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Meet Frank Freeman, senior manager of sales and operations planning and manufacturing systems for Arrow Fabricated Tubing. They’re a leading North American supplier of copper and aluminum fabricated tubing products including braze assemblies for the HVAC industry.
Known for its commitment to exceptional design quality, Arrow customers have a strong interest in the supplier’s quality data. But until 2015, when Arrow first implemented the Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform™, data collection was fragmented including manual notations in spreadsheets and paper tallies.
“Our customers loved the data that we had, but they wanted it to be integrated,” Frank explains. “Plex was the only system that had the ability to integrate quality data, along with the production and other massive amounts of data manufacturing firms collect.”
Arrow not only quickly met customer data requests by using Plex, but they were also able to uncover opportunities to further improve their own operations.
“Companies today face limited resources. You need to make sure what you're doing is having a significant effect,” Frank says. “With Plex, you're collecting historical data with every keystroke, and you can see where you should focus your efforts and resources.”
Better inventory management was one of those areas. Losing track of inventory was a problem with Arrow’s previous process. Now with Plex, Arrow barcodes all inventory from the time production starts to the time it reaches finished goods.
“We scan and control material as it moves through the locations in the organization,” Frank explains. “We went from not very good inventory accuracy in the finished goods category to well above 98%, touching 99% on a regular basis.”
Improved order and purchase forecasting was another positive outcome with Plex. While several Arrow customers had robust systems, most didn’t.
“With Plex’s DemandCaster (supply chain planning), we were able to use the history we collected to help generate a future forecast for certain items -- namely those items for which customers didn't provide forecasts,” Frank notes. “That was huge for us to see what the long-term plan was and to plan out raw material flows.”
Further, by being able to share forecasts with customers, Arrow has been able to strengthen its customer relationships.
“It helps being able to share data with a customer about what's happening between us. They see there's an interest in doing the right thing for them. Customers value that particularly these days when it's been tough to be successful and have continuity,” Frank says. “If the customer sees you're still focused on them, it makes a big difference.”
Leadership vision and self-reflection have been critical to Arrow’s success with Plex.
“We spent a lot of time trying to find the right partner to develop this solution,” Frank recalls. “Then as we developed the implementation process, we spent a significant amount of time studying ourselves -- trying to determine what's the best solution for us and how do we want to look at the business going forward.”