BACKGROUND: Myers Industries, an international manufacturer of plastic and rubber products for industrial, agricultural, automotive, commercial and consumer markets, is also the largest wholesale distributor of tools, equipment and supplies for the tire service and automotive underbody repair industry in the United States. With headquarters in Akron, Ohio, Myers has more than 20,000 products and 4,200 employees worldwide.

PLATFORMS: BizWorks from interBiz, the eBusiness applications division of Computer Associates International, Inc., runs on Windows NT. It is integrated with other interBiz products in use at Myers ­ PRMS running on an AS/400 and QRE running on Windows NT with AS/400 client access.

PROBLEM SOLVED: In order to position the company for global growth, Myers Industries sought to apply technology solutions with the specific objectives of producing higher quality products, greater customer satisfaction and improved information access. Our first milestone was to gain increased control over shop floor processes. We deployed BizWorks with its neugent (neural learning agent) technology to monitor plastic injection molders to predict when products may be manufactured outside of quality parameters in order to reduce product scrap rates and improve on-time delivery and communication with our customers. BizWorks addresses the challenge of integrating disparate business applications without replacing existing solutions.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Myers started with a single pilot project ­ collecting data from the injection molding process relative to temperature, material flow and other variables, and feeding that data to a neugent developed with BizWorks' predictive technologies. The neugent predicts when and where a molding machine will perform below standards. Because the process is integrated with our ERP system (PRMS), we are able to determine the impact of the potential failure. The second phase of the process notifies customer service and sales management via two-way pagers. While BizWorks has only been deployed in one of Myers' 23 manufacturing locations, Myers plans to further integrate the multiple ERP systems running at the various plants and to initiate similar projects.

STRENGTHS: BizWorks' strength lies in the limitless ways it can add value to our business. BizWorks can consolidate data and generate a single information source from multiple manufacturing applications, operating not only in our own manufacturing locations, but those of our customers and suppliers as well. It can link manufacturing operations with back-office business applications. This allows us to leverage the investment made in our current systems and orchestrate the extended enterprise without further investment in expensive, custom programming.

WEAKNESSES: Other software products can be easily classified. When we refer to PRMS as an ERP system and QRE as an advanced planning and scheduling application, we all universally understand their purpose and application. BizWorks defies classification. As a result, it can be difficult to convey the possibilities that can be achieved with BizWorks; and this can be a limiting factor in defining a deployment strategy across an extended enterprise.

SELECTION CRITERIA: BizWorks is the only single integrated solution that addresses an entire host of otherwise separate applications. We could have engaged systems integrators to deliver enterprise application integration, but we still would have had to put in place a middleware messaging infrastructure. We could have purchased a standard business intelligence product or an executive information system, but they would not have leveraged all the information sources across disparate business systems and effectively mined the World Wide Web for information as BizWorks does, providing us a unified view.

DELIVERABLES: BizWorks provides Myers with alerts, before quality problems occur, and helps trigger workflows to address them. It also ties together applications from different vendors, exposing data to be shared between them.

VENDOR SUPPORT: interBiz worked with us during our pilot project which was delivered in less than six weeks, including the time
it took to train the neugents. (Neugents are trained by collecting data and analyzing patterns preceding a failure. They continue to learn as they operate in a production environment). We have been completely satisfied with the support they have provided.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation was not available at the time of our implementation; however, it is now shipped with the product.

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