Automotive Manufacturer Centralizes Global Business with ERP System
- [Brett] I'm Brett Larson at PowerPlex. We are talking with Paul Wright and Devin Burke from Accuride. Tell us what it is that your company makes and the industries you serve.
- [Devin] We make wheels and wheel-end components for automotive companies obviously. So the commercial vehicles, big trucks, and then we have other components we make ... brake drums, hubs.
- [Paul] Stuff that goes on the end of the wheel that's not a tire that helps it go round and round. That's us.
- Right. Would you say you've reinvented the wheel?
- So that's totally a tagline that we're trying to... We, as IT, are saying, "We should use this. We wanna say that we're reinventing the wheel." And our marketing department is saying, "No, but we're working on it."
- There's a lot that can actually be done with the wheel to reinvent it.
- And we truly are. So I mentioned a little bit when we were talking in the keynote up there, but we've changed the way that we coat wheels now. So our powder-coated wheel is now the longest lasting wheel in the industry but that's really only scratching the surface of what we're trying to do there. We're looking at how do we make the 10-year steel wheel, because corrosion's the biggest problem in the steel wheel industry right now. Our aluminum wheels are lighter. They're brighter. They're shinier. You wouldn't think these truckers would be so particular about how the wheels look, but they are. You see all these big pieces of shiny chrome all over them. They want shiny wheels, too, and we're gonna help them get there.
- I would imagine not just from a looks perspective but from a safety perspective, you wanna be seen. You're a giant truck that has a lot of stuff on it, a lot of cargo, you wanna be seen and you want your wheels to last longer than one trip across the country.
- Are there any customers of note that you wanna mention, some of your bigger buyers?
- We're working with a bunch of the major OEMs, so Pacar, Daimler.
- Volvo. Yeah, so we got all of those but then we've got a big aftermarket component that we're working with. So the way the commercial vehicle truck buying market apparently seems to work, I found out a lot more about how to buy truck parts than I ever thought I knew a few years back. But there's a lot of ownership by the fleets in terms of how they're gonna drive the specifications of the truck. And so we're working with some big companies like FleetPride, the VIPAR buying group...
- ... HDA, Russia enterprises. So we're working with a whole bunch of people right now and making sure that really any way that you wanna get to our product, we're gonna facilitate that for you.
- All right. What were some organizational challenges that you faced before implementing Plex into the flow of your work?
- I'm gonna let Devin answer this, because he was actually there before I arrived and he can tell a lot more of before-Plex than I can.
- So in 2005, Accuride kind of became a conglomerate of a bunch of disconnected companies. Each one kind of brought their own ERP system, some of which were on the same, some of which had individual facilities, they themselves weren't even all on the same system. So all in all, between those and then kind of custom ingrown applications we built ourselves, we had 200 plus applications. So that's 200 different places where you'd have to go to get various pieces of data. Yes, completely inconsistent and people would have to compensate themselves being in the middle, download this Excel, upload this over here, that kind of thing.
So basically what Plex allows us to do, which is what you're implying, is have all of our data in one place, and then especially everything's just integrated. As soon as we ship something, a customer invoice is immediately generated. As soon as we receive material, an AP invoice is immediately generated as opposed to things kind of queueing up in a little financial stack and then a robot job 24 hours later does something. It helps maintain an IT perspective. There's a lot of maintenance that doesn't have to happen anymore because it's all within an application.
- There has to have been also some benefits because you're not in one place. You're kind of spread out all over the world really, so that brings a lot more to everyone's fingertips or ...
- Yeah, no.
- ... just a few people or how does that ... ?
- No, the fact that you're using a cloud platform, right, the extensibility is tremendous versus what we had previously. And it's not just the ability to log on any time with a laptop. Now with all of the SmartPlex and the mobile functionality, it really doesn't matter where anybody is in the world anymore. They're still connected to the data set. If we need them to make a decision, they're now able to make those decisions. There's no place to hide.
- Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
- Yes. That's the function of the spec.
- You mentioned cloud technology so it's obviously impacted the way you do everything. And I would think for what you're doing when you're trying to extend the life of a tire, reinvent the wheel, the more data you can have, the better decisions you can make in the long run.
- Right, absolutely. At this point, we can create reports or dashboards or things that accumulate all kinds of data and shows the perspective of the entire business as opposed to having to accumulate little pieces here and there, and cobbled them together in Excel or something outside.
