, you know what? Over the next weeks and months, here’s what you should expect to receive from us in terms of volume. The Supplier 3000 is going to go through a little bit of a dry spell here, but things are really going to pick up in March, April, and May. They can start using this information to plan their business response to your purchase requisitions.
Okay, if we go back to the menu, there are many other things that we can do. Engineering changes as they affect them, there is supplier quality functions. How are they doing in terms of supplier quality ratings and getting to understand where they need some improvement. From a supplier management perspective, the portal brings your supplier much closer to your company, reducing time lag due to information issues and things like that, and what are the releases I need to make? Very powerful, very useful in terms of improving that whole process.
I’d like to talk about consignment inventory for a couple of minutes here. If we go into the customer consignment inventory level, we can consign material at the customer. We can consign it by rules. If I go to my customer 1,000 and see what he has consigned to him, I can see that I have two types of parts. I have number of containers, the serialized license plate if you will, and the quantity. Again, as we showed over in the customer portal, all they have to do is click on this, select one of those, and that will actually cause a replenishment to occur and create a receivable in A/R that accounting can then send off to the customer. So it does those two things.
How does it do that? Well, there are rules associated with online inventory. If I click on this part number, this part number, this customer combination, it takes me to the Rules page. The key rules, when do I want to print an invoice, at usage or at shipment? When do I want to retire the container, showing it as being consumed, usage or shipment? When do I want to replenish? It’s usage or not at all. And then what’s the method? Is it a one for one replenishment or do we want to follow some minimum quantity rules? The minimum on site quantity is going to be 300 and that’s the customer inventory plus any open releases within zero days, in this case. Probably just the inventory on hand. If it falls below that, what do I do? I create a replenishment order for 25 units and I give it a three day lead time so that I keep them at that 300 unit level in their inventory and then as they use it, automatic replenishment, automatic invoicing.
Let’s quickly just pop over and we’ll look at supplier consignment. Supplier consignment works a little simpler. When you create a purchase order, there is a box called Consignment. That sends an order over to your customer and it is a consignment order. What does that do? Well, when you receive material, first and foremost, it’s going to generate what I call a consignment accepted work order. Once I’ve done that, we now have the inventory physically in the building, but we don’t have any financial presence as an old controller would call it. We haven’t paid for it. It’s still owned by your vendor. When you do this transaction, a couple of things happen. We can do this transaction. We say ‘Use’, that is essentially saying go off and take that inventory and put it into our stock room and it will also create an accounts payable requirement.
We’ve now removed it from their vendor owned inventory. It’s now become ours and we’ve set it up for payment. Now that process is automatically in place. And now our POs will continue to drive additional requirements as MRP planning happens.
It looks like we’ve got about four minutes. I’ll cut to the chase here, give time to answer questions. So, Doug, if you want to take over the control of the system …
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