AT Precision (Northbrook, Illinois) manufactures to customer specifications and reverse engineers parts for a range of industries from automotive and aircraft to pharmaceutical, using diverse materials including plastic, aluminum, brass, steel, copper and titanium. When the company's first ERP system failed to meet expectations, AT Precision needed to quickly find new software from a vendor that could perform a fast and flawless conversion.
In the mid-1990s, AT Precision computerized its operations while the company was still fairly small. "We had been tracking information manually, and later with computerized spreadsheets, but these systems did not allow our office to obtain information about the order status from the shop floor," explains company President Chuck Thudium. "We wanted a central system that would integrate the entire manufacturing process with payables and receivables and grow with the company."
Unfortunately, the company's first venture into manufacturing software was unsuccessful. "The system did not perform all the needed functions and had many bugs," says Mr. Thudium. "It also did not permit customization, so employees had to be careful to enter information in a set format. But it was better than doing it manually, so we lived with it for a couple of years."
Difficulties escalated when the vendor began updating the software. "Every time one function was upgraded, another stopped working. Each upgrade meant starting from scratch with the entire system," he explains. He adds that it caused a loss of productivity as employees spent days fixing the corrupt information.
After one such incident, Mr. Thudium resolved to replace the system. "We were looking for a product that worked, was backed by good technical support and would allow us to convert, import and use all of our current information," he says.
AT Precision's IT consultant recommended the M1 ERP system by Bowen & Groves (Chandler, Arizona), an international software company specializing in software for the manufacturing industry. This ERP system includes production modules (contact, order, job, inventory, purchasing, shipping and labor management; scheduling; and system security), as well as modules for estimating and quoting; call and lead management; point of sale; product configuration; advanced bill of materials; purchasing RFQ; document management; advanced inventory management; accounts receivable and payable; general ledger; multi-currency; project management; and shopfloor data collection.
The company had looked for new software that would allow data from the old system to be accurately converted and remain usable with the new software. "The data converted in less than an hour [with the M1 ERP system]," Mr. Thudium says. "We spent another week confirming that the data in the new system was accurate."
He also found that the way information is entered is less critical than it was with the company's prior software. "If a widget has been quoted for a customer with one part number and for another customer with a different part number, the old system did not allow cross-referencing of those widgets," he says. "Now I can match up similar parts from customer to customer, get the history of those parts from a manufacturing and quoting standpoint and do a better job pricing similar items.
"Having the complete history is an advantage. I know immediately if I need to increase or lower the price without running all over the shop asking people or digging through files.
"M1 has greatly increased efficiency at AT Precision," Mr. Thudium continues. "The shopfloor entry modules that feed information back to the office are very solid, making it easy for employees to punch in and out and enter information about the jobs they're working on. It allows us to track jobs through the shop in real-time.
The conversion successfully integrated M1's data with AT Precision's Web site, giving customers real-time information when they access their accounts to check order status or outstanding balances, review quotes, or track shipments.