New ERP jump-starts use of data analytics
Jeff Karan, director of IT at G&W Products, a Fairfield, Ohio, company providing custom metal fabrication, oversaw a similar evolution of his company’s use of data analytics. Karan said the company had been working on legacy technology, preventing company leaders from seeing any data that could help it run more efficiently — let alone strategically.
“There was no information you could pull to see performance, inventory and things like that,” he said. The company had been using spreadsheets and manual work such as inventory counts, which Karan said was not only inefficient, it was ineffective.
So, four years ago, executives invested in an ERP system from Plex Systems Inc. to modernize its infrastructure and collect the data needed to fuel an analytics program. Karan said the company also opted for Plex because it offered analytics capabilities as part of the package. It also invested in supplemental technologies, such as barcodes and scanners used to track inventory.
Karan said the software gave the company access to data it had never had before, so business leaders started their analytics efforts by first targeting simpler items to study, much of it around the company’s inventory figures.
Those efforts had big yields, he said. The company reduced its overall inventory by 25% “because we could finally see it,” and it cut inventory turns from 90-plus days to just 40 — improvements that freed up cash for more strategic investments.
Karan acknowledged that its analytics program required investments into Wi-Fi infrastructure, new software and new hardware, including workstations, tablets and scanners for shop floor employees; he did not have figures available to share on what it cost. It also required workers to act and think differently — a cultural change that needs ongoing training to support.
“Really what it was about was changing [the] way our operators interface with the system,” he added.
Additionally, Karan said he and the company’s only other IT employee must constantly ensure the data going in is clean by implementing the right protocols and governance models.
And the business leaders had to commit to learning how to best make use of it.
“If you don’t have the right personnel, the best system in the world isn’t going to save you. You have to have good people with good buy-in,” Karan said, noting that the executive team meets biweekly to analyze how they’re doing against established key performance indicators.
But, buoyed by positive results so far, Karan said he and the executives now are considering how to move to the next level: prescriptive analytics.
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