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Thursday | 09 November, 2017 | 1:04 pm

Paperless trail

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Majestic Steel uses Stratix to help it meet customer orders that vary from 25,000 pounds of processed steel to multiple truckloads of 100 tons or more.

An upgraded system connects all departments to real-time inventory and production

November 2017 - Order volumes that Majestic Steel USA’s customers request can vary dramatically from 25,000 pounds of processed steel to multiple truckloads encompassing 200,000 pounds or more. To streamline communication between all branches of the business, the Cleveland-based service center chain decided to upgrade its software.

“We went live with Stratix from Invera and found that everything is much more succinct because everything in the system is connected,” says Kim Rayner, senior technology and business analyst at Majestic Steel, which has multiple locations across the U.S. “Prior to implementing Stratix, associates worked in silos. Associates did what was necessary in their area but the person before or after them [in the order fulfillment chain] wouldn’t know exactly what you did without referencing paper documentation for more information.”

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Majestic Steel associates no longer have to physically print orders or schedules to check what’s on the docket for the day and can easily find what’s on the shop floor.

Chasing paper

Paper shuffling has been dramatically reduced since the upgrade was implemented. Every department at Majestic can see the status of orders and inventory in real time. “The software gives us insight as to what’s on our floor and what material is inbound/outbound. We can see what inventory we have on hand easily,” says Patty Hanning-Dabbs, director of enterprise data management and integration.

“With our old ERP, once an order was entered, documentation would need to be physically delivered to the next area in the process,” Hanning-Dabbs explains.

Instead of using paper to record material movement through the manufacturing and shipping processes, each material handling staff member is equipped with a tablet loaded with apps that allow them to view the orders that need to be pulled onto the floor and what is scheduled to be produced or shipped next.

“When material is produced and completed, all requirements appear on the tablet the associate uses,” she says.

Stratix is in the process of rolling out additional mobile functions for the warehouse and office that allows users to perform functions on the go.

“They are no longer tethered to a computer terminal,” says Ray Vasson, vice president of sales at Invera Corp. in Dallas. “For example, in the office we released a function to allow the credit department to release an order on credit hold from their mobile device, while in the warehouse, an example of a new function that allows warehouse personnel to take a picture of defective material and attach it to the tag right on the mobile device.”

For flat-rolled distributors like Majestic Steel, Vasson says Invera’s features for flat-rolled processes such as slitting, cut to length, multistrand blanking and oscillate winding are highly useful. “Our software includes a number of flat-rolled specific features to handle just-in-time production, interfacing with shop floor scales, shop floor mobile and tablet functions, and comprehensive [slitter] arbor setup functions,” Vasson says.

Invera has similar product-specific features for other segments of the service center industry: general line service centers, plate processors and specialty metals distributors.

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Dashboard creation

While most of Invera’s customers use the Stratix database for reporting and analysis, some companies, like Majestic Steel, are able to create their own supplemental data warehouse for management dashboards and reporting.

“A nice standout feature for additional flexibility is our customer specific extensions that can be integrated with our product,” Vasson says. “For example, the customer could be using our order entry or production features and call up their own screens from within our applications to enter some additional data, or perform some custom validations or checks.

“We’ve integrated all the information from Stratix into our own internally developed systems, which has allowed us to create a much more efficient and open work environment,” Hanning-Dabbs says. “Stratix software includes gateways, or exit and entry points, that allow us to pull information into our internally developed applications. We can also push data back into the Stratix system using these same exit and entry points.”

Transparent flow

Internally developed tools have been created to use the data entered into Stratix throughout the business workflow. “Our tools make issues easy to pinpoint. They also allow supervision and management to easily see what’s completed and what is yet to process,” Hanning-Dabbs says. “There’s a lot we’re able to do now since the information is in real time, compared to before where we had paper trails that needed to be processed at the end of someone’s shift.”

“We can also see more easily where there are inefficiencies on the line and correct the problem quickly,” says Majestic Steel’s Rayner. “Whether the bottleneck is occurring on the line or when heading out the door, Stratix helps us follow each step as soon as it happens.

“Jobs are recorded in Stratix as they are being run by the associates who are operating the cut-to-length line, for example,” she continues. “It wasn’t easy for sales or production to access that data before. Our Business Systems area allows us to use information from Stratix in order to meet our sales and service center’s particular needs.”

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Faster feedback

“In our service centers, everything appears on tablets whereas before we had associates moving paper from station to station,” Hanning-Dabbs says. “We no longer have associates physically running from area to area.”

Associates also no longer have to physically print orders or schedules to check what’s on the docket for the day. “They don’t have to mark material on the floor and then go back to a desk to update the system,’” adds Rayner. “They can just transact directly on the tablet through the web apps.”

Invera’s Stratix is versatile depending on the situation. “Another feature is customizing our business documents or tags to better fit their customers’ needs,” Vasson says.

Invera just completed its Stratix/One management information and real-time business analytics dashboard. “It delivers an overview of service center operations from a single, simple-to-use web application or mobile device,” Vasson says. “Information is presented in the form of graphs, multi-column tables, charts, dials, and gears to facilitate viewing of business positions, historical trends and specific transactions.”

Production is live and online at Majestic Steel locations. “Everything is integrated,” Rayner says. “We no longer have to look in multiple places to check the status of an order and run the risk of delay in shipment to our customers.” MM

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