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The Challenge

Respirators. In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, respirators may have been the most sought-after machines on the planet. Matching the ballooning demand was a Herculean task.

The team at Midwest Precisions Molding (MPM Plastics) certainly did its part.

A 40-plus-year-old Wisconsin-based plastic injection molding company, MPM Plastics produces parts for the medical industry—including ventilators, IV distribution systems, EKG machines and hospital beds—as well as for the automotive, food, water filtration and telecommunications industries.

The company had tried a handful of ERP systems over the years. Unfortunately, all were disappointing experiences. Patrick Austin, Chief Financial Officer at MPM Plastics admitted, “One of our companies even had a DOS-based program and was backing up on floppy disks. As we used different options, nothing was appropriate for our business. Our biggest need was to get information more quickly, but most of the systems required a lot of manipulation in order to get the right data in a usable format.”

Timing Is Everything

In 2019, MPM Plastics deployed Epicor Kinetic and Epicor Advanced MES.

Austin shared, “Having Epicor Advanced MES in place prior to the pandemic was a tremendous help. Our medical customers needed orders moved up, quantities increased, and they needed to know when we could deliver their parts. With Epicor Advanced MES, we could literally drop in a part and accurately predict when the job would finish.”

With the dramatic uptick in medical component orders, MPM Plastics required an unprecedented level of agility. “Epicor Advanced MES made it so much easier for us to re-prioritize jobs and move them around to different machines. We would have really struggled and staying on top of the demand would have been extremely difficult without Epicor in our shop,” he noted.

Tanya Austin, systems administrator commented, “The implementation was very smooth, the friendly Epicor UX is much easier to train on, and the Epicor User Help Forum (a large community for peer-to-peer best practices sharing) has been very valuable.”

Visibility Stimulates Productivity

We used to run reports using Excel spreadsheets, a time-consuming task. Now, we don’t have to rely on Excel, and if we do want to export into it, Epicor makes it much faster and easier.

As Epicor Advanced MES captures data directly from machines and operators to deliver real-time production metrics and analytics, multiple MPM Plastics departments can now easily see schedules. Patrick Austin observed, “I can be on the phone with a customer and have all the information about their job at my fingertips.”

Tanya Austin explained, “We used to run reports using Excel spreadsheets, a time-consuming task. Now, we don’t have to rely on Excel, and if we do want to export into it, Epicor makes it much faster and easier.”

Additionally, leadership is using data from the system to better understand operator efficiencies such as run rate and impact on quality. On the shop floor, operators track jobs and capture data on tablets. Dashboards provide information on machine status and enable proactive maintenance, minimizing unplanned downtime.

While the lack of data from previous systems means there is no baseline to compare to, Patrick Austin disclosed, “Epicor is enabling us to make better decisions and we have easily seen a 20%+ boost in efficiencies as a result.”

Case-in-point: “Each job requires a different tool. So, when there are several smaller jobs, we can lose several hours each time the tool needs to be changed out of a press,” he explained. “With data from Epicor Advanced MES, we are able to maximize machine utilization, keeping a tool in the machine longer, and boosting productivity.”

He cited another tangible example. Injection molding machines have anywhere from one to 100 or more cavities that hold the mold. Patrick Austin highlighted, “Epicor Advanced MES gives us greatly improved data that enables us to see where we might create multiple cavities. If we can have two where there was just one, we immediately double the volume we can produce in a certain amount of time. Our machine utilization is excellent and improves our ROI.”

Tanya Austin added that she values the automation and integration of Epicor QuickShip, imparting, “I also appreciate the ease and efficiency of Epicor QuickShip for providing carrier labels and packing slips with tracking numbers. It eliminates extra steps and everything is accessible.”

Metrics to Boast About

Today, every customer wants as many parts as quickly as possible. Many of our installed base customers have increased their volume from 15% to as much as 30%. We grew overall by 40% in 2021 and are already on track to increase by 70% in 2022. Epicor Advanced MES definitely contributed to that success.

Directly linked to the increased visibility and efficiencies, MPM Plastics has achieved enviable growth. Patrick Austin elaborated, “Today, every customer wants as many parts as quickly as possible. Many of our installed base customers have increased their volume from 15% to as much as 30%. We grew overall by 40% in 2021 and are already on track to increase by 70% in 2022. Epicor Advanced MES has definitely contributed to that success.”

Of course, one drawback of rapid growth is stretched-thin resources. Patrick Austin divulged, “We haven’t really been able to explore all that’s possible with Epicor. We are still learning what we can do.”

“The number of employees at MPM Plastics has expanded from 45 to 70 over the past two years,” he remarked. “We’ve also been hiring a few key roles—a director of quality, an operations manager and a controller—and expect that with those positions filled, we’ll deploy other Epicor modules to improve our proactivity and further enhance decision-making, such as project management, tooling and capturing accurate costs.”

Company Facts

  • Location: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
  • Specialist Industry: Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing
  • Website:  www.mpmplastics.com

Challenges

  • Obsolete systems and lack of business insight
  • Inability to keep pace with booming demand
  • Untapped resource efficiencies

Benefits

  • 20%+ productivity boost
  • Supported 70%+ volume increase
  • Real-time, actionable operational insights

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