A growing manufacturer takes control of operations, improves insight and looks to the future.
Met-Pro is a Pennsylvania-based manufacturer of solutions for product recovery, pollution control, and fluid handling. With an aging enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, Met-Pro relied on multiple manual processes that took place outside the system. Consequently, the company lacked holistic insight into its manufacturing business. To solve this and ease future growth, the company deployed Microsoft Dynamics AX. With a complete and integrated solution in place, the company has gained better insight into its customers, sales pipeline, and overall business; gained tighter control over operations; and laid a foundation for continued growth both organically and through acquisition.
Met-Pro is a global provider of solutions and products for product recovery, pollution control, and fluid-handling applications. The company's solutions and products address the world's growing need to meet more stringent emission regulations, reduce energy consumption, and employ green technology. Based in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, Met-Pro has 350 employees and nine facilities throughout the world, including locations in Canada, Holland, and China. Through organic growth and growth by acquisition, Met-Pro encompasses multiple business units, including Strobic Air, a manufacturer of industrial fans used in laboratory fume exhaust systems.
In 2008 and amid ongoing growth, Met-Pro leadership began to consider a complete rearchitecting of the company’s IT infrastructure to both gain the advantages of newer technology and better support its push toward becoming a lean enterprise, wherein it would be important to remove all non-value-added activities from companywide processes. As a part of this initiative, the company hired Robin Schroeder as Director of IT to spearhead the effort to implement a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. “The ERP system we had in place was a 20-year-old green screen,” Schroeder recalls. “And it had all the earmarks of what happens when a company outgrows its software solution: Many small systems and processes crop up across the business to handle everything the ERP system can’t, which really went against our push to become a lean enterprise.”
Schroeder also notes that, “The legacy system functioned primarily as an accounting system. As a result, making projections or forecasts or seeing how we were performing in certain markets or across specific products was limited.”
In looking for a new ERP solution, company leadership understood it would need a solution that could tie together all aspects of the business and provide customers with quotes for its highly customized solutions. Says Raymond De Hont, Chairman, CEO, and President of Met-Pro, “We needed a complete ERP package that handled not only the accounting side of the business but also the sales and operations sides. As the world changes and our company grows and changes, we need to be able to understand our business better and be able to react quicker.”
After a thorough selection process, Met-Pro chose Microsoft Dynamics AX for its new ERP system. Explains Schroeder, “We looked at a number of ERP packages and it came down to SAP or Microsoft Dynamics AX. And when we reviewed the research out there, it came to our attention that the average SAP implementation cost over four times more than the average implementation of Microsoft Dynamics AX, which was a huge difference.” Schroeder adds, “Our business users preferred Microsoft Dynamics AX because it was familiar and easy to understand; they could follow along a process in the system and understand exactly what was going on. And from an IT perspective, it provided us with the flexibility to meet our needs as the business grows and changes.”
Working with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Columbus, Met-Pro deployed the business management software from Microsoft at its corporate headquarters and its Strobic Air division. By using its Strobic Air deployment as a model, Met-Pro will soon roll out the business management software to its remaining divisions worldwide, taking advantage of the solution’s multicurrency capabilities for its European and Chinese operations. In addition to Microsoft Dynamics AX, Columbus also deployed the following integrated add-ins: * Industrial Equipment Manufacturing Solution for Microsoft Dynamics AX from To Increase—a solution that provides advanced capabilities for complex engineer-to-order processes and more. * eCon Advanced Configurator for Microsoft Dynamics AX from To Increase—a web portal that enables customers to configure products and submit them for quote. * CCH—a sales tax compliance solution. * Microsoft FRx—an ad-hoc reporting and analysis solution.
