First American Resources Company (FARC), as part of the HUEHOCO GROUP, supplies coated steel coils for the automotive and construction industries. The company produces more than 35,000 tons per year of rolled steel that can be custom coated and slit to customer specifications.
ERP MIGRATION CHALLENGE
FARC used the Aptean Ross ERP for years but wanted to move to the cloud-based Plex Smart Manufacturing platform for its tighter focus on manufacturing processes. Moving to a new ERP can be challenging in the best of circumstances. For this reason, after several missteps, FARC asked TwinEngines to help manage the project. FARC faced challenges in three areas: 1) Senior Advisory Management, 2) Data Migration, and 3) Managing Gaps.
Challenge 1: SENIOR ADVISORY MANAGEMENT
An ERP implementation demands a combination of advisory skills – business strategy, business process reengineering, culture shifts, vendor management, and continuous improvement. FARC did not have the staff or available senior leadership with this experience, so they leaned on TwinEngines to manage the big picture.
TwinEngines managed the project from end to end, including managing the relationship with the ERP implementation vendor that FARC had brought in. TwinEngines brought the expertise needed to solve the roadblocks and develop an integration strategy to bring all processes into the ERP.
Challenge 2: MIGRATION SOLUTION
The main piece of the project was to pull data from the existing Ross system and populate the Plex ERP. But FARC lacked the skills for an Oracle to cloud data migration. In addition to managing the go-live data load, the existing data contained duplicates, errors, and maintenance issues. Cleaning, testing, and migrating the data became a concurrent project along with the ERP implementation.
TwinEngines leveraged multiple APIs to automate the data migration. The data migration process allowed testers to work and train with real data to validate the system.
The parts specification data presented a unique migration challenge. FARC produces a long list of steel products that are treated, coated, and slit to customer specifications. These customizations become a unique part with precise control plans for their manufacture – almost like a big cookbook with thousands of recipes.
In the old system, control plan information lived in spreadsheets, cheat sheets, text fields, and even ad hoc knowledge within the production team. TwinEngines developed a custom application to migrate product information from multiple data sources into a standardized data format. New control plans are now entered through a standard template.
Challenge 3: FILLING GAPS
A successful ERP implementation captures 80 percent functionality at best. The other 20 percent of operational needs require a “gap-filling” strategy to end up with a single unified system.
FARC chose Plex for its powerful manufacturing capabilities. Out of the box, no software can get to that 100 percent by aligning with the methods and processes unique to the business – in this case, coating and slitting giant rolls of steel.
TwinEngines describes these “missing” functions as gaps. Companies typically develop workarounds that live outside the system to manage gaps. These include standalone apps, spreadsheets, emails, and paper forms. While these solve the problem, they defeat the purpose of digital transformation.
FARC identified a dozen or so gaps that stymied their workflow processes. TwinEngines created several job-specific apps that live in a common portal and integrate seamlessly with Plex. These included:
- Scanning and Label solution – As part of an automated process, this scanning solution recognizes parts coming off the line, prints a unique product label, identifies the shipping container, and updates the Plex system.
- Packaging Dashboard – Using a Plex API, this targeted solution displays packaging information on a large shop floor monitor showing which products are running. Without this real-time solution, shipping workers would have to go into Plex and look up the information.
- New Parts Workflow Tool – Creating a new part quotation requires several engineering steps to determine the correct coatings and processes and get approvals. TwinEngines created a workflow tool that pulls this engineering information back into Plex as a ready-to-order part once the customer accepts the quote.
- Calculators – The production processes associated with tons of steel require multi-step calculations. For example, the bill of materials for a ton of product at a specific width must be re-calculated when slit differently. TwinEngines developed calculators that eliminated the need for engineers to calculate run rates, BOMs, and processes manually.
- Mass Update Utility – With thousands of parts specs and control plans in the system, how do you make mass updates when components, processes, or materials change? TwinEngines developed a Mass Update Utility that connects to Plex via APIs to make mass adjustments from a simple interface.
- Reporting and Analytics – Data analytics becomes a gap in the typical ERP system if the standard reports don’t provide actionable insights. TwinEngines built the reports needed and trained FARC to use Power BI to get the information they needed.
By managing the ERP migration into Plex, TwinEngines built a platform to digitally transform the business – a must in today’s competitive marketplace. Through ongoing “gap-filling,” TwinEngines established a culture of continuous improvement that improved automation, productivity, and control while delivering a real-time approach to FARC’s business operations. By adopting the TwinEngines continuous improvement process, FARC has brought that process into the company and uses TwinEngines when specialized skills are needed.
“FARC demonstrates how out-of-the-box ERP implementations may cover the basics but miss the proprietary processes that are part of every manufacturing or supply chain operation,” said Kevin Seefried, TwinEngines president. “This project demonstrates the challenges of ERP implementation in an up-and-running company. Only by solving the demands of project management, data migration, and filling gaps can you create a single integrated solution that fulfills the promise of digital transformation.”
- Microsoft Visual Studio, C#, .Net
- SQL Server
- SQL Reporting Services (SSRS)
- Plex Manufacturing Cloud ERP system
- Office 365
- Power BI
“FARC demonstrates how out-of-the-box ERP implementations may cover the basics but miss the proprietary processes that are part of every manufacturing or supply chain operation.”