Can you afford to keep investing in customizing old technology while trying to gain efficiency in your plastic processing operation?
Do you continue to invest / throw good money after bad only to end up with a complex and unique homegrown systemthat only you can support?
Are you still reliant on manual paper-based processes?
In the plastics molding and extrusion industries, when it comes to software systems, most business owners have a knee-jerk reaction to upgrade existing IT systems and often ignore the processes and workflow as a whole.
Unfortunately, this leads to unintended results, such as:
- Adding complexity to the process
- Introducing new points of failure
- Dependency on IT Resources
- Difficulty in training new staff
- Poor integration / efficiency realized in production
Fortunately, there are far simpler, less costly approaches that can yield major efficiency and profitability improvements to the enterprise by streamlining operations, eliminating duplication and leveraging best practices and methodologies.
In the partially integrated, somewhat interfaced, continuous customization environment, you need to ask yourself if upgrading an isolated system and trying to make it work seamlessly with other systems and departments is the right course of action, or if it’s time to implement a “step back from the trees” holistic approach that reviews all production processes and how they should work together fluidly to improve efficiency of operations.
Most companies continue to use multiple standalone systems that are old and prone to error despite investment in technology. Continuing to build on top of these systems is a drain on resources and a distraction from streamlining and eliminating manual tasks, replacing error-prone reports, and removing the delays of information flow from one department to another.
The attempt to upgrade, replace and modify existing software modules in an effort to force multiple modules to work in unison with ever-changing business requirements is a no-win endeavor that can only yield limited gains. What inevitably happens is the need to maintain duplicate files such as multiple customer files supplier files as one example. IT people then talk about integrating the two systems. This is an incompatible effort. It’s like trying to bolt a tablet onto a typewriter, it’s a Frankenstein.
At first, it may seem like the quick fix, justified as the right thing to do, especially if you have invested allot of time and resources over many years. However continuing to throw good money after bad only to end up with a complex and unique hybrid of systems that introduce new points of failure.
As technology changes, all of these departmentalized systems will need upgrades and new versions which might not work with existing customization, will cause compatibility issues and will never cease to require support. It’s akin to a tennis player juggling 14 balls when his ultimate goal is to play tennis.
Over time, all these upgrades and new program versions will result in an IT culture within your enterprise which erodes profits and diminishes your focus from producing quality plastic manufactured items at the lowest cost.
It goes without saying that every dollar spent on upgrading software or on creating additional software integrations, makes it that much harder down the line when you finally decide to invest in one integrated approach that streamlines all operations. Supporting outdated methodologies, it is not only a waste of time and money but could cause enterprise stagnation while your competitors strengthen their positions.
Trying to integrate multiple systems will inevitably lead to a number of negative consequences. Managers – with the best of intentions might focus on improving an individual process without looking at its impact on interdepartmental dependencies and relations. In the vast majority of cases, this will yield additional IT complexity and a structure that the enterprise must allocate resources to support and maintain.
Companies that continue to invest in customization are building an infrastructure which is unique to their enterprise and presents maintenance and support challenges. It becomes a unique application that no other company in the world that can afford to support it… including yours.
Holistic approach: Step back from the trees to survey the forest
Your goal should be to integrate all processes in a simple workflow that eliminates departmental silos.
For example, converting a quote to an order should follow a system workflow – with all engineering information attached– that readily shows how the scheduling of this job impacts all downstream operations. Will this job require material allocated to another job? If so, purchasing, planning, scheduling and customer service must all be notified and work harmoniously toward the goal of fulfilling this order and, just as important, minimizing any negative impact to other production runs.
But that is only half of the solution. The other half is to work with subject matter experts who have “done it before.” This is as important to your success as choosing the right integrated system.
These experts will possess a native understanding of workflow and best practices in the plastics molding and extrusion industries and will focus on critical shop floor requirements, such as managing recipe substitutions, material certification, lot control traceability and the impact these have on quality and inventory. Industry experts deliver positive scenarios, such as streamlining the steps in the process from order confirmation to production efficiency, tracking, shipping and invoicing.
Plastics molders and extruders ultimately require an expertly integrated solution; one that handles everything – from raw material purchasing through finished goods tracking, costing and shipping – along with an experienced integration partner who is focused on continuously adding value to the plastics processing industry.
The results are, an intuitive integrated processes and a simpler, more effective management structure that is not only a native fit but will grow with ever-changing requirements, supports new technologies and empowers you to pursue your strategic direction.