The Missing Link – Reserving a Purchase Order for a Specific Sales Order

April 8, 2014 at 5:52 PMIan Benoliel

“Why can’t I just tell the customer when their shipment is going out the door” exclaimed Harry.  “Their order has been sitting there for 2 weeks and stills no shipment; they’re our biggest customer!”

Everyone on the room was very quiet not wanting to send Harry over the edge. Finally Kelly spoke “Well it seems there were a bunch of sales orders that came in before theirs so when we received the purchase order from the supplier we filled those orders first”.  There was no way to tell that product should have been shipped to a different customer.

Something struck a chord in Jack’s mind. “You know the guys down the street had the same problem until they started using All Orders by NumberCruncher.”   Jack continued, “When they create a sales order for certain customers in All Orders, they link it to a purchase order.  Once they’re linked to one another the quantity on the purchase order is reserved for that customer and it cannot be diverted to another customer.  In addition, the links to the sales order are visible on the purchase order so it’s easy to tell which orders should be filled when a purchase order is received.”

Everyone, including Harry, was impressed.    “What are we waiting for?” said Harry, “Let’s get a demo of All Orders ASAP!”

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Reorder Point and Order Cycle factor

October 24, 2013 at 5:26 PMIan Benoliel

A reorder point is great tool to identify which products to order from your suppliers.   Generally the reorder point is defined as lead time demand plus safety stock.     So lets say your lead time is 30 days and during that period your usage will be 70 units and safety stock is 30 units making the reorder point 100 units.    Now lets assume you have 105 units in stock and your next PO will be in 30 days.     This product will not be flagged for reorder because it is not below the reorder point.   By the time you issue your next purchase order,  you will have 35 units left or 15 days supply but the product will not arrive for another 30 days which will result in back order of 35 units!   

To avoid this issue, safety stock should include a factor for order cycle which is generally demand until the next order cycle.  Revisiting the above example, if the reorder point where to include 170 units then the product would be flagged during the reorder analysis and a back order avoided.   

 

 

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Batch Control and Tracking for Food and Beverage Manufacturers

October 7, 2013 at 10:02 AMIan Benoliel

How to control and track batches

One of the questions I get asked a lot is how to control and track batches that go into multiple pack sizes. Here is the scenario. A manufacturer of juice creates several batches of juice each day. As part of their manufacturing process, each batch is stored in a temperature controlled environment for a period of time until it is poured into several pack sizes.

Create a multi-level bill of materials

A bill of materials or BOM is also known as the formula, recipe, or ingredients lists. It is simply a list of the ingredients and their quantities of each needed to manufacture a product. However many food manufacturers create a multi-level or indented bill of materials structure. The first BOM would be for the batch and would contain all the raw materials or ingredients to create one unit (pound, gallon etc). The second BOM would be for each pack size that you sell. One of the ingredients in the pack BOM will be the batch BOM. For example the pack size for a 4 ounce pack may contain 4 ounces of the batch, a carton and label.

Use lot or batch numbers

Now that you have the bill of materials set, each time you create a new batch you assign a batch or lot numbers. Each time you create new packs you also assign them a lot number. You need to keep a record of which batch number was used within each pack you create (the lot number of the pack does not need to be the same as the batch number). Using this methodology, knowing the lot number of the pack you can trace back to the batch and even to the lot number of the ingredients used in the batch.

How to do this in All Orders

In All Orders you would create an 'Item' of type 'Assembly' for batch BOM and the BOM. You would indicate that these items have 'lot numbers'. When you create a batch you would create a 'Work Order'. You would indicate on the work order the quantities (and lot numbers) of the ingredients uses and assign the back a unique lot number. You can even print a label directly from the work order. When you create the pack BOM you would also create a work order and similarly indicate the quantities and lot number of the batch used.

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Customer Spotlight: Quality Bakery Products

October 2, 2013 at 10:33 AMHeidi Bragg

Profile:

  • Founded – 1993
  • Sales Manager – Michael Tills
  • HQ – Houston, TX
  • Industry – Bakery Industry
  • Employees – 70

Problem: The management of Quality Bakery Products knew the company needed to update its purchasing and production systems. At the time, they were using paper records of their formulations and tracking inventory by hand. Though they used QuickBooks for accounting purposes, it didn’t offer the flexibility they needed for the rest of their enterprise resource planning (ERP) purposes.

