American Axle Improves Operations with ERP
Cloud ERP Helps Drive Success
American Axle, automotive manufacturer, discusses how one integrated ERP system helped improve their manufacturing efficiency and production processes. (7:21)
- [Brett] I'm Brett Larson at PowerPlex. We're talking with Michael Trathen from American Axle Manufacturing, here, this morning already having done a speaker's panel yourself. Tell us what your company makes and what industries you serve and some notable clients.
- [Michael] All right, so American Axle makes driveline and drivetrain systems for the automotive industry. Our main customers are General Motors, Chrysler, other large OEMs. We supply all types of driveline systems and forgings in our metal forming division, mostly automotive but we do have other customers in other industries.
- Okay. It's kind of a fascinating thing because it's a very important part of the car obviously. It makes the whole thing go.
- That's correct.
- What are some organizational challenges you've faced before bringing Plex into the picture?
- So before Plex, we had multiple systems that weren't linked together. They didn't talk to each other so you had data coming from multiple different sources that was unreliable and untrusting. Plex has allowed us to have one system, one business system for our operation.
- This is a trend that I'm hearing a lot lately which follows another trend in emerging technology that's sort of internet of things, where everything can talk. But like you're saying, sometimes everything talking is not – it’s a Tower of Babel and no one understands what's going on. So this has ... how has it helped you, how has Plex helped your organization function better?
- Well, Plex allowed us to have one business system. All of our information is in one place, we can access it anywhere in the world for those people who have those security rights, and it's just helped us make better, faster, more cost-effective decisions.
- And that's got to help you in terms of pleasing your customers because you're coming at them with, "It's a better product, it's less expensive, it's..."
- That's correct. There's many opportunities, you know, whether it's quality, delivery, cost, the system helps us improve in all of those areas.
- How has this Cloud technology really impacted the way your operation works? You've mentioned people can be all over the world and can get in on things. What are some other examples of how it's helped on the day-to-day?
- A couple of examples of that is, we're a big user of steel. That's our main material. So from a standpoint of communicating with our suppliers and getting information to them about what our needs are, when we need them, and getting timely deliveries, and communication just with this system and the data that we have and the information has certainly gave us the competitive advantage.
- When you sat through parts of the keynote and you saw some of the new things that are going to be rolling out, what was most exciting for you?
- Wow, there was a lot of things exciting there. That new UX user interface, all the collaboration tools whether it's with customers, suppliers, users, new enhancements to the Plex community, those are all very exciting things for us and our users across the system.
- I know there was a lot of talk about wearable technology, a lot of people very excited about that. Do you see that being something that you could work into your manufacturing process?
- I certainly do. We have plants that have multiple operations and we're moving material all the time so some of those technologies out there like the Google Glass, for instance, allow one person to flow through their shop, see what transactions need to be made and do that efficiently and effectively. So we're all about trying to use the technology to give us an advantage.
- Right. In a lot of instances one of the things, like you mentioned Google Glass, one of the things I found very fascinating is that, and this sounds so basic, it keeps your hands free.
- That's correct.
- So you can be doing your job – you could be on the assembly line or in the process and be able to just, sort of, keep tabs on things as they're happening.
- Right and one thing for us, in our environment, we have to make sure everyone is safe first. That's our number one priority. Can this technology help us do that? You mentioned keeping your hands free instead of looking down at something. If you're looking out and your hands are free, that could be an advantage there for us.
- Now there was some – also you mentioned with safety, there is now going to be this ability to sort of capture the pulse of your equipment which would probably help with maintenance and maintaining things and preventing accidents from happening. Do you see that as being a good benefit?
- Oh definitely, I'm excited to learn more about that. We've been looking at different technologies and now that Plex is going to have that a part of Plex online, we're interested in how that can help us. They say it improves maintenance costs, review equipment, what that can mean from an advantage and cost standpoint. There's certainly opportunities there.
- When you look towards the future and you see how technology is growing, how manufacturing is growing, where do you see the two going 5-10 years down the road?
- From a technology standpoint, we have to look and grow with the technology and learn the technology and see where we can use it to improve our manufacturing operations. I see it, the technology providing data for us. How do we get information? How do we use that information? How do we use technology to get it to us quicker with a better understanding with ease of use for the user. Technologies in those areas will certainly help our manufacturing operations.
- And you mentioned working with steel providers, do you feel like these tools give you an easier ability to collaborate with other people just across the board.
- Oh most definitely, as I mentioned I was doing a seminar on that earlier here at Power Plex, all about supplier collaboration and with those steel mills and the ease of use of the system and the accessibility anywhere in the world and we can provide our suppliers with links into our systems so they have our information. They can provide timely information back to us, certainly on delivery schedules and the materials that we need and use from them.
- When you see small business, would you say to a small business coming into the world that something like Plex is going to give you a competitive advantage?
- Yes, I would, just from ... it's one system. It has all of the, as we call them, modules, or disciplines whether it's HR quality, tooling, manufacturing, finance- one source of data, real true data is where smaller business can get acompetitive advantage.
- Excellent. Michael, thank you so much for joining us. It was great. Thank you.
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