Prettl Electric

Prettl Electric creates a real-time, web-based shipping schedule


Case Study Summary

Prettl Electric, an automotive manufacturer, needed a way to give access to its worldwide production schedule and shipping calendar to one of its customers. Their current schedule was in Excel, and lack of scalability, automation, and duplicated manual processes were becoming a problem.

Challenge

The creation of a custom application that would provide an automated shipping schedule, complete with complex logistics calculations, that could give customers and plants worldwide the ability to see the same shipping and production schedule any time, day or night.

Solution

The secure application, built in Java servlets, offers a live Web view of the detailed production and shipping schedule for all of Prettl's products, as they move through plants worldwide toward their ultimate destination, the customer.


Full Case Study

Overview

In the manufacturing world, MRPs (Manufacturing Resource Planning systems) have long been imperative for a smooth operation. But, as is the case with any "off the shelf" software package, there is no such thing as a perfect fit.

MRPs and other package solutions such as ERPs, SCMs, and CRMs have powerful capabilities, managing a litany of complex tasks in order to keep their respective companies on course. However, they must be tailored to fit the needs of the individual businesses that use them in order to truly harness their powers.

Prettl Electric, a division of The Prettl Group, is a leader in the production of wire harnesses used largely in the automotive industry in ABS braking systems and emission control systems.

Prettl Electric has relied on their MRP for years, but recently they refined their efforts with the development of a Web application that was able to single-handedly reduce employee workload, share live data, and improve production planning with a secure, portable, automated, and fully scalable solution.

How? They used a tool that they already had in their arsenal: the mrc-Productivity Series.

Challenge

When one of Prettl's customers, a major automotive supplier, had an additional demand for more harnesses from other sites, Prettl Electric agreed to manage the logistics for them as a customer service. This would prove to be more complex than they had anticipated.

The Prettl Group, their parent company, is a global powerhouse with offices and plants all over the world, so expanding this business partnership meant working with sister plants in Mexico, Germany, and the Ukraine as well as the United States.

To accommodate the necessary information sharing, the company decided to create a production and shipment schedule in Excel. It contained many of the necessary complex algorithms and calculations that go into global logistics, but they all had to be devised manually.

The spreadsheet also needed to be accessible to all of the plants involved as well as the customer, and to show the shipping schedule, estimated arrival dates, and customer requirements.

The spreadsheet provided an at-a-glance view of logistics across the board. All parties could update it as changes were made, and each version was marked with a number so that everyone knew which version to reference. Then, it would simply be e-mailed to each location.

Only it wasn't so simple.

Any method can become a liability if your information systems are not properly in place. When your customer is ordering "just enough" from your business, based on what their customer requires from them...what happens to you as a supplier if you are using incorrect or out of date information?

For example, you need to provide 30,000 units to your customer two weeks from now but a last minute update has added an additional 10,000, and your plant in the Ukraine doesn't have the new information. Your customer is expecting the correct shipment, and their customer depends on it.

Like dominos, an inaccuracy in data sharing could cause your customer delivery problems of their own, and their customer delivery problems, and soon. Would a mistake like that trigger a loss in business? Can you afford to find out?

More importantly, what measures can you take to prevent that from happening?

Although Prettl's excel sheet worked for a while, the process would eventually require a more sophisticated method. And, when Marcus Barkey, Prettl's IT Manager, went in search of a better solution, he found that the answer had been right under his nose the whole time-the mrc-Productivity Series.

Solution

"I also knew that the [m-Power] was powerful and created applications very quickly. I'm a one-man shop, and using my RPG skills, I would be spending a week on one report. As a reporting tool, it allowed me to write one in minutes."

When Barkey stepped back to look at the situation, he realized the system needed to be automated-and fast, "We have tools in place, we have quality people, yet we're asking them to copy data from one system into another, and then duplicate data and complicated formulas. It's a ridiculous waste of time."