Solution: After investigating different ERP software programs, the company’s management contacted NumberCruncher, the makers of All Orders. All Orders offers a QuickBooks-compatible, affordable ERP solution. NumberCruncher’s CEO, Ian Benoliel, worked with the Tills to test and implement the software. Now, Quality Bakery Products has all their records digitized and can better meet the needs of their clients.

Mike Tills has been in the bakery products industry for over 50 years. His first job was working in his family’s bakery supply company when he was a teenager. Mike’s son, Michael, grew up with his father’s business and has been working in this industry for 8 years. Their latest venture is Quality Bakery Products, a Houston-based bakery products manufacturer and supply company.

According to the American Bakers Association, “The baking industry is a dynamic part of the U.S. economy, accounting for about $311.0 billion in total economic output or roughly 2.1 percent of GDP. Bakers, product wholesalers and retailers directly or indirectly employed approximately 1.76 million Americans in 2010.” Quality Bakery Products (“Quality”) serves both independent and in-store bakeries nationwide.

Back in 2009, Quality was using QuickBooks accounting software but still kept all their recipe formulations in a binder and tracking inventory by hand. Mike Tills wanted to find a better solution, especially for their bill of materials (BOM) needs. He began researching enterprise resource planning software options.

Mike Tills was also looking for a greater measure of security, according to his son, Michael. “My dad likes to prep for the ‘worst case scenario’ – whether it’s weather, fire, etc.” Quality Bakery Products wanted to “get with the times” to bring the company into the digital age. “We wanted the security of knowing that if our facility was in a hurricane or if some other calamity occurred, we wouldn’t have to start from scratch. It’s important that we’re able to continue doing business and have access to our formulas no matter what happens.”

After evaluating a variety of options, Quality approached CEO Ian Benoliel of NumberCruncher. NumberCruncher’s All Orders software is compatible with QuickBooks and specifically designed to meet the ERP needs of small- to medium-sized businesses. Benoliel worked with Quality as they demoed bills of materials, sales orders, purchase orders, and other functions available in All Orders.

When describing this testing period, Michael Tills says, “The team at NumberCruncher was amazing. They’re very technical, as well as being very people-oriented. While we were testing the software, Ian was personally involved and helped us configure everthing to our needs. He cared enough to help us make sure the software was exactly what we needed.” Michael spent 6 months converting all the company’s paper formulations to spreadsheets, which were then uploaded to All Orders.

As they started began to implement All Orders, Mike Tills says another benefit was that it looks and functions much like QuickBooks. “When we started testing the software, it was very easy for our employees to learn the new software. We had very little resistance from them about adapting to the new system.”

The greatest benefit to Quality has been the flexibility of the bill of materials functionality in All Orders offers. “Our previous purchasing manager and co-founder had put the BOM information into QuickBooks, but it didn’t offer the planning flexibility we needed. All costs were static, and we were limited to just a bill of materials per unit,” remembers Michael Tills. He continues, “With All Orders, we can produce a large variety of reports, work orders, and other materials to use for forecasting. We use work orders as both a day-to-day production tool and a forecasting tool. For example, if we expect a 5,000-unit order in the near future, I can create a dummy work order to determine all the raw materials we’ll need to fill that order. And since our inventory and purchasing functions are also in All Orders, we can make sure that we have the right materials in stock at the right time.”

In the past two years, the company has added both All Orders Web and All Orders Mobile. Michael Tills says customers had been asking for the ability to order online, and the web version of All Orders has made that an easy solution for them. “We’re able to see the orders instantly and they’re integrated with all our other All Orders software functions,” he explains. “We also use the mobile function on all our scanners.” The ability to have inventory and order information available company-wide is key for Quality Bakery Products. “Some businesses are more compartmentalized. We’re a small company and we work closely together, so it’s important for us to have visibility across all job functions.”

Both Mike and Michael Tills are extremely pleased with how All Orders has helped their business, and with the continual product innovations NumberCruncher provides. Michael Tills continues, “QuickBooks sends out an update once a year, and they rarely implement product suggestions from their customers. But All Orders is always making frequent improvements to help their customers, and they really listen to our feedback.” Michael Tills concludes by saying, “We feel like we have a custom software solution designed specifically for us.”


