United Tube Corporation, a recognized leader in the manufacture of welded steel mechanical tubing, has just completed a successful implementation of Steel Viking Enterprise Software developed by Fidelis Partners, Inc.
“With Steel Viking, United Tube has made a major technology leap. From sales to manufacturing and inventory control to shipping and invoicing, the software is now an integral part of our day to day operations.” says Frank Sadowski, United Tube President.
Quote to Order
United Tube prides itself on customer service, including timely, professional response to customer requests. Prior to the Steel Viking implementation, the company’s quoting and ordering system was well constructed, but was manual in nature. The system implementation strived to automate the existing process, with minor modifications to improve the flow of information within the company and to the customer.
Tim Gaertner of United Tube’s Sales Department speaks to how the software has helped the quoting and ordering processes. “Stepping away from an established mechanical means of conducting our daily business, I am thrilled with how Steel Viking is able to mirror our previous steps. One might categorize our Sales Department as relatively ‘non computer skilled’. I am very pleased with how user friendly this software is. This old dog learned a new trick. I absolutely love the software.”
For the quoting and ordering workflow, the Steel Viking software was enhanced to allow for efficient, electronic quote entry and delivery to the customer. Once accepted by the customer, the workflow supports automated credit approval, electronic customer acknowledgements, and precise communication of the future workload to the Manufacturing Department.
“Fidelis put forth a truly professional effort in tailoring Steel Viking to accommodate our needs,” says Jack Bretz, United Tube’s Vice President of Sales. “Through the entire process the interaction with our team was excellent, resulting in a user friendly program which has reduced our procedure time drastically. Fidelis’ dedication is greatly appreciated.”
Manufacturing and Inventory Control
United Tube’s Manufacturing Department required vision to future production and delivery schedules from both short term and long term perspectives. The Steel Viking Scheduling module allows Manufacturing to pull scheduling reports for any time period or to generate its own schedule using a flexible scheduling extract. Manufacturing is also automatically informed of any customer order changes once a schedule has been cast.
In terms of daily operations, manufacturing management had been spending significant time preparing shop floor paperwork, both for the United Tube mill and for secondary operations. The software now allows manufacturing to generate the full set of shop instructions systematically from information provided by Sales, including all special instructions, with no additional data entry required.
According to Dave Collins, United Tube’s Plant Manager, “The change to Steel Viking has been a success. We wanted a system that would replace the old paper system, while not changing our core processes. Overall, the system increases our efficiency by ease of information flow, as well as reducing redundant operations. The system adaptations that were made to develop a production scheduling extract exceeded my expectations. It allows me to sort data in a number of different ways. It is both easy and convenient to use.”
Regarding inventory management, United Tube clearly understands the importance of raw material inventory control to its bottom line. The system allows it to track steel from the point of receipt, through the slitting process, to the direct usage of slit coils on production shop orders. This level of tracking ensures pinpoint accuracy of inventory at any point in time and traceability of finished goods back to the raw material heat number, a key requirement in the tubing industry.
Shipping and Invoicing
United Tube now performs the entire shipping and invoicing function through Steel Viking, reusing data entered upstream in the sales and production processes to ease the administrative burden.
“Before we installed the new software, we were entering the same information in multiple places,” says President Frank Sadowski. “Now, information is entered once and used across our entire workflow. This has improved our internal efficiency and the accuracy of information.”
In addition to the automatic generation of shipping and invoicing documents to United Tube’s direct specifications, Steel Viking also automated the generation of customer required material certifications and the passing of invoices to the company’s general ledger software.
Patti McCormick, United Tube Office Manager, is heavily involved in the shipping and invoicing processes. According to McCormick, “Steel Viking software has enabled us to meet the demands of increased business recordkeeping. Our daily output of data was becoming difficult to achieve. I didn’t realize the extent to which software could be adjusted to meet our specific needs. Fidelis was exceptional in tailoring this system to meet our individual requirements. Having all this information at our fingertips saves time and money.”
According to Sadowski, “Overall, I am pleased with how this implementation has played out. From the Discovery process through to system conversion and training, Fidelis helped us to formulate a clear vision for our business software and then worked closely with us to realize that vision.”
“At United Tube, we have an established reputation for quality service and innovation to our customer. Steel Viking has enhanced our ability to serve our customers and will position us to continue doing so well into the future. We look forward to growing the software with our business.”
United Tube Implements Plant Floor Bar Coding with Steel Viking Software
May 12, 2010 (Medina, OH) – United Tube Corporation, a recognized leader in the manufacture of welded steel mechanical tubing, has just completed a successful plant floor automation initiative using Steel Viking Enterprise Software developed by Fidelis Partners, Inc.
“Our recent plant floor software extensions save our company countless hours in the areas of data entry and product labeling.”, says Frank Sadowski, United Tube President.
United Tube implemented Steel Viking software for its entire operation in 2009. This included detailed tracking of its raw material, work in process, and finished goods inventories. With the completion of that base implementation, Mr. Sadowski saw opportunities to leverage the software to streamline the capture of data and further use the data throughout the plant.
For its initial venture into plant floor automation, United Tube concentrated on two projects:
1) The use of bar code technology to record steel usage against production shop orders.
2) The full labeling of finished goods inventory, including backward traceability.
“We knew up front that system ease of use was critically important.”, according to David Collins, Plant Manager. “Our mill operators and raw materials handlers have little computer experience and thus we designed the user interface to minimize keystrokes and complexity.
“For the steel usage project, Fidelis worked with United Tube to implement a solution that incorporates bar codes for all raw material steel coils and shop order paperwork. Materials handlers now use bar code scanners to connect raw material items to the production shop orders on which they are used.
According to Mr. Sadowski, “We had been recording the individual steel coil usages against production shop orders on paper and then keying them into the system the next day. While this achieved pinpoint accuracy to the coil level, it required double entry – material handlers recording the data on paper and the front office then keying the same data. Now, with a simple swipe of a bar code scanner against the coil label and then against the shop order paperwork, the transaction is complete – and in real time.
“For the finished goods labeling project, Fidelis and United Tube collaboratively detailed all possible data fields of importance for the finished goods label. With a few clicks from the mill operator, the software now collects this information from various upstream points in the process and prints it on the finished goods labels for the customer.
United Tube’s production staff embraced the solution and took to it quickly. “Our operators and materials handlers climbed the learning curve within a few days.”, says Mr. Collins. “They even suggested additional software adjustments to fit the way they process material. The time savings are enormous. As just one example, our second shift supervisor estimates that he saves 4-6 hours per week not having to manually label finished product.”
“This project was a no-brainer for us.”, says Mr. Sadowski. “With one focused effort, we have accomplished several objectives, including significantly reduced data entry, more accurate data capture, and more timely information.”