ERMCO Case Study

ERMCO finds a multi-department end-user reporting tool


Case Study Summary

Incorporated in 1964, ERMCO is a distribution transformer manufacturer based in Dyersburg, Tennessee. Every day, ERMCO builds transformers from the ground up across their three plants. With two plants located in Tennessee, and one in Arkansas, ERMCO is one of the largest producers of distribution transformers and transformer components in the United States.

Challenge

With 800+ employees working across three different locations, ERMCO generates lots of data on a daily basis. The problem (for end users): Pulling that data out of the system and turning it into meaningful management information. End users could not create reports on their own. Instead, they relied on the MIS department for their reporting needs.

However, already tasked with controlling data and technology across every location, the MIS Department already had a lot on their plate. While they turned reports around as quickly as their busy schedule allowed, turnaround time could require days. This process wasted time for all involved: It forced end users to wait around for their reports, and put an unnecessary burden on the MIS Department

Solution

ERMCO turned to m-Power to address their reporting needs. m-Power's point-and-click interface, strong reporting capabilities, and open architecture made it the ideal solution to their reporting issues.

Value

m-Power more than addressed ERMCO's reporting issues. A reporting process that often required days now takes minutes. Departments that relied on the MIS Department are now self-sufficient. This not only speeds up the entire reporting process, it also frees up the MIS department for more mission-critical tasks. In short, m-Power simplifies life for all involved!


Full Case Study

Overview

If you live in North America, Canada, Latin America, or South America, you probably see ERMCO's products every day. In fact, there's a good chance that ERMCO helps keep the lights on in your home or business.

Who is ERMCO? Incorporated in 1964, ERMCO is a distribution transformer manufacturer based in Dyersburg, Tennessee. Every day, ERMCO builds transformers from the ground up across their three plants. With two plants located in Tennessee, and one in Arkansas, ERMCO is one of the largest producers of distribution transformers and transformer components in the United States.

Challenge

With 800+ employees working across three different locations, ERMCO generates lots of data on a daily basis. The problem (for end users): Pulling that data out of the system and turning it into meaningful management information. End users could not create reports on their own. Instead, they relied on the MIS department for their reporting needs.

A costly problem

A widespread problem, the lack of self-service reporting hurts companies across the globe every day. While it may sound like a minor inconvenience, it creates larger, costly problems for many companies. Like what? As outlined in the right sidebar, a lack of self-service reporting leads to problems like wasted time, delayed decision-making, and fuels the growth of Shadow IT across the business.

An unnecessary time drain

For ERMCO, their lack of an end-user reporting tool wasted time for all involved. The MIS Department's responsibilities already included controlling data and technology across each location. Any time spent building reports for end users was time they could be spending on more important tasks.

It didn't stop there. From a business perspective, every department relies on reports to run efficiently. The sales department needed sales and prospect reports. The accounting department needed financial reports. The HR department needed employee reports. Without an end-user reporting tool, the users relied on the MIS Department for reporting.

One such end user was Angela Newbill, ERMCO's HR Manager. Newbill is responsible for delivering employee reports to supervisors from other plants, the operations department, and the accounting department.

"You're kind of at the mercy of whatever their schedule was at the time."

However, since she couldn't create reports herself, she sent report requests to the MIS department. While they turned reports around as quickly as their busy schedule allowed, turnaround time could require days.

"You're kind of at the mercy of whatever their schedule was at the time," explains Newbill. "Sometimes if there wasn't a lot going on, they could get something back to you really quickly, but other times, if they had other things that had priority, you would just wait, and wait...and wait."

This system was especially frustrating for the plant supervisors, who had no way to access their employee's reports themselves. Instead, they requested reports from HR, who then turned around and requested the report from MIS…which created even more waiting for the supervisors.

All in all, ERMCO's reporting process needed improvement. It put an unnecessary burden on MIS, wasted time, and created a bottleneck on the flow of data to end users.

Multiple systems

To further complicate matters, ERMCO used different software systems across the company. While the company relies on an IBM iSeries database, the production side of the business uses the Friedman Frontier ERP system, while the HR Department uses Optimum Solutions.

As a result, they couldn't go out and buy just any reporting solution. Any end-user reporting solution must not only span multiple departments, it must work across each of ERMCO's different systems as well.

Solution

Fortunately for ERMCO, the solution was right under their nose. Many years ago, ERMCO licensed m-Power, the web application development platform developed by mrc. While m-Power is used for all types of application development, it offered ERMCO the ideal end-user reporting solution for several reasons:

  1. Point-and-click interface: m-Power's interface is entirely point-and-click, which means end users don't need to understand programming, or learn a proprietary language.
  2. Strong reporting capabilities: While used for all types of application development, one of m-Power's strengths lies in its reporting capabilities. It comes with a variety of reporting templates to simplify the reporting process for end users.
  3. Unlimited users: m-Power's licensing structure allows for unlimited users. This means that anyone in the company could use the software at no additional cost.
  4. Open architecture: m-Power's open architecture means it runs over nearly any database or platform. ERMCO could use m-Power for reporting across all of their existing systems/databases.

