Paper chase

Northern Industrial Manufacturing purchases ERP system to manage documents, enhance productivity

Northern Industrial Manufacturing purchases ERP system to manage documents, enhance productivity

January 2017 - For a while, Harrison Township, Michigan-based Northern Industrial Manufacturing Corp. used its plant manager, Marco Maniaci, as its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. In fact, Northern’s vice president, Jeff Hohlfeldt, kiddingly referred to this as the “Marco resource planning system (MRP).” Although Maniaci was a genius at keeping track of the plant’s work in his head, it became evident to Hohlfeldt and his colleagues that they needed an upgrade from “MRP” to an authentic ERP. 

“For us, the decision to move forward with an ERP centered around easing the lives of our customers and employees,” says Hohlfeldt. “We needed to enhance external customer touch points, ease document creation and improve the efficiency of [and for] our employees.” 

Established by Harvey Hohlfeldt in 1978, Northern Industrial is a tier 1, 2, and 3 automotive supplier and stamper that makes precision thrust washers, selective shims and spacers. With 30 employees, the company has earned multiple awards for its supply chain flexibility and inventory maintenance solutions, including General Motors Co.’s Supplier Quality Excellence Award in 2013, 2014 and 2015. To sustain its excellent rating and continue improving, Northern’s decision makers began shopping for a legitimate ERP system.

Northern’s brain trust soon zeroed in on a privately held software company called IQMS. Based in Paso Robles, California, IQMS has offered real-time ERP, manufacturing, production monitoring, quality control, supply chain, customer relationship management (CRM) and eBusiness solutions since 1989. The customer base, served by offices across North America, Europe and Asia, spans such industries as automotive, medical, packaging and other repetitive, process and discrete manufacturing sectors.

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IQMS has offered real-time ERP, manufacturing, production monitoring, quality control, supply chain, CRM and eBusiness solutions since 1989.

Customer complaints

“The primary reason that we selected IQMS was because, in our business, we make millions of parts with tolerances that are about one-tenth of a human hair,” says Hohlfeldt. “However, when it came time to ship those parts, we struggled with getting the shipping documentation correct. For example, our struggle prior to implementing ERP was in the EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) transmission, which requires thousands of characters to be manually inputted, communicating all of the pertinent details of the shipment. If any one of those characters were incorrect, it caused the transmission to be rejected. This same principle applies to packing slips, labels, invoices and bill of ladings.”

Hohlfeldt subsequently described how IQMS’ solution boosted his company’s ability to accurately monitor and maintain inventory more attuned to work in process and incoming orders. “IQMS allows us to understand what our inventory is and helps us balance production needs by knowing what is available in our inventory.”

Before adopting the ERP system, “we had situations where products were produced [because] we didn’t realize they were already in stock. This caused us to produce parts that were not needed.” Conversely, the company was sometimes caught off guard “because we thought a product was in stock when it wasn’t.”


Steve Bieszczat, the chief marketing officer at IQMS, describes the features and capabilities Northern realized with the IQMS package. 

“IQMS’ differentiator is our seamless connection of the front office with the shop floor and the combination of traditional ERP functionality with manufacturing execution system (MES) functionality into a single code base and database,” Bieszczat says. “When combined, they offer real-time visibility of the business that no other company can achieve without extensive, and expensive, integration efforts.”

In addition to the end-to-end visibility the system provides inside the business, the company’s ’s supply chain integration team works with customers “to provide an equivalent degree of outside visibility through our portal, EDI and application program interface (API) technologies.”

Hohlfeldt believes IQMS has proved to be an invaluable partner for Northern. The ERP system has, among other things, helped Northern increase productivity and throughput, eliminate downtime, reduce scrap parts, and lower inventory and labor costs—thereby returning higher profit margins. He is most pleased that the software helped Northern diminish its paperwork and EDI-related labor. “Our main issues, paperwork and EDI, have now almost become a non-issue. This allows us to focus on producing parts and not paperwork documents,” he says.

Northern has yet to maximize the software to full capacity. “We cannot imagine running our company without IQMS. In fact, we are trying to drive higher engagement with the software,” says Hohlfeldt. “We are currently only utilizing about 75 percent of its capabilities.” 

As the company fulfills its mission to run everything through ERP, Hohlfeldt, Marco Maniaci and their colleagues will use their brains toward numerous other productive functions. MM


Paso Robles, California
phone: 805/227-1122
Northern Industrial Manufacturing Corp.
Harrison Township, Michigan
phone: 586/468-2790
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