Wednesday, December 28, 2011

VAI Integration: Food customer, voice picking

Connecticut based Dari Farms Ice Cream has been a major ice cream and frozen food distributor since 1950. VAI's S2K for Warehouse Management, along with voice picking technology, was the right solution to improve the warehouse efficiency that Dari Farms was looking for.

Prior to selecting a new solution Dari Farms used many manual processes including clipboards, paper and pencils.  Add to that the harsh freezer environment and it no wonder their inventory accuracy was in the low to mid 80%.

Introduce a Voice Pick system integrated with a solid Warehouse Management System (WMS) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution and the company is able to focus forward to the future.  Like anything new the voice pick system met with initial resistance especially with the long term employees.  Now they cannot imagine doing their jobs without the system.  New employees do not have the overhead of system transition and pick the system up quickly.

Voice picking ensured through audio confirmation the location, product and quantity to process. The entire solution has numerous checks and balances.  Seen initially as a hurdle and time consuming, the process increased accuracy and confidence in the system.

Dari Farms had a hard time trusting what their old inventory system.  The only time they truly knew it was accurate was when they were out-of-stock.

With the new Voice Pick and Warehouse Management System (WMS) they are 99% accurate.  They cycle count and it is rare to have a single item off by more than 1-2%.

Dari Farms wanted a vendor that they could trust and that would work with them long term as they grew.  They wanted to keep moving forward and stay on the cutting edge of technology that would enable them to run their company efficiently and keep their costs down.  They chose VAI as one of those vendors they wanted to partner with.

It is fun and easy to write about this type of solution.  Today many thousands of companies are using manual processes to manage their operations.  Why, because they work.  Well, sort of.  They operate, but at what efficiency level?  They sometimes realize they have hit a glass ceiling.  Sometimes that fact has been obscured from them. 

With a tight economy there is great pressure to run lean and there is pressure to push a trimmed staff to do more with fewer resources.  When what they really need is a set of fresh eyes to look at what they are trying to do and come up with suggestions for improvement.  Many consultants can do this given enough chances.  A great consultant should be able to do this on the first attempt.  That is why they are in business, to improve your business. 

I am not saying the transition will be painless.  Look at the video from Dari Farms.  They had resistance too.  Now they cannot believe they did their operations any other way.  That is a result of partnering with an industry expert that will take the time to develop they right solution for your challenges.

I cannot promise you anything, in fact no one can, but Dolvin Consulting will work with your team to determine your true business operation challenges and develop a solution that will grow with your company.  Contact us today to see in what way we can help.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Santa Claus’ Workshop, Naughty/Nice List Databases Hacked

Proprietary Data and PII of Billions Exposed.  The Grinch, Disgruntled Elves, Anonymous Lead List of Suspects in Data Theft.

Well... just imagine it was your company that was breached.  Santa probably has a healthy bank account and can weather the storm of bad publicity.  After all if his organization fails, there is always mom and dad to do the shopping and delivery.  It is not like there is a lot of competition.  Where else are kids going to write at holiday time?

Maybe you do not consider your information all that valuable.  Perhaps your company has no proprietary information.  Is there employee information?  What about customer credit information?

What happens to your business’ reputation? 

It is hard enough finding a business, partner or supplier that you trust in the first place.  As a business, how hard is it to keep your customer’s happy?  What effect would a data breach have on your existing relationships?

It is very difficult to calculate the costs of a data breach on a business.  At least one that survives and does file for bankruptcy to protect itself.  The finance team can add up the fines, the cost of auditors and regulators, the pots of coffee consumed during the investigation, but what about the loss of reputation?

There is no perfect solution.  The criminals keep getting smarter and the mouse traps more sophisticated.  What you can do is prepare.  That is the role of a Written Information Security Program (WISP) plan.  It creates a defensible position with regulators. It is like a fire drill for data breaches.

Many companies provide technology solutions, but few provide a solution that will be approved by regulators.  Dolvin Consulting and Cyber Security Auditors and Administrators (CSA2) work with your team to prepare, create and maintain a working WISP plan.  A plan that is reviewed, tested, and updated each year.  A plan that will help mitigate the risks and let you sleep at night.

