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Anthony Murphy

Lean

Consolidating 27 Software Systems Drives Greater Production Control, Scrap Reduction

Using Plex, Kendrick Plastics eliminated 40 hr/week in data entry, reduced scrap by 33%

Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2022 - 13:03

Kendrick Plastics is an IATF/TS 16949-certified, tier one and tier two supplier of interior decorative trim components and assemblies to the automotive industry. Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, its 300,000 sq ft engineering and manufacturing facility has more than 50 presses serving fully automated paint lines and assembly stations.

After being spun off from its previous ownership, Kendrick Plastics needed to scale down from a multinational system to a middle-market regional system. Using multiple software systems to facilitate manufacturing operations was inefficient and uncompetitive for a business of its scale; doing so absorbed valuable resources across departments, including manual data reconciliation, IT support for hardware and software management, and limited quality tracking and visibility. This software environment created data silos, leading to issues with synchronization that resulted in high costs and limitations on Kendrick’s ability to innovate.

One of the manufacturer’s top priorities was to find business systems that would support its new organization. Up until that point, the company had operated using 27 software systems. Though change is always challenging, Kendrick embraced it because of the benefits it would bring.

“We’ve always seen ourselves as a software company that makes car parts, so we’re open to implementing any solution that can help us work more efficiently,” says David Chupp, IT manager at Kendrick. “But using so many systems made it difficult for us to sync data. On top of that, each of those applications needed to be updated and maintained on its own schedule, and we lacked local IT staff to help us. Paying so much attention to our business systems was hindering our ability to innovate.”

With that hindrance in mind, Kendrick set out to consolidate onto one platform, desiring a system that would provide real-time data on manufacturing operations and financial performance. Kendrick also wanted a quick-to-implement product that would be user friendly and accessible to employees from anywhere. This list of requirements naturally fit with Kendrick’s preference for cloud platforms.

“Our company was born and bred in the cloud,” says Chupp. “Working in the cloud has always enabled us to be agile and reactive to our ever-changing environment—more like a software company than a car part maker. It didn’t take us long to realize that Plex was the right choice for us.”

Business keeps running during a seven-month implementation

Despite launching the project in 2020 during the pandemic, Kendrick went live on Plex in just seven months—but the company didn’t cut any corners. Kendrick spent considerable time verifying the data that would feed into its new platform.

“We did lots of testing of EDI connections and labels to ensure that the data from our existing systems was being transferred into Plex correctly,” says Andrew Masterson, Kendrick’s director of sales and operations planning. “We provided training sessions on all three shifts to ensure there would be adequate support, and so operators could be productive on the new system from day one.”

As a result of Kendrick’s conscientious approach, the implementation was seamless. In fact, customers couldn’t even tell that the company had switched systems.

Driving higher quality with machine connectivity through PLC integrations

As soon as Kendrick went live on Plex, employees began to benefit from a quality control process that provides detailed information to minimize the chance of defective parts being shipped to customers. This is accomplished by integrating shop-floor programmable logic controllers (PLC) with Plex.

“We went way beyond just recording production or recording downtime. We can let Plex do all the hard things, such as managing inventory costing or making sure that our bill of materials depletes correctly, while we focus on making better decisions based on the tremendous amount of data the system generates.”
—David Chupp, IT manager, Kendrick Plastics

“Thanks to Plex, we now have a wealth of PLC information for quality control,” explains Chupp. “At a minimum, we do pass/fail checks of parts right at our machines. On the more extreme end, we capture data such as torque, angle, and screw pressure. We can tie that to an individual serial number to give us full traceability throughout the assembly process. We’re also using fields integration in Plex to make sure that our hydro-printed graphics match from the start of the manufacturing process to the end. This is helping us prevent easily overlooked problems—such as grains not quite matching up—so that we can ensure the best possible product for our customer. When we see a certification that a part is ready to pack, we know we can trust in the quality of that part.”

If a defective part ever does make it to a customer, Plex makes it easy to pinpoint the cause. Kendrick team members simply get an individual piece serial number or Plex container serial number from the customer and go from there.

“With the container number, we can see every individual piece serial number that went into that box,” Chupp continues. “We can review all the quality control transactions that occurred during production and all the raw material that went into the part. From there, we can quarantine the products that use that part and even reach out to customers proactively to get parts back. That was never possible before Plex—recalling a part would have required us to pull a far larger lot size, which requires much greater effort and expense.”

Kendrick has also built real-time pace boards that allow the entire team to see Plex production records as they work. Using these visualizations, teams can easily determine whether their machines are running at pace.

