Belden Brick Company
Case study: Belden Brick Company
Industry: Manufacturing & Distribution
About the company
The Belden Brick Company manufactures approximately 225,000,000 bricks annually. Acknowledged as the industry's quality leader, especially in architectural brick for residential and commercial use, Belden operates seven plants in Ohio and the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the U.S. It also operates 160 wells producing natural gas used in the brick manufacturing process. Though Belden was founded in 1885, there is nothing antique about its competitive spirit. The company’s website puts it best: “Brick may be as old as civilization, but brick companies aren't. The challenge over the years has been (and always will be) to respond to the times while maintaining focus on the qualities that are immutable, both in the product and the company itself.” Belden understands the role information technology can play in meeting that challenge.
When Belden acquired Redland Brick Co. in 1996, the companies standardized on SSA Global’s MK ERP system until 2006, when Infor™ acquired SSA and began offering the web-based Infor ERP LN solution. The solution is built on Infor’s open SOA (service-oriented architecture) and offers extensive lean manufacturing functionality. Belden knew it was time for a change. “Since it appeared that LN was going to be the ‘future,’ we asked whether we should stick with MK or go to another application,” says Jeff Adams, CIO for both Belden and its Redland Brick subsidiary. “We spent some time evaluating what made the most sense. We liked the functionality we saw in LN.”
Specifically, the company was impressed by the filtering functionality of Infor ERP LN and other features that made it easier for users to get the data they needed. The company chose to implement the open-platform Infor ERP LN on Microsoft® Windows® and SQL Server. In a little over a year, the implementation was completed at Redland, and at the Belden operations six months later. But Infor ERP LN began impressing Adams and his team long before implementation was complete.
Getting business specific
The Redland implementation involved converting customer numbers to a new system, though item codes stayed as they were. On the Belden side, however, executives were dissatisfied with the old item coding structure and wanted a change that Infor’s migration toolkit handled beautifully. “We were able to rectify the shortcomings of the old item coding structure by going through the migration with the migration toolkit,” says Adams. As a result, about 9,000 item codes were deactivated and 9,000 more were brought into the Infor ERP LN system. “Everything went exactly as it was supposed to. The migrated orders tied to the units, and the general ledger tied to the penny. I was very impressed with that.” The combined companies also had total inventory on hand consisting of approximately 70 million units numbered with item lots and location. It all migrated successfully, too.
Since implementation, Adams sees important benefits in the system’s user interfaces alone. “The standard interface that comes with the system isn’t fancy, but it is
very effective, and the interface has helped our users be more efficient in getting to the data they need. Our focus is to get as much power into our users’ hands as we can,
and LN is giving us a better opportunity to do that.”
The filtering functionality of Infor ERP LN is also key. “Users such as production managers and salespeople can create their own filters for each screen, so they can focus on the data that is important to them,” says Adams. “For example, if they want to focus on a certain size, color, or shape of brick, they can do that as they look down through their inventory.” The functionality makes it easier for users to build uniform packages of brick from a wide array of loose inventory in various sizes, colors, and shades—helping the company maintain its long-standing reputation for quality and consistency.
Production managers appreciate having only one transaction screen for analyzing the quantity of scrap produced on a production run and why it occurred. Previously they had to click through several screens to get the information they needed in their efforts to reduce scrap production. Salespeople are using the Infor ERP LN system to answer customer questions quickly. And nearly 750 individuals in Belden’s base of approximately 250 dealers and distributor customers have convenient access to their data via Infor ERP LN and Belden’s extranet. Customers can look up the status of their open orders, their delivered orders, their invoices, and their acknowledgments. They also can be notified whenever Belden issues a bill of lading that pertains to them—with a
PDF copy of the paperwork—helping them stay on top of delivery status. “With Infor ERP LN, everyone has benefited in terms of data visibility,” says Adams.
Benifits & Results
Ramp-up time for users to get up and running in Infor ERP LN was half the time required for the legacy SSA Global MK system. And though the company has not tried to measure it, Adams says he knows the way employees use the screens in Infor ERP LN is more efficient and cost-effective. “It’s hard to quantify data accessibility,” he says. “Nevertheless, it’s clear that our people are using the system to good advantage.” He cites an example of the way plant managers can easily navigate between financial statements, the general ledger, and the transaction that generated a cost. “There is great drill-down functionality from the finance side to the source transaction, and we haven’t had that before,” he says.
“Even though brick-making has been around since the dawn of civilization, technology still moves forward and the competitive landscape continues to change,” he says. “At the end of the day, how well we serve our customers is going to continue to be Belden’s competitive advantage. LN is setting the foundation for the future, helping us drive cost reduction, minimize scrap, and identify new opportunities.”