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Importing from Overseas: Quality Control, Forecasting and Landed Costs Are Crucial

September 11, 2013 at 5:58 PMHeidi Bragg

Depending on their individual products, customers, and markets, businesses that import from overseas have specific requirements and expectations. What works for one company may not work well for another because each situation is unique. To find out more about this topic, we interviewed representatives from businesses in two very different markets. John Blichmann is the president and founder of Blichmann Engineering, based in Lafayette, Indiana. His company makes precision-engineered equipment for home brewing and winemaking. Shimon Cohen is vice president of Cherie Dori, a high-end jeweler based in Florida. Both Cheri Dori and Blichmann Engineering import products or parts from overseas, but their experiences have been very different.

Blichmann Engineering’s focus is on “quality, efficiency, and performance,” says John Blichmann. The company’s R & D efforts concentrate on developing unique products for their market. Then, the company patents these products and has some of the designs produced overseas. “We import primarily from Taiwan and China,” says Blichmann. “We use Chinese suppliers for the more common, ‘stock’ parts and fittings we use, but we send the production of our unique parts to Taiwan. Taiwan is more expensive than China (about 50% more for most of our parts), but still significantly cheaper than if they were produced in the U.S. Tooling charges there are much more reasonable than in the States, and the results have been impeccable.”

We asked Blichmann why he’d chosen Taiwan over China. “For standard components, the quality from China is fairly decent. And we purchase a few of our more simple custom parts from there, too. But we’ve had problems with high staff turnover in the production facilities, long lead times (especially around Chinese New Year), poor and inconsistent quality, and the lack of respect for our intellectual property (IP) protection. We don’t have those same issues with our suppliers in Taiwan.” For the past 10 years, Blichmann Engineering has worked with a broker in Hong Kong who inspects all shipments before they ever leave Chinese soil. “It helps that our broker was educated in the States, so he understands the cultures of both the U.S. and China,” he notes.  

“One of the most important issues for importers is capturing landed costs, especially in an environment of rising freight charges,” says Ian Benoliel, CEO of NumberCruncher. His firm designs enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for small- to medium-sized businesses. “Having the correct landed costs will give you better margin or markup information.”

Blichmann said that as economic conditions change, his company will continue to reevaluate what works best for them. “About two years ago, we started discussions with a company in Wisconsin about making one of our major parts. At that time, we simply couldn’t afford to purchase parts from them, even though it would make things much easier for us logistically.” However, as labor (and other) costs in China increased, Blichmann revisited the idea of sourcing domestically and re-established contact with the firm in Wisconsin. “Now, we can buy from a more local supplier. We don’t have to stock up to protect against holiday shortages, and we can use forecasting and blanket orders to make sure we always have exactly what we need when we need it.” The costs are only 10-15% more than the company was paying before and, Blichmann notes, “It means a lot that we’re able to stamp ‘Made in the U.S.A.' on that product.”

Cherie Dori makes both stock and custom jewelry for a very discerning clientele. The company is headquartered in Florida, but vice president Shimon Cohen is based in Israel. “That’s a real advantage when dealing with our suppliers and manufacturers in China,” he says. “When I’m working out of our office in Florida and have a question for a Chinese colleague, the time difference really influences how long it takes to get an answer. I email him one day and he gets the email the next day. If he needs additional clarification, it takes a third day before we get the situation resolved. Here, though, our time in the office overlaps by 5-6 hours each day, so we can easily work though any concerns that arise.”

Cohen has had a much different experience than Blichmann with his Chinese manufacturing facility. Cherie Dori has been working with the same factory for over 15 years. “We’ve had good experiences with our facility in China,” Cohen notes. “We’ve been working together for a long time and each of us knows the other’s expectations. They’ve been very responsive, and we have good communication.” Cherie Dori’s production comprises 80% of the factory’s total output. “We don’t see much turnover in the management of the factory; it’s roughly the same as the U.S. And we don’t go to China exclusively for the price – we also go there for quality,” says Cohen. He continues, “The leaders are investing in machinery, investing in top-of-the-line quality. They do very nice work.”