ERMCO's Business Systems Administrator, Ken McGrew, recognized that with a little end user training, m-Power could solve many of their current reporting issues. He scheduled an in-house training class with an m-Power consultant, and recommended that Newbill—along with some users from other departments--attend the class.

As it turns out, that was just what they needed.

Value

ERMCO immediately saw value from m-Power on several fronts. Here are three of the biggest benefits m-Power delivers to ERMCO:

1. m-Power is a multi-department reporting solution
ERMCO uses m-Power across a few different departments, including the HR department, Sales department, Accounting department, and the MIS department. m-Power's flexibility helps each department solve their own unique needs. For example:

The HR Department uses m-Power to put reports at the plant supervisor's fingertips. Newbill created a portal where supervisors can easily access web reports—complete with built-in security to ensure each supervisor only views the reports they're authorized to access. Now, rather than requesting reports from the HR department, supervisors can visit the intranet portal, type in their user name and password, and instantly access their reports.

If supervisors need an employee report outside of the pre-built reports found in the portal, they just go straight to Newbill. Despite having no development experience, she estimates that basic custom reports only require 5 to 10 minutes (at most), and more complicated reports only require a couple of hours using m-Power.

In fact, Newbill not only became self-sufficient, she also became the ‘go-to' person for reporting. Thanks to her skill with m-Power and knowledge of ERMCO's database, others now approach her for their reporting needs—which takes even more of the burden off of MIS. "They've never told me so, but I'd imagine that MIS appreciates that a little bit, because it keeps people out of their hair," she says.

The Sales Department uses m-Power to quickly analyze their sales efforts. Before he retired, the former VP of Sales created over 100 sales reports (with m-Power) to track sales and quotes by reps, territories, region, etc... Christian Ouimet, the current VP of Sales and Marketing now maintains those existing reports and creates new reports as needed.

For example, Ouimet recently created a report that saves a tremendous amount of time for ERMCO. "I created a report that helps the design group find quotes that were done for a previous customer—so without re-inventing the wheel—they can start with a base design that they know works already," explains Ouimet. "It helps them because it cuts down their time. Once they have a reference point, it's a lot easier than starting from scratch on a new design."

All in all, ERMCO's sales department has come to rely on m-Power, to the point that Ouimet can't imagine life without it. "I really don't even want to think about that," he says, when asked what he would do without m-Power. "I honestly don't know."

2. m-Power is a multi-system solution
"We actually use m-Power over anything. Friedman is our production system—that's how we run our business. We also have Optimum Solutions, which does our HR and payroll and time and attendance. Angela uses m-Power over Optimum. The Sales people use m-Power over Friedman."

While ERMCO runs on an IBM iSeries database, some departments use different systems. Fortunately for ERMCO, m-Power works with all of them.

"We actually use m-Power over anything," explains McGrew. "Friedman is our production system—that's how we run our business. We also have Optimum Solutions, which does our HR and payroll and time and attendance. Angela uses m-Power over Optimum. The Sales people use m-Power over Friedman."

This flexibility afforded by m-Power helps ERMCO both now and in the future. For instance, if ERMCO ever adopts another database or system, m-Power won't hold them back. If need be, they're free to move to any database or platform that works best with their business.

3. m-Power is an evolving solution
"Every time I see something new come through with mrc, it's always something that I'm excited about. I'm just excited to see what you guys are going to come up with next."

m-Power is constantly evolving with new features and capabilities, averaging over one major enhancement per month. These enhancements are then made available to all current m-Power customers. In this way, m-Power always remains current.

"I love every time m-Power comes out with something new," says Newbill. "It's always something good. I have to say, sometimes when companies improve their product, I look at it and say, ‘You know, that's not really an improvement.' That's not the case with m-Power. Every time I see something new come through with mrc, it's always something that I'm excited about. I'm just excited to see what you guys are going to come up with next."

With m-Power, ERMCO has a solution that will grow and evolve with changing technology trends. It won't become outdated in a few years, or won't need replacing.

Future

What does the future hold for ERMCO? Besides the much-improved reporting process, some users plan to build even more complex web applications with m-Power.

For example, Newbill plans on building a web application that automates a manual process for them: "Right now I'm looking at developing [an application] to help us better track our insurance payments," she says. "Right now we have a very manual process for that and it's not in any way tied to the AS400. I'm going to develop [an application] that would take care of that process for us."

It doesn't stop there. Going even one step further, she even plans on incorporating m-Power's event-triggered messaging for email notification automation. "I'm hoping once I get this system with the insurance payments developed, every time we input data into that [application], we would have accounting be notified when certain payments come through. Sometimes we forget to notify them, so that would be really nice to just have that happen automatically."

Conclusion

Overall, m-Power more than addressed ERMCO's reporting issues. A reporting process that often required days now takes minutes. Departments that relied on the MIS Department are now self-sufficient. This not only speeds up the entire reporting process, it also frees up the MIS department for more mission-critical tasks. To make a long story short, it simplifies life for all involved!

To learn more about ERMCO, you can visit their Web site at: http://www.ermco-eci.com/

Want to know more about a similar solution for your business? If you would like more information about how you can create a similar system, or you would be interested in having us develop a custom proof-of-concept you can show the powers-that-be, please just fill out this form, or, call us today at 630-916-0662 to learn more.