Instrumentation Manufacturer Enhances Lean Efforts with New Business Solution
WIKA USA implemented Microsoft Dynamics AX with a complete Lean Enterprise solution from eBECS. The new solution enhances WIKA’s Lean program by making it easier for operations managers to eliminate inefficiency, customers to plan their orders, and IT staff to modify and maintain the system. Since the implementation, WIKA reduced order lead times from several weeks to as little as five days and increased inventory turnover by a factor of 12.
In 2001, WIKA USA decided to pursue Lean Manufacturing principles to more effectively compete with low-cost, overseas competitors. These business process changes required ungainly modifications to the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, SyteLine, which slowed system performance and complicated proposed software upgrades. “Every weekend, our IT staff went in and tuned the system so that it would perform adequately when operations started on Monday,” recalls Michael Gerster, President, WIKA USA.
When SyteLine announced it would no longer support that version of the software, WIKA USA management realised they needed a different solution. WIKA USA’s management team knew that the company needed to fully align its Lean processes with its systems and material flows to continually improve operations.
WIKA’s global headquarters had already selected Microsoft Dynamics AX as the corporate standard, but WIKA USA needed to ensure support for its new Lean processes. In 2006, WIKA USA management discovered the Lean Enterprise for Microsoft Dynamics AX solution from eBECS. The solution combined Lean methodology with traditional manufacturing and distribution functions, and provided the metrics WIKA USA needed to support Kaizen processes—continuous improvement of its lean efforts.
With valuable Lean Manufacturing expertise from eBECS, WIKA USA completed the implementation in just seven months. “The eBECS team understands Lean Manufacturing, and they took time to understand our business case and create a solution that meets our needs. Their approach was refreshing in that they totally came behind what we were trying to do—helping us define best practices and integrate them into IT,” says Gerster.
Previously, WIKA USA compensated for lack of Lean support in its ERP system with paper-based processes, which meant that the company’s 25 manufacturing cells used visual cues, called Kanban cards, to indicate inventory levels. Now, when salespeople enter orders into the system, it automatically triggers a string of events throughout operations – from shipping and manufacturing to the warehouse and suppliers.
Communication between different operational elements is electronic so production capacity and inventory levels are visible throughout the company. WIKA USA uses this operational visibility to allow customers and salespeople to easily forecast potential orders or return status on existing orders. Furthermore, the Online Customer Centre lets customers check inventory, product availability, lead times, account history, purchase orders, invoices, and UPS and FedEx tracking without having to contact their WIKA USA sales representative.
Lean Enterprise for Microsoft Dynamics AX helps WIKA USA differentiate itself from the competition through better customer collaboration and responsiveness. Since adopting Lean Methodology, WIKA USA has reduced lead times from six weeks to as little as five days. In terms of customer service, the Lean Enterprise solution makes the sales order the key identifier throughout the system so that salespeople can easily determine the status of any order.
The Lean Enterprise solution automatically pulls inventory from the warehouse to the production to improve inventory turnover. In some manufacturing cells, inventory cycles through 44 times each year. “We’ve already managed to increase our warehouse inventory turnover by a factor of twelve through Lean Methodology. Lean Enterprise for Microsoft Dynamics AX lets us accelerate and extend these efficiencies, not only for our own operations, but throughout the supply chain in collaboration with our suppliers and customers,” says Gerster.
WIKA USA now has the tools to pursue continuous improvement in its Lean initiative. The Lean Enterprise solution specifically supports the iterative process evaluations and incremental improvements that are part of the Kaizen continuous improvement methodology. WIKA USA’s continuous improvement team uses the metrics gathered through Lean Enterprise for Microsoft Dynamics AX to track progress and keep up momentum in the company’s Lean efforts.n
Production planning continues to yield improvements at WIKA USA as planners spend more time on value-added tasks, such as handling exceptions in c
0ustomer demand. Increased visibility into customer demand also helps planners refine forecasts for products with long lead times; more accurate forecasts result in even lower inventory levels.
Please contact eBECS if you would like to know more.