Another benefit is that Cherie Dori’s products ship out of Hong Kong, rather than China. This circumvents a lot of potential hang-ups with Chinese customs. “Shipments basically get to Florida overnight. And returns to Hong Kong are easy: we don’t have to deal with customs.” The only negative Cohen mentioned was the fact that the factory closes for 2-3 weeks over Chinese New Year. “Our engagement rings are all custom creations. If a customer wants to get engaged on a specific date during Chinese New Year, it can be difficult for us, but we do our very best to meet their needs.”

The designer jewelry market has unique considerations. “With jewelry, it’s not just the price that’s important to the customer – it’s the aesthetic, the quality, the durability of the piece," Cohen explains. "And what we’re creating is a very high-priced, often unique product.” Cherie Dori has put procedures in place to ensure that its design, production, and shipping processes run smoothly for this specialized market, and Cohen is pleased with the results. “Importing is pretty painless for us,” he concludes.

What can be learned from these two accounts? First of all, the same methods won’t work for every industry or company. Each situation is unique, and requires due diligence on the part of business owners and/or management to confirm that the proper balance between price, quality, and efficiency can be struck. Second, having a strong relationship with someone you trust in the local area is key. For Blichmann Engineering, it’s their broker in Hong Kong; for Cherie Dori, it’s the management of their production facility. Third, as world conditions change, it’s important to reevaluate how your current production processes are benefiting the company and see if any adjustments should be made. As both Cherie Dori and Blichmann Engineering demonstrate, employing these steps can help you create a successful, growing company.

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Is the next trend in Manufacturing "Nearshoring"?

August 20, 2013 at 11:21 AMHeidi Bragg

Rising wages in Asia and increased fuel costs have led many U.S.-based companies to re-evaluate the pros and cons of outsourcing to Asia. An article in Inbound Logistics magazine explains it as follows: “Once far-flung supply chains are contracting. U.S. manufacturers are bringing production back—not necessarily all the way back to the United States, but to the Americas.” This process is known as “nearshoring.”

Countries in the Western Hemisphere now offer attractive alternatives to Asian outsourcing destinations. In the past decade, many U.S. firms have built manufacturing facilities in Mexico. More recently, IT businesses are also moving parts of their operations south of the border. In addition to Mexico, Central and South American countries like Costa Rica and Chile offer significant benefits for U.S.-based companies that want to outsource. Besides their proximity to the U.S., Latin American firms are more familiar with Western business practices than their Asian counterparts, and are often only a time zone or two away from the companies they’re working for.

The following countries are some of the emerging outsourcing leaders in Latin American:

Mexico
Mexico has already attracted a number of North American firms, and its location is obviously one of its major benefits. “Mexico has the advantage of being in close proximity to the U.S., allowing American companies to conveniently outsource their software processes to Mexican enterprises,” according to SourcingLine, a resource for top IT firms. For manufacturing companies that need to physically move product, multiple transportation and distribution methods are available at a much lower cost than from Asia. Mexico comes in at #22 on SourcingLine’s ranking of the top outsourcing countries in the world.

The North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) offers many advantages to firms doing business in Mexico. Even the AFL-CIO states that NAFTA, “ ... Made outsourcing to Mexico much more attractive for U.S. companies.” Labor costs are lower than in the U.S., and according to a survey by Alix Partners, “Though security risks are a clear concern among respondents, relatively few have actually experienced supply chain disruption in Mexico. Moreover, executives appear moderately optimistic about the future of the country’s security problems; 50% expect at least modest improvement in safety and security issues.”

Costa Rica
Besides being in the same time zone as the central U.S., Costa Rica is a member of CAFTA, a bi-lateral agreement that expanded NAFTA to five Central American countries. Costa Rica has been a conflict-free democracy since 1949 and many professionals speak English. The Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce says that, “Over the last thirty years, Costa Rica has become an attractive country for foreign investment due to its stable government and educated population. The country has transitioned from an agricultural economy centered around bananas and coffee to more advanced sectors, attracting world-class companies such as IBM, P & G, Hewlett-Packard and Intel.”

