3D-systems that displays graphical images into a 180-degree field of view.
Here’s how Elumens benefited from using WinMAGI software.
- Used for simulation training applications. The military uses include flight simulation and combat training.
- Needed a powerful forecasting/master production scheduling function.
- Wanted a package that was simple, affordable, and could grow with the business.
- The software was everything MAGI promised and more.
- The implementation was a striking success.
Startup Can’t Risk Inferior Software
by Sarah Klunk, CFPIM, CIRM, CPM
The Elumens company of Cary, North Carolina had been in business for a few years before it manufactured anything. The founders were absorbed with designing and testing the product – a 3D display system. The product displays graphical images into a 180-degree field of view. The user sits halfway into a hemispherical dome and the surrounding image provides the immersive sensation of being part of the scene being projected. It can be used for simulation training applications. The military uses it for various kinds of flight simulation and combat training the uses are restricted only by the users imagination.
Manufacturing began, in earnest, in 1999 with a workstation sized product. Prior to having the new product, sales were limited and, with less than 100 SKUs, factory operations did not require much more than someone paying close attention. But, with the newly introduced products, the business plan called for sufficient growth to take the company public. In anticipation of the planned growth, Elumens had hired a CEO with a track record in sales and recent experience with IPOs. The CEO had no manufacturing experience but wisely recognized that additional sales, coupled with new products, would add enough complexity to the factory to require a professional Operations Manager. That’s where I came in. I had been in operations for years. I am an APICS member and was Chair of the JIT certification committee for several years. My experience told me we needed some good manufacturing control software before the new products were released.
I was structuring the manufacturing process into a make-to-stock environment so we needed a powerful forecasting/master production scheduling function. Shipping from stock would provide the customer with a short leadtime but I also wanted a fairly short manufacturing leadtime to replenish the stocking levels. This meant we needed to stock long leadtime components so we needed a powerful inventory management function to compliment the forecasting/MPS capability. Our other requirements, purchasing, sales order entry, MRP, engineering, and scheduling were nothing extraordinary from a systems perspective. But most importantly, the system had to be affordable and from a company we could trust. I had worked with big, mainframe software packages selling for hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars, requiring battalions of consultants and leagues of resources to maintain and manage the data. Elumens could not even afford the training costs for a package like that. Besides, such software is an anachronism; a throwback to the days of big mainframe computers and big MIS staffs. I’ve been doing this sort of thing for a few decades and know that today’s PC networks are more powerful than mainframes were just a few years ago. I know of nothing that an expensive mainframe system can do that a modestly priced PC network system cannot do except guarantee full employment for consultants and IT professionals unwilling to let go of the old ways. Of course, not all PC based ERP systems are equal. I could not afford a false step that could throw the company into chaos. Chaos costs money. When your company does not have deep pockets, the window of opportunity for profit will slam shut quickly unless systems come up chaos free. My solution was WinMAGI software by MAGI. MAGI had been in business since the early 1980s, had numerous customer testimonials from small, job shop type companies to large organizations processing thousands and thousands of transactions each day. I wanted a package that was simple, affordable, and could grow with the business. And I have not been disappointed. The full featured, PC platform, Windows based, ERP system is developed with 100% Microsoft development tools. The well-organized modules were easy for our employees to learn and use because the user interface is so flexible that no user need have anything on his screens he does not use. And the manufacturing modules follow the APICS body of knowledge. The system design is managed by APICS certified developers that have managed factories even longer than I have. I always worry that old time manufacturing people will be unable to talk to a software’s help desk. You know how you can often tell the support person has never set foot in real factory. But the first time we called the MAGI help desk we found ourselves talking to a thirty year manufacturing veteran that writes for the APICS magazine. You don’t get that with just any software. The software itself was everything MAGI promised and more. The implementation was a striking success. My ability to motivate some veteran employees to use the system as intended was not nearly as successful but I’m winning that battle one person at a time.
If you work for a small company with limited capital, you may be barely able to afford software at all. You certainly cannot afford a slow, chaotic implementation. But there are excellent and affordable, PC based, ERP packages out there. Take the time to find the better ones. You are likely to get only one chance. Id like to acknowledge the contributions of WinMAGI to the success of Elumens start-up, launch of its new products and, hopefully, a successful IPO. One of our new products won the Showstopper Award at a high-tech products show and a subsequent magazine article gave us an infusion of publicity. I sent a copy of the article to MAGI along with a thank-you note.
Sarah Klunk is VP of Operations for Elumens of Cary, North Carolina. She has 20 plus years experience in manufacturing management. Sarah is a long time APICS member, holding various chapter and regional offices, and was Chair of the JIT Certification Committee for several years. She has a degree in Operations and Procurement Management from Bowling Green State University.