An ERP system does not always work like it should. Plastic producer Hyplast experienced that at first hand. Amongst others, the slowness of their system was a cause for great frustration for the employees. Hyplast decided to do a performance tuning together with software specialist Invantive. It allows errors to be filtered out of the system in a relatively short amount of time. After a system crisis at Hyplast in 2004, the Invantive solution, Invantive Melba, is now used to monitor the system as well. Louis Thirion, IT manager for Hyplast, is very happy with the system optimization, but also realizes at the same time that the performance tuning is only a bandage on the wound for Hyplast.
Hyplast is part of the Rijnlandse Plastic Groep, to which the recycling company KPR NV and the American sales office KPPM also answer. The company, founded in Hoogstraten, fabricates polyethylene plastic foils for use in the agriculture and horticulture, the building industry and the industry. The production capacity amounts to about 35.000 tons per year and the organization runs with about 140 people and a turnover of about 35 million euro. To make everything run smoothly, Hyplast purchased Oracle Financials in 1997 for the financial section, in combination with OPM (Oracle Process Manufacturing), for the production section. Hyplast also ordered the development of an own formula system. Louis Thirion: “We send our production on the basis of mass and volume percentages. Of course it is converted to kilogrammes, but for our people it is crucial to be able to work with percentages. The formula system is now partially also located in OPM, which did not used to be the case. With our upgrade to version 11.5i we have gained a lot of functionality. However, amongst others, our production planning, the material resource planning (MRP) and the stock control is still completely located in Microsoft Access. So next to our three main systems – two standard packages and one customized solution – which all function in an Oracle environment, we also have twenty to thirty sub systems in Access.”
When Louis Thirion was hired five years ago to set up a management information system (MIS), he noticed that the ERP-system of Hyplast was functioning very poorly. The company that had implemented the software, had not abided to the standard implementing rules of Oracle. Invantive subsequently checked if, with some minor adaptions, it could realize a performance profit. And it could. The creating of a new article now only takes one minute and we receive a report in ten to twenty minutes instead of after half a day. In the past reports had to run overnight, because the system would be overloaded otherwise. The consequence was that all decisions were delayed until the end of the month. Now the reports are available immediately. Decisions can be made much quicker, so that we can react much faster. We also need two employees less for the order input. Those people now have time to focus on other matters.” Since September 2004 Invantive is also responsible for monitoring the ERP-system of Hyplast. After the replacement of a network card, the system of the plastic producer went off the air for 23 hours. By renewing the network card a large portion of the data on the hard drives was erased and when it also became apparent that the back-up wasn’t up to speed, Hyplast again contacted Invantive. The software specialist managed to make a reconstruction of the data. “We absolutely wanted to avoid our system to crash again and then we asked Invantive to be responsible for monitoring our ERP-system. We now have a VPN connection with the software specialist, so that they can enter into our system at any moment. This year they have already proactively located two possible calamities”, says Louis Thirion.
L. Thirion: “When you start up a MIS, it is necessary that the underlying data is quickly and accurately available. That is why I decided to search for a solution to heighten the performance of the ERP-package, because it was just plain bad. To retrieve a statistic out of the system, you would need half a day and to enter a new product into the system you would need to count on at least twenty minutes. On the basis of my earlier experience I knew this was not even possible."
During an Oracle User Conference Louis Thirion was introduced to the technology of performance tuning and to Invantive. He invited Invantive to a demonstration, after which the management of Hyplast decided to run a system optimization. The performance tuning took about two weeks.
L. Thirion: “Invantive unleashed Invantive Melba, a solution developed by the company for system optimization, on our ERP-system. It turned out the Oracle system was not properly implemented originally.
New ERP-system: worth the consideration
Because of the performance tuning some of the problems that annoyed the employees were solved. Many of the problems that are caused by the non-integration of the different solution, are not cleared up yet though.
L. Thirion: “It makes one wonder why Hyplast does not purchase a completely new ERP-system. On the one hand I have indeed thought of switching to a different ERP-package, because I am not satisfied with the current state of affairs. But on the other you need keep the objection in mind that it only costed ten to fifteen working days to get rid of our performance problems, while the implementation of an ERP-system easily takes up one and a half year. Even the price tag is of a different size type.” Hyplast has three main systems and around thirty subsystems. The different solutions are not always integrated properly with each other and the systems are usually not utilized for a full one hundred percent. A production order is not confirmed in the current system, for example.
L. Thirion: “Therefore we do a straight entry of the number of plastic rolls that need to be made, without booking back the production order. Ideally the operator would enter which production order he had finished and how much material he needed for it. Currently the used resources are just written down on paper. It takes about four hours to process all this data, so when we do a material resource planning (MRP) run, we are at least four hours behind the current situation. In addition our material resource planning (MRP) is directed from Access and the MRP-solution does not contain all the necessary links to our ERP-system. As a consequence, our inventory never checks out. To solve that, you would need an integrated system. That is why I started an ERP-selection trajectory three years ago.” Hyplast worked through the complete selection trajectory and had its eyes on a partner, but the project was canceled at the last moment. “The management decided to invest in a new machine first. A purchase like that is a serious investment for a SME. The purchase of an ERP-system is also quite expensive, which made it financially unachievable for Hyplast to achieve both projects at the same time. In addition, we need our employees to implement the new machine and then it is impossible to have enough time left to also support an ERP implementation”, says Louis Thirion. “The direction needs to be the same for everyone. I think that the company mentality is not ripe for an implementation yet. An ERP-project needs to be undertaken by more than just the IT department. I am certainly not planning to take up the entire load by myself, because odds are that you will face resistance within the company then.”
What about the future?
Hyplast has recently decided to further explore the collaboration with Invantive. “The goal was to clear up the twenty percent of problems that were not addressed yet. Those problems take up more time. For example, we get an error now and then when we make a new order, and because of it we can not save the information and we have to re-enter the order. The system also blocks one time a day. We have a makeshift solution that helps the problem temporarily, but now we wish to address the problems at its roots”, says Louis Thirion. At the moment Hyplast does not use much of the functionality of the Oracle systems.
L. Thirion: “We do a lot in Access because we are not sufficiently familiar with the Oracle package. To save money, we have also stopped paying support and maintenance costs. This way we save up about 55.000 euros per year. An Oracle solution might have been an overkill for us, but we do have the possibility to use extra functionality, it is just that we do not do so enough at the moment because we are already having trouble to run our ERP-system every day. We are considering to convert the Access database to an Oracle database to gain more performance that way. Anyway, I hope to resurface the plans for a new ERP-implementation in two years or so. A new machine implies having to process more order lines, so I think that in the long run more problems will emerge. An integrated system will become a necessity in the future.”
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