It’s an international asset monitoring success story: A U.S. software company helps a New Zealand dairy specialist seamlessly manage production of items developed for the Chinese market.
Some background: Back in 2013, New Zealand-based dairy exporter Oceania Dairy was purchased by Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group (Yili), China’s largest dairy company. After buying Oceania, Yili commissioned development of a new, $236 million processing plant in New Zealand. The plant, Yili’s first outside of China, produces milk powder products that are shipped back to China, where they are then used to make finished products ranging from infant formula to ice cream.
Oceania was looking for software tools that would help it optimize enterprise asset management and materials management at the new plant. In searching for a solution, the top priority was to find a product that would integrate well with its SCADA and financial management systems, says Eddie Grace, maintenance and services manager at Oceania. “Right from the beginning of our plant installation,” Oceania recognized that it would need a maintenance management solution that would allow it to leverage data from the plant’s many automated tools and processes, Grace says.
The company was connected with eRPortal Software, a West Springfield, MA-based provider of EAM and materials management software for manufacturers, municipalities, and higher education institutions. Oceania brought eRPortal on board with a product suite that includes, at its core, a CMMS system and spare parts inventory tracking.
A New Zealand system integrator, Industrial Controls South Canterbury, worked with eRPortal on deploying the software in early 2014. It was eRPortal’s first experience working with a foreign-based company and a company of Oceania’s size overseas. And although the time zone difference created some scheduling challenges when it came to remote work, the implementation was smooth, says Ed Garibian, president of eRPortal Software group.
The seamlessness of the integration itself was thanks to Oceania’s and Yili’s exceptional organization and planning before the CMMS deployment, Garibian says. “I think the fact that they were so well-organized mitigated the potential…for setbacks that could occur given the distance and the time-zone change,” he says.
It’s a message that bears repeating for manufacturers everywhere, regardless of whether they’re working with software providers across the world or across the state, Garibian suggests. “A lot can be overcome with a well-thought-out process,” he says.
Oceania knew what it wanted from its CMMS and EAM tools and had specific functionality requirements from the start. For example, the company stipulated that the CMMS system had to be able to run on iPads. Garibian also notes that Oceania’s accounting team was more involved with the CMMS implementation than his company often sees – a reflection of Oceania’s focus on the ability to interface purchasing and inventory tracking with its financial system.
Before the software suite’s implementation, which happened in phases, work process review webinars were conducted to demonstrate how new software tools would be integrated into employees’ workflow. Hands-on support was provided in one site visit a couple of months before the go-live and during the go-live itself.
The fact that the plant was a new build offered additional opportunities to design for efficiency. Oceania called on eRPortal to help it set up its stockroom, says Doug Ansuini, vice president and chief software architect at the software company. Effective setup of the stockroom, from its physical layout to the selection of an inventory numbering methodology, will help a manufacturer make the most of a computerized inventory management system and ensure accurate and efficient inventory tracking, Ansuini notes. From the ground up, he emphasizes, it’s all about strategy.
“Little things like the item number – it seems like such a small thing,” he says. But consider, he asks, “Are you going to just do a sequential 12-digit number or an eight-digit number, or are you going to do something that makes a little more sense, that maybe involves the category of the item, like ‘BELT002’ versus, you know, 8749398…?”
Coming up with good item descriptions also is fundamental to efficient inventory management, says Ansuini. “It’s amazing how often we’re importing data from old systems, and I’ll see like 37 belts in the data that I’m importing from, and the description for every single one of those is ‘belt.’ When you’re searching in your inventory, it’s going to be helpful if it’s (labeled as) a fan belt or a timing belt.”
Ansuini adds: “They’re little things but they really make a big difference because they can come up often in your day-to-day operations.”
A year-and-a-half after the initial CMMS implementation, Oceania is using its bundle of SCADA, financial management, enterprise asset management, and materials and inventory management software to create preventive maintenance and condition-based maintenance schedules and get a better handle on workflow.
Eddie Grace, for one, is pleased. “People are really starting to know and understand the system and its capabilites,” he says. “A system that shows me as a manager whether we are in control or not guides my decisions of what I need to get back on top of issues.” ck on top of issues.”