- It's totally about now being able to use data, to make decisions versus having a bunch of people, minefields of Excel trying to mine data to get to a conclusion. And depending on how to put those things together, you can get to the wrong answer. So now we've got a standard way of getting to the same information at every plant. So instead of having to go, "Put it here, put it here, put it here, put it here," now they click five buttons, "Here's the answers. And you know what? Now we can double-check them." So we've still got a bunch of stuff that we can do for that, but I think some of the things that you're talking about as well is really the built-in quality that we have now with Plex that we didn't historically have.
So usually your ERP is disconnected from your quality system. And so when you're doing those quality checks, it's not tied to the product. Now we exactly what quality checks were performed on exactly what product at what time. And so from a traceability ...
- Wow, that's a lot of data.
- ... standpoint, it comes a lot easier for us to aggregate that data, make a decision. If we need to stop a truck on the yard because we find something, great, but now that finding something is happening right at the point of the use. And if we find it, we're immediately now able to send a notification saying, "There's a problem over here. Go look," versus something poring through a bunch of information. So that built-in quality is really what's gonna drive our quality both in the eyes of a customer when they immediately receive it, but also in terms of long-term reliability of the products that we've delivered.
- In the keynote today, what did you walk away from most excited about?
- For me, it's probably the new integration platform, because there are still outside systems. Workday, that's gonna be a great system whenever that's available. There's different integration platforms that Plex is developing, but basically any of those pieces... Maybe that's not our specialty but we want it to all be seamless and that'll allow it to be seamless, which is again what we're really emphasizing.
- I think there's a couple of things that I was really buzzed about. One is in terms of the data analysis tools, Devin's a freaking genius in terms of using the actual rule of code of being able to collate data for you in a manner that you'd want. I'm not. My background's very much more from an operations standpoint, but having tools where I can easily put together the information the same way that Gerry was describing the CFO can now get to his own dashboard metrics. I feel that was fantastic. You saw that Accuride's pretty active in the Plex community. So any enhancements to the Plex community, we love.
The fact that they've now tied that into ideation, into product roadmaps, and there's now a defined mechanism to do that I think is a great leap forward. So Plex grew based on customer-funded enhancements. The product was built associated to what the customer was willing to pay for at the time. So now with Plex-funded development, so how do the customers still contribute? How do the customers still use their ingenuity to drive the product forward? And it seems like now there's gonna be a really solid mechanism within a platform that we're accustomed to using to do that, and I think that's just great.
- Awesome. Any of the wearable technology stuff do you see an application for that in what you're doing?
- That was a pensive “yes.”
- No. Well, actually I asked the different plants before we came. I said, "There's gonna be something about wearables." I'm like, "Who's my test pilot?" So a head of engineering actually stuck his hand up. We've got a testing and validation lab, and I think that there's an opportunity to use a bunch of the Bluetooth stuff, a bunch of the quality stuff, tie it into potentially some machine integration stuff to some test results stuff. So I think that there's a whole bunch of stuff that we can show on Glass in terms of true product performance that isn't necessarily being done.
We're also lucky that Fisher and Company who were up there presenting about Glass, they recently opened up a facility in Evansville, Indiana, which we're headquartered out of. And so we've already been bothering Scott and saying, "Hey, Scott, when are you bringing the wearables down there so we can come and steal?"
- You're gonna get in there. Where do you see going forward? Where do you see the future of technology and manufacturing going?
- There's a whole world of controls engineering that hasn't been tapped yet.
And I think that the machine integration side of that is a big deal. I think that anything in the shop floor is becoming more and more connected. I think that it was great to hear them give an example of how wearables can now be used for safety.
The more I thought about that, the more I thought, that's absolutely where this thing is going. But having a platform where we are gonna be much more able now, even ... All our machines are already counting through the PLCs. We don't have people in there tapping away stuff. In one leap, we went from scratching it on a piece of paper and handing it to a piece of paper to someone typing it in 24 hours later. We were like, "No, no, no. When we went live, we went live automatically with PLC counting directly into Plex." So we made that leap, but are we moving all of the quality information yet? No. So that built-in quality, how do you get to the next stage there? And also with the safety factor and also with maintenance.
Let my machine tell me when it needs to be repaired, because PM, preventative maintenance, is great but it takes away availability from the machine. How about predictive maintenance which tells me exactly what the machine is feeling right now? What do you need in order to be more effective? So can we tie that into Plex? Yeah, why not? So I think that's the ... I don't know if that's where we're going next but it's where I think somebody's going next. It may be us. We just thought about it, so why not?
- Anything you wanna add to that? It's lots of data.
- Controls engineering is, yeah, I think that's the frontier that needs to be explored especially... Like he's saying, we're getting there. We used Cores' engineering to help us get there so far, but there's a lot of area we really wanna cover.
- Cool. You guys, thanks for joining us.
- Thank you.
- Thank you.
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