Case Study: ERP System Helps Chemical Distributor Boost Productivity
Real-time visibility across operations can help boost productivity and business agility.
When you are responsible for manufacturing and distributing over 10,000 different products, real-time visibility is critical to running an efficient and agile business. Haviland Enterprises, Inc. relies on the Chempax enterprise resource planning solution from Datacor, Inc. to do just that. Based on the Progress OpenEdge application development platform, the Chempax ERP system was developed specifically for process manufacturers and chemical distributors.
Haviland serves the needs of companies worldwide, including those in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Brazil. What started as a small research and testing lab in 1934 has grown to become one of the largest privately held chemical distribution companies in the U.S. Today, Haviland consists of two separate divisions: Haviland Products Co. serves the industrial market with custom formulation, specialty blending, packaging and distribution of a wide variety of chemical products; and Haviland Consumer Products formulates, blends, packages, and distributes more than 85 different swimming pool products for more than 75 different private label customers, serving some of the largest mass marketers of private label products.
Haviland moved to the Chempax system in 2011, when its existing AS/400-based ERP system grew too cumbersome and costly to maintain. “We have four business groups operating across our two business divisions,” explains Randy Byle, IT director for Haviland. “Because our previous ERP system was not specific to the chemical industry, a number of modifications were done over the years to make the software more usable for our company. Consequently, when the vendor did release updates to the software, we would have to pay a premium to have those updates tested against our custom code. Over time, it became too cost-prohibitive to stay with the software.”
A lack of real-time data was also a significant issue. While Haviland’s previous solution did offer wireless capabilities, it was not fully integrated with the rest of the ERP system. “Our system could tell us that we had 10 widgets, but we had no idea where they were,” says Byle. “To find out, we would have to go into the wireless system, which would give locations, but the data was frequently inaccurate. A tremendous amount of time was wasted looking for product and reconciling the two systems.”
After an extensive evaluation process, the company chose the Chempax ERP system. A primary reason for the decision was that Chempax was developed to meet the unique needs of the process manufacturing and chemical distribution industry. Unlike Haviland’s previous application, Chempax is Windows-based, which improves the user experience and accelerates the training process for new employees. Chempax’s wireless capabilities are also fully integrated, so any warehouse activity recorded via the bar code RFID scanners is reflected in real time across the ERP system.
Haviland implemented the majority of the Chempax modules, including those for customer service, order processing, warehouse management, finance, purchasing and more. Today, Haviland manages over 10,000 SKUs through its Chempax system. Haviland is also using Datacor’s eChempax customer relationship management (CRM) system to extend its ERP capabilities out to its sales agents, managers and customers.
Where employees once spent hours trying to track down products, they are now able to locate what they need with the click of a button. “Chempax has tied all of the information we need into one centralized system,” says Byle. “When we move an item in the wireless system, the information is immediately reflected across the rest of the ERP solution. Our distribution and manufacturing operations are far more agile because we now know precisely what products we have or need, in what quantities and exactly where they are located.”
Access to real-time information also enables Haviland’s sales reps to give more accurate and timely information to customers. “They can be more confident in filling sales orders knowing that they can promise a certain quantity of product by a specific date,” he says.
Haviland is using Chempax’s wireless functionality for purchasing and receiving, picking, staging and manufacturing, as well as for generating PO receipts. Integration between the wireless function and the entire ERP system enables a level of automation that boosts efficiency and productivity across operations.
“When filling an order, our employees use the wireless gun to keep track as they pick product and during the staging process,” Byle explains. “So when it comes time for shipping, all of the important data has already been captured—type of product, quantity, lot number, serial number, etc. Where our old system required the information to be handwritten and then keyed in by an office employee, the entire process is now automated, reducing redundancy and the potential for errors.”
In addition, there is no longer any lag time from the time product is received to the time it is reflected in the system. “With our old system, once product was received in the warehouse, the paperwork was transferred to the business office to be manually keyed into the application,” he says. “Depending on when the product was received—on a weekend or 4:00 in the afternoon, for example—there could be a significant time delay in updating the system. With Chempax’s integrated wireless feature, the receiving clerk scans all the information wirelessly, and the data is immediately up to date across the system. Across our operations, the wireless function is streamlining and accelerating our processes by reducing the need for human intervention, reducing the amount of paperwork involved, and providing everyone with access to the same information when and where they need it.”
Change is the only constant in today’s business. With Chempax, Haviland is now able to make changes to its system more quickly and easily in response to business, customer and market requirements. “Now, when a module goes in, it is the same module for all of our business groups,” says Byle. “When we require an update or change, that modification is made only once; it doesn’t require special code for each group. With Chempax, we can now implement changes far more quickly, people can take advantage of new features faster, and we have significantly reduced our associated costs.”
The flexibility of Chempax also extends information access. “Chempax is far more flexible when it comes to reporting,” he explains. “With our previous system, it was extremely cumbersome to run different reports. Sometimes we would just pay to have the vendor create them for us. With Chempax, we can essentially find data on anything we need when we need it, whether it is the number of batches made or items made per hour for a manufacturing manager; dollars per product, cost per product, or gross profit margins for someone in finance; or helping someone in purchasing identify why a supplier is always late.”
A Strong Partnership
According to Byle, Datacor has proven to be a responsive and supportive partner to Haviland over the years. “We are a fairly large company taking advantage of the majority of Chempax’s features,” he says. “We expect a lot from Datacor, and they always strive to meet our needs. Datacor is constantly working with us on new enhancements and finding ways to optimize how we are using the solution. They are good at resolving any issues, as well as communicating and working with customers before, during and after an implementation. The fact that they focus on our specific industry means that they truly do understand our business, our needs and our challenges. That in itself is a terrific advantage.”