Business growth and success, while a sweet reward for hard work, can bring new problems and challenges. For Star Precision, a Cleveland, Ohio machine shop with expertise in close-toleranced machining, their growth began to feel somewhat like a roller-coaster ride, ready to careen out of control with the next unexpected dip in the track. Star's business had been increasing rapidly, and president Jim Sustar felt the need to regain the control that had been a relatively simple matter when the operation was small.
"I felt we had always done a pretty good job of keeping control in our business," said Mr. Sustar. "But with our tremendous growth—lately, we've been doubling our volume every 3 years—the paperwork and recordkeeping were becoming overwhelming." Deciding that an integrated computer system would help to keep the business on track, Mr. Sustar began to look at different systems. In addition to criteria for what the system could actually do—how well the various components worked together, how closely the system matched their operating methods, whether it could grow along with the company—Mr. Sustar examined some less tangible factors. "I was looking for the cooperation and support of the people at the software company."
In choosing E2 Systems of Cincinnati, Ohio, Mr. Sustar found both the product and the attitude he was seeking.
The Bottom Line Shop Floor Control System, designed specifically for job shops, is an integrated software application that tracks and controls every element of a job from beginning to end. With the system, it's a simple matter for a business to monitor a job at any point in the production cycle. Not only does the system aid in production scheduling and on-time delivery, but it gives a shop the financial controls to run the business more efficiently. Estimates are more accurate because material costs, production time, and labor can be tracked precisely to yield a true per-piece or per-process cost. Mr. Sustar has found that each component of the system enhances the others, and integration of all the elements is seamless. "It's so efficient. Anybody can call up a part of the system, and we know exactly where the job is. From the time we quote the job to the time the job is shipped, billed, and paid for, everything is in the system."
In meeting the needs of customers for extremely high-tolerance work in industries such as automotive, aerospace, and medical, Star Precision finds the software to be a valuable tool that gives them a competitive advantage. "We know the importance of precision and control—our success is based on our expertise in close-toleranced machining. And the Bottom Line System gives us the control we need to compete effectively. For instance, the system helps us find better ways to run our purchasing operation. And with the computerized time clock, we can easily track labor costs for a specific job and tell exactly what everybody is working on at any time."
The system, in use at Star Precision for the last two years, has continued to evolve in response to user feedback from Mr. Sustar and others. "From the beginning, the people at E2 were receptive to my feedback and ideas for adaptations to the system—and when they produced upgrades for me, they made the same improvements available free of charge to other users of their systems."
Greg Ehemann, Director of Technical Support for E2 Systems, commented that "from the beginning, we've always made it a point that the customer drives any changes to the system. What we think the software's supposed to do makes no difference—it's what the customer tells us. But just about all of us at E2 do have shop backgrounds, so we understand exactly what our customers are experiencing. When they describe a problem or an idea, they can describe it in their own words. We already know the process; we can then translate that `shop talk' to solve the problem or create a system improvement." With E2's standard service agreements, customers can download system upgrades at any time. According to Mr. Ehemann, "Some upgrade once a year, others do it once a month. The latest upgrade is always available for customers to install at their convenience."
Mr. Sustar commented, "Customer service—that's the bottom line. That's why I get more business—because I support my customers after I make the product.