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The challenge

A recent Markets and Markets research report states that the aircraft cabin interiors market is projected to grow from $17.6B in 2020 to $32.7B by 2025 as air passenger traffic surges and the desire to deliver enhanced travel experiences continues to expand. Poised to help advance the innovation of aircraft cabins in private and commercial planes is Cannon Aircraft Interiors. This modestly sized, but renowned shop in Everett, Washington, has delivered high-quality handcrafted custom interiors to clients for nearly 30 years.

Within the close-knit Cannon team, Thea Larsen, IT Tech at Cannon Aircraft Interiors, wears several hats, including that of IT Tech. She explained, “My background is in web design, administration, and marketing. When I joined Cannon, it was primarily on the manufacturing floor; the opportunity to work with my hands really appealed to me.”

While the company had built an enviable reputation for highly skilled, hand-made craftsmanship, technology and processes were not a primary focus. “Our old workflow involved group knowledge, email, labels and spreadsheets. We knew we needed to establish more consistent processes and apply best practices,” reflected Larsen. “We also needed an easier way to trace source materials to meet regulatory compliance standards.”

ERP systems are invariably very complicated. They can seem intimidating and become overwhelming really quickly, especially in a smaller company like ours where we don’t have a dedicated ERP team. Epicor Kinetic has a more intuitive interface which allows our skilled craftspeople on the shop floor, with varying levels of digital skills, to log data easily so they can focus on what they do best.

In the aerospace industry, material traceability is key. The ability to quickly trace, for example, the fabric that was used in one of their pieces back to the original fabric manufacturer’s lot number allows for swift mitigation and resolution should any issues with it arise.  “Each customer has their own requirements. We provide whatever documentation is required - our own certificates of conformance as well as lot numbers, certifications and performance specs from the material manufacturers - in a shipping packet that gets sent with the order,” added Larsen.

The cloud shrinks IT burden

Cannon’s executive team engaged industry specialist Cre8tive Design & Technology to conduct an extensive evaluation of ERP solutions and decided that the optimal choice was Epicor Kinetic deployed in the cloud.

The Epicor Kinetic screens are a major step-up from the Classic version. The information we want is front and center or added easily.

With her experience in web design and administration, Larsen was the obvious choice to manage the software, and the selection of a native cloud-based solution makes this aspect of her job significantly easier. She said, “Cannon is committed to providing a flexible, healthy work/life balance and Epicor helps us to achieve that. The Epicor Kinetic browser-based access gives us the mobility to easily work remotely and securely. Running in the cloud, with Epicor handling updates and backups, keeps all the day-to-day administration and routine maintenance tasks off my plate so I can focus on other things. When I’m troubleshooting, I often use the browser version to find help articles quickly and easily.”

A workforce-friendly user experience

Another aspect that Larsen particularly values is the Epicor Kinetic UX which delivers an efficient and intuitive user experience. “ERP systems can seem intimidating and become overwhelming really quickly, especially in a smaller company like ours where we don’t have a dedicated ERP team. Epicor Kinetic has a more intuitive interface which allows our skilled craftspeople on the shop floor, with varying levels of digital skills, to log data easily so they can focus on what they do best,” she shared. “The Epicor Kinetic screens are a major step-up from the Classic version. The information we want is front and center or added easily.”

For Larsen, the Epicor Application Studio enables her to personalize screens to make the experience even more streamlined. “Although my coding skills are light, Epicor Application Studio is really simple to use. I can hide buttons and fields that employees don’t need and make the screens they use on a daily basis super clean,” Larsen explained. “The ability for users to personalize their own screens is really valuable and has definite appeal for our power users.”

We’ve seen substantial improvements in job tracking, pipeline visibility, and just knowing what needs to ship and when. We’re now able to provide lead times to our customers with greater confidence.

A further advantage of Epicor Kinetic is the extensive Epicor community and availability of a wide variety of support-related resources. Larsen elaborated, “The EpiUser forum is very active and extremely helpful. The Epicor Kinetic documentation is excellent, growing all the time, and their self-paced training definitely helps flatten the learning curve for anyone new.”

Piloting a smarter future

Within a few months of deploying Epicor Kinetic, Cannon was reaping significant benefits. “We’ve seen substantial improvements in job tracking, pipeline visibility, and just knowing what needs to ship and when.,” Larsen said. “We’re now able to provide lead times to our customers with greater confidence.”

The team also has dramatically improved traceability while simultaneously increasing productivity. Larsen commented, “Now, all the conformance documentation is uploaded into the system. We no longer need to walk out to the shop and track down labels.  Handheld scanners on the shop floor allow us to enter data faster, more easily. Everything that goes into Epicor Kinetic can be easily accessed and then sent to the customer when their order ships.”

The ability for users to personalize their own screens is really valuable and has definite appeal for our power users.

And, as Cannon continues to collect data, patterns are beginning to emerge that will empower the team with relevant, timely information to further optimize the business. “We are gaining new insights into our pricing, how long each piece takes, and how to more efficiently manage re-work,” Larsen explained. “These insights enable us to deliver a higher quality end-product, at a price that is fair to our customers and to Cannon.”

The Epicor Kinetic browser-based access gives us the mobility to easily work remotely and securely. Running in the cloud and being supported by Epicor also keeps all day-to-day administration and routine maintenance tasks off my plate.

Larsen also discovered that the actual process of implementing the Epicor solution delivered unexpected benefits. “The exercise of examining our procedures and understanding what was missing, what we needed to add, and what data should be collected, was very eye-opening. We inventoried materials that hadn’t been counted in years. We realized we needed an ERP system even more than we thought!”

Going forward, Larsen expects that Cannon will leverage data from Epicor Kinetic to drive further improvements in the business. She noted, “Next year will see us creating new processes and continuing to improve existing ones. By refining our lead times and better managing our pipeline we will be able to offer even more value to our customers. We’ve really only just begun!”

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Company Facts

Challenges

  • Cumbersome methods for providing source materials tracing to meet operational and compliance needs
  • Insufficient documented, consistent business processes
  • Limited views of sales pipeline and ability to identify and commit to lead times

Benefits

  • Advanced, easily customizable interface is accessible to all employees, regardless of technology expertise
  • Improved job tracking, pipeline visibility and business-wide alignment to priorities
  • Increased confidence in lead times and capability to deliver certificates of conformance
  • Data-driven process improvements to enhance efficiencies

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