Magazine Article | February 1, 2004

Banish Manufacturing Bottlenecks

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Lane Award Manufacturing's new enterprise software has helped the company clear a path to untapped markets.

Integrated Solutions, February 2004

When Tim Washburn looked at the awards manufacturing market, he saw an enormous amount of untapped potential. "A huge percentage of businesses have no employee recognition program of any kind," said Washburn, general manager at Phoenix-based Lane Award Manufacturing. "Our potential for growth is phenomenal."

But getting there was going to mean making changes. The paper-based company was going to have to move into the digital age. "We reached the point where we were either going to stay the same or we had to do something different that would allow us to go after untapped markets," Washburn said.

Lane Award Manufacturing was launched in 1965 and it has grown into one of the leading manufacturers of high-end corporate award and recognition products in the United States. Lane manufactures a wide variety of custom products from raw materials for companies worldwide.

Juggling Resources, Meeting Deadlines
Lane Award Manufacturing lives and breathes by its deadlines. "If you're having a banquet and your awards arrive a day late, they are pretty much useless," said Washburn. "Not meeting deadlines in this business is not an option."

But meeting those deadlines made it difficult for Lane to schedule jobs and control costs. "It was difficult for us to fully understand and juggle our resources," said Washburn. "Basically, we'd tell our employees, 'We know you come in at 8 a.m., but we can't tell you when you're going home today.' Sometimes they'd work 10 hours, sometimes 12 hours. That burns people out and it's not a good way to run a business." Washburn wanted a comprehensive software system that could evaluate the company's resources and constraints and devise a workable schedule that ensured his company would meet its deadlines.

Moving From Paper To Digital
Washburn formed a selection team to begin looking for a solution. He picked one person from every area of the business and asked them to identify the problems they face on a daily basis and what they need to relieve those problems. In the end, Lane chose VISUAL Enterprise from Lilly Software. The VISUAL package's strong scheduling capability proved critical to the decision. "The one aspect of Visual that every team member agreed was superior to its competition was the scheduling component," Washburn said.

Aside from the expected employee apprehension to new technology, Lane faced its toughest challenge when it came to data conversion. The company has thousands of customers and thousands of products, but getting that information online was difficult for a company that has always worked from paper.

No More Guessing Games
"Prior to the implementation, we were flying by the seat of our pants," said Washburn. "If someone asked what our best-selling product is, we would have a good idea, but no good reporting methods or documentation to support the conclusion. With this system, we'll have those reporting capabilities." Washburn also looks forward to better cost controls and reporting capabilities that include supplier costs and product profitability.

But in the end, it comes back to those untapped markets. "This software will help us get beyond some of our bottlenecks," Washburn said. "When you take those bottlenecks away, you have potential to go after untapped markets that are just out there waiting."