The ball is in your court.  Contact us today to see how we can help become compliant.  Do not let what happened to Santa happen to you.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Forecasting Software that Eliminates Time-consuming Manual Processes

McClarin Plastics, Inc. is a recognized leader in the custom design and manufacture of Thermoformed and Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic products and components.  For over 50 years McClarin Plastics has been helping companies locally, nationally, and internationally find creative solutions using plastics and reinforced plastics applications.  VAI’s S2K centralized database with secured access allows the company’s information to flow in real-time fashion.

Secure, centralized database.  Part of the key features that made S2K Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software a good fit for the challenges of McClarin included a secure centralized database that is shared with everyone in the company.  This is one of the primary goals of any ERP solution.  Collect data in a central repository where it can be managed, shared and utilized to drive efficiency across the enterprise. 

The more people know what each other are doing, the better they communicate and the better the efficiency of operations.  The left hand knows what the right hand is doing.

Lean manufacturing and growth.  The aggressive move towards a lean manufacturing profile has enabled better customer service and has fostered growth.  McClarin’s customer demands have necessitated the change to stay competitive.  The Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) module is used to evaluate demand in all areas.  Orders now flow through the system and all manufacturing steps more efficiently. 

Change is a difficult thing to accept.  Not initially considered to be user friendly, barcode scanning has helped eliminate manual entries have sped up processes.  It is now and integral part of operations.

Flexible system.  VAI has produced a flexible system and is quick to respond to their customer’s needs and has produced a system that grows with them.  A good investment and robust package at a given price point.  The software is flexible enough to operate as a tool for the company versus the company having to modify its processes to fit the software.  McClarin enjoys the collaboration.

Capable software that is a great fit for this company’s challenges.  It is what every manufacturer hopes for.  Core strength to drive efficiencies, reduce costs and delivered in such a way that there is a reasonable Return on Investment (ROI). 

I cannot promise you anything, but McClarin is a great example of what happens when a company takes the time to engage with someone that becomes a trusted advisor.  Dolvin Consulting works with manufacturers, distributors and specialty retailers to help them find solutions that improve efficiencies, reduce costs and increase profits.  Contact us today to see how we can help you.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Study: Hackers and IT pros share personal information online

A recent study found that tech-savvy people disclose sensitive information to strangers they meet online, even though they should know better and found that Hackers apparently can be just as careless as their victims.

This study focuses on the phenomenon of disclosing private information to online friends who appear to be sharing your interests.  The sample consisted of 100 persons, half of them working in the IT security industry (chosen from a professional network), while the other half dwelt on 'the other side of the fence' - the hacker’s clique (selected from specialized forums for 'bad guys').

Two experimental profiles were created, using the same information (age, sex, interests), but different jobs - corresponding to those of the respondents. After being contacted, the participants were interviewed in order to determine what kind of information they would be willing to disclose to a person working in the same industry, but still unknown to them.

The results suggest that, no matter what side of the fence they are on, people will behave the same: as though the virtual environment creates a second life, entirely different from the real one - they are willing not only to accept unknown persons inside their group just based on a nice profile, but also to reveal sensitive information (about their company, themselves and other persons) after a short online conversation.  This applies to both categories of respondents even though they are aware of the risks such information disclosure would pose in real life.

Well I guess you just cannot trust anyone anymore.  Perhaps with all the social media forums available today we are trying to connect more in an impersonal world.  We should be connected more, we should have a greater sense of community.  What seems to be happening is that we are becoming more and more disconnected, like islands.

Was the appeal of the “Tests” were really people wanting to be connected?  Offer what people seem to want and need and you can get just about anything you want.  Kind of reminds me of some stereotypical sales people that care more for the bottom line than the consumer.

Have we learned anything (yet)?  Well yes, if it is the fact that your private information, yours or someone you are responsible for, is a valuable commodity for the industry that deals with stolen identities and funds.  Yes, that we can all be fooled.  Yes, that we need to be more aware.  Yes, that we need to recognize there is no perfect solution that will protect us from ourselves.

What can we do?  First, think.  Second, before you reply to an invitation or anything online or even in person, think.  Third, hire experts to help you think, because it is a big bad world out there and we all need help. 

