Will the Cloud Unleash a New Wave of Manufacturing Growth?

Dec. 1, 2015
Growth initiatives made possible by cloud ERP solution.

You would be hard pressed to find a manufacturer that doesn’t want to grow. But how can companies achieve sustainable, profitable growth? Manufacturers have long been technology leaders, leveraging real-time communication between machines, facilities, customers and suppliers to achieve both efficiency and quality. Cloud computing is now trumpeted as the most important tech shift of the last decade. But does the reality live up to the promise?

In a recent survey of 130 manufacturers, 40 percent of participants drew a direct correlation between cloud technologies and their ability to innovate over the next five years. In addition, 77 percent expect to increase plant or enterprise integration, and 73 percent plan to enhance their quality programs as a result of cloud technologies.

We talked to two companies who are leading the way in plant and enterprise integration, creating quality programs, and improving third-party connectivity—both using ERP cloud solutions. Here are their stories.

Shape Corporation Improves Integration

Shape Corporation provides innovative engineering solutions with the discipline of flawless execution. The company is a full service, tier-one supplier that designs, engineers, tests, and manufactures metal and plastic products.

As it grew throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Shape added new IT systems to help run its operations and finances. By the early 2000s, the firm was running an expensive, labor-intensive ERP-based management platform that had been cobbled together as business needs changed.

“The business was setting ambitious plans for growth, setting up many new greenfield factory sites in North America and other countries,” explains Molly Hunting, Director of IT at Shape. “The truth was we had outgrown our best-of-breed solution, especially some of the core systems like EDI and peripheral ones like HR.”

At the time, cloud ERP was still a fairly new concept in production environments. But Hunting and the company’s management team were impressed by the agility and flexibility that the SaaS model would bring. Shape rolled out the Plex Manufacturing Cloud across its 14 offices, eight manufacturing facilities, and two technical centers, completing the process in about six months. All locations now use the same HR job processes, time clocks, planning, manufacturing, quality management, preventive maintenance, and financials modules.

As Shape continues to grow, it can use Plex cloud ERP to get new sites up and running with standard processes in just two weeks. With such speedy deployment timescales, Shape will never need to worry about being outpaced by its competitors. The company can create templates for its key processes while making it easy for local offices to implement exceptions. This is a must-have feature for an organization with premises as far afield as China, the Czech Republic and Mexico. 

Shape Corporation has found Plex to be very easy to integrate with other applications, especially in its PLC activities. Now that Shape has integrated its custom PLC application with Microsoft Active Directory, Plex automatically gives each new starter access to the network and all needed resources. 

Creative Foam Boosts Quality

There’s an old saying in business that “what gets measured gets done.” Quality management is no exception. Leading manufacturers are finding that improvements in connectivity at the workstation, tool, materials, and worker levels are powering transformations in quality management and traceability. By accessing test data, report calibration data, and operator information at all stages of manufacturing, companies are finding they can trace products from raw materials all the way to the end-customer experience.

Creative Foam Corporation is one example. The company supplies foam fabricating products to the automotive, medical, and composite industries. For years, the company managed its basic functions on an AS400-based ERP system. But due to the system’s limitations, Creative Foam had persistent challenges in tracking the count and movement of inventory from the warehouse to production and shipping. Most of these processes involved time-consuming manual data tasks.

How did Creative Foam enhance product quality without pumping more resources into quality control? By gaining better access to quality management and traceability data after switching to the cloud-based Plex ERP system. 

Today, a streamlined inventory management process is making it easier for Creative Foam to reach production goals without sacrificing product quality. Plex gives all employees quick and easy access to critical information. The company’s physical inventory process, which used to require a day and a half’s work for 10 employees, now takes less than a day’s work for just a handful of employees.

“Our six-month inventory accuracy is at 95 percent or more,” says Courtney Couture, plant superintendent, Creative Foam Corporation. “For the first time, we know what is required to reach our production goals.”

Learn More About Powering Your Growth

Achieving sustainable, profitable growth is an ongoing challenge for manufacturers. But cloud-based ERP systems are making it easier to achieve the plant and enterprise integration, quality programs, and third-party connectivity that enable this growth.

To find out the many other ways new technologies are supporting manufacturing growth, Download “The State of Manufacturing Technology”—a new report from Plex Systems—to learn how cloud-based ERP can help your company achieve its growth goals.  

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