Supply Management: The ROI in ERP


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One PCB manufacturer invested in its ERP system, improving reporting, resource management, time-to-market, and other aspects of operation. What makes ERP worthwhile?

By Frank O'Nell, CONSONA COPRORATION

Firan Technology Group (FTG) printed circuits are custom-designed, with engineering and quality control groups working closely with the individual customer. This collaborative approach enables customers to develop and bring their products to market quickly. Although each of the target industries' specifications are vast and varied, customers all require complex, precision-engineered, reliable, and cost-effective units. As a result, the company requires agile business systems that can efficiently handle the demands of a highly customized body of orders in a competitive marketplace.

For more than three decades, FTG has supplied printed circuit boards (PCBs) and precision illuminated display systems to the telecommunications, medical, avionics, military and advanced test markets. Based in North America, the organization is made up of two operating units: FTG Circuits and FTG Aerospace. FTG Circuits manufactures aviation, defense, and high-technology PCBs. FTG Aerospace manufactures illuminated cockpit panels, keyboards and subassemblies for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of avionics products, as well as airframe manufacturers. Currently, about 75% of their sales are to the U.S.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

FTG has relied on an ERP software product for more than 14 years, as the company has grown from a small circuit board manufacturer to a provider of circuit boards, rigid-flex boards, and aircraft instrument panel components. While the company was content with the DOS-based solution that had served them well since its implementation, as technologies advanced, they were also increasingly aware of the growing difficulties and limitations of trying to keep the underlying IT infrastructure in operation. Ultimately, they needed to migrate to a more up-to-date operating system that could be supported in the long term. This operating system change also offered an opportunity to advance to the latest release of the same ERP product. These improvements and new features of the latest release was another driving motivation for the system upgrade.

The changeover was planned for Easter weekend, a time period where production would already be halted. Though there were a handful of people working in the plant, the transition plan accommodated that by keeping the barcode system up through the weekend transition. On Sunday, after the new system was set for implementation, they converted the weekend's activity into the new database, which brought them completely up-to-date. When the full crew returned, they were able to work with the new system with no interruption.

Seamless ERP transitions cannot take place without a lot of planning and hard work on the part of the implementation team. A dedicated group is needed to concentrate on the transition and related factors.

Over the years, FTG had written quite a few programs to read data from files for various purposes. They also created reports within the system for their specific needs. In the old system, the number of such reports was limited and the data difficult to mine. The users had worked out ways to get the data they needed, but it was a cumbersome process. One priority in the ERP upgrade was making it easier to locate data and build reports. The limitation on the number of reports that could be defined and saved was removed, which helped facilitate reporting.

FTG was able to retain all of the basic functions that were in the old version of the system in the new version, with added ease-of-use. As an organization, FTG takes advantage of nearly all the features the upgraded ERP solution offers, getting a solid ROI for the ERP operation. One improvement, plan-by-schedule, considers all demand – not just customer orders – and schedules the plant accordingly. They had always used manufacturing resources planning

(MRP), but this enhancement helps them schedule much more effectively, without the investment in a secondary planning system.

Another feature that has proven valuable is the consignment management module. This tracks customer-owned inventory while it is within FTG's control, and is able to properly recognize the cost side of consigned inventory.

Conclusion

ERP solutions can be at the core of a manufacturing business, relied on to keep the cogs of operations running smoothly. To make the right investment, make sure your company utilizes a high percentage of the available features. Look for features that will circumvent related investments. Also, dedicate time and energy to proper implementation.

Now that they are through the requisite adjustment period in which the company built up the discipline it takes to be really successful with any ERP system, FTG has become very dependent on it, and they are confident the ERP features will keep their business ahead of the curve, enabling growth and successful manufacturing. SMT

Acknowledgement:

FTG uses Paradigm ERP from Cimnet Systems, a Consona product line. 

Frank O'Nell, VP of product management, Consona Corporation, may be contacted at (888) 8CONSONA; info@consona.com; www.consona.com. 

Return on Investment (ROI) at a Glance: 

ERP implementation allows manufacturers to conveniently run their businesses with advanced functionality. A successful ERP investment should provide:

  • A modern, supportable operating environment with many enhancements and improved ease-of-use from the prior system;
  • reduced inventory;
  • improved ability to satisfy customer orders on time;
  • ability to generate custom reports;
  • and increased data access.

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