Small-to-medium-sized businesses are enjoying the benefits of operating in Costa Rica, too. An article in Bloomberg Businessweek, entitled “Costa Rica: Cultural Similarities Make It An Outsourcing Favorite,” describes the experiences of Brian Stafford, president of a California-based software company. Stafford looked at various options in Europe and Asia before choosing to outsource his $4 million company to Costa Rica. He says:  “Costa Rica wasn't even on our radar. But they've been very easy to work with, and this allows us to get products to market much quicker." SourcingLine ranks Costa Rica #21 in its list of top outsourcing countries.

Chile
Though it may not be one of the first countries that comes to mind when someone mentions outsourcing, Chile is #11 on SourcingLine’s list. One benefit the country offers is its generous immigration policy. “In Chile, immigration rules are strikingly different than nearby nations like Brazil,” says Narayan Ammachchi, news editor for Nearshore Americas. “And IT companies can bring in as many skilled professionals from overseas countries as they want. Jobseekers from across the world are arriving by thousands and filling up the vacant positions in all sectors of the economy.”

Chile has also created educational initiatives to help meet the demand for greater numbers of well-prepared workers. “After we came the conclusion we were short, especially on ITO workers, we launched a campaign in 2009 called ‘Tu Naciste Para Ser Grande’ or ‘You Were Born to do Something Big,’” remarked Gordana Stojkovic, a Chilean investment promotion executive interviewed by Nearshore America. “(This) not only targeted massive educational institutions, but also the students themselves.” In an article by Jon Tonti, Stojkovic describes how English language programs, technical learning centers, and professional institutes work together to create well-trained graduates who are ready to meet the needs of local and international employers.

When most people hear the word outsourcing, they usually think of a factory somewhere in China, India, or Southeast Asia. Latin American countries, however, are working hard to change that stereotype. They want U.S. companies to realize that excellent outsourcing opportunities exist much closer to home.

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Coming (Back) to America: Why Companies are Reshoring Manufacturing Operations

August 12, 2013 at 9:25 AMHeidi Bragg

About ten years ago, labor costs in developing nations were low enough that business owners outsourced many of America’s manufacturing jobs to countries like China, India, and Mexico, to name a few. The Center for American Progress quotes a U.S. Department of Commerce statistic that in the 2000s, “U.S. multinational corporations, the big brand-name companies that employ a fifth of all American workers… cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million during the 2000s while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million.” A significant number of domestic jobs moved to countries with lower labor costs.

However, the economic circumstances of these countries have changed dramatically in the intervening years. Labor costs in China have risen to record highs. Some manufacturers have found that issues with quality control and the inability to quickly implement product design changes have left them lagging behind. Earlier this year, Zacks Equity Research stated the following: “One survey by the Boston Consulting Group (showed) that 37% of large American employers were contemplating transfer of manufacturing from China to the U.S.” Why are some companies, from large multinationals to small businesses, moving operations back home?

Increased overseas labor costs are one significant factor. Earlier this year, CNBC quoted Steve Maurer, managing director of AlixPartners, as saying, "The Chinese manufacturing cost advantage has eroded dramatically in the last few years. If you go back to 2005, it was pretty common for landed cost from China to be 25 to 30 percent less than the cost of manufacturing in the United States. Based on our analysis, two-thirds of that gap has closed." Maurer continued, “If trends continue, the China cost is going to be on par with U.S. cost in the next four to five years.” As labor savings from overseas production decrease, firms are unwilling to tolerate the other undesirable effects of manufacturing outside the country.

The cost and logistical issues involved in transporting goods from overseas production facilities to the U.S. are also giving business owners pause. As energy prices in the U.S. decrease (due to newer technologies and increased domestic oil production), U.S.-based firms can realize extensive cost savings by manufacturing their good closer to home, even if labor costs are somewhat higher. Also, political stability and established transportation infrastructure ensure that supply and distribution channels function more efficiently.

Having production facilities overseas requires significant oversight in order to maintain quality control. Some companies have discovered that in addition to decreased quality of existing product designs, the ability to quickly implement changes and innovations is hampered by distance, language difficulties, and the lack of highly skilled laborers. An article in The Economist describes the experiences of ET Water Systems, a start-up from California that builds irrigation devices for businesses. Along with many other firms, ET Water Systems moved their manufacturing operations overseas in 2005. Over the next five years, however, “ … Innovation suffered from the distance between manufacturing and design, and quality became a problem, too.” CEO Mark Coopersmith then re-evaluated the differences between domestic and overseas production. “(Coopersmith) was amazed to find that California was only about 10% more expensive than China. And that was just on the immediate numbers, without allowing for the intangible benefits of making the devices almost next door.” Once ET Water Systems moved production back to California, the ability to directly supervise production saved both time and money.

