In 1952, J. Reese Phifer established Phifer Inc in Tuscaloosa, in Alabama as a weaver of aluminium insect screening with two main goals of excelling in quality and service. Today, the company is the world’s larger producer of aluminium and fiberglass insect screening products with offices in California, Italy, India and Asia.
In 2003, Phifer implemented an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system in order to handle the company's growth. To bridge the gap between ERP and production, an MES (Departmental Production System) group was set up to develop a database where technical product specifications and production machine settings could be stored. Over time, the proprietary application has grown far beyond its original idea, becoming extremely difficult to maintain. Reporting and data accessibility became difficult to obtain and intense work was required to meet the new demands. These symptoms, common in the growth of manufacturing companies, prompted IT manager -William Cork- to explore a new MES solution.
stated Cork. Up Solutions’ partner -PA USA- was invited to show the capabilities of just MES suite, consisting of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Machine Planning and Manufacturing Monitoring.
"We were either going to overhaul it in-house or we were going to purchase a piece of software"
“There wasn’t another solution on the market able to offer what just MES could do".
Phifer formed a key-user committee to work with the PA consulting team to create a vision of how the new MES solution should look like. A key requirement was to provide a system to support Phifer's commitment to a Lean Manufacturing model. PA, first, carried out an analysis of the current system and then built a prototype using the modules that make up the suite: just plm, just planning (for the spinning, warping and weaving departments) and just monitoring (for the warping and weaving machines). After a successful implementation in the metal division, Phifer immediately began to realize important improvements in data management and distribution: the MES and ERP systems were now fully connected. Obtaining data from production required manual intervention and export to spreadsheets: now, everything has been replaced by a single "click".
said Laura Jackson, Product Manager.
""I think with the just SUITE we now have the opportunity to take ourselves to the next level of manufacturing excellence"
Phifer has adopted the kaizen methodology of improving all functions of the business.
Monitoring system has been a major contributing force to these kaizen events. Large flat-screen monitors are positioned in highly-visible areas, highlighting performance. PCs are stationed within individual machine groupings offering the ability to go back and view historical production data.
"We really use the Managing for Daily Improvement (MDI) methodology extensively. Every product line has a daily MDI walk where they go from process to process reviewing their performance metrics and caking action when we don't meet metrics", said Cork.
just MES offers Phifer immediate benefits, as well as opening the door to future possibilities. The new software allows users to generate their own reports without the need to involve the IT department and makes it easier for maintenance staff to understand potential machine problems, helping Phifer to operate more intelligently. Looking to the future, Cork believes that Up Solutions is providing the tools needed for a workforce that will have the ability to solve problems "on the fly". Laura Jackson sees operators who can better understand production processes and a system that will allow users to drive innovation.
Modern manufacturing companies are facing a huge challenge in collecting and managing the vast amount of data that can be used to drive innovation and success. just MES solution has brought a level of data sophistication and standardization that Phifer can use as a basis for the future.
"Innovation is every time you realize you have technology that will help you achieve goals you never thought you'd be able to achieve" she added.
A very important aspect of the project for both Phifer and PA was the harmony between the consulting team and the company.
"When it comes to a project like this, the key component is people: the people who implement and the relationships that are created between the working groups. In this sense I can only be satisfied regarding PA staff and how they have been of value to Phifer.”
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