Four words sum up how Nabeel Mahmood, CIO of Maxco Supply, describes the search for a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to take the Parlier, California-based packaging company into the future:
Extensive, cumbersome and extremely tiring.
Still, he says, he’s very happy with the decision that was finally arrived at – but first, a bit of background.
The history of Maxco dates back over 45 years. While still a student at California State University Fresno, founder and CEO Max Flaming got his start in packaging by glueing labels onto wooden boxes – at that time, the container of choice for the fruit industry. In 1972, he founded Maxco Supply, which has been providing packaging to the fresh food industry ever since.
But until recently, the company was struggling along on an elderly Oracle system that had been in place some 27 years. As CIO, Mahmood was finding it hard to get support for that system, or the resources to code it on an ongoing basis, he says:
The system basically lacks functionality. It’s hard to use. It’s slower. And it doesn’t prepare us for the twenty-first century.
To replace it, Maxco has selected Infor M3 for ERP to manage core manufacturing and distribution processes, as well as Infor Human Capital Management (HCM); Workforce Management (WFM) and Expense Management (XM). And that decision, as Mahmood explains it, was a big joint effort.
From the start, Mahmood says, he felt that this wasn’t his decision to make, but one for his colleagues in the business that would be using the system on a day-to-day basis. For that reason, there was internal engagement between IT and every Maxco business unit all along the way:
This was never going to be a Nabeel decision. It just shouldn’t be a CIO decision. Me and my team are the last people who will use this new system - we don’t get involved in manufacturing, after all.
So every single business unit manager had a say in this and that’s quite appropriate, because the efficiency gains they’ll see, the fact that they’ll have KPIs for their team, the fact that they’ll have data to back up their requests for new resources - these are things that directly affect them and their work. It will change the conversations they have and the dynamic of those conversations. It’s about helping them to make smarter decisions. It will redefine the whole business.
Naturally, it will still fall to Mahmood and his team to implement that software over the next year or so and to get it to fit with some overarching digital transformation goals at the company. These fall into three broad categories: intelligence, automation and sustainability.
On intelligence, Mahmood’s goal is to get better data in front of everyone in the business – and it must be exactly the same data, viewed through a single ‘pane of glass’ and, wherever possible, delivered in real time:
It’s about increasing the level of business intelligence at Maxco that lies at the fingertips of all the managers and executives within our organization. So whether that’s around expanding our verticals, our product portfolios, our services and offerings or investing in R&D, all that becomes much simpler when you have trusted metrics in front of you and are sharing them will colleagues who have the same metrics, too.
On automation, he comments that change is coming to the whole manufacturing sector, primarily in the form of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and connected machinery on plant floors. A new system will help Maxco move steadily in that direction, he says:
You know, we are in the day and age where we absolutely need to know the who, what, where, when and how of manufacturing and to get to the root cause of issues on a real-time basis. Creating a new level of intelligence with business automation for me basically means creating efficiency gains, having the ability to run 24/7/365, reducing the potential of human errors and maximizing the potential of the millions of dollars we've spent on machines, so that the machines are doing the work, and not humans.
Finally, on sustainability, Maxco Supply has a number of goals, but perhaps the key one is winning LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, alongside more generally reducing the company’s overall carbon footprint. Having reliable sources of data and being able to produce accurate reports, Mahmood suggests, will enable Maxco to measure its progress in this regard and provide evidence of improvements where needed.
The company is in the process of rolling out Infor now and Mahmood is looking forward to leading the charge, not to mention seeing the results:
We’ll all be making decisions faster, quicker and smarter. I can’t think of any better reason to move forward with new technology.