His resolve was put to the test at Motus, where the IT aspects of mergers and divestitures fall within his purview. At PowerPlex 2018, Evans told me how their use of the Plex Manufacturing Cloud helped them avoid these ERP missteps.
Motus Integrated Technologies is a fairly new brand name, but its roots in auto manufacturing go back to 1973, with the launch of auto supplier Prince Corporation, which became part of Johnson Controls (JCI). Atlas formed Motus in 2014 by acquiring the North American and European automotive headliner and sun visor business of JCI. Whew!
Today, Motus has over 4,000 associates around the world in seven facilities. Their overhead systems and sun visors supply the likes of BMW, Lexus, Porsche, Audi, Daimler, Toyota, Honda, GM and Ford.
Knee-deep in Plex conversions
Evans joined Motus in 2015 after sixteen years of IT leadership at Staples. He immediately found himself knee-deep in Plex conversions - and new acquisitions (Motus bought Leon Automotive Interiors in 2015). Evans' first adventure? Converting all the Motus and Leon facilities into one Plex environment. That meant pulling a range of older systems into Plex, including QAD MFG Pro and Maypix. Evans:
The first two and a half years of my job was really to convert, migrate and stabilize the Plex environment.
As of October 2016, that phase was complete. As Evans told me, those efforts paid off:
Plex is in every part of our business. We use all the core functions from financials through manufacturing, inventory management, receiving to shipping, manufacturing, materials planning, EDI, and the customer supplier gateway. It really is a core part of our operations.
Beyond operational efficiency - new metrics needed
But operational efficiency is just the beginning. Motus's executive team has a continuous improvement mantra, measured with metrics that judge their progress. Evans and his team are charged with living up to that mantra from the IT side. The goal? Operational excellence:
Our IT team is in charge of coming up with ways to reduce cost, reduce cycle times, make it faster and embed quality into it. It's moved from implement, migrate and stabilize into continuous improvement.
That IT mission ties to the culture Motus is fostering. That includes a handful of key metrics the company is driven to exceed. So what are those metrics? With their employee and talent focus, safety is job number one. Then comes operational metrics:
If you talk to our COO, all of his figures around cost of quality, scrap, percentage of scrap, all of these operational metrics come right out of Plex. He owns supply chain as well; they have to show constantly increased cost reduction across an index that they put in Plex. We also use Plex for things like tiered MOQs (multiple order quantities), and metrics of that nature.
But did employees embrace these metrics as their own? Yes, but sometimes with growing pains. Evans says it really comes down to culture - and savvy hiring. Some JCI employees were attached to their old ways of doing things and resisted:
Rather than a systems perspective, I look at it as more of a culture perspective. A lot of those people aren't with us anymore. The people who came from JCI, or we've hired since, are fully on board with that.
Leon employees reacted differently:
The Leon group came from a type of organization where there was really no team culture... They saw Plex; they saw the information that it would bring to them. They ate it up.
As it turns out, a single operational system can play an important role in spreading that culture:
I think Plex is helping drive the central culture of our organization. It has an established single platform by which we formalize our operations. So if I go to Überherrn, Germany, that's the same platform with the same key measures when I go to Ramos, Mexico. The single system is allowing our commercial team, our supply chain, our operations managers, our material management, to work all the same way, all the time.
I think the payoff is the single way to operate a business. I think it's a single way to help generate culture.
The wrap - on Plex UX, extending the platform, and the road ahead
As for Plex UX, Plex's new UX and platform, Motus isn't running on it yet. Evans says the incentive to move are features Plex is announcing that are only available on Plex UX. But any new moves will be on Plex UX:
If we're going to organically grow, which we have opportunities to do in the southern states, we're probably going to launch on Plex UX. If I do another acquisition, I'm probably gonna launch on UX. There's no reason for me to launch on Plex classic anymore.
Evans has advice for companies new to Saas ERP: go vanilla wherever you can.
I would say the success of implementing with Plex is the focus, the users on taking the functionality that's there. As they say, perfection is the enemy of great, and great is the enemy of good. If it's not business differentiating, take what's out of the box and use it.
After joking that he's customized more ERP systems than he can count, Evans advises a different course for Plex customers:
The way you invoice is not a business differentiator. It doesn't make sense to say that "we do it this way."
Connected manufacturing was a big theme at PowerPlex. Is Evans eyeing emerging tech? Short answer: yes.
As I look at connected systems, as I look at ways I can extend the capabilities upon my core Plex systems.
Evans gave the example of sequencing, functionality which Plex has now added as of the spring release. He's tracking Plex sequencing as it matures. In another other case, he selected Systems X, a third party tool for tax and invoice tracking that meets Mexican government requirements. It's another feature Plex has added:
I couldn't wait for that, but Plex gave me an extensible, supportable platform to extend with Systems X. It works; my controller down in Mexico loves it. And I don't have to worry about it anymore. If I needed to do some in-depth sequencing now, I could go to InSequence or something like that. Again, I still feel like the platform, the core platform, is delivering what I need out of that.
The acquisition fun isn't over for Evans. This time, however, it's a divestiture. Evans and team are now chunking off part of their IT systems pertaining to that divestment. With mergers, upgrades, and extensions on his mind, Evans has plenty of feedback for Plex Systems. He is now part of the Plex Customer Advisory Board (CAB), where that dialogue will surely continue.