Showplace Wood Products Case Study

Showplace Woods builds custom applications and reports over their ERP System


Case Study Summary

Overview

Established in Harrisburg, South Dakota, Showplace Wood Products is an employee-owned manufacturer of wood cabinetry. Since opening their doors in 1999, Showplace Wood Products has grown substantially—from producing 50 cabinets a day, to 800 cabinets per day just a few years later.

Challenge

As Showplace Wood Products grew, they faced a challenge. Because their ERP system didn’t fit their reporting needs, they had to rely on manual processes. These manual processes began to limit the number of cabinets they could physically produce. If not fixed, this problem could halt business growth.

They needed to deliver custom reports from their Friedman Frontier ERP down to the shop floor. But, they had no way to create the reports they needed. "The data we needed was in our system, we just didn’t have a good way to get it out," explains Andrew Gilbert, IT Director at Showplace Wood Products. As a result, they were stuck manually entering and extracting data from their ERP system.

Solution

Showplace turned to the m-Power Development Platform to create custom reporting over their Friedman Frontier ERP system. Using m-Power, they:

Automated data delivery from their ERP system to their cutting department. This helped Showplace:

  • Eliminate 20 hours of manual data entry every week, saving $30,000 per year in labor
  • Cut new employee onboarding time from 4-6 months to 2 weeks
  • Reduce employee turnover
  • Save an additional $30,000 per year in training costs and employee retention

Created all of their applications without coding, using their current staff. This helped Showplace:

  • Avoid hiring a full-time developer
  • Deliver applications quickly--with most only requiring a few hours

Created tablet applications with real-time ERP data access for employees on the shop floor. This helped Showplace:

  • Eliminate twice-daily planning meetings—saving 12 employees 40 minutes every day
  • Meet their goal of 100% daily shipping
  • Reallocate 160 man-hours per week to other areas of the business

Augmented their ERP system, without altering the system itself. This helped Showplace:

  • Avoid ERP lock-in, and remain flexible to take future ERP upgrades
  • Avoid expensive and time-consuming ERP customizations

"We've really managed a huge return on our investment because we haven't needed a specific developer for these reporting needs."
--Andrew Gilbert, IT Director at Showplace Wood Products

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Full Case Study

Overview

Established in Harrisburg, South Dakota, Showplace Wood Products is an employee-owned manufacturer of wood cabinetry. Since first opening their doors in 1999, Showplace Wood Products has grown substantially—from producing 50 cabinets a day, to 800 cabinets per day just a few years later.

Challenge

Showplace Wood Products faced a common challenge: Their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system didn’t fit their exact needs. It’s a widespread problem with ERP systems in general. While they provide core business functions, they are built to address common needs across a wide range of companies. Without customization, no ERP system will perfectly fit every company’s exact needs.

The bigger problem: ERP customizations are not only expensive and time-consuming, they lock the business into that ERP version. If the company ever wanted to upgrade to a new version, they would need to redo all of the customizations.

This was the challenge facing Showplace Wood Products. They needed to deliver custom reports from their Friedman Frontier ERP down to the shop floor. But, they didn’t have a way to create the custom reports they needed.

As a result, they relied heavily on manual processes. As Showplace Wood Products grew, these manual processes began limiting the number of cabinets they could physically produce. Specifically, these processes created a few challenges:

They had trouble meeting daily shipping goals

Showplace Wood Products has a goal of 100% daily shipping. This means every order that should be shipped on a given day is completed and placed on the truck. However, the order data lived in their ERP system. Without a custom reporting solution to get that data down to the shop floor, they relied on manual processes to meet this goal.

To meet their shipping objective, they had to print the latest data from their ERP system twice a day, and hold meetings to discuss the items. Then, a team of six employees tracked down the orders on the shop floor using the printed data.

This manual process was further complicated by the lack of real-time data. Due to the fast pace of their manufacturing environment, the printed information was often outdated within minutes. As a result, the employees responsible for finding unfinished items often found themselves searching for items that were already completed.

"The data we needed was in our system, we just didn’t have a good way to get it out."
Manual data entry harmed productivity

When a customer places an order, it’s entered into their Frontier ERP system. Then, the order gets sent down to the shop floor for cutting.

The problem: Getting this data to the shop floor was a manual process. “The data we needed was in our system, we just didn’t have a good way to get it out,” explains Andrew Gilbert, IT Director at Showplace Wood Products.

To get the panel sizes from each order to the cutting department, one employee spent half of their time writing down the details from the order acknowledgement form. Once everything was written down, the panels could be cut.

The sales department relied on IT for reporting

Because they had no way to pull sales data out of the system themselves, the sales team relied on IT for reporting. “The sales department would come to us and ask us for reports,” says Gilbert. “Then, inevitably they would want to look at the data in a different manner than what we had given them.”

This process wasted time for all involved. The IT department was stuck creating and altering reports, while the sales department was stuck waiting around for their data.

Solution

Showplace liked their Frontier ERP system, but also realized that no system of this size could meet their company’s exact needs. “The system is so large, there’s no way the vendor can write reports that will be whatever everyone wants,” says Gilbert. “So we started looking for something that would give us exactly what we needed with reporting.”

