When it came to choosing an ERP software system to run their new, 170,000 square-foot plant, Cal-Mold Inc. couldn't afford to make any mistakes. The California-based injection molder was planning to nearly triple its manufacturing capacity, invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in new machinery and continue to expand other value-added operations such as assembly, prototyping, tooling and decorating.
In 1966, founder Ed Fleming opened Cal-Mold in a small shop just east of Los Angeles. Through the 80's and 90's, under the leadership of Fleming and his son, now-president Erik, Cal Mold developed into one of the premier plastics manufacturing and engineering companies on the West Coast. The new plant was going to reflect this growth, and Cal-Mold could not afford to take a gamble with such a huge investment.
When they opened the new plant in 1998, Cal-Mold needed a software package that could integrate their manufacturing processes with their front office, accounting, preventive maintenance and supply chain management. They considered many solutions but decided that an integrated ERP would be easier to implement and allow them to train their employees on one system, significantly reducing labor costs and downtime.
They chose EnterpriseIQ from IQMS after months of research into other software packages, including large generic ERP packages. Key factors in their decision to go with IQMS was their focus on repetitive manufacturing environments including plastics, the tight integration of their manufacturing modules and the ease of use and implementation of the system.
Cal-Mold also identified the need for an integrated production monitoring system that could deliver information from their machines in real-time. For years, before they implemented EnterpriseIQ, they struggled with integrating a smaller, plastics-specific management software with a third-party process monitoring system. "We could never get the two to talk to each other," says Rick Foote, Cal-Mold projects manager. Cal-Mold knew that with the new machines and increased capacity, they needed to know what was happening on the plant floor as it happened, and have the ability to react to changes quickly and within the same system.
The integrated real-time production monitoring system of the EnterpriseIQ system was perhaps the key factor in Cal-Mold's decision to purchase the system. It immediately lets Cal Mold plant personnel know, via a color-coded screen, exactly what is happening with each machine and allows them to track down-time and adjust scheduling accordingly.
Cal-Mold utilizes the integrated EnterpriseIQ modules that handle the following functions:
- Sales and Distribution, including quotes, orders, and shipping management;
- Finance and Accounting, including invoicing, purchasing, G/L, AR, AP and the FRX financial reporting package;
- Manufacturing, including bill of materials (routings), inventory, work orders, scheduling, real-time production reporting and monitoring, RF bar-code scanning warehouse management, tooling management and preventative maintenance.
"If IQMS recommends it, we use it," says Foote. "Because we know it will work and make our plant run better." Other integrated modules include customer relationship management (CRM), touch screen monitoring that allows employees to enter monitor and enter real-time data on the plant floor, capable to promise and available to promise capabilities, and Internet portals for vendor and customer information management.
Since implementing EnterpriseIQ in 1998, Cal-Mold has increased capacity to 41 presses, increased output, reduced downtime and increased staff to over 300 employees. Cal-Mold insists that EnterpriseIQ has saved them 1.5 labor-hours per day in scheduling alone. According to Foote, during their last ISO surveillance audit the ISO technician was so impressed by Cal-Mold's operation of the EnterpriseIQ system, he called it the "most ISO-complementary system" he had ever seen.
Below are the details of Cal-Mold's experience installing, implementing and using the EnterpriseIQ system, as told first-person by Rick Foote of Cal-Mold.
From the time we signed the check to IQMS, until the time the EnterpriseIQ system was up and running, and our staff trained, it was less than three months. We couldn't believe that the system could be up and running that fast, considering we had spent nearly three times that long trying to make our last two systems (manufacturing and process monitoring) work with each other.
When we installed the EnterpriseIQ system, we followed the basic systems requirements recommended by IQMS. The system utilizes the Windows platform running on an Oracle database. As such the computers we have are separated into "servers", where the database resides, and "clients", or workstations, where users access the EnterpriseIQ system that pulls and manipulates information from the database. The server is maintained on-site. When we first started, we thought we might need a full-time Oracle expert on staff, but true to what IQMS said, after the setup and installation, maintaining the database has become a function of our network administrator.
Each of our client workstations houses a Pentium 166 mhz or higher; 32 MB of RAM for the application, a VGA/SVGA monitor & display card with 256 color capability or better, 250 MB available disk space and a network card. As each site must have at least one workstation installed with the System Administrator option, this workstation requires at least 64 MB of RAM, and 930 MB available disk space.