First of all, the production and shipping schedule was constructed manually in Excel. Specifications and requirements were entered into Prettl's MRP, and then that data would be removed from the MRP and entered into the spreadsheet.

As information on the spreadsheet changed, or information in the MRP changed, the schedule was updated, and the information put back into the MRP. That meant the system required manual maintenance as well as manual entry of the data, leaving more opportunity for human error.

Secondly, it wasn't in real time. Because Prettl was dealing with worldwide plants, the time zones were not the same, and people were not all at work at the same time when a version revision was sent out. So, it was possible to have two people working with different numbers.

For instance, let's say there were two plants that needed to make a change to version 2. One plant changed their column and sent out a version 3. The other plant changed their column at the same time and created a separate version 3. Which version 3 is correct? Neither. And when someone updates one of those to version 4. What then? It was showing a potential for disaster.

Finally, while the spreadsheet worked fine for the fifty-odd products that the companies had originally agreed to, it just wasn't scalable. The products were going to grow to a couple hundred, with potential for more growth in the near future, and it was becoming clear that their business was outgrowing the spreadsheet.

A great thing for the business was a problem for IT. As Barkey explained, "We could see that what was already becoming cumbersome was starting to become downright unmanageable."

The IT manager and his team decided to first focus on the definite needs: a solution in real-time, automated, globally accessible, while at the same time, it's entirely secure.

As he began looking at his needs, the versatility of the mrc-Productivity Series began to stand out. "We bought the mrc-Productivity Series three years ago, initially to use as a reporting tool to work with our MRP. We had this MRP that we had invested all of this money in, and it worked very well, except in the area of some of its reports."

"I also knew that the mrc-Productivity Series was powerful and created applications very quickly. I'm a one-man shop, and using my RPG skills, I would be spending a week on one report. As a reporting tool, it allowed me to write one in minutes."

Value

"The best part is, after just a few weeks of having this Web application, we began to streamline the process. Not having to create these manual processes began to free up our time and allowed us to take a fresh perspective."

The Web application they created with the mrc-Productivity Series not only fulfilled Prettl's needs but it exceeded Barkey's expectations:

  • The data and calculations are now fully automated, so there is no more double data entry or manual calculations.
  • It's fully scalable: the application can handle as many products as needed by the customer, from fifty, to a hundred, to ten thousand.
  • The application is built in Java servlets, so it is fully portable.
  • The application automatically creates a color-coded at-a-glance view of the shipping schedule. Red for problems with quantities, yellow for products that don't have a lot of safety stock, and green for shipments with no foreseeable issues.
  • And, perhaps, most importantly, because the application is displaying live data, directly from Prettl's MRP, everyone is sure to be looking at the same information, whether they are in the Ukraine or Germany, or South Carolina, day or night.

"Now our process is so much more reasonable," says Barkey, "Our customer sends us requirements, then we filter where material is, tell our sister plants what to make next, and at the same time allow them secure access to the live data they require to keep current and do what they need to do."

Future

The success of Prettl's initial extranet solution is the foundation for many new successes as well.

"The best part is, after just a few weeks of having this Web application, we began to streamline the process. Not having to create these manual processes began to free up our time and allowed us to take a fresh perspective. We looked further into the process and realized it was over detailed, and overcomplicated. So, we streamlined it--and we were able to do so because our mrc application automated everything for us," says Barkey.

It seems the benefits of this one solution are beginning to catch the imagination of Prettl executives all over the company. For example, one department recently requested a way to automatically post requirements to their extensive list of vendors to improve efficiency on that end of things as well.

Additionally, a number of different executives have requested an executive dashboard similar to the one that mrc demonstrates on crazybikes.com, to allow decision-makers to have up-to-the minute access to current sales, product schedules, and internal reports.

"I'm looking forward to exploring these different solutions. I believe we're just beginning to think outside of this application to other areas where our business could be more efficient. Executives have already come to me from many different departments, and the majority of their requests can be quickly fulfilled with the mrc-Productivity Series. I'm looking forward to taking on the challenge."

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.