Shop Profile: American Flexible ProductsMarch 19, 2012 No Comments
Manufacturing from the Cloud with Epicor
There was a time when only large manufacturers and OEMs could afford enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. That’s no longer the case. Today, even small job shops can track inventory, processes, costs and other aspects of the shop floor—all without an IT department.
American Flexible Products is one of a growing number of job shops that is turning to a cloud-based or online ERP software to manage everything from production to payroll. The company considers a cloud-based system to be easier and less expensive than a traditional hardware and software system.
Based in Chaska, Minnesota, American Flexible Products manufactures sponge, rubber, foam and plastic components for a variety of OEMs. These components are placed in appliances, electronics, furnaces, windows, air beds and many other consumer products. Until recently, the 30-person company relied on a slow, outdated system developed by a former employee to manage its day-to-day operations.
“We needed to be as competitive as possible in every area of our company,” said Scott McDougall, president of American Flexible Products. “In order to do that, we needed to have a better handle on our inventory and costs.”
Like many business owners, McDougall feels as though he’s been dragged into the technology age. He admits that his 10-year-old grandson knows more about the iPad than he does. So when he began searching for an ERP system a few years ago, he was a bit nervous.
Researching the Right System
After researching and talking with several vendors, however, McDougall was confident he had found the right system. He chose to work with Epicor, which has grown to become the sixth largest ERP provider in the world. McDougall was one of the first to take advantage of its new cloud-based system: Epicor Manufacturing Express Edition, the on-demand version of its award-winning ERP solution, which was unveiled in May of 2010.
“The folks at Epicor seemed to understand our business and what we were looking for much better than other vendors,” McDougal said. “If you can’t understand our business, you can’t deliver a good product.”
After asking Epicor to add some unique accounting and costing features, McDougall was told the system would be up and running in just 8 weeks. American Flexible Products soon will have a simple and efficient way to track and manage customers, orders, materials, processes, accounting and other essential operations. The company expects that this will translate into better customer service, improved productivity, and lower overall costs.
Because the system is cloud-based, all the data is housed and maintained on an Epicor secure server and can be accessed from any location that has an Internet connection. American Flexible Products simply pays a monthly subscription fee. This is known as the software as a service (SaaS) model.
Offering Many Benefits
The SaaS model has been gaining popularity in recent years because of the benefits it offers to businesses of all sizes, including lower entry costs, shorter deployment time, elimination of hardware and software maintenance, vendor managed-upgrades, global availability and seamless integration.
“The cost and support of an ERP system are two major factors for small businesses that don’t have a full-time IT person,” McDougall said. “The SaaS model is perfect for a small job shop like ours. We get a first-class ERP system with all the support we need and a low upfront investment.”
The ability to upgrade or scale-up the software at any time is a major benefit for American Flexible Products. As the company grows, it can add modules, add users and implement more modules, and even convert to an on-premise solution, if desired.
Epicor is one of the largest providers of ERP software in the world and has an office in Minneapolis that serves many local manufacturers. The company has been in business for over 40 years.
One factor that sets Epicor apart is its ability to provide businesses with the flexibility and scalability they need to grow. In fact, it is the only ERP provider that allows manufacturers to choose from either cloud-based software or a traditional hardware/software system that is managed onsite. Companies can switch to either option at any time and add modules when necessary.
In addition, Epicor differentiates its solutions through strong business process management capabilities. It allows companies to customize their software to support unique business processes, which may change from day to day. If a medical device manufacturer, for example, wants to put in a specific control to prevent the shipment of certain parts in quarantine, the Business Process Management (BPM) functionality can be leveraged to comply with this requirement.
Companies can learn all about these and other features through Epicor University, which holds online and classroom training throughout the year for best practice software usage.
“I would definitely recommend Epicor to other manufacturers,” McDougall said. “They have a complete package of solutions that can be customized to support just about any manufacturing company.”
Advantages of the Epicor Cloud-Based ERP System:
- Convenience: Installation, maintenance and upgrades are managed outside of the organization.
- Predictability: The system functions more than 99.5 percent of the time. Also, IT costs are included in the monthly subscription fee; they don’t fluctuate from month to month.
- Cost: Most manufacturers can pay less for Epicor Express than they do for electricity each month.
- Security: Best-in-class security, redundant back-up systems and 24 x 7 monitoring.
For more information about Epicor, call the Minneapolis office at 952.417.5000 or visit www.epicor.com.
Copyright © 2012 Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. For permission to use or reprint this article please contact Amy Slettum, publications manager for Precision Manufacturing journal.