Sometimes it is hard to think outside of the box when you are in the box.  That is where Dolvin Consulting and Cyber Security Auditors & Administrators (CSA2) work best.  We work with your team to analyze your risk quotient and build a working Written Information Security Program (WISP) plan that addresses the volatile nature of information security.  Contact us today to see how we can help you sleep better at night.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

SBM Manufacturer Looking for a Solution, and we are on a Budget

I happened to notice this recent post in one of the many LinkedIn Groups that focus on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions.  It is hard to say why it caught my eye.  What catches anyone’s attention?  It is one of those things that sit in the back of your head and make you wonder.

The issues manufacturers face are pretty common.  We are not talking General Electric here.  Most businesses are small-medium sized.  Different people will draw the line at different revenue levels to decide what constitutes a small or medium size business.  Manufacturers need to keep their costs down, drive efficiency in their operations, distribute their product, attract new customers and keep everyone happy.  They also need to minimize errors, manufacture and ship their products on-time, reduce manual time consuming processes, schedule, plan and forecast their resources and improve quality, just to name a few of the many challenges they face day in and day out.

A company looking for a new solution?  Are we not all looking for something more efficient that drives profit and revenue?  Are they old problems, new problems, or has this company reached one of the glass ceilings on their growth path and cannot seem to get out of their own way?  The problem with glass ceilings is that they are transparent to those involved and they just cannot see what is holding them back.

Is it the fact they are on a budget?   Well, I am not new to this field and I certainly do not have the most experience, but I have never met any company that was not on a budget.  Many ponder what is an appropriate percentage of revenue that should be invested/reinvested in technology.  It seems that it is never enough, no matter what the figure is.  Does it really matter how much is invested, if you truly believed that the Return on Investment (ROI) was achievable?  Of course there are upfront costs and ongoing costs that figure into the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).  Many small businesses are in a Catch-22 situation where they are financially strapped and could grow if they had the capital, but they cannot get funding, because they have not grown.  Only a few companies grow significantly in a tough economy, while many hold tight and the weak perish.  I was advised that the best time to apply for credit was when you did not need it.

Suggestions?  Then there was the onslaught of suggestions from dozens of people in the group that may have meant well.  Here is my web site, call me, email me, we have a budget solution, we are great, we are leaders, blah, blah, blah, blah (oh, did I forget to mention “blah”).

Maybe it is the forum, maybe it was the desperate plea, and maybe it was just more-of-the-same.  Did anyone bother to ask any questions before offering a solution?  Oh, yes of course, there were a few questions, but mostly there was the tone of so many trying to improve their sales quota.  How would anyone know what was appropriate without doing some sort of study?

It is like a soccer game with young kids.  They are all running around the field going after the ball instead of playing their position contributing to the team and being ready when the ball comes their way. 

The requesting person may have meant well and truly wanted to get some feedback and direction.  And after all one of these eager beavers might just get a sale.  I hope they are both happy. 

The Internet provides a great source of information, right at our fingertips.  Perhaps that is part of the problem.  How do we know what is right, wrong, appropriate or not.  It is “free”, but anyone that has been around a few years tends to know the value of “free”.  Most times you get what you pay for and when it is free, well, it is free, and worth what?

I would be happy to talk to the owner after the frustration level reaches epidemic proportion, because there was not a good fit, the software did not work as expected, the users are fed up, the cost overruns exceeded their tight budget and now they are motivated to take the time learn what they do not know.

I will not promise anything except to ask questions.  Hopefully they will be the ones that help us both determine if there is a good fit between your challenges and the available solutions.  A solution that fits your budget and has a reasonable return on investment and powers the company with the resources they need to grow.  We have a mutually vested future in your success.  

We do not know who you are, so you need to contact us to see why Dolvin Consulting may be the right trusted advisor, the right choice for the future.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Maple Leaf Farms has an ERP Partner that Grows with Them

Established in 1958, an Indiana based company, Maple Leaf Farms implements S2K Warehouse Management software from VAI.  As North America’s premier producer of duck products, Maple Leaf Farms needed to achieve all their objectives with one solution.  Maintaining product quality and freshness throughout the inventory process was their goal.  Fork Lifts with built-in computers, automated scaling systems and a palletizing process streamlined this complicated manufacturing process.

The need to maintain product quality and freshness from factory to marketplace can complicate the food manufacturing process.  When dealing with poultry products, the “freshness factor” is not just desirable, it is mandatory regardless of whether the poultry is distributed raw or cooked.  Thus, manufacturers require integrated inventory management capabilities, as well as streamlined manufacturing and shipment processes, to deliver fresh poultry products.  Real-time inventory management is an essential component of production management.

