|Simple Supplier Collaboration Automates Supply Chain for Hi-Lex
Hi-Lex Corporation is a leading supplier of innovative, high quality electromechanical devices tailored to its customers needs. Hi-Lex Controls, located in Litchfield, Michigan, is the center for the company's window regulator manufacturing operations. Located on 15 acres, the 172,000 sq. ft. plant produces more than 10 million window regulators a year - for virtually all the OEM automotive manufacturers in North America - and operates in a 'just-in-time' manufacturing mode with both its customers and suppliers. Historically, Hi-Lex Controls has used manual methods - phone and fax - to communicate purchase orders to its suppliers.
In 2000, Hi-Lex Controls selected Baan as its ERP software vendor and began preparing for the migration from the existing MAPICS system to Baan IVc4 (automotive). Disus Inc. was engaged to provide technical consulting services, as well as facilitating the Baan and Oracle installation and a number of key add-ons and customizations, including new sessions, reports and Baan-based bar code label printing.
Implementation was completed on May 28, 2002 however, while it was still in progress, Hi-Lex' customers requested that the company electronically integrate its communications with suppliers, by mid-September.
"We knew we had to automate and tighten supplier accountability", said Dick Yorkey, Director of ITS, Hi-Lex Controls. "The assumption was the we would use EDI to achieve integration because that's pretty much the standard in automotive manufacturing, but EDI wasn't a viable option at Litchfield because of our suppliers."
Hi-Lex policy is to source parts and services from within the local community whenever possible. Consequently, many of its suppliers in the Litchfield area are small businesses, providing everything from clips and fasteners to small metal stampings and plastic moldings. These suppliers are unable to justify the cost of using EDI.
"What we needed", explained Dick, "was a solution that complied with our customers' mandate, was inexpensive for our suppliers, had zero learning involved, and eliminated all non-value-added tactical activities." The solution Disus proposed to Hi-Lex was Simple Supplier Collaboration (SSC) for Baan.
SSC for Baan captures, focuses and automates Baan purchase order and supplier data and processes, allowing system users and suppliers to interact in real-time via an Internet browser. Suppliers see their Baan purchase orders in detail, in schedule format; and purchasing agents see their suppliers' responses in their Baan sessions.
SSC for Baan is simple to install, easy to operate and inexpensive to purchase. It consists of a thin web client that does not require expensive, complex middleware. The web client connects via network communications to the Disus Transaction Adapter for Baan and the SSC application. The adapter is a simple Baan add-on that facilitates network communications with Baan business transactions without requiring messy file transfers. The result is high performance and reliability. The SSC application applies incoming queries/requests to the Baan system and relays outgoing queries/requests to suppliers, via the web site.
SSC for Baan works equally well in single and multi-company Baan setups. It can handle any PO-related item - manufactured, sub-contracted, service, purchase and cost items. SSC for Baan also handles the re-scheduling messaging generated by MRP, PRP systems and from Baan production planning (sub-contracted operations).
SSC for Baan simplifies the supply chain process by applying the philosophy of exception management. For suppliers, new PO's, cancelled PO's and changes to PO's appear on dedicated web pages. PO's are color-coded by date and non-date changes to alert users. Baan system users manage suppliers' deliveries through a consolidated Baan PO Detail session, in schedule format, and a Maintain Supplier Schedule (Exceptions) session. It's that easy.
"In March 2002, Hi-Lex held its annual suppliers' conference", concludes Dick. "I explained that our customers were expecting us to automate and integrate supply chain management and that we were facing a customer audit of the system by mid-September. Naturally the suppliers were concerned about costs and learning curves until I explained that all they needed was a web browser and Internet access. There was a great sigh of relief and when I asked for volunteers for the beta trial more than half of them spoke up - unfortunately, I only needed three."
SSC for Baan may well prove to be the wave of the future, a less expensive alternative to EDI or complex web and middle ware solutions, thereby ensuring that small suppliers like those in Litchfield can afford to stay in the game.
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