The management at Alger Manufacturing (Ontario, CA) knew it needed a new shop management system. Even with customization, the shop management package it had been using was inadequate. The company's management team knew it would have to make some changes, including upgrades for the hardware and support software, both in the offices and on the shop floor to accommodate the new system.
The company sought software to fit its operations. Steve Ellis, management information systems manager, was looking for a software development team with enough flexibility to meet Alger's needs. In addition, the developers would have to provide a program to integrate the shop's departments and each phase of the company's operations, including estimating, scheduling, inventory control and shipping. The new program would also have to be compatible with MAS 90, Alger's accounting system. These points were integral in the company's decision to look for a new, more adequate system.
Contacted by Mr. Ellis, software dealer Jim Snook of Matrix Systems suggested that Alger take a look at Visual EstiTrack, from Henning Industrial Software.
"The scheduling was not exactly what we wanted. The system had priority based scheduling, and we wanted more of a drag and drop scheduling with our foreman in control of doing the departmental scheduling," recalls Mr. Ellis.
As a result, Henning developed a drop and drag scheduling module to accommodate Alger, and Mr. Ellis closed the deal.
Alger and Henning devised a plan for the software vendor to provide a basic version of its system. Once the system was in place, Henning staffers went to Alger's plant to interview employees and determine how the program should be modified to meet their needs. The results revealed that most of the functionality Alger wanted was already in the system.
The company decided to get the software in place and start using it immediately. After some employee training, the system was up in three weeks, running about four months ahead of schedule.
"We're getting a lot more data from Visual EstiTrack than we ever got from either the previous software package or the software that I wrote," Mr. Ellis said. "Past-due reports and forecasts of sales, backlog reports, there are numerous things we're getting out of it. We're putting more into Visual EstiTrack than before, but that's because there's more information that we want out of it."
With Visual EstiTrack, he was able to graphically lay out and model his entire shop. Employees can simply click on icons to monitor workcenter loading, job schedules and inventory levels, quickly determining the location and disposition of WIP inventory as it moves both within and outside the shop.
After about a year of working with the new system, Mr. Ellis says that he is still tweaking it, but using the program has become second nature.
"It's hard to compare the (old system with the new one), because what we were doing before, we weren't getting nearly as much information as we wanted out of it. Now, we are getting the information, and seeing it presented in the Alger way" Mr. Ellis said.
As a result of setting guidelines for performance and flexibility, Alger found a developer who could work around its specific operational demands and a program that could meet its specific needs.
"We were very clear within Alger as to what we were looking for before we started the install," Mr. Ellis recalls. "We like what Visual EstiTrack has and what Henning Industrial Software has done to adapt the system to the Alger way. We now have access to all the information we need to effectively manage our operations."