Software Solutions

Making data work

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Each division at Sisler Manufacturing generates anywhere from 100,000 to over 1 million units per year.

ERP platform allows metal processor to tighten up operations while putting information to good use

October 2019 - Day in and day out, manufacturers accrue data from all steps of the order fulfillment process from the sales office through the processing floor to shipping. “From scrap calculations to labor variances and financial information, we’ve got a lot of information funneling in, and we’re discovering how to use this data as a management tool,” says R. Chris Naumovski, CFO for Sisler Manufacturing Group Holding Co. and its wholly owned subsidiary, Truform Manufacturing LLC.

Sisler serves automotive Tier I and appliance OEM customers. After a few years using accounting software, it was time to tie every aspect of its business together. What began with accounting needs segued into production reporting and real- time scanning/inventory information and customer service support. Sisler provides customers with metal stamping, welding, fabrication, automated assemblies and product development services, among others.

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The overall equipment effect- iveness system feature (OEE) tracks production efficiency and pinpoints areas of possible improvement.

While still in the developmental stages of implementation, Sisler is incorporating an ERP system from IQMS to keep track of job run times and inventory. “The software we used previously did not have the ability to understand this level of detail. With IQMS, we are figuring out how to keep production moving and how to use collected data to make changes in our business by gaining valuable information from capacity and overall equipment effectiveness calculations to employee and machinery productivity,” says Naumovski.

Habits carried over during the transition to a new ERP platform “are not necessarily best practices,” according to Steve Bieszczat, CMO at IQMS. “When customers move onto a full ERP platform, they have to change some of those habits in order to realize the full benefits of the software.”

IQMS has evolved along with daily usage and advice collected from countless  customers. “In a way, our system represents the combined wisdom of thousands of successful manufacturers,” Bieszczat says. “I have seen people try to build ERP using only product managers and programmers and it never works—at least not in the manufacturing space.”

Before installing the IQMS software, Sisler had limited visibility over its production floor with no access to scheduling or information indicating areas of inefficiency. “We had to outsource EDI. Previously, our old software could only handle simple assemblies without any scheduling per se,” Naumovski says. “We were a lot smaller four or five years ago. Now we’ve grown and continue to head toward $100 million in sales. We needed a platform that would grow with us.”

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“In the past, three different operators might approach a job three different ways. ERP forces our operators to follow through the same steps each time,” says Sisler’s Paul Beaton.

Making changes

Transitioning was slow going at first. “We had to adjust to the sheer magnitude of information,” says Basel Kadada, IQMS system administrator. “It was like drinking water from a fire hose.” In the last four months, however, Sisler has experienced a dramatic shift. “The data is actually working for us now and we’re taking it to the next level—using the data to help us grow.”

When needed, Sisler can work with IQMS to generate custom reports. “But in order to grow at the rate we’d like, we decided it was worth it to bring IT expertise in house,” says Paul Beaton, Sisler’s general manager. “We have three distinct business units. In all cases, we ship just in time.”

Each division, including commercial sheet metal fabrication, appliance, and automotive sectors, generates anywhere from 100,000 to over 1 million units per year. “We have a predesigned process flow that we cannot deviate from,” Beaton says. “We stick to our plans, whether for the press brake or welding cell, including whatever dies or types of steel we’re using. The software helps us keep pace.

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An ERP system from IQMS allows users to schedule jobs and keep on pace with predesigned plans.

“We input information into IQMS and it forces us to be better,” he continues. “The software keeps us accountable for each step so that we [perform] the same process each time. In the past, three different operators might approach a job three different ways. ERP helps us streamline processes [and] forces our operators to follow through the same steps each time.”

Sisler’s long-term plans include integrating the quoting module and MRO buying and monitoring features. “We plan on analyzing the data we’re pulling in as well as provide automated queries directly to stakeholders,” says Sisler IT Administrator Ervin Dutton. “We’re about midway with scanning all our inventory into our system.” Within a few weeks, he notes, “We’ll be able to better plan for what material to purchase and when—a far cry from deciphering this information manually.”

Using data

Production monitoring, which measures the time it takes to make a part, how much material is used, how many man-hours went into the operation and how much scrap resulted, is crucial to running a profitable operation.

“Most manufacturing cost structures are built around the concept of standard costs,” Bieszczat says. “If the standard cost is calculated to be $12 and you build 10,000 pieces, your cost should be $12,000. However, what happens if the initial calculation of the standard cost was incorrect? What if your cost is really $15? Unless you are measuring actual material usage, labor consumption and machine time, you would never know.

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“ERP enforces the practice of measuring production cost and continually benchmarking it against standard cost to make sure you know how much parts are costing you and what your true profit margins are,” he continues. Migrating all that information back through the accounting and costing mechanisms of the software lets users know true costs and profits.

Looking ahead, sustainability will be important for the metals sector, IQMS’s Bieszczat says. “Well-run, tightly managed manufacturing operations are inherently more environmentally friendly. We are seeing more and more of our customers managing for profitability and managing environmental impact, and they are finding that those two goals are perfectly aligned.”

Sisler recently branched into commercial fabrication, providing such services as laser cutting and bending. “We’ll continue growing and this ERP platform helps us connect with our customers,” Naumovski says. “The more in tune we are with our customers, the less time and fewer resources we waste.” FFJ


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