May 1, 2005

ERP Software

Shop wisely to ensure a smoother Enterprise Resource Planning software implementation.

Note: The appearance of a product or service in Product Round-Up does not constitute an endorsement by the Metals Service Center Institute. Individual company experience may vary significantly.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software integrates data from most or all of a company’s operations and support functions, synchronizing production with new orders, purchasing with demand, scheduling and shipping with customer requirements. When well-matched to the business, ERP software is an efficient, quick and accurate management tool that reduces cycle time and builds reliability.

Although ERP systems are complex, expensive to license and often difficult to implement, the eventual efficiencies are supposed to more than offset the installation, implementation and training costs.

In most cases, a company begins to consider an ERP solution because one of its three core corporate functions needs fixing:

  • Financial data is not integrated
  • Manufacturing and supply chain processes must be standardized across multiple business units
  • Human resources systems need re-engineering

Depending upon which of the three is the problem, one enterprise software solution may be better suited than another.

Most ERP vendors separate their functional business areas into modules, which are priced separately. An ERP vendor typically offers an accounting module, a human resources module and a manufacturing module, and it’s up to an evaluation team to identify the modules that fit its organization’s needs.

Relying on ERP “off the rack” rarely works. Some systems allow modifications to be made so that a standard set of modules better aligns with the company’s processes. Customized systems promise a complete, specific solution, but can be very expensive.

ERP implementation costs can run up to three to four times more than the software. ERP vendors often make more money selling training and consulting services than selling their software.

Scalability, or how well the software can grow to accommodate your expanding needs, can be an issue. Some ERP packages handle this by running separate copies in each location or department, then integrating data on a regular basis. The best way to verify whether an ERP system will work for your needs is a site visit to a similar business of comparable size that already uses the same version. Difficulty and length of implementation are important parts of ERP fact finding.

Most importantly, any initiative on the scale of an ERP implementation should be reviewed by your company’s evaluation team. An ERP evaluation team commonly consists, at least, of senior IT management, along with selected senior representatives from each area of the business.

ERP Plus

Company: Verticent, Tampa, Florida
Company Focus: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), E-Business and Business Intelligence solutions to meet the demands of metal service centers
Solution: ERP Plus
Solution Scope: Manufacturing, distribution, financials, Sales Force Automation (SFA), service management, e-business, business intelligence suites
Computing Platforms: Microsoft Windows, UNIX, Linux, Microsoft SQL Server, Sybase
Services Provided: Implementation consulting, project management, training, advisory services, software customizations


“We are a metals service center and in this dynamic industry we need the ability to quickly gather information for decision support. I appreciate the wealth of information that is easily accessible within ERP Plus. The flexible reporting tools and ability to drill down from summary to detailed information provides me with timely and accurate information upon which I can confidently base my business decisions. The ability to quickly export data into various formats provides me with virtually unlimited analysis capability.”
—Aaron Miller, Lorin Industries

Steelman Steel Enterprise Management System v4.1

Company: STEELMAN Software Solutions Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Company Focus: Development, implementation and installation of Oracle-based software products customized exclusively for the metals industry
Solution: STEELMAN Steel Enterprise Management System Version 4.1 (SEMS v4.1)
Solution Scope: Integrated suite of enterprise-wide software solutions developed exclusively for suppliers and processors of steel and other metal products
Computing Platforms: Microsoft Windows 2000/2003, SUSE LINUX, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, UNIX
Services Provided: Sales order management, product catalogue, order booking, warehouse management, manufacturing control, claims management, quality assurance, business financials


“We saw STEELMAN as the best scalable business system for our operations. The implementation allows us to move forward with our emphasis on ‘continuous improvement’ in servicing our customers and at the same time, providing our team with sales and management tools that complement their function.”
—Stephen Margles, Parkdale International Limited


Company: AXIS Computer Systems Inc., Marlborough, Massachusetts
Company Focus: ERP software solutions for metals producers, processors and service centers
Solution: AXIOM®
Solution Scope: Integrated sales, inventory, production, quality, load planning, financial management, Web-based customer service, business intelligence
Computing Platforms: Microsoft Windows, UNIX, Linux
Services Provided: SurePath implementation process, 24×7 online support access, consulting, integration and technical services as needed


“The biggest competitive advantage we have with AXIOM is our ability to quickly see if we have the material a customer needs when they call, then get a work order going right away if processing is needed. We can usually get a slit or CTL order out the same day. In addition to helping us provide responsive service, AXIOM enables us to closely track our costs. Information from AXIOM helps us be as efficient as possible so we can deliver the best possible value to our customers.”
—Bill Proulx, Thompson Steel


Company: Northrop Grumman—Industrial Operations, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Company Focus: Supply chain management, ERP systems and EDI communications for the metals industry.
Solution: OpenTrac
Solution Scope: From managing the supply chain to running a service center or steel processing facility. These systems offer interchangeable modules including inventory management, customer profile management, order entry, customer quotations, purchase order administration, shipments and receipts, quality control, shop floor management, bar coding and EDI communications.
Computing Platforms: Optional ASP model using Web-based systems accessible via an Internet browser linked to Oracle databases.
Services Provided: ERP and business management systems; supply chain management; material tracking services; IT outsourcing; EDI translation; communication services


