Brown Metals avoids 'code prison' using Business Automation's customizable Metal-Pro

Brown Metals uses Metal-Pro software to manage more than 2 million pounds of inventory

November 2018 - Software updates are a routine expectation, whether you’re using a PC, Mac or smartphone. Each update offers increased security and functionality and the same goes for anyone using industrial software. For Brown Metals Co., Rancho Cucamonga, California, every sweep of adaptive offerings has solidified its confidence in a software suite it has relied on for 24 years.

“We’ve used Metal-Pro software and invested time and money customizing it over two decades to meet our service center’s changing needs,” says Chief Information Officer Justin Lasley. “In the last five years especially we’ve integrated Metal-Pro to make different departments paperless and add more flexibility to our overall workflow.”

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Brown Metals laser welds coils on its oscillate winding line.

Orange, California-based Business Automation Inc. (BAI) has always made its Metal-Pro system’s “source code” available, allowing customers the flexibility to customize the software on their own or to rely on BAI’s software engineers to handle whatever adjustments or enhancements they need.

“Most of our customers rely on us for their ongoing support and programming changes but we do not think software vendors should make their customers into prisoners that are beholden to them. With BAI, they choose,” says Bob Novy, vice president of sales at BAI. “We want end users to work with us, but they have that option to work on changes themselves or hire a third party; we believe that kind of freedom helps the customer as well as BAI. Our philosophy is to give our customers what they want, not sell a limited set of features. We understand each of our customers will have their own set of needs and we don’t try to restrict where they can go.”

Brown Metals relies on BAI to develop custom code or custom modifications. “If BAI foresees a modification their customers might benefit from, the next time they provide an optional update, they include that new capability as part of it,” Lasley says. If there is a more expansive software jump with new features, Brown Metals sends a few of its employees to train with BAI and then share what they’ve learned to the rest of the team at Brown Metals.

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Users can easily shift information fields and produce numerous types of reports.

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Practical gains

Going paperless eliminated duplicate data entry for Brown Metals. “We had a few places where duplicate data entry happened during order processing. Our process for creating product and shipping labels had room for improvement,” recalls Lasley. “BAI worked with us to create auto-generated label formats. Now our employees use a bar code scanner. All the order details are automatically generated and employees input the number of labels they need to print out and that’s it—no more duplicate data entry, no typos.”

Finding material easily has helped sales provide faster quotes. “We’ve had success offering smaller coils on our self-service web store ( where customers can order material that ships the same day in many cases, at a great value,” Lasley says. “For larger or more complex orders, Metal-Pro alerts sales instantly once material sizes are no longer or newly available. And if a customer calls, our sales team can give a quote while on the phone instead of having to return their call later.”

Metal-Pro’s latest upgrade to Brown Metals’ ordering process equips sales with the accuracy needed when quoting lead times on its narrow slitter—which makes coils as narrow as 0.02-inch-wide. The software analyzes data to indicate what jobs can be completed sooner.

“It’s a tremendous improvement from our paper-based process. During the last 24 years, Metal-Pro has been very flexible allowing us to meet, or in many cases exceed, customer needs,” Lasley says.

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Brown Metals uses Metal-Pro software to manage more than 2 million pounds of inventory.

To make the customization process work so well, BAI’s Metal-Pro software runs on the UniData relational database system. “This very powerful database includes a built-in report writer, so customers can create any kind of report they want,” explains Novy. “If they want to add fields or shift the order, they can do that easily and quickly.”

BAI places the decision to upgrade in the hands of each customer. “We have a few older customers that don’t want the software updates and they’re not forced into anything they’re not interested in or ready for—each custom system works for that particular customer,” says Novy.

Metal-Pro software is, above all, flexible. “One of our main advantages is that we’re not offering a one-size-fits-all package,” Novy says. “We can make changes and improvements as necessary and if the customer has a better way of doing something, we incorporate that into the system.

“Being able to have the system work the way the customers want it means over time it evolves along with their businesses,” he continues. “We’ve got 40 years in the business and our secret of success isn’t a secret at all—it’s simply working to make the customer successful. If they’re successful then we are too, so we do whatever we can to offer one of the most flexible systems available.” MM


Brown Metals Co.
Rancho Cucamonga, California
Business Automation Inc.
Orange, California