As the system requires, we have a stand alone server that runs the Oracle database. The server runs on Windows 2000 (also can run on Windows NT 4.0 or Sun SPARC Solaris versions 2.6, 7 or 8 (32 or 64 bit version). It has a Pentium III processor and has 1 GB of RAM. The minimum available disk space is as follows (actual drive letters may differ):
- Drive C: 2 GB minimum.
- Drive D: 2 GB to house the EnterpriseIQ Master Home directory.
- Drive E: 9 GB or more. This will house the Oracle files.
Since we had been running Windows applications on our PCs before we implemented EnterpriseIQ, we did not have a large cash outlay for new hardware. When we added new modules into the integrated system, such as IQ RealTime production monitoring and IQ WMS, the wireless radio-frequency scanning warehouse management module, we added additional hardware such as a dedicated real-time server and hand held bar-code scanning units.
After we bought the software, we began the installation and implementation of the EnterpriseIQ system. As I stated above, we couldn't believe how quick and easy the whole process was, considering our experience trying to bring our previous systems online.
The software arrived in March of 1998 and within a week, IQMS sent one of their implementation specialists down to our plant. The specialist helped us set up our hardware, including the system and real-time servers, downloaded the software and began the data conversion process. One of our biggest fears in implementing a completely new system was that we would lose much of the information – part #'s, customer data, etc. – that had been built up for years with our previous systems. And of course, we were still running the plant so we wanted to minimize any disruption while the system was installed. We were very happy to see that much of our data was converted into EnterpriseIQ. Although we had planned for two days of installation, the entire physical implementation of the core system and the real-time monitoring system, took less than 6 hours. We had the system installed throughout the plant, then began our training and user implementation process.
With IQMS, we tailored a training strategy that was designed to provide minimal disruption to our business, especially as our business was taking off and spare time was at a premium for all employees. Our goal was get the system up and running quickly and data converted, receive training enough to start using the system and get other staff trained, and then bring in IQMS on-site trainers to provide customized training and address any problems or issues in the initial stages of the system's use.
One thing that we really appreciated about the initial training process with IQMS is that they support the "Train the Trainer" philosophy. They're able to keep implementation costs low because they allow companies to decide for themselves what level of implementation training is necessary. Since Cal-Mold had experience using other enterprise software, and since we were still in the process of ramping up production at our new plant and couldn't spare our entire management team for training, our controller and myself went to IQMS headquarters in Paso Robles, California, for the Implementation for New Users class. The three-day intensive class covered all the basics and gave us the information we needed to start using the software immediately as well as the tools to begin training our other staff that would be using the system.
After the class, we got ourselves acclimated to the system and set up a schedule of training our staff internally. Because the system is pretty intuitive, i.e. the flow and set-up makes sense, we were able to get our staff, including our plant floor employees using the real-time production monitoring, into the system and trained within three months.
Following our six-month plan, we brought in IQMS on-site training staff for four days to specifically solve any problems or issues in each of our departments. Starting with our accounting department and working across the plant, the IQMS trainers held classes addressing the specific issues of each department, leaving plenty of time for questions, exercises and demonstrations with the data.
We considered our installation and implementation to be a great success because we were able to train at our own pace, using the resources we had available and still have the system completely functional in our business within three months. (IQMS offers three types of training: classroom training at their facilities in California, Chicago and Toronto, on-site training at their customers' plants/offices, and Internet-based training which can cover any topic or module, based on a customer's specific needs.)
IQMS often quotes me as saying that the EnterpriseIQ system has been "like a breath of fresh air" compared to our previous systems and I couldn't agree more with the performance of the system.
As I stated above, the system is very easy to figure out and use; everyone from the president of our company to the machine operators use the system to record, track, monitor and report activity. Nothing in our plant gets done without a work order, and the ease of use of the EnterpriseIQ system has allowed us reduce down-time on our plant floor, eliminate labor overrun and generally run a more efficient operation.
One of the keys of the EnterpriseIQ system is the integration of all the modules. Since IQMS develops the modules, we don't need to go back and forth between different applications for different functions. There is no need to enter the same data, i.e., inventory or labor rate, in more than one place and it really makes it easier to get your support from one place, which I'll talk about below.
What especially allows for smooth navigation of the EnterpriseIQ system is that you can "jump" between modules, for instance if we're looking in the real-time production monitoring screen and see that a machine is down or a job is running slow, we can jump to scheduling and move or replace jobs. The same is true of the sales orders, inventory, bills of material and every other module. The little "jumping man" that appears on the screen next to your pointer arrow lets you know that you can jump to another related module by right clicking on the mouse. And if you need to get from one module to any other module, the top navigation bar is displayed at all times and is well marked and easily readable; all you need to do is click on the icon. The look and feel of the navigation bar icons also allows employees to easily figure out which icon is for which function.
