Americanmachinist 1767 9939mfgsoftware00000003740
Americanmachinist 1767 9939mfgsoftware00000003740
Americanmachinist 1767 9939mfgsoftware00000003740
Americanmachinist 1767 9939mfgsoftware00000003740
Americanmachinist 1767 9939mfgsoftware00000003740

Manufacturing pays the bills, but shipping keeps the customers

Aug. 5, 2005
That's why Vanamatic Co. switched to a new ERP system: To ensure customers would get what exactly what they ordered.

By Jim Benes
associate editor

Outbound shipments are weighed; if they don't closely match the estimated weight, they are automatically flagged to allow review of what's inside.

The packaging maintenance screen ensures parts are packaged in the correct packages, verifies box weight and quantity from a scale, generates pallet identification, prints box and master pallet labels, and performs other packaging-maintenance functions.

Advanced shipment notification lets the shop review and edit shipping information before generating an EDI transaction.

Boxing specifications by shipping address lets Vanamatic create customer packaging, labeling, and other shipping rules by customer's ship-to address.

The packing-list report shows what items are on the shipment and is sent with the shipment to the customer.

Many shops rely on enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to help them run operations more efficiently and profitably. But sophisticated customers that practice supply-chain management are continually increasing their range of demands. And the changes often have more to do with the work that doesn't pay: things like shipping and packaging.

Can your ERP system keep up? At many companies, the answer is no.

A case-in-point is Vanamatic Co., an 80,000 ft2 screwmachine shop in Delphos, Ohio. Jim Wiltsie Jr., co-president explains, "We had an ERP system, but we were not satisfied with the way it was set up to manage shop data. "System support was not good and the scheduling function did not work well with our operations. With customers constantly changing order requirements, release quantities, and delivery dates, scheduling was a frequent headache. Also, our ERP software could not interface with our out-of-date, DOS-based shipment generation/ verification system, so all billing information had to be manually generated."

The shipping and packaging system had been custom-built as a standalone application, and it had not kept up with the capabilities of newer, off-the-shelf systems released by a variety of vendors over the last few years. It could not print packing slips or bills of lading, or issue the advance shipment notification ( ASN) information that gives both vendor and customer a chance to review and edit shipping information prior to generation of the transaction. Many shops that work with large, corporate customers are now required to provide ASN. As a result, employees had to pull data from Vanamatic's existing ERP system, manually type it into the old shipping system, and then manually generate the paperwork.

Vanamatic investigated the capabilities of a smaller, more versatile shopmanagement system, called Visual Estitrack, from Henning Software Inc., Hudson, Ohio. The program, featuring lean-enabled ERP software, is an integrated shop-management system with subsystems for estimating, managing sales orders and shop orders, job-cost tracking, time tracking, job scheduling, inventory control, purchasing, receiving, shipping, and invoicing.

The Henning ERP system at Vanamatic includes a customized shipping subsystem for part verification, packing specification verification, paperwork generation, EDI information, and ASN - all of which are generated from a quote. "Henning was receptive to our ideas and was willing to build the enhancements we needed. With the Estitrack ERP and the shipping-department system, we have automated all functions, eliminated double entries, and have much better error detection," says Jeff Wiltsie, president of manufacturing.

The packaging subsystem integrates seamlessly to Estitrack's inventory tracking system and meets customer-specific packaging standards. The subsystem lets Vanamatic create serialized box labels. The lots and quantities for each customer are stored in each box providing full traceability of what is shipped. When boxes are shipped, the system automatically reduces the shipped quantities and lots from its accounting of finished-goods inventory.

Also, floor-scale interfaces ensure the weight of skids and boxes are within the specified tolerance of the estimated weight of the shipment, as defined in customers' sales orders. Shipments that are outside of the allowed weight range are flagged by the system, preventing the wrong part or quantities from being sent (and potentially reducing freight overages).

Working closely with Vanamatic, Henning created the specialized shipping package to satisfy all customer demands.

Todd Menke, Vanamatic MIS manager, explains, "We have eliminated manual intervention from the time we get customers' electronic order releases through shipping. This includes generating work orders, releasing supplier materials, monitoring completion of work orders, managing in-process and outside process inventories, properly packaging products through background verification processes integrated with weigh and counting scales, and generating all paperwork and advanced shipment notification."