Aerospace - Defense. Aerial targets. Aircraft components.
Here’s how Defense Contractor benefited from using WinMAGI software.
“Fewer than 50% of the PC network based systems could perform MRP by contract. All of those not eliminated could do lot control but only a few could do it in the detail we required. A few more had no same as except engineering and one package had an awkward importing convention. By the time the team reached the intuitive user interface bullet point, there were only three possibilities left. One was WinMAGI and it blew the others off the list.”
Defense Contractor Races to Meet Y2K Deadline
I work for a major defense contractor in Southern California. Because of heightened security concerns, I will not provide my name or that of my company. I can say that we manufacture aerial targets for the military. Our principle product is like a flying torpedo that pilots, in training, track thru the skies and shoot down. We sell these to governments all over the world. We also retrofit fighter planes, from the Air Force’s obsolete inventory, into radio controlled drones. These are more sophisticated targets because of their maneuvering capability.
At the beginning of 1999, we were making haphazard use of a small MRP package that was not Y2K compliant. Recent contracts with the US government required us to certify, by the end of the year, that our software was Y2K compliant. These same contracts added enough volume and complexity to the operation that everyone realized we needed new software and we needed to be serious about using it properly. Our parent company realized the same thing and edicted that we be compliant by the end of July. We had about six months to select software, convert our data, train the users, and begin using the system effectively.
The company promoted a respected middle manager to the new job of Y2K Coordinator and assigned several people full time to his new group. In addition, all other areas of the company were told that Y2K deadlines were non-negotiable. Executives likely to lose their jobs if the overall deadline was missed were not patient with subordinates who missed the detailed deadlines. So we had most of what is required for a successful software implementation – recognition of the need and intense motivation. But could we do it in six months?
We had over 100,000 part numbers, lots of suppliers. Just a whole lot of data to manage. But our primary concern was that we were not a computer savvy company. The old software package was being used here and there to help some people perform their jobs but it was not used to manage the company. Each department had its own procedures, paper records, stand alone spread sheets, and lots of knowledge in the heads of the old-timers. Engineers did not know how to structure a BOM for a MRP system, no shop supervisor had ever been measured on his ability to maintain accurate inventory records, materials people knew how to expedite but not how to schedule. Six months was intimidating indeed.
The Y2K team quickly identified five key features required of the software:
- It must perform MRP and manage inventory by contract.
- It must have powerful lot control and tracing capabilities.
- It must have “same as except” engineering capability.
- It must be capable of importing files to speed data conversion.
- The user interface must be intuitive to minimize the learning curve
The team started at the top of the list and began eliminating software packages. Fewer than 50% of the PC network based systems could perform MRP by contract. All of those not eliminated could do lot control but only a few could do it in the detail we required. A few more had no “same as except” engineering and one package had an awkward importing convention. By the time the team reached the intuitive user interface bullet point, there were only three possibilities left. One was WinMAGI, developed by MAGI, and it blew the others off the list.
WinMAGI was a much newer product than the others. As such, MAGI, had access to development tools that were unavailable when the competing products were developed. And this advantage was dramatic. Every WinMAGI screen has a control screen behind it that allows the view to be configured. Data can be added, removed, and reorganized to fit the company. No user need have anything on his screen that he does not use. We found that this simplifies the training. The item master, for instance, has over 150 data elements that can be used to manage part numbers. Our company uses only a few dozen of these so the others were removed from the screen. Then security authorizations separated the remaining ones so they appear only on the screens of those having maintenance responsibility. For an employee with such responsibility, instead of searching a screen with 150 data elements to find the few he is responsible for, his screen has only the 4 or 5 he must maintain. Most software comes hard coded to allow a maximum number of digits for the part number. WinMAGI is delivered to allow 15 digits but the user can expand or contract this number as he wishes. The system is rich in reports and WinMAGI allows us to modify them to fit our idiosyncrasies. A dictionary change capability allows terminology to be changed to fit the user. WinMAGI uses the term “item number” but if the user prefers “part number”, the terminology can be changed thru the entire system in a few seconds. The feature most appreciated by our IT staff was the capability of installing an upgrade without losing our custom modifications. These are just the highlights of what WinMAGI can do with its powerful foundation.
By the time we selected WinMAGI, we had only three months left until our deadline. But we were reassured by MAGI’s money- back guarantee of success by the end of July. The speed and success of software installations is 80% dependent on the quality and quantity of the resources a company brings to bear on its implementation. Software companies seldom guarantee success because only 20% of what is required is under their control. But, in our case, our motivation was so intense and the assigned resources were so impressive that MAGI felt our 80% was in the bag. And they had no hesitation guaranteeing their 20% because the software is that good.
During early May, one of MAGI’s implementation consultants coordinated the conversion of our data and gave the Y2K team instruction on what pieces of the implementation needed to be completed first. Overview classes were held for key employees. Screens were customized for our idiosyncrasies and further customized for each user. By the end of May, the data was loaded and we began detailed training of the users. During June, Engineers were shown how to structure BOMs, purchasing and inventory people were taught how to manage their activities within a contract management environment, and factory supervisors were taught how to report production to a computer system. By the end of June, we took a physical inventory to establish a base for the inventory and went live with WinMAGI a full month before the deadline that appeared so intimidating a few months before.
By the time our end of July deadline rolled around, we were fully operational. Some employees were even on the down side of the learning curve. We certified our software as Y2K compliant and got on about the business of building aerial targets. Now, about a year after startup, our inventory is under control. We know what we have and we know it by contract. We still have over 100,000 parts in the database and many thousands may have a requirement at any given time. We are fortunate that, even with this many part numbers to process, WinMAGI’s MRP runs in about thirty minutes a day. We order purchased components on time now the expensive expediting has been eliminated except when human error causes chaos. But that will always happen and WinMAGI helps us react to it. The pre-WinMAGI days seem like a lifetime ago. We are doing very well with the software even though there are still a few people who dislike anything requiring a computer. But there is a growing number that want to take advantage of WinMAGI’s other capabilities that we have not yet explored. And these are the people rising to the top of my company. Its probably just a matter of time before we unleash the full power of WinMAGI and ride it to new heights of success. I can’t wait.