Systel Inc. Case Study by Exact MAX ERP
The Company: About Systel Inc.
For over 20 years, Vimal Kothari, founder, and president of Systel, Inc. has been embarking on a vision. His vision has resulted in an organization that enjoys the reputation of being a worldwide leader in rugged design and custom integration of industrial computers and displays. Systel products fall into one of two categories: the “Extreme Industrial Chassis,” which is designed according to stringent industry standards, and the “Industrial Chassis” which is designed using selected advantages. All systems are meticulously designed and go through rigorous testing and review before they are certified and introduced into the marketplace. It’s this proprietary process and technology, explains Kothari, which separates Systel from its competitors.
The Situation: Increasing Demands
Exact Software has helped Systel, Inc. transform its vision into reality. When implemented in the late 1990s, Exact’s MAX and Synergy modules helped Systel meet increased customer capacity and, most recently, achieve ISO 9001 Certification. Kothari founded Systel, Inc. in Texas in 1988. As his business grew, so did its need for an ERP system to manage the increasing demands of back office transactions and production data. By 1996, Systel’s customer base was growing quickly and its business processes were unable to keep pace. It was clear the company’s inability to maintain accurate business data was particularly hindered by the fact it was operating on multiple, homegrown databases. As a result, sales and service began to suffer. Data management was becoming unreliable since Systel’s records required too much manual maintenance. So, it did not take long for Kothari to realize that if Systel was to remain competitive, the company’s technology infrastructure had to catch up sooner rather than later.
The Solution: MAX ERP
Exact MAX and Exact Synergy provided Systel with the structure, integration, and automation it needed to deliver its innovative solutions to its customers. MAX provided the company with a back-office business management tool that helped capture, plan, and execute the important customer orders that drive business. Synergy streamlined Systel’s business processes by providing a web-based, single-source platform to capture and share important business knowledge.
MAX also provided an affordable, scalable ERP solution that helped Systel transition from a small service-based consulting firm to a growing product-based business. Today, all company information is located in a single database, eliminating the ineffective multiple homegrown databases. With the ability to share information between MAX and Synergy, Systel found itself with a business management solution that was flexible and robust enough to grow with the company.
Additional challenges lay ahead. Fortunately, Kothari’s forward-thinking decision to implement an automated ERP system had already established the foundation for his next business challenge.
The Results: MAX ERP Implementation Benefits
As Systel and its use of business technology grew, so did the pressure to comply with new business standardization as developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Leaders at all levels in the organization were struggling to meet new and specific business requirements, not to mention a new set of compliance laws and regulations that were adding layers of complexity to business conditions. A combination of factors started driving Systel’s pursuit of ISO Certification 9001, which is an internationally recognized set of standards for quality management.
Pursuing such certification would enable Systel to meet new vendor requirements, fuel additional growth, and meet the obligation to adhere to standards driving the marketplace. Kothari knew that although the many compliance requirements were voluntary, more and more businesses were quickly using the standard as a means of determining the quality of products and services and in selecting those products and services. Yet again, Kothari found his company at the crossroads of growth. Fortunately, his experience with Exact’s MAX and Synergy was beginning to pay off in ways he had not quite visualized in 1996. “Quite frankly,” he reflects, “I did not fully understand the capabilities of this software at first.”
Although MAX and Synergy would not “make” the company ISO compliant, they would streamline the pathway to achieving such compliance. Because the international standards reach far beyond quality management and data auditing, explains Kothari, they affect the entire business environment from customer management to vendor processes to technical standards to workflow controls. Since each of these business components is integrated within the organization, a compliance strategy typically becomes a complex, time-consuming, and expensive endeavor not only does the corporate infrastructure and culture require change, but the behavior of the business must be altered. Kothari says that with increased business expectations to meet many of the ISO compliance requirements, he first asked two questions, ‘Could our business comply, and would this change add value to our business?’ Intuitively, he knew Systel could comply with certification standards because of the technology structure already in place with MAX and Synergy. Adds Kothari, “I knew, of course, there would be challenges, but I was confident that because of our secure framework of business information, we could begin the process of pursuing ISO 9001 certification, which would definitely add value to our business.”
In the meantime, the marketplace was becoming more quality-focused. A new customer expectation was emerging, and customers wanted evidence that Systel products adhered to ISO standards and could meet their business needs. Through the pursuit of such certification, Systel would discover strengths and improvement opportunities while demonstrating its commitment to quality and customer satisfaction, says Kothari. “An important aspect of ISO certification is that with it, our company immediately gains credibility, especially in the eyes of potential customers who may not know us,” explains Kothari. “Being certified is an important key in demonstrating our organization’s commitment to customers and quality.” To begin the work of certifying its systems and processes, Systel needed a secure framework of core business information that could be easily accessed. MAX and Synergy provided that framework and provided what Kothari describes as a “very effective and efficient means” of achieving certification. For many businesses, the inability to do this becomes a barrier to full compliance or at best, means a long road toward certification. But because Systel runs on Exact Software, it was able to immediately begin the task of achieving compliance standards and within approximately one and one-half years became ISO certified.
With Exact Software at the hub of its business, Systel was able to successfully accomplish its compliance goals in the following key areas:
1. Automate workflow processes, documents, and materials required to begin the compliance process, while ensuring that these components are centralized, integrated, and made visible to the organization, the supplier, and the customer.
2. Confront the resource challenges that organizations experience with tools and training that give employees the means to perform their jobs. Those tools must be available at all levels and across all departments to guarantee continuous improvement.
3. Ensure that nonconformances are identified, tracked, and stored properly while allowing stakeholders, including customers and suppliers, to initiate the appropriate corrective action
While Exact MAX and Synergy did not make Systel ISO 9001 compliant, the products certainly provided a strong and seamless foundation for the many hours of time and energy it took Systel employees to achieve the certification Had it not been for Exact Software, says Kothari, pursuing the certification certainly would have been far more time-consuming. An old saying acknowledges that “time is money.” For Systel, money well spent over 10 years ago saved time in the company’s recent pursuit of business-critical certification. It also continues to play an important part in maintaining certification. To maintain its ISO 9001 certification, Systel is audited every six months. During the audit, auditors will examine a variety of records. A process that once might have been daunting is easy with Exact Software in place, says Kothari. Synergy easily and quickly accesses whatever records or information the auditors want. “With Synergy it is very easy to slice and dice data the auditors ask for,” says Kothari. “Instead of digging through piles of paperwork to extract such information, the software does all the work. As a result, we are always ready for an audit!”
Finally, Exact Software has been such an effective solution for Systel that Kothari can focus more on his growing business. “With MAX and Synergy in place, all I have to do now is manage the business side and focus on Systel’s core competencies.”