CATEGORY: Analytic Applications

REVIEWER:David Black, president and CEO of Electronic Manufacturing Systems.

BACKGROUND: Electronic Manufacturing Systems (EMS) is a mid-size electronic assembler based in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, that produces cable assemblies, fiber optic-related electronic circuits and other devices for customers such as Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Lucent, Alcatel, General Electric, Emerson and other leading electronic products companies. With five plants in Puerto Rico and one in the Dominican Republic, EMS employs 1,100 people and had revenues of $385 million in 1999. Their production process consists of a mix of surface mount technology (11 lines) and through-hole (five lines) component mounting.

PLATFORMS: EMS' XA solution from MAPICS runs on an IBM AS/400.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The need to participate in e-business and extend the enterprise outside the four walls was the major driving force that led EMS to invest in a system upgrade to MAPICS' TeamWeRX business-to-business (B2B) collaboration solution. The company felt that their future success would depend on their ability to provide customers with state-of-the-art electronic communications and data access. There was an immediate need for standard electronic data interchange (EDI) with major customers and a strong desire to offer enhanced support for new developments in e-business. The new system had to be flexible enough to accommodate changing customer needs and support the different requirements of customers.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: A key feature of XA, an extended enterprise application (EEA) from MAPICS, that was attractive to the EMS team was the B2B e-collaboration capability in the TeamWeRX family of XA solutions that allows customers to access information inside of EMS' ERP backbone. Through the TeamWeRX interface to XA's Com_net offering for online order entry, a customer can actually enter a purchase order directly into the EMS system. This is particularly important for customers who don't use EDI. At the other end of the supply chain, suppliers who don't use EDI can come in through TeamWeRX and gather their own orders for parts and materials right out of EMS' XA system. All of this is subject to security and access controls, of course. EMS customers can actually watch production activities through video cameras mounted in the plant by using TeamWeRX. They can check order status, material status, ECO status and more. Using a laptop computer and an Internet connection, a sales rep can show the prospective customer exactly how close the Web brings them to the production floor, in effect bringing the plant right into his or her office.

STRENGTHS: The biggest benefit for EMS is the competitive advantage they expect from TeamWeRX. EMS finds the e-business and online collaboration capabilities are extremely important competitive tools as they vie for business against other contract manufacturers who might be physically located much closer to the customer. It will also allow them to capture business from customers who are reluctant to deal with an off-shore production facility.

WEAKNESSES: The software is brand new but continues to improve every day with new technology and added functionality. With robust possibilities available, users must consider the reality of their environment and select what to implement accordingly. Users should consider system security, client access, level of supplier involvement and internal data controls.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Contract electronic assembly companies' customers require adherence to detailed product specifications (bill of material, design, electrical properties) and even provide their own list of acceptable component brands and vendors. Turnaround times are generally rather quick, and quality levels must be very high. Margins are very thin because this is a very competitive market. EMS considered all these challenges while selecting MAPICS' XA and TeamWeRX solutions. A big part of the implementation effort was dedicated to adding the EDI and e-business capabilities that EMS felt were crucial to their future success.

DELIVERABLES: EMS' technology acquisitions and implementations are required to provide both client and employee value – a necessity since EMS focuses on being easy to do business with. Literally everything XA delivers, from advanced planning techniques to multilevel collaboration, has provided the necessary comfort and strength.

VENDOR SUPPORT: MAPICS' customer service is great. They provided excellent support throughout the implementation process.

DOCUMENTATION: All MAPICS documentation is delivered on CD or online. The documentation is robust, easily read and very easy to understand.

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