Inventory control and management are vital to any business’s success, acting as the foundation for efficient operations and overall profitability. For manufacturers specifically, inventory represents a substantial investment, tying up valuable resources and storage space – not to mention the staff required to manage what goes in and what goes out. Maintaining optimal inventory levels is crucial, enabling manufacturers to fulfill customer commitments and efficiently carry out their core functions.
Inventory control is a core part of Virtek Vision’s customer-centric approach, and key to maintaining a competitive edge and a strong bottom line. Founded in 1986 in Waterloo, Ont., the company produces more than 1,000 precision laser projectors yearly, with the help of about 100 employees worldwide. About 50 per cent of Virtek Vision’s business is supplying laser projection parts and equipment to the aerospace industry, but the company also deals with construction, industrial fabrication, modular building, renewable energy and automotive verticals.
Another way that Virtek Vision meets the complex needs of their many high-profile clients, including top OEM aerospace manufacturers, Formula One, and large industrial fabricators, is with research and development, says Dietmar Wennemer, CEO. “A large percentage of our revenue goes back into technology that is helping our customers to produce their products,” Wennemer says, underscoring the importance of improved productivity and customer satisfaction. The intricate nature of Virtek Vision’s products requires the company’s staff to be well-versed in advanced engineering, with knowledge that trickles down into a positive user experience.
In pursuit of growth With the constant push toward increased efficiencies, Wennemer says the company recognized a need for a holistic inventory management system. Facing challenges with an outdated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and the need for better management and cost control, Virtek Vision sought out a new “There were too many manual process steps that were challenging because failures happened,” Wennemer says of their previous system that had become obsolete. “We had a lot of inventory counting steps that were costing us a day of downtime every month,” he adds.
In searching for a new ERP, the company prioritized a complete management solution, including hardware manufacturing, and tools to support inventory control and work orders. Planning, scheduling, licensing and supply chain management tools were of interest, too, Wennemer says. “The process was mainly driven by finance and operations, as well as sales, as we wanted to have a proper sales configurator and system,” he adds, noting the goal of tracking all items moved in and out of the warehouse through an ERP and avoiding manually counting things. “It was important that our manufacturing work was flawless, and that we have proper cost control . . . and real-time tracking.”
Evaluations started in spring 2022, and after selecting Epicor’s Kinetic cloud-based ERP, Virtek Vision worked with Six S Partners to successfully implement and deploy Kinetic. Located a short distance from Virtek Vision’s headquarters, Six S is a valuable partner for Virtek Vision.
“Their consultants and team could be on-site to help train our team, especially on the operation side,” Wennemer says of the changes in process. “When issues came up, the team was available to support us and [resolve] them.”
With an intuitive and configurable user experience, complete with learning tools embedded into the platform, Kinetic allows Virtek Vision’s team to enable real-time inventory visibility, and monitor the ripple effects that come with changes.
“If there are slight modifications to an order, we know how it impacts labor,” Wennemer says, noting how often hidden costs can creep in. “Now, when a work order is closed, we immediately know how many hours were consumed by the product.”
And, as Wennemer notes, the capability of connecting different sectors of their business, from finance and administration to the sales and service teams, including the platform’s integration with Salesforce, reduces manual errors and allows for greater efficiencies.
“I’m a big fan of automation,” he says. “If there is never a manual input entry in the system, [fewer] errors are happening, and that was the direction for the team.”
Fine-tuning for the future Wennemer says the team is continuing to learn the system, and further improvements are implemented each day. Customizable dashboards allow the appropriate members of different departments to create the value and reports that are needed. Moving forward, processes will be adjusted and the Virtek Vision team will analyze the data provided by Kinetic, before using it to make decisions on the manufacturing floor.
The company is also investing in a vertical lift system, which Wennemer says will be tightly integrated with Kinetic to further improve inventory data and reduce counting hours, ultimately giving Virtek Vision’s key decision-makers better visibility into overall costs and profitability.
“Streamlining inventory management is so important,” Wennemer says, noting the high cost of some parts and components that Virtek Vision uses. “If it’s controlled by a system you can trust, that’s where the benefit is.”