“Everyone is much more aware now of how well their stations are keeping up with the pace of production,” says Ali Thomsen, Kendrick plant manager. “Due to color-coding, we can all see at a glance if we’re running at our required rate. As supervisors walk around the floor, they have the truth right there in front of them. Our operators now feel empowered to share with their supervisors what adjustments need to be made so that they can get up to their ideal rate of production.”

Results

• Consolidated 27 different software systems
• Eliminated 40 hours per week of data entry
• Reduced scrap by 33 percent
• Streamlined the purchase order process from multiple days to 5 minutes
• Improved data accessibility of 150 EDI connections, reducing the time to add new trading partners from months to days
• Tracked inventory in real time with barcode scanners, eliminating the need for preprinted part and container labels
• Managed quality digitally and in real time
• Achieved immediate cost savings in inventory overhead after gaining access to real-time data

Detailed scrap data enable earlier intervention

Although many manufacturers find that Plex meets their needs right out of the box, Kendrick saw the potential for further innovation. The company built an application layer on top of the Plex manufacturing execution system (MES) to meet its specific business needs.

“Plex provides a ton of APIs that make it incredibly easy to interact with the system,” says Chupp. “We went way beyond just recording production or recording downtime. We can let Plex do all the hard things, such as managing inventory costing or making sure that our bill of materials depletes correctly, while we focus on making better decisions based on the tremendous amount of data the system generates.”

Plex quickly helped Kendrick improve efficiency and accuracy around its scrap function. Before going live, Kendrick had a full-time employee who spent 40 hours per week entering data on scrap and machine downtime, and there was a 24-hour lag in seeing the previous day’s efficiency metrics. Today, the whole team can see scrap data immediately and without the need of a full-time data entry resource, enabling that person to move to a higher-value job.

Timely reporting is critical to Kendrick’s business. Plex offers prepackaged analytics tools but also makes the data accessible so customers can use the reporting solution of their choice for custom-tailored needs.

“As soon as operators enter scrap data at their workstations, we can see it in real time,” says Thomsen. “All the data is available on a highly intuitive Power BI dashboard that allows us to view the data in different dimensions. This enables us to react much more quickly in rectifying problems.”

As employees investigate a certain program or process, they can see its scrap data as far back as they want and identify trends. With this visibility, Kendrick has already reduced its scrap by about 33 percent since implementation.

Efficiencies abound in the cloud

Kendrick has gained another capability with Plex: barcode scanning. The company can now track inventory precisely as plant floor workers scan it into and out of every location in the facility, all of which is captured in Plex in real time. In addition, Kendrick has dramatically streamlined its batch building process. Rather than preprinting a stack of container labels, the company can simply print them after production, based on records in Plex.

Across Kendrick, efficiencies abound. Rather than walking over to the raw material bank and waiting for a product to be dispensed, plant floor workers can order it from their workstations and pick it up when it’s ready. The company manages EDI connections for 50 customer trading partners and 100 suppliers right in Plex, rather than logging onto a separate system. And the company’s purchase order process has gone from a multiday challenge to a 5-minute approval process.

Kendrick also appreciates the unique benefits of using a cloud-based ERP system, which includes MES and quality built in. With Plex, the company has a highly reliable system that makes it easy for stakeholders to access financial data anytime, anywhere.

“With the real-time data we see in Plex, we can identify manufacturing variances and make corrections on them throughout the day,” says Amanda Gallagher, Kendrick’s controller. “Also, because Plex is so easy to use, people across our organization can access financial data that they’ve never seen before. That has increased the overall financial acumen of our whole business, helping us understand how our day-to-day operations really do affect our bottom line.”

Kendrick doesn’t plan to stop moving forward anytime soon and knows its Plex system is built to its scale.

“The biggest advantage of having a cloud ERP system is the uptime and reliability,” concludes Chupp. “In our previous system, we often had breakdowns during a shipment process that would prevent us from sending a truck out. With Plex, we know that as long as we have an internet connection, we can keep shipping products. That alone is increasing our competitive advantage.”

Discuss

About The Author

Anthony Murphy’s picture

Anthony Murphy

Anthony is vice president and head of product management for the application group at Plex Systems. He is responsible for Plex’s core customer-facing products, such as ERP, MES, and QMS. Prior to Plex, Anthony worked in manufacturing, holding a variety of roles across functions such as IT and software development, logistics, operations, and general management. He has a deep passion for manufacturing and Plex’s customers, engaging them to solve key problems and deliver competitive advantages.