In the ocean, beneath semi trucks, or baking in the desert sun you’ll find Sierra Corporation’s coatings doing their work. Sierra manufactures custom coatings and sealants for architectural and maintenance applications. One day its chemists might design a protective coating for marine bolts for an aluminum substrate firm. The next day they could be developing a non-fade, ultraviolet-resistant paint for lawn furniture.
Sierra Corporation’s special-purpose formulations and speedy turnaround time for customers have resulted in amazing growth. Today the company is more than four times its size a mere 10 years ago. Industrial paints from its subsidiary, TK Products, are increasingly requested by customers nationwide.
Improving Systems Formulation
More than 5,000 different raw material items on Sierra’s inventory shelves are required by the chemists to formulate 10,000-plus finished products. For the past 10 years the materials have been managed by BatchMaster, a comprehensive process manufacturing solution, and the company’s business systems have been handled by Platinum for DOS. Well over a year ago, Sierra decided to upgrade to BatchMasterPFW and Platinum for Windows, for tighter integration between applications, a better user interface, Windows-based reporting features and access to multiple data input screens simultaneously.
The Ideal Formula for Success“BatchMasterPFW is the workhorse for our daily operations,” says Mike Grivna, senior chemist. “All of our formulations are now done on computer, where we store data on raw materials, and information on physical properties and characteristics. The system tells us recommended pigment-to-binder ratios or volume concentrations, and then calculates formulation parameters. This saves an enormous amount of time and provides a more accurate product for customers.”
Once a formula is created, BatchMasterPFW is used to check available inventory, size the batch for the ticket, issue a production ticket and commit raw materials. It creates a batch ticket with instructions for mixing, filling and labeling. Then it automatically prepares material safety data sheets (MSDS) for each product shipped to a customer as required by law. The system updates the MSDS whenever a formula changes, a crucial timesaver, given that Sierra has nearly 20,000 formulas. The SARA reporting module within BatchMasterPFW calculates SARA Tier II and III reports for compliance with federal OSHA mandates.
Sierra’s chemists use BatchMasterPFW all day long to tweak individual formula ingredients and improve profitability. “Each paint represents a compromise between performance and cost,” Grivna explains. “Our system lets us make adjustments to get every last dime out of our product without sacrificing quality.”
After production is closed on a paint run, data flows directly into Inventory and is made available for Order Entry, which is the key to inventory management. Once the invoices are printed and posted, data is then moved into PFW for complete integration between BatchMasterPFW and PFW. “Before, we had to hand-enter information from one system into another,” says Adrianne Olson, Sierra’s controller. “System integration has eliminated this task and cut our total order processing time by about half. What we have now is a 100-percent improvement.”
She says customer service is better now, too, because any information that representatives need is available at the touch of a button. “All of our data is tied together in one place,” she notes. “We know which items are in stock, and can give customers accurate lead times, which helps secure ownership of our niche in the marketplace.”
Olson and Grivna agree that the integrated system is central to the company’s continued success. “Nothing can compare with the capabilities of PFW and BatchMasterPFW teamed up together,” Olson explains. “Without them, our processes would be downright archaic – and our entire business would come to a standstill.”
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