Putting a “Made in the U.S.A” label on consumer goods can also lead to increased sales. Apparel company Karen Kane moved most of its production back to the U.S. after dealing with quality issues, long lead times, and delays for shipments. Besides alleviating these problems, the company noticed that, “Last year, Karen Kane dresses, blouses and jackets promoted with Made-in-USA posters at Dillard's department store posted 15% higher sales than similar non-promoted clothing” (USA Today, July 5, 2013). Many consumers prefer to purchase goods produced in America, and some are even willing to pay more for them.

As the world economy changes and workers in developing nations demand higher pay and more benefits, and as economic conditions improve domestically, more and more companies will consider moving their manufacturing operations back to the U.S. In fact, according to the Denver Business Journal, “While reshoring has accounted for only about 50,000 jobs returning to U.S. soil since 2009, that represents about 10 percent of all new manufacturing jobs created in the last three years. Experts predict the rate of reshoring to increase substantially in the next 10 years.”

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Outsourcing vs. Onshoring Manufacturing: What’s Best for Your Company?

August 2, 2013 at 2:24 PMHeidi Bragg

The decision whether to outsource or onshore (“re-shore”) your manufacturing operations is a complex one. Executives have to evaluate not just the labor costs of various areas, but also what the decision will mean as far as quality control, logistics, and public opinion are concerned.

“A few years ago, manufacturers were tripping over themselves to outsource to China,” says Ian Benoliel from NumberCruncher, makers of All Orders inventory software. “Not so much anymore, as unit costs are steadily rising due to the price of oil and workers’ demands for higher wages and more benefits.” Benoliel continues, “Engineering has also been a nightmare, where any change in design causes major production delays. Customer service has also been impacted due to increases in delivery time.” While no two companies face all of the same challenges, there are some common considerations for every firm that goes through this process.

Wherever you choose to establish your production facilities, shipping methods and costs need to be considered, along with how to ensure that only quality products leave your factory. Also, the political and economic stability of an area can directly affect your bottom line. Even if wages are significantly lower, risks to your supply chain and operational stability may make some locations far more desirable than others. It’s critical to do your homework and analyze all possible issues that can arise in a particular country or region before basing operations there, regardless of how enticing that location may seem based solely on labor costs. Some of the major considerations include:


Shipping

In an article about outsourcing in The Economist earlier this year, the author states that, “… Companies are increasingly factoring in the rising cost of shipping goods across oceans, and the risk that natural disasters or geopolitical shocks could cut off essential supplies.” How much will shipping add to your production costs? Does established transportation infrastructure exist in your desired location? If not, how much will you have to invest to build the necessary channels to receive supplies and distribute finished goods?


Quality control

In order to realize the gains offered by lower wages, good quality control has to in place at the source of manufacturing. How can you ensure that the goods produced in your factory meet company quality standards? What kind of oversight is provided at the manufacturing facility, and by whom?


Skill level of the labor force

Certain areas of the world have a greater percentage of highly trained laborers. Does the area offer a well-educated work force? How technical are your products? Do nearby vocational or technical schools work with companies to provide skilled laborers for specific needs? Are there enough workers available to fully staff your manufacturing facility?


Political and economic stability

Can you reasonably expect your supply chain and distribution channels to operate uninterrupted by political or economic events? What is the government’s attitude toward overseas companies who do business in their area? For example, North Korea’s refusal to allow workers to return to factories in the Kaesong Industrial Region (which is jointly operated with South Korea) has caused close to a billion dollars in losses so far.


Incentives

Many areas, both in the U.S. and worldwide, offer incentives to attract new businesses.  After President Obama’s 2012 “State of the Union” address, the New York Times reported that the President had, “ … Called for a wide-ranging package of policies to help create American manufacturing jobs, including trade enforcement measures, business tax breaks, and worker training programs.” What kinds of incentives are available for your particular firm or industry? Do tax benefits exist that can help offset labor costs?