Handling End-to-End Processes
At the corporate level, Met-Pro uses Microsoft Dynamics AX to handle all finances, including accounts payable (AP), accounts receivable (AR), and general ledger (GL). At Strobic Air, the usage of Microsoft Dynamics AX begins when a customer configures a product on the Strobic Air website, www.ChooseTriStack.com, by using the eCon Advanced Configurator, as seen in Figure 1. After the customer configures the product, they can save it and make further configurations later or submit it to Met-Pro for a quote. Internal sales staff can then view incoming quotes and perform analysis against any sales and marketing efforts they may be running in their particular sales region. If the customer submits the product configuration for a quote, Microsoft Dynamics AX automatically creates a technical quote that it sends back to the customer along with technical specifications and drawings.
When a customer places the order, Microsoft Dynamics AX turns that quote into a project with a related bill of materials. When the product moves to production, the production order is scheduled by using the Master Planning module in Microsoft Dynamics AX, making the order visible to employees via the Shop Floor module. Production employees then log on to Shop Floor module to record their time against the production order, all of which updates the AP, AR, and GL modules in real time.
Currently, 28 employees in finance, sales, management, and shop floor roles use the solution. In the field, approximately 60 outside sales representatives can access key information via a website for product configurations and quoting.
Met-Pro is also continuing to find ways that Microsoft Dynamics AX can add value to its business. Currently, Met-Pro is working to deploy the solution’s customer relationship management (CRM) module across the business, including integration with the company’s new website, which Met-Pro will soon deploy. This will enable Met-Pro to track website visitors and create leads within the CRM module.
By using a single, unified system to manage its business, Met-Pro will have newfound control over operations, increased visibility across all areas of the business, and powerful capabilities for its customers to configure products directly from the web The company has also laid a foundation for continued growth and the onboarding of additional business units to take advantage of synergies across the organization.
Insight into Business
With a comprehensive and integrated solution in place, Strobic Air leadership has gained holistic insight into its business. “Everyone from the CEO to employees on the shop floor will have, better insight and access to information,” says Schroeder. “We now have a complete view of our business. We can see our potential customer pipeline and material requirements in advance of receiving orders. And, we can see our labor and material usage, whether we are meeting our delivery dates, and whether the cost we estimated in our initial quote to the customer was accurate.”
Control over Operations
With improved insight into operations, Met-Pro now has new levels of control and productivity. Says Andy Yencha, Operations Manager for Strobic Air, “When you have the manufacturing discipline along with accurate information and the software to support all your processes, the manufacturing operation really takes care of itself and lets us focus on other things like marketing; research and development; building more fans; increasing shifts; and putting more people to work. It’s wonderful stuff.” Yencha concludes, “With Microsoft Dynamics AX, we’re building a quality product, meeting our delivery deadlines and achieving our margins.”
By using Microsoft Dynamics AX, the company has eased its ability to meet contractual commitments. Says Charles Gans, General Manager of Strobic Air, “When we receive a purchase order, it’s a contract, and we must adhere to all the terms and conditions. Before, we were using multiple tools, which made it cumbersome for us to insure that all the terms and conditions passed through each system. Now, with Microsoft Dynamics AX, we’re keying everything in only one time and it goes right through to processing.”
Flexible Platform for Ongoing Growth and Change
With the initial implementation at Strobic Air functioning as a model, Met-Pro is now poised to roll out Microsoft Dynamics AX to its remaining business units, including those for pump solutions, filtration, and environmental air solutions. Met-Pro also stands prepared to ease the onboarding of additional business units whether through acquisition or organic growth. Says De Hont, “We want to take this company to $200, $300, $400 million a year in revenue, and to do that, we need a very good ERP solution. With Microsoft Dynamics AX, we have that.”
On a smaller scale, Met-Pro also sees the flexibility of the solution as driving business agility, helping the company improve processes and bring on new capabilities to meet changing business needs and requirements. Says Schroeder, “From an IT perspective, we can now build better solutions, thanks to the MorphX development environment in Microsoft Dynamics AX. With MorphX, it takes us only five minutes to add new a field, whereas before, it took hours.”