REVIEWER: Bill Brown, director, Cost Accounting, Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel.

BACKGROUND: Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Corporation (WPS), headquartered in Wheeling, West Virginia, is a producer of carbon flat rolled products for the construction, container, appliance, converter/processor, steel service center, automotive and other markets. The company's products include various sheet products such as hot rolled, cold rolled, hot dipped galvanized and black plate. WPS recognized the importance of production speed in the profitability equation. The company initiated an internal project to gather actual detailed product costs combined with production runtimes. However, their Excel-based effort just could not allow easy manipulation, presentation and distribution of the huge quantity of data. WPS opted to go with Maxager's ready-made solution, leveraging its years of development, rapid implementation and powerful feature set.

HARDWARE PLATFORMS: Dell with Windows NT Server 2003.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Maxager helped with incorporating production speed, or velocity, as well as margin in determining detailed product/customer profitability; being able to view profit per minute rather than profit per ton at a granular (e.g., product) level and analyzing by product attribute, customer, salesperson, industry, etc.; creating reports that could be easily distributed among commercial, operational and financial decision-makers and viewed by senior management; modeling of changes in product and customer mix to increase profitability; optimal loading of production facilities; and aligning of commercial, financial and operational departments with a common profitability metric and extending it to the operation profit level.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY:  Maxager helps the incorporation of production velocity with price and cost data; presentation of data in hierarchies; viewing and analyzing historical profitability by product, customer, customer location, sales territory, market or plant - both in table and graphic format; viewing profitability as profit per minute; slicing and dicing of data and customization of views for every user; use of topographical maps to quickly identify opportunities for improving profitability; simple and flexible what-if modeling to create budgets and forecasts; easy export of charts and data.

STRENGTHS: Maxager is good for combining production speed with margin yields and gives an accurate view of profitability at a detailed level; quickly generating graphics that make decision-making fast and simple; easily generating new reports and models by business users rather than IT experts; easy deployment over the Web, providing easy and intelligent access; extremely fast learning curve due to intuitive user interface, supplemented by on-site training sessions; ability to analyze voluminous amounts of data and make it available to a variety of business users; and ease of customizing views, creating multiple different views of data and making them available company-wide, to selected individuals or keeping them private.

WEAKNESSES: Maxager currently lacks a user group, although based on requests, they are looking into it.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Maxager was chosen over the option of developing a system internally. This internal system was estimated to cost over $1 million and would take more than a year to develop. Maxager was up and running in 90 days and, being hosted, required no hardware or software purchase and no installation.

DELIVERABLES: Deliverables include: a display of 20,000+ lines of data in flexible, easily customizable tables and graphics; historical analysis by customizable time period; topographical maps showing profitability as profit per minute for products, customers, markets, sales regions, salespeople and plants; a wide range of other chart options - bubble, bar, scatter, pie, etc.; the ability to drill down and roll up in table displays of data; interactive planning and modeling functionality, allowing determination of impact in product quantities, prices, costs and production speeds; and variance analysis reports.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Support has been outstanding. The Maxager team has been extremely responsive and has worked hand in hand with WPS. On-site training was excellent.

DOCUMENTATION: Help screens are missing in the older version of Maxager (7.1) used by WPS. These are available in the current 7.3 version.

Maxager 7.1
Maxager Technology, Inc.
2173 E. Francisco Blvd.
San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 454-1000

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