Public perception

For your customer, how important is the location where the product is made? To some, having a “Made in the USA” sticker can determine whether or not they purchase a particular item. Others simply want the best possible quality product at the lowest possible price, regardless of the product’s origin. If you know your customer base well, you’ll know how much of a factor this is for your clients. Many consumers, especially after the Rana Plaza tragedy, are concerned about conditions in overseas factories and make buying decisions accordingly. What will the working conditions in your factory be like? Are employees paid a living wage based on the local economy? Does the facility meet basic standards of safety and health?

While not an exhaustive list, these are some of the basic factors that must be evaluated before making a decision to move your manufacturing overseas or to bring it back to the U.S. Each company will weigh these factors differently to meet the unique considerations of their organization, their products, their employees, and their customers. After a thorough analysis, you’ll know which choice is right for you.


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Inventory Management Serial Number Tracking Tools Aid Utility Equipment Manufacturers

July 22, 2013 at 3:32 PMHeidi Bragg

The term “infrastructure” encompasses everything from power grids and water lines to streets and highways. Since communities and businesses are dependent their underlying infrastructure, utility management entities work to make sure these systems operate as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. One way both public and private utilities are addressing these needs is through the use of pro-active asset management Asset Manager Asset management is the key to getting the best use out of existing systems and equipment.

In order to properly manage and maintain their equipment, or assets, utility companies require specialized instruments. Vivex-Metrotech Vivax Metrotech, a mid-sized business based in California, manufactures test and measurement tools designed specifically to meet these needs. The company makes water leak detectors, buried pipe/cable locators, and cameras used by waste water utilities. These instruments help utility workers locate equipment and identify components that need repair or replacement.  As a result, utilities can properly maintain and operate crucial assets, prolonging the usability of each component and reducing life-cycle costs.

Vivax-Metrotech uses serial numbers to track its products through each stage of the production process. However, this was not an easy task in the early days of the company’s development. Rich Jordan, product manager and IT department staff at Vivax-Metrotech, says, “When I came on board at Vivax, we were a small company. We had two employees using QuickBooks and sharing a single laptop.” Jordan knew they needed to transition to a multi-user, client server environment. He continues, “We also recognized that we needed enhanced functionility as far as kitting, bills of materials (BOM), purchase order (PO) expediting and serial number tracking were concerned.”

After evaluating various inventory control and order management software programs, Jordan chose All Orders by NumberCruncher to better meet the company’s needs.   In early 2002, NumberCruncher was the first company to offer a solution for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that was specifically designed for QuickBooks. Since then, over 1500 companies have used NumberCruncher’s products and services to better manage their businesses. All Orders’ latest upgrade includes both return material authorizations(RMA) and repair tracking modules.

Vivax merged with Metrotech in 2009 and since then, the company has grown significantly. They now have a 30-seat license, with about 15 users on the system at any given time, and can track each product to ensure it meets the needs of their customers.

Quality control is an important element in gaining a competitive advantage, especially for SMBs. Tracking problems in finished products and their component parts is a crucial part of keeping expenses low and customer satisfaction high. These days, computerization allows manufacturing and quality control procedures to be implemented and tracked more easily than ever before. “From purchasing all the way through to financial reporting, computerization exists to give to business owners, managers, and accountants the tools to be successful faster, easier, and more efficiently,” says Ian Benoliel, CEO of NumberCruncher

The benefits computerization offers are clear at Vivax-Metrotech. Jordan says, “With All Orders, serial number tracking is per item. In other words, you decide if an item should be serialized and turn on that function. This is especially useful with export items.”

He describes their process as follows: "When a unit comes in for repair, we input that unit’s serial number at the time we enter the repair order. The program will then shows us a history of that item, including the date, invoice number and airway bill that the unit was received under, when it was sold and to whom, and if it has any history of being repaired by us or by any of the 12 authorized repair centers we have in the USA and overseas. That’s important because Vivax-Metrotech and its repair centers should guarantee any repair for a period of 90 days. We’ll also check to see if the unit was returned to us from the same customer who bought it, which helps track down stolen equipment.”

Jordan continues, "If the item has been previously repaired at an off-site service center and then comes to us, we can see what's wrong, what the off-site provider fixed, and make sure that the workmanship of our service providers is up to our standards. If there's shoddy workmanship involved, we can address it.”

