After more than 30 years' experience in the IT world, Brad Knilans pretty much knows what he wants from ERP software.
As IT manager for Long Lake, Minnesota-based JEM Technical, Brad needs a solution that will help him and the rest of the management team run the business on their terms, rather than having to run it the way the software wants them to.
He wants a platform that will allow his company to scale up in good times and scale down in leaner times and one that will help them reschedule production quickly and easily when the situation demands.
He also wants value and confidence that the company behind his ERP solution is looking to the future. The company must take his program in the right direction as the pace of change in technology continues to accelerate.
The good news for Brad and the rest of the JEM Technical team is that M1® software from ECi delivers all that and then some!
What makes M1 so special? Customization.
JEM Technical has been operating under M1 since the beginning of 2004 and, says Brad, it's become a key strategic resource.
"M1 is our major business tool," he says. "There are a lot of programs out there for mid-size manufacturers like us, but there's no doubt in my mind that M1 is by far the best in class for our particular needs."
What makes M1 so special? In a word, says Brad, customization.
JEM Technical is not your typical mid-size manufacturer by any measure. The company started life in 1984 as a manufacturers' rep firm, marketing fluid power products in the Upper Midwest, with an emphasis on hydraulic valves.
Two years later, JEM moved into distribution, offering a broad range of fluid power products and adding several instrumentation lines.
The company didn't even venture into manufacturing until 1995. But today, that side of the business accounts for the lion's share of revenue-some 85%-with distribution generating the balance.
On the manufacturing side, JEM positions itself as a one-stop resource for custom-engineered valves and manifolds, with the ability to take a project from initial concept all the way through to the finished product.
The company operates out of a 30,000-square-foot facility just outside of Minneapolis that houses state-of-the-art machinery and quality assembly. Their production is ISO 9001 certified and their staff of just over 90 includes design, engineering and production experts who are driven by a fierce commitment to quality and a culture that sets responsiveness to the customer at a premium.
It's a complex business model but one that pays off handsomely, if JEM's account base offers any indication. Names like Toro, Bobcat, Loram and Caterpillar testify to the company's ability to deliver quality and value to the most demanding customers.
How does M1 fit into all this?
"M1 lets us fit the software to our business rather than the other way around and that, to me, is a big advantage," says Brad. "There's not a single module we use that we haven't customized in some way."
That's a remarkable statement and it becomes even more remarkable when you learn that up until very recently, Brad was the sole member of JEM's IT team!
"It doesn't take a PhD in computer programming to make M1 work for you," he contends. "You can take advantage of the training that's available from ECi to learn how to do some basic custom reports and, if you want to move beyond that, a six-week class at a community college will provide enough knowledge to start you on the next level," he says.
And is Brad finished with his customizing efforts? Definitely not.
The JEM management team has some ambitious growth plans that include adding infrastructure and moving into new markets and those plans will no doubt prompt further changes.
As Brad paints the picture of where M1 wants to go, it soon becomes clear that the strengths of M1 and its ability to respond to changing customer needs will become even more important going forward.
The company is currently building a new facility that will more than double its footprint to 70,000 square feet and bringing in all new technology, including some virtualized access to M1.
How does Brad see his key technology partner fitting into the expansion?
"I like what ECi is doing with M1," he reports happily. "They're moving the product in the right direction and keeping up with what's happening in areas like virtualization and cloud computing and that's a good sign.
"In some ways, technology is just another business tool that's no different from the calculator that might be sitting on your desk," he maintains. "But it's also a vitally important resource for anyone looking to reduce errors, increase productivity and make their company more competitive."
That's what M1 has provided JEM Technical since the company went live on the program in 2004. And the good news for Brad and the rest of the team at the company is that the program looks well set to continue to deliver for many years to come.