Gilbert soon discovered m-Power, the development platform created by mrc. m-Power offered a unique advantage: It could sit on top of their Frontier ERP and deliver custom, real-time web applications and reports—without altering the underlying system. It also gave Showplace the ability to build their own solutions in-house—using their current staff and skills.

After licensing m-Power and taking a short training class, Showplace got to work building solutions. They immediately addressed the challenges listed above in the following ways:

They delivered real-time ERP data to the shop floor via tablets
photo credit: Unsplash via pixabay cc

Using m-Power, Showplace wrote a web report that lists (in real-time) all of the orders that need to be completed that day, as well as their location within the plant. Rather than holding meetings twice a day, they now deliver this data straight to the shop floor via:

  1. Monitors mounted on the shop floor: They mounted monitors on the shop floor that display the new web applications. Employees can now look up and see real-time order data, at any time.
  2. Tablets on the shop floor: Rather than rely on outdated information on paper, employees now carry tablets that display real-time web applications created with m-Power. They quickly see which pieces need to be completed, and can enter updates into the system from the tablet application.
They eliminated manual data entry

Using m-Power, they created an application that pulls cutting dimensions straight from orders in their ERP system. Rather than have an employee spend half of their time writing down dimensions from order acknowledgements, that data is now instantly available.

They automated the reporting process with web pivot tables

Using m-Power, Gilbert created a web-based sales pivot table for the sales department. The sales pivot table eliminates most reporting requests, and streamlines the reporting process.

Now, their sales team can view data however they wish. Using the built-in selection criteria in the web pivot table, salespeople can sort and filter the data by any criteria, like region, timeframe, door style, sales rep, and much more. This flexibility means they no longer rely on the IT department for reporting, and have instant access to their ERP data.

Value

With m-Power, Showplace Wood Products has successfully extended their Frontier ERP system with real-time data access and reporting. They’ve delivered on their primary goal—bringing ERP data to the shop floor. In doing so, they delivered some key business benefits:

Reduced manual data entry by 20 hours/week, resulting in $30,000 annual savings
photo credit: fancycrave1 via pixabay cc

Because m-Power lets Showplace extend ERP data to the shop floor, they’ve eliminated many manual processes. For example, their specialty cutting process formerly required 20 hours of manual data entry every week.

Now, that information is instantly available via a web application created with m-Power. In the past, one employee spent half of their time writing up cutting instructions. Now, that employee can focus on more important tasks. Gilbert estimates that automating their manual data entry saves Showplace Wood Products at least $30,000 per year.

"Our employee retention is much better. Having to wait 4-6 months to actually do your job is a really long time. People would get frustrated and leave, and then we’d have to start all over again. Now, we actually have very tenured employees in our cutting department because of [the applications we created]."
Reduced employee onboarding time from 4-6 months to 2 weeks, resulting in $30,000 annual savings

In addition to the time savings, Showplace found that the automation of their Specialty Cutting process reduced new employee onboarding dramatically. In the past, new employees couldn’t start cutting for about 4 – 6 months, while they learned all of the manual processes associated with the job. Now that they’ve automated the process, new employees can begin cutting in just 2 weeks.

Besides the time savings, and the reduced training cost for new employees, they’ve also improved employee retention. “Our employee retention is much better,” explains Gilbert. “Having to wait 4-6 months to actually do your job is a really long time. People would get frustrated and leave, and then we’d have to start all over again. Now, we actually have very tenured employees in our cutting department because of [the applications we created].”

With the time savings, combined with the reduced training costs and employee retention, Gilbert estimates they save another $30,000 every year.

Avoided the need for new developers, resulting in $15,000 annual savings

Developing web applications that deliver real-time data and integrate with existing systems typically requires the help of web developers. But, Showplace didn’t have any web developers on staff.

With m-Power, they managed to develop everything they needed using their current staff and skills. “We’ve really managed a huge return on our investment because we haven’t needed a specific developer for these reporting needs,” explains Gilbert.

Essentially, Showplace Wood Products turned their current staff into web developers. Rather than hire specialized skills (and pay a premium for these skills), they used the skills they had in house to develop all the applications they needed with the help of m-Power. The best part: Most of the applications only required a few hours of work.

Reallocated 160 man-hours per week to other areas of the business

In the past, six employees spent their days walking around the shop floor finding orders that needed to be shipped that day.

With the new daily review apps, they can now accomplish the task with just two employees. As a result, they have reallocated four people to other areas of the business that needed help.

In essence, they’ve freed up 160 hours every week. Rather than spend their time looking for orders on the shop floor, these employees can focus their efforts on more mission-critical tasks.

Future

Going forward, Showplace plans to expand their use of m-Power even further. They’ve already started creating real-time dashboards that tie into their Friedman ERP, and intend to use m-Power’s dashboard capabilities even more.

Additionally, their choice of m-Power provides future flexibility. Since m-Power works over their Frontier ERP system (without altering it), it doesn’t lock them into that version. They’re free to upgrade to the latest version of Frontier whenever they decide, and carry their m-Power applications over with them.

All in all, Showplace Wood Products has the tool they need to solve multiple issues. m-Power gives them real-time data access across their business. It turns their current staff into web developers. It solves their end user reporting problems. But most importantly, m-Power gives them the tools they need to address most any issue they face—both now and in the future.

To learn more about Showplace Wood Products, you can visit their Web site at: http://www.showplacewood.com/

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