Vivax-Metrotechrecently installed All Orders’ RMA/repair module upgrade and appreciates the functionality these new modules offer. They provide yet another tool to help the company “ … meet and exceed (their) customers' needs … providing top quality, well engineered, innovative products at competitive prices.”

Download your trial version of All Orders today and find out how Repair Order and RMA functionality can help your business.

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Audiovisual Equipment Manufacturers Using QuickBooks Integrated RMA and Repair Order Software

July 9, 2013 at 7:34 PMHeidi Bragg

The market for audiovisual equipment is highly competitive and continually expanding. According to InfoComm International, an organization that represents the commercial audiovisual industry worldwide, “The … industry currently generates $78 billion a year … and is projected to be a $115 billion global industry by 2015”  (see The Growing Audiovisual Industry). U.S-based audiovisual firms face competition not only domestically, but also from overseas firms. Given these industry projections, both large and small audiovisual manufacturers need a variety of tools to optimize their processes and increase their market share.

Quality control is an important element in gaining a competitive advantage. The ability to track problems in finished products and their component parts is a critical part of keeping expenses low and customer satisfaction high. Thankfully, computerization allows manufacturing and quality control procedures to be implemented and tracked more easily than ever before. “From purchasing all the way through to financial reporting, computerization exists to give to business owners, managers, and accountants the tools to be successful faster, easier, and more efficiently,” says Ian Benoliel, CEO of NumberCruncher. There are a variety software programs which can assist manufacturers in these tasks, but many are priced beyond the reach of small- to medium-sized businesses, or “SMBs”. However, these are often the very firms that are driving innovation in the audiovisual industry and need these tools.

One such company is Earthworks, a New Hampshire-based manufacturer of precision-engineered, high definition audio equipment. Year after year, the company’s products are nominated for technical achievement and industry excellence awards. Specialized equipment like Earthworks’ requires accurate tracking of every aspect of manufacturing in order to insure consistent, high-quality results. Because inventory control, order management, and repair/return merchandise authorization (RMA) tracking are critical to their business, Earthworks needed an affordable tool that would help them manage all these processes. The company uses QuickBooks accounting software, so the new system had to integrate seamlessly with QuickBooks financials.

Two years ago, Earthworks began using All Orders, an inventory control and order management software from NumberCruncher (a QuickBooks Gold Partner). In early 2002, NumberCruncher was the first company to offer an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution specifically designed for use with QuickBooks. Since then, over 1500 companies have used NumberCruncher’s products and services to better manage their businesses. All Orders’ latest upgrade includes both Return Material Authorization and repair tracking modules.

Earthworks, like many companies, use serial numbers to track their products. This enables them to trace an item back through the production process to the source of each component used in the finished product. When a microphone or other piece of equipment is returned, serial number tracking helps Earthworks identify where problems lie – whether there’s an issue with a particular batch of component parts or a certain supplier, if a certain tech needs additional training, etc. Three months ago, Earthworks added All Orders’ RMA/repair tracking modules to their existing software to help them streamline these processes.

Daniel Blackmer, the company’s Director of Engineering, explained how these new capabilities have helped streamline operations. "All Orders’ RMA/repair module allows us to keep track of repairs independent of returns, and the problem description and technicians’ notes sections for each serial-numbered item help us optimize our repair process,” he says. “This is critical since multiple departments may handle different aspects of a repair. Each tech can record and reference exactly what they see in front of them.”

Some SMBs also refurbish products, either their own or those from other manufacturers. By using All-Orders’ Repair Order module, Earthworks can track repairs and add costs to their company-owned products. Blackmer continues, “When an item comes in to be fixed, we can use the serial number to track who built the product, when it was built, and exactly which components were purchased from each vendor. We can also see where the product is in the warranty cycle, if it’s been returned before and why, and know which repair parts were used previously (along with where they were purchased)."

“Technology exists to ease the tracking burden,” concludes Benoliel. Through utilizing affordable tools for serial number tracking and accurate recordkeeping, even highly technical SMBs can optimize their manufacturing processes and better manage repairs of returned merchandise. The resultant gains in quality and customer satisfaction save both time and money, and help firms gain a larger share of their respective markets.

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