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“We focus on what we can offer that nobody else can,” explains Firstronic CEO John Sammut. “Our differentiators have become better shop floor controls, advanced technology, speed-to-market and flexibility.”
Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Firstronic makes electronic components for automotive, industrial and medical industry customers. From the LED lighting in your car to automated utility meters, the company develops solutions for dozens of OEMs. Building a company designed to compete on speed and customer collaboration, rather than purely on cost, required a different approach to automation.
Catalyzed by the need to shift off a legacy SAP solution, and preparing the company for faster growth, Firstronic looked to the cloud as an option both for shop floor automation and ERP. “Our value proposition for customers centers on quality, collaboration and our ability to respond quickly,” Sammut continued. “We wanted technology that could support our business priorities.”
The company set out an aggressive, five-month plan to go live on the Plex Manufacturing Cloud, which encompasses both manufacturing execution capabilities and back office administration. The team quickly configured the system, and as Sammut puts it, “once we flipped the switch and found that everything was the way we wanted it, we went fully live in just 90 days and we’ve been extremely happy ever since.”
The cloud is important for Firstronic, not just because of the rapid time to implement, but because it means the company doesn’t have to maintain a huge datacenter investment or dedicated IT team. And because the Plex system comes with capabilities for integrating to manufacturing equipment and mobile devices, the solution supports Firstronic’s entire manufacturing operation from suppliers to end-customers.
That end-to-end capability not only means better efficiency, it means more effective quality management and controls, which are key to the firm’s customer relationships.
“Plex delivers really important capabilities for us like quality management, not just as an add-on but as part of the fabric of everything we do,” said Firstronic Plant Manager Sandy Klop. “Especially in the automotive industry, our customers require us to have clear controls in place. The Plex Manufacturing Cloud really makes it possible for us to have the same level of automation and control as the largest manufacturers in the world, but without the overhead and complexity of a big ERP system. We can demonstrate traceability down to the individual component level, which is a huge differentiator for us.”
“The next step for Firstronic is to take what we’ve built and the success we’ve had on a local basis, and leverage that on a global basis,” said Sammut. “We just opened a new plant in Mexico, which is typically a twelve to eighteen month process, and we were able to launch the plant in 90 days. That means we can not only deliver customers the products they need where they want it, but we can do it with the flexibility, shortened lead time and be more cost competitive in the process."