ERP System Conversion Easier Than Expected

This supervisor characterizes her shop floor as fast-paced, as it typically processes 30,000 to 40,000 parts per month. Part runs range from one piece to 100,000 pieces. Because the company does not know exactly when jobs are coming in, it must constantly reschedule to meet short leadtimes.

When the supplier of Popper Precision’s shop control system announced that it would no longer support the current version, the company was left with two choices—upgrade to the latest release or implement an entirely different system. The support that the medical parts manufacturer had received from the supplier had been less than satisfactory. In addition, Popper was concerned about losing legacy data. By implementing the E2 shop system from Shoptech Industrial Software (Glastonbury, Connecticut), the company was able to convert data from the old system with confidence that this historical data would be retained and that the shop would be able to accomplish tasks quicker and gain better control of inventory.

Founded in 1922 by Isidor A. Popper, Popper Precision (New Hyde Park, New York) has offices in New York and a manufacturing facility in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Joseph A. Popper, the current president and CEO, represents the third generation of the family-owned business. Employing approximately 100 workers, the company produces a range of reusable and specialty hypodermic products. Its components are routinely incorporated in medical devices, clinical laboratory automation instruments, analyzers and other biomedical devices. Popper also offers OEM and custom manufacturing services, with a specialty in needle and metal fabrication of tubular components for medical and laboratory applications.

Brenda LaFlamme, office supervisor at Popper, characterizes its shop floor as fast-paced, as it typically processes 30,000 to 40,000 parts per month. Part runs range from one piece to 100,000 pieces. Because the company does not know exactly when jobs are coming in, it must constantly reschedule to meet short leadtimes.

While conducting an Internet search, the company came across E2 software offered by Shoptech. To determine if the switch would be feasible, Ms. LaFlamme collaborated with a Shoptech sales representative and entered the company’s actual data into the system. She also conversed with shops in the area that had already implemented the E2 system. After a management review, the company decided to upgrade its shop control system.

The system was introduced in July 2005. Popper says it was pleased that Shoptech was committed to making a smooth transition, citing that the supplier’s account management team was instrumental in enabling the company to “hit the ground running.”

A Shoptech team member was able to map over the company’s data and transfer the data into the new system. In response to the fact that many shops are coming off their second or third generation system, the manufacturer has dedicated a department solely to data conversion. Once a data conversion is written for a particular product, then a “script” is developed. After the initial “script” is written, it can then be used repeatedly by customers associated with that product. Base tables such as customers, vendors, employees, workcenters and G/L accounts can be imported relatively easily, according to the software developer. However, transactional histories such as past jobs, purchase orders and job costing are slightly more complicated because the data is based on mathematical transactions.

The system runs on either a Microsoft SQL or Access database. It is written in Microsoft’s Visual Basic and uses Seagate Crystal reports. Taking into account the substantial number of users, Shoptech selected the SQL version.

Surprised by the ease with which the company was able to convert its data from the old system to the new one, Popper says the training services provided by Shoptech and also the available Webinars helped personnel become acclimated to the new system. Three days were devoted to training in Shoptech’s Connecticut office. Ms. LaFlamme and her manager attended the sessions so that they could impart their knowledge to other employees. A representative from the manufacturer collaborated with Popper personnel to teach the basics.

“We are constantly learning, and plans are in place to cross-train personnel,” says Ms. LaFlamme. “From my point of view, the Webinars have been particularly useful. This is a benefit that I was able to use prior to and after the implementation to familiarize myself with the modules.”

Today, Popper uses E2 to accomplish tasks ranging from estimating through collecting data on the shop floor in real-time. This integration has been conducive to making better business decisions in a timely fashion, says the company. Because the system was developed entirely in-house by the manufacturer, all relevant information is contained in one database, thus eliminating batch processing between modules.

The bar-coded data collection allows employees to log on and off jobs in real-time throughout the day, the company adds. This information then updates the database every 10 seconds, so all E2 users are working with up-to-the-minute information. There are also checks in place to simplify data management. For instance, validation is provided when employees log on or off jobs. Employees cannot log on to a job that shipped 2 weeks ago, nor can they use an invalid job number.

The conversion has enabled the company to accomplish tasks quicker and manage its inventory in a more accurate, efficient manner. Of the many modules inherent in the software, Ms. LaFlamme says the quoting function is noteworthy: “The quoting feature links to the master file and acknowledges if there is a problem,” she says. “So if something is amiss, it alerts you immediately.”

In addition to the software’s features, Popper has been happy with the level of support it has received to date. “Since introducing E2, I have not had one problem,” says Ms. LaFlamme.

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