“The OpenTrac system has been in production at our plant for over two years. We chose it because the Internet design freed us from spending time, money and energy on IT infrastructure. OpenTrac has been very stable and accurate. Our business has constantly changed since initial implementation and the system has been able to grow and change with our business.”
—Mihir Paranjape, Millennium Steel Service, LLC

Enterprise 21

Company: Technology Group International, Toledo, Ohio
Company Focus: Small- to medium-size companies across a number of industry segments
Solution: Enterprise 21
Solution Scope: Advanced planning and full MRP; fully attributed inventory; online product configuration; fully lot tracked products with full lot property tracking; data collection and bar-coding
Computing Platforms: Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, XP & NT; Oracle; Microsoft SQL Server; IBM DB2 V8; Informix; UNIX; Linux; OS/400
Services Provided: Custom software development; project management; functional and technical training; infrastructure design and network installation; consulting services such as business reengineering


“So far we have experienced great improvements in our operations. We are getting more and more excited every day due to all the new functionality we are finding and the anticipation of using functionality we know is there but have not yet implemented. Enterprise 21 has allowed us to quickly see exactly what customers have purchased and the prices they’ve paid. Given the nature of the steel industry and the fluctuations in market pricing, this has been a huge help to our organization. We now have the ability to review requirements online, quickly convert these requirements to purchase orders, and send them via fax and EDI.”
—Don Besswanger, Pacific Southwest Sales

Caliach Vision

Company: Optimizing Technology Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Company Focus: Optimizing Technology ensures all business processes are in control, efficient, effective and understood by all
Solution: Caliach Vision
Solution Scope: Financials, inventory, purchasing, manufacturing, material requirements planning, capacity requirements planning integrated with a leading finite capacity scheduling/advanced planning and scheduling system
Computing Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (32 bit) operating systems even in a mixed environment. Ideal for companies with Macs in the design department.
Services Provided: Understand your business, identify opportunities for ROI, set implementation goals, develop a workable plan, monitor the plan


“We are approaching one year since we made the transition to Caliach Vision ERP. This is a powerful tool that we could not manage without. Information is the key to intelligent decision making in today’s competitive, global environment. Caliach is the tool we have come to rely on to deliver this information. There is no doubt that we have realized the return on our investment.”
—Grant Bourdeau, Shur Lok Products

Metalware, Metalnet

Company: Paragon Consulting Services Inc.
Company Focus: Software designed for metal service centers, metal processors, international and multi-location companies
Solution: Metalware, MetalNet
Solution Scope: A completely integrated Metal Service Center software solution that automates day-to-day functions including purchasing, sales, processing, trafficking, scheduling and accounting. Additionally, Metalware handles the latest innovations in EDI, barcoding, imaging, faxing/e-mailing, report writing and CRM.
Computing Platforms: IBM iSeries eServer
Services Provided: Hardware sales, software sales, training, consulting and custom programming


“We have been using the Metalware software from Paragon for almost 10 years. It really seems like we’ve always had the software running here because we couldn’t imagine using anything else. From location updates to production and shipping information, the software has the ability to keep up with the fast paced changes in our business today. Our business has changed dramatically over the last 10 years and Paragon has kept our ERP software current with customer and
industry expectations.”
—Jim Stolpa, Mapes & Sprowl Steel


Company: Bayern Software, Phoenix, Arizona
Company Focus: Software solutions designed specifically for metal service centers and distributors
Solution: STEEL PLUS
Solution Scope: STEEL PLUS is an integrated inventory control, order entry and accounting system supporting tagged and homogeneous inventory, remnant tracking and heat traceability. All types and shapes of metal, including coil, are supported. Stock, buyout and special order transactions are also supported. Features include a demand forecasting system, comprehensive credit management tools, extensive user security and direct e-mail capabilities. Options include faxing of reports and documents, a tightly integrated MTR imaging as well as a barcoding system.
Computing Platforms: Windows, Novell Netware, UNIX, Linux
Services Provided: Training, installation, technical support, programming


“STEEL PLUS has proven to be a great asset for our company. The advantages of STEEL PLUS show up where it is most important—the bottom line.”
—Gary Mitchener, Scheu Steel

STRATIX Enterprise Software (ERP)

Company: Invera
Company Focus: Metal service centers and processors
Solution: STRATIX Enterprise Software (ERP)
Solution Scope: Both flat rolled and general line products; addresses the global market with live implementations in North America, United Kingdom and Europe. Includes online quotation entry and price books, seamless multi-step and multi-warehouse operations that fully integrate outside processing, paperless production and shipment planning, online scheduling, integrated e-mail of documents, certificate imaging, WiFi, barcoding, Internet-based CRM and customer self service
Computing Platforms: IBM Unix, Windows Based GUI and IBM Informix Relational Database
Services Provided: Software and implementation consulting


“We are now using STRATIX to integrate our 25 flat rolled and general line service centers with over 800 users. Our multi-division company is now in the process of sharing processing capabilities and a wealth of information across all our warehouses with remarkable results.”
—Dave Bright, Corus Service Centers UK