Maple Leaf Farms, North America's premier producer of quality duck products, faced this precise challenge and have found VAI to be a company that they continue to grow with that grows with them to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Maple Leaf’s previous PC based inventory system did not integrate with their Order Entry system creating a disconnect and unreliable inventory balances.  There were too many places for errors to occur with their old systems.  Without structure their old system was not able to meet their needs and they were not able to quantify their losses.

Now they have 99% accurate inventory, up from the low 90’s, due in part to the product labeling and barcode scanning.  They can now track inventory throughout their facility.  Everything is complete.  Transactions in, transactions out, full circle with nothing dangling. 

Customer service loves the ability to answer customer questions about the status of their orders.  They know immediately the status and can provide the customer the information they need.  Employees are able to resolve their own problems on the fly. 

Karen Pope, Manager, Business Applications, Maple Leaf Farms said, “Knowing that VAI had a reputation for being able to design completely integrated ERP packages in a variety of industries was an enormous advantage.  We knew that integrating our operations and improving control of the production process would be a complex undertaking.  VAI’s record of achievement made us comfortable, as did our overriding desire to produce better products and improve customer service and satisfaction.”

How inspiring is this story?  Take a company that knew what they did not know.  They took the time to look at a lot of solutions, more than most companies would have had the patience for.  What they found was a concerned partner that took a team approach.  They took their time and phased in the solution.  The right solution delivered in digestible pieces. 

How do we know this was the right solution?  Their auditors are very pleased with the 99% accurate inventory, enough so they no longer require annual physical inventories.  Maple Leaf can rely on regular cycle counting.  Any system that can consistently deliver highly accurate inventory will translate to significant confidence and savings. 

How significant?  How about a complete Return on Investment (ROI) in 10-11 months.

What price can you put on happy customers?  What is the cost of acquiring new customers versus making the ones you have now happy?  Which translates to a better balance sheet?  Which generates more revenue?

Dolvin Consulting partners with industry experts to help your team determine how well the challenges you face match available industry solutions.  Contact us to learn how we can help.  Remember we do not sell software, we provide solutions.

Friday, December 9, 2011

HIPAA Dangers Lurk on Facebook; Ongoing Policy Revisions Are Advised | AIS Health

HIPAA Dangers Lurk on Facebook; Ongoing Policy Revisions Are Advised AIS Health

This is a well written article.  It identifies an ongoing issue that all organizations, not just those in healthcare struggle with on a daily basis.  How do we empower our employees, yet maintain control over social media to protect the private information for which we are responsible?

I support the premise of policies for employees as many do not take the time to think beyond the moment to consider the consequences of their actions.  Many postings as the article points out are innocently placed.  Most people do not realize that enterprising people can take these separate pieces of information and place them together.  In the wrong hands that information is sold to the highest bidder.

The article points out: “There are people who have grown up having everything posted on Facebook, and having no privacy,” Drummond says. “They are posting more” with little thought to the potential impact.

The solution is not to single out any specific social media forum, but rather to invest in education for all workers.  Many simply are ignorant of the consequences.  At the organizational level, the education becomes part of a Written Information Security Program (WISP) plan.

Think of a WISP plan as a fire drill for a data breaches.  It is not a static, shelf sitting, and dust collecting binder.  A working WISP plan is reviewed annually or at any change in business or organizational process.  A WISP plan provides the foundation for a secure environment.  There is no one perfect solution.  Any plan that incorporates humans has the potential to break down.  In the event of a breach, there are well documented procedures that will mitigate damages and help create a defensible position for the regulators that are sure to be involved.

Dolvin Consulting works with industry experts Cyber Security Auditors and Administrators (CSA2) to help companies of all sizes manage the risk associated with private information.  Those companies are typically concerned with the threat of lawsuits related to the loss of personal information as well as the loss of their customer base due to the degradation of their reputation.

We cannot promise you that you will never have any problems, but we will do our best to understand your challenges and help you create a working WISP plan that matches your risk quotient.   Contact us today to see how we can help you manage your risk.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Advanced Systems and Advanced Frustration

Modern Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems promise a lot of benefits to a growing organization.  Efficiencies are driven through a central repository of information.  Relevant business information is consolidated to a single system.  Business analytics crunch the data giving management the financial and statistical information they need to make intelligent decisions more quickly.