It should be noted that the security settings, defined by the company, permits the company to allow users to access only those modules defined by the company. For example, a machine operator might have access to production monitoring and certain inventory and scheduling options, but not accounting or sales order functions.
IQMS offers three forms of support: phone, email and Internet. We use all three and have been happy with our experience.
If I have a problem with the system, I'll usually able to solve it myself but if I can't, I'm on the phone to IQMS Support. They don't put callers through an automated process; when I call the support line, I'm connected with an IQMS employee. Since IQMS support staff are cross-trained in all areas of the software, I'm usually able to have my problem solved immediately that day and if I have questions relating to other areas of the software they're able to handle it.
In one particular instance we were having some difficulties installing the warehouse management module, mostly because of the radio-frequency bar code scanning hardware. I was immediately connected to Erik Doty, the Manager of Support and IQMS warehouse management leader. Erik was able to walk us through the process of installation, explain how the module worked with other modules and help us get the scanners up and functional.
As far as updates to the system, IQMS is very responsive to their customers' needs and/or ideas and continually upgrades the system to ensure that the customers have the benefit of using these new enhancements.
If I need general information, such as on customizing a production report, I'll use the IQMS email support or download the information off of the IQMS Website. IQMS has a secure "customers only" portion of their Website that has documentation and white papers or "Tech Notes" on all the modules and on particular topics that have perhaps been issues with multiple customers. When I email support questions, I usually receive a response the same day or the following day if it's late in the day.
I'd have to say that there are two features of the software that have made my life, and the lives of the other EnterpriseIQ users at Cal-Mold, a lot easier. The first one, which I talked about above, was the integration of the modules. There's nothing more frustrating or time-consuming than having to open and close different applications from different software companies or having to double-enter information in two separate places in the software. The integration of the EnterpriseIQ modules eliminates that.
The second feature, the one that our plant most depends on, is the real-time production monitoring and reporting, or IQ RealTime. With the real-time production monitoring, plant staff and management are able to see exactly how every machine is running, how every job is progressing, at all times. It's the most powerful feature of the system. And because it's natively integrated into the EnterpriseIQ system, we can take any corrective action, such as dropping a job in the schedule, to maximize our efficiency. As soon as the schedule is updated, all work orders are updated to reflect the new schedule. I call it a "synergy environment."
The biggest shortcoming of the system is actually a product of what makes it so powerful. Because all the modules are so tightly integrated, what you do in one module affects everything else in the system. For example if you kick out a faulty sales order, your inventory is automatically going to reflect that error. Luckily I've found that no error is irreversible. The most important safety is prevention, which is why IQMS stresses establishing user security. If Cal-Mold assigns a particular user a certain clearance, that user has access only to certain functions. But we would rather give our employees access to more information than less. I'd rather have our employees empowered to make quick decisions based on the information in EnterpriseIQ than to constantly worry about making mistakes. Empowered employees are more productive employees.
Another feature I'd like to see in the system is the ability to scroll through the screens using the arrow keys. I work a lot with the keyboard and sometimes I'd rather just move around with the keys than scrolling through with the mouse. But that's what you get with the Windows environment.
Without a doubt, EnterpriseIQ and the support of IQMS have made Cal-Mold more efficient, more attractive to customers and more profitable. It's the best software geared specifically towards plastics and other repetitive manufacturing environments. If you're an injection molder like we are, it absolutely is the right solution in so many ways. We've even been willing to let other companies, even competitors, come through and see our operations. That alone speaks volumes about our experience with the software.
As Mr. Foote explains above, EnterpriseIQ is suited to plastics processors. Features such as wireless warehouse management and real-time production monitoring also make EnterpriseIQ ideally suited to other high-volume, repetitive manufacturing environments such as die-cast, metal stamp and the automotive and tooling verticals, whether at single plants or across multiple plants across borders. Any manufacturing environment that requires quick access to information, an integrated and easily navigated management system and collaboration among multiple partners can benefit from EnterpriseIQ.
EnterpriseIQ has expanded beyond the traditional boundaries of ERP, offering complete supply chain management solutions including CRM, EDI, Internet portals for customers and vendors, and wireless warehouse management. IQMS has recently launched IQMS Canada to meet the needs of Canadian manufacturers and continues implementations in Europe, the U.K. and Latin America. The development of the EnterpriseIQ software is powered by the needs of users and IQMS is committed to providing powerful, yet functional, enterprise management to manufacturers around the globe.