Yorozu Corporation's headquarters is based out of Japan and has 22 facilities and offices around the world. One of its plants in North America is Yorozu Automotive Tennessee, which supplies automotive parts, mostly suspension parts, to some of the largest car manufacturers in the market - including Nissan, Honda, Toyota, Subaru and Mercedes.
Yorozu Automotive Tennessee has a long history of forward thinking when it comes to its use of technology, according to Bill Grisard, IT section manager for the plant. He was speaking at Infor's virtual event Inforum 2020, where he said that this is driven by the company's people.
There's a lot of ingenuity that goes on within the corporation, having been here a while (since 1992) I have seen a lot of firsts come around. In our facility here we have got over 1,000 robots under one roof. There's a lot of things that we did here that have never been done before. We were one of the first facilities in the US that had hydroforming on site. There's a lot of innovative things that Yorozu does, but all of that is driven by the employees.
Knowing this provides good context for the ERP upgrade project that the organisation carried out this year. Between 1986 and 2009 Yorozu Automotive Tennessee had been using HP MANMAN for its ERP, which understandably proved too restrictive for future growth at the time. So in 2009 the organisation migrated to Infor's LN FP5 ERP, which according to Grisard, allowed Yorozu to maintain and improve its systems more effectively compared to the previous decade.
However, 2009 was a different world compared to 2019, where the organisation faced an end of life for FP5 and had over 75 custom programmes and countless SSRS reports. Grisard explained:
Okay, we need to move forward and what are our options that can give us what we need? We called Infor and the automotive multi-tenant not only would give us what we needed in terms of moving forward for the foreseeable future, but also with a little bit of tweaking we could also keep all of our custom programming and reports in operation. So that's what we chose to do.
The decision to move to Infor CloudSuite was driven by a number of perceived benefits down the line. For example, Yorozu Automotive Tennessee was able to reduce its on-site hardware requirements, which eliminated 2 terabytes of storage space that it had to keep up with and no long back-up every day. In addition to this, Grisard said that being in the cloud and operating across multiple data centres meant he didn't have to worry about disaster recovery. He added:
Also maintaining the updated LN software, that's been one of the really big issues for us - we don't have a huge staff available to us 24/7 365 days a year, so we don't have a lot of time to take the system down to do updates. Now that we are in the cloud with different tenants, we can do that on the fly.
Go-live during a pandemic
Yorozu Automotive Tennessee had its kick off meeting with Infor for the project on January 6th of this year and set a deadline for go-live of July 4th, as its customers typically have a shutdown period over this time. However, as we all know, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the first quarter there was significant business disruption.
Surprisingly, Yorozu and Infor continued to work together remotely and persisted with the planned timeframes. Grisard said:
Things were going along pretty good until mid-February when COVID-19 hit us. But Infor came through. We didn't miss a day. We kept up our project. The big issue that showed up for us was our customers, because they had shut down because of COVID. It was late June, early July, when they decided to come back online and come back to work. So they pushed their shutdown time out to the August/September timeframe. Well that kind of messed us up.
As it was we were able to not only meet our go live by making it cut over on July 13th - we did run parallel on the two systems until the end of July - but we did meet our timeline. Not only did we stay on budget, we actually came in under budget because of the lack of travel and everyone working remotely.
Grisard said that the project went better than he could possibly have hoped for and was a "huge success", but that there were nonetheless some challenges. He explained:
There were several challenges in terms of having to make the system work with our existing programmes. We did have a couple of items that were going to be issues that Infor experts were able to help us understand and help us put some coding in place that allowed the bots to be able to transfer the data back to our local server.
We essentially got out of having to redo all the different programmes by replacing the server with the exact same name that it had before, after we did the go-live, so we didn't have to repoint 300 different systems. They all went to the newly updated server with the old name and IP.
And it helped that training had been carried out prior to the switch over to Infor CloudSuite. Grisard added:
Infor set up three tenants for us - a training tenant, a development tenant and then a production tenant. We had actually had the users training on the training tenant very early on and since a lot of the structure is almost identical to FP5, the training time was almost non-existent. It really went a lot smoother than I expected. And to beat it all, right after we got kicked off with the training in February, COVID-19 hit.
Essentially all of our process after mid-February was done remotely, so that was just amazing that Infor was able to pull together their teams globally and we did a lot of Teams meetings. Adapt and overcome, that's what you've got to do to keep in business.
Planning is essential to the success of any project. Get with your Infor sales person and get the planning process started early. That's going to be key to it. Infor knows how to do it, talk to them, they will get you there.