Costs are reduced through better planning, utilization and optimization.  Inventory is adjusted to optimized levels predicted by the system.

Sounds like utopia for today’s businesses.  Such is the promise of Advanced Systems.  And in an ideal world you might achieve that magical level of inventory, that peak efficiency.  However, in today’s world there are far too many stories of frustration, too many stories of failed implementations and cost overruns.

In a recent conversation I had with one manufacturer’s personnel.  “They” promised us an improved environment.  “They” gave us demos optimized to show their strengths.  “They” led us to believe we would be so much more efficient.  

In reality they have not delivered.  The system is slow, support is lacking.  They have not fixed basic problems that we report week after week.  We wait long periods of time between each screen.  Yes, all the information is supposedly there, but we cannot access it conveniently.  In fact, one day the information we loaded is there, then the next day no one can find the information.  It is lost “someplace”. 

Right now we are taking our information from our old system and storing it in a separate database so that we have an archive that we can access when we need to make parts.  It is so frustrating that they do not have a place to store our customer specifications in their system.  This information is critical for us to be able to make parts for our customers.

More than once we have considered pulling the plug and going to another solution which works for us and most importantly, we can get the support we need.  We understand there is no perfect solution, but we also expect our supplier to be responsive to our needs.  Our customers demand that of us.  Should we not expect that as a customer too?

Right now many companies are looking for new solutions.  You are not alone.  Your needs are not unique.  More than one solution will work.  Which one is best?  What type of Return on Investment (ROI) should we expect?  What are the upfront costs and ongoing maintenance fees and how should I calculate the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)?

How do I select the best solution for our business that fits our budget and will not destroy our company?  Any new solution will have a learning curve, but how do I minimize the impact to our operations?  How do I avoid the frustrations that I hear about so often?

Dolvin Consulting has a mutually vested interest in your business succeeding.  We partner industry experts and your team to understand your challenges and find the right solution.  We cannot promise anything, but we will listen.  Remember, we do not sell software, we find solutions.  So contact us today for a consultation.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bega Lighting: S2K for Manufacturing

BEGA is the source of a broad range of lighting products. Through a joint venture partnership with BEGA in Germany, BEGA-US designs, builds and distributes the BEGA product line in the US from their state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and corporate offices located in Carpinteria, CA.

Most every Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system promises efficiency across the enterprise by implementing a central repository of information which helps to streamline operations, reduce costs and make companies more profitable. 

Delivering on that promise is often more difficult.  People are typically the culprit, because people are not machines, they have good days and bad days.  They have to interact with one another and the demands of the enterprise, suppliers and of course customers.

Like a good fitting glove, VAI’s S2K solution was a good fit for Bega, because it had the ability to consolidate all their information in one place versus having their data scattered in different locations.  The system provides audit trails and as a manufacturer they are able to take advantage of Material Requirement Planning (MRP) and Capacity Requirement Planning (CRP) modules.  These modules allow Bega to see and understand their requirements so they can optimize their scheduling.

Customer service is improved with automated notifications.  They can process orders much more quickly, provide estimated ship dates, tracking information and provide after-order service.  The need to create daily spread sheets to track orders was eliminated due to having all the needed information in the system.

Increased output, productivity and greatly improved inventory accuracy improve the bottom line.  They were able to maintain a consistent staff level while in a period of growth due to the improvements this ERP system provided. 

Simplified computing infrastructure with IBM’s Power System (I5, Iseries, AS400 midrange platform) reduced the complexities of supporting a modern ERP system.  The system provides ample computing power optimized for business application processing, stability and a virus free environment.  The Power system enables Bega to concentrate on their business operations, not their business computer.

VAI’s solution was a good fit for Bega, because it meets their needs for today and the future.  VAI’s support people understood their business challenges and are quick to respond.

Bega’s challenges are not uncommon in the manufacturing world.  In fact most business have similar challenges, it is just a matter of where they are in their growth cycle.  It takes time to build a trusting relationship with any business. 

Dolvin Consulting in conjunction with VAI and IBM take the time to understand your challenges and to make sure there is a good fit with any solution.  We cannot promise you anything, but we will listen and do our very best to help, contact us today to learn more. 

Remember, we do not sell software, we find solutions.