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ERPs Tricky for Converters

Product Focus

Most consumers are skeptical when they hear the sales pitch "one size fits all." However, within the converting industry, many operations are falling into the one-size-fits-all trap when it’s time to purchase a Management Information System, especially the popular Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.

"[In the converting industry] there are very few examples of fully implemented ERP technology that are done successfully," explains Stan Usry, product manager for packaging solutions at Tectura, Kennesaw, GA ("Some companies we go into are quite large and have spent millions of dollars on Tier One enterprise resource planning software…and when we get in there and see what they’ve got going, maybe just the core financials are up and they’re running the rest of the company on spreadsheets or some old legacy application written 20 years ago that doesn’t really fit the way they’re doing business today."

Jacob Aharon, CEO at PlastiSoft Corp. (, contends there are only a handful of ERP systems suitable for a converting operation. Purchasing a system based on manufacturing, rather than converting, is a costly mistake converters don’t want to make.

"One Illinois company spent $2 million on a software system two years ago. After they implemented it, they found it was no good. They couldn’t use it because it didn’t have 90% of the requirements they [needed]," Aharon says. "Converters work in a very different manner than most other manufacturing companies. They are continuous processors…so their units of measurement are extremely different and the requirements are extremely different from someone who manufacturers chairs or televisions."

"The main thing is understanding that the standard management information system will not work for converters without a lot of modifications," Usry warns. "Make sure you can dig down deeper when you buy one of these products. [Vendors] know how to make it look like it can fit."

Companies selling standard ERP packages to converters aren’t tricksters, Usry explains; rather they tend to oversimplify the converting industry. "I don’t think there is an intent on their part to really pull a fast one. It’s just a tough industry. You look at a lot of converters, and every item they run is unique. [Their] manufacturing process is half commercial printing and half a process industry."

To avoid this common pitfall, both Aharon and Usry recommend converters do a trial run of the proposed software package.

"Don’t just have a sales rep come to you and show you a couple of screens. Run through it on 10, 15, or 20 of your products," says Aharon.

"It’s expected that you would have to pay some costs associated with doing one of these pilots, but you shouldn’t have to make a commitment to purchase the software. And if the vendor won’t do a pilot, then you should walk, and find someone else who will," Usry adds.

In addition to ensuring the ERP you’re considering is right for your converting operation, Dirk Pastoor, sales manager for Kiwiplan (, says converters must determine the direction of the converting industry itself and their place in it. "Use the opportunity not only to replicate or streamline a process you currently have in place…but begin to evaluate what [you] could be doing, what are best practices, and what direction management or manufacturing is going. That’s when the selection of a system or software can begin to meet your needs."

Pastoor also contends it’s the ability of today’s management information systems to fully integrate a converter’s facility that can make ERP systems attractive and effective.

"The backbone to all of this is the flow of information that needs to occur in a modern manufacturing environment. Use people to oversee the process, but let the power of the system automate as much as possible, so the humans can focus on quality and [customer] relation issues."

Adds Aharon, ten years ago a manager would have to look through 20 or 30 reports to see what was happening. Today, you can see the entire company and how it works on one screen.

Once you find an ERP that fits your converting operation, the possibilites are endless.

See also our February What’s New Products and Narrow Web What’s Newpages.

Restrictions of time and space limit the number of companies, products, and trends that we can discuss in these reports. For additional information, see PFFC’s features and departments each month, consult the June Buyers Guide, and check our online archives.

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