One of the key announcements at PowerPlex, the Plex annual conference, was that of Toyotetsu going live. As a manufacturer in the Toyota supply chain this is a significant announcement for Plex on several fronts. Enterprise Times spoke to Bill Berutti, CEO Plex about it. Beruti commented: “We are excited about them as a customer. They are a really interesting company and doing some interesting things.”
Founded in 1995 Toyotetsu America, Inc (TTAI) forms part of the automotive supply chain for Toyota. It has since expanded and is now a top ten supplier to Toyota and also manufactures parts for Subaru, Nissan, and Mazda. Recently, it went live with Plex Manufacturing cloud at two of its facilities North America. It is planning to go live by 2020 in six more sites across the US, Canada and Mexico. At several of these sites it is replacing Epicor CMS, originally purchased as Solarsoft. The Plex solution includes:
- Manufacturing cloud
- Plex eKanban
- JIT supplier releases with RAN no.
- Ship to sequence
- Toyota shipping confirmation system
According to Berutti, Toyotetsu made the strategic decision to look for a cloud vendor. Berutti added: “They went out to marketplace. They were committed to SaaS and Cloud and they wanted a holistic solution that helps manage the entire business shop floor to top floor.”
Though not confirmed, it seems likely that they chose Plex over Epicor ERP. While both are cloud-based solutions Plex has a history of working closely with auto manufacturers, initially Honda. However, in recent months it has targeted the Toyota supply chain. It recently added certification for the Toyota shipping confirmation system. According to Plex it was one of the first that integrated at the ERP level.
Why so interesting?
For Plex, Toyotetsu provided an ideal organisation to allow them to implement what they see as the ideal solution. Berutti said: “What was interesting for us, they had strong commitment to integration to the shop floor right away. They have gone live with their first plant with a complete integration to the shop floor, to (all) the PLC’s, to 250 work centres.”
Toyotetsu are committed, as one would expect from a member of the Toyota Supply chain, to continuous improvement. Berutti continued: “Why that matters is they are committed to Kanban and different efficiency methodologies. They will have a complete system of record of everything from the shop floor to the top floor inclusive of the PLC’s. This is tied to objectives they have around operational efficiency improvements and quality improvement that they expect to be measurable.”
Toyotetsu will use the Plex Kanban capabilities to automate its own Kanban methodology and deliver visibility of the shop floor to the top floor. As the plants go live it expects every PLC to be connected to the ERP enabling better visibility. That visibility, it believes, will allow them to identify and deliver further improvements.
What was different about Toyotetsu is that they built these improvements into their business case. While vendors will often talk about providing process and quality improvements it is rare to see them qualified in an ERP business case. Berutti explained that Plex may see this approach at other customers where the results are evolved. However Toyotetsu are “achieving it out of the gate. Their commitment to that is emblematic of the idea of connected manufacturing through the pragmatic lens of what is realistic and achievable.”
Donnie Slagle, vice president of Toyotetsu America, Inc. said: “Toyotetsu’s move to the Plex Manufacturing Cloud is a strategic program to establish the technology foundation for our company’s strategic growth. Plex uniquely provides a single system of record for everything from enterprise quality to operational efficiency, along with better insight into every aspect of manufacturing. Plex offers a vital set of capabilities for meeting our long-term business goals. We want to push the limits of what it means to be a truly connected manufacturer, realizing our vision to be the leader in smart manufacturing.”
This is not just a strategic move for Toyotetsu though. ET asked Berutti whether Plex hopes to leverage the Toyota certifications and knowledge elsewhere. Berutti replied: “Yes we do. We have become the preferred partner to their supply chain for being able to support these standards. We are getting much more planful about it. Our Sales and Marketing operation is going to do a directed campaign towards their supply chain. We have very similar characteristics that supports Honda’s requirements.”
That is also good news for the Plex ecosystem, notably Plante Moran, a Plex global premier partner that Toyotetsu selected to lead the implementation. Plante Moran has more than 3,000 employees across the globe and has delivered Plex solutions to several automobile supply chain manufacturers.
Yuzo Suzuki, Plante Moran principal and project manager commented: “I am extremely excited to be working with the Toyotetsu team members who live by the Toyota Production System (TPS) principles. This Plex implementation project is a strategic opportunity to seek true integration between TPS and cloud technology.”
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
Toyotetsu is replacing an on-premises ERP solution with a SaaS based solution. Until recently, manufacturers have been hesitant about adopting the cloud. That may have limited the growth of companies such as Plex and Rootstock, pure cloud vendors. That mood is changing, not just in the US but also abroad. Under Berutti’s leadership Plex seems to have found a resurgence of energy to attack that, now very accessible, market.
Enterprise Times asked Berutti whether closer ties to the Toyota supply chain will help with international expansion. He replied: “Yes- it will help us. Plex is investing more in being international ready. That is everything from product, including localisation and internationalisation. We already support languages in many countries we are going to get more focused on this. We have also opened an office in Prague, we are building out a services ecosystem there. You will continue to see us roll into geographies with a local presence. Now we have a direct presence in Europe and you will see us continue to expand.”
Expansion in Asia is likely to follow, probably in 2020. Though Berutti was unable to confirm whether that expansion would happen in Japan, China or elsewhere. Plex already has some customers in Asia and an office in India, but one suspects it will choose a location one it has a foothold in a market there.
Toyotetsu was on stage and once it has rolled out its solutions it will be an impressive customer advocate for Plex across the automotive manufacturing sector.