From Shop Floor To Your Door

Small manufacturers buy low-end ERP systems and add-ons to improve workflow and service.
While some big manufacturers are feeling the jolt from stock-market woes and the fallout from corporate scandals, some small to midsize manufacturers are prospering. In contrast to larger players, many of these businesses haven't invested yet in enterprise resource planning systems, believing high-end offerings to be too complex for their needs. And those that have invested in ERP may not be getting full value out of the systems. As a result, a number of small and midsize companies are turning to automated process-management systems to support fast-growing operations.

Business was booming for AMCO International. The 25-employee manufacturer of dental supplies and acrylic-fingernail products has grown more than 10% annually for several years. International orders have surged, and new product lines are taking off. But the company risked becoming a victim of its own success. Too much new business meant it was drowning in paperwork and struggling to make sure it had enough materials on hand to fill orders.

Kirby Slack

A small-company ERP suite helped AMCO with scheduling, Slack says.
So AMCO turned to OpenMFG, a new ERP suite designed to meet the needs of small manufacturers. "Our scheduling, planning, and work orders were killing us," general manager Kirby Slack says. "But now, with OpenMFG, that's all two mouse clicks away." Where scheduling tasks used to take a day to set up, now they're done in 30 minutes, he says.

OpenMFG LLC was launched just over a year ago when co-founders Ned Lilly and Jeff Lyon set out to address the nation's more than 300,000 manufacturing companies with revenue of less than $50 million. "There's a massive unmet need at the low end of the market," says president and CEO Lilly. "So we sat down and said, 'How can I build this thing so it can be out-of-the-box functional and meet or exceed the needs of these small guys?'" The resulting software, released in late October, is getting high marks from small businesses such as AMCO.

Other vendors also are targeting midsize manufacturers with ERP-related offerings. Last week, collaboration software vendor Fullscope Inc. launched WiseXE, a software suite designed to let these manufacturing companies get more from their existing ERP systems. "Our customers never want to implement ERP again; it was a very painful process for them," says John Scandar, sales and marketing VP. Reduced IT budgets have users looking to get more from existing software, Scandar says

WiseXE is designed to let businesses do just that. The suite consists of several modules that pull data from ERP systems and drive that information to users in the front office. For instance, the WiseView module lets customer-service representatives view customer information stored in back-end systems, such as order status, invoices, and inventory history. WiseB2B speeds up fulfillment by pairing customer data with order-entry information in real time. Licensing starts at $25,000 and can reach $600,000 for large installations.

Access to real-time information is becoming more important to smaller manufacturers facing big competition. General Ecology Inc., a 50-person manufacturer of water-purification systems, is using OpenMFG to get real-time information about its operations and better manage resources. After only a month of using the software, the company is able to fill orders faster and keep planning costs down. "It's been excellent for us," operations manager Bonnie Williams says.

Williams is particularly happy with the way OpenMFG execs continue to work closely with General Ecology. "They're not just interested in selling their software," she says. "They're interested in making sure their software works for you."

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