These are good times for the folks at K&J Woodworks. Over the past five years, despite having to face a sluggish economy for most of that time, sales and profits at the Uhland, Texas-based custom millwork manufacturer have doubled, driven by a team of outstanding industry professionals, a willingness to invest back into the company in the form of new physical facilities and equipment, and the power of M1® manufacturing ERP software from ECi Software Solutions.
K&J is not your typical manufacturer. “Because we are basically a custom house, there’s a real sense in which we never do the same thing twice,” explains director of technology and finance Joe Howe. “We don’t have a well-defined, long-established manufacturing process that we’ve been working with for years. With us, each job is different.”
Job costing is reliable and accurate
In that kind of environment, the ability to draw on reliable, accurate job costing information is critical and the good news for the K&J team is that job costing is one of the many areas where M1 shines.
“On any given project,” Howe explains, “M1 gives us the ability to go back and look at similar jobs and see what they might have cost in the past so we can price things properly. It’s actionable information on a job-by-job basis. The information M1 generates gives us the ability to focus in on our processes and see where we’re losing money and making money and determine how we can do things better.”
Accurate job costing information is just one element of the value package M1 delivers. The heavy emphasis on custom at K&J puts a premium on flexibility and, says Howe, M1 excels there too.
Flexible ERP ideal for custom jobs
“M1 is well-architected from an IT perspective and it uses industry-standard languages and structures like Microsoft SQL server, Crystal Reports and Visual Basic,” he explains. “That means there are plenty of resources available to take care of any special programing or custom work you might need. Some platforms use obscure technology or don’t have a standard set-up and that can make for problems which you just don’t have with M1. It’s certainly been able to handle whatever we’ve thrown at it!”
Howe also gives the program high marks for its ability to manage just about every aspect of his company’s operations.
“We’ve looked at other software but none of them had the breadth of coverage that we get with M1,” he says. “M1 is a very comprehensive system and being able to get data into one cohesive platform that covers just about the entire company has been a major benefit for us.”
Global users’ community
Also a big plus for Howe and the way he puts M1 to work at K&J: a global community of users that is accessible 24/7.
“It’s very helpful to be able to tap into the M1 user community worldwide and see what other companies like us are doing,” he says. “The M1 support group on the web and the user community in general is an important resource that helps us use the program more effectively.”
For Joe Howe and the rest of the K&J team, using M1 effectively is a key priority. “When you’ve got 70 people and 70,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing floor space to manage, getting the right information to the right people at the right time is critical,” he says. “M1 is making it possible for us to move information faster throughout our organization. It is truly foundational for our business and has allowed us to become much more of a data-driven organization. With M1, we have the ability to make smart, informed decisions that keep us growing and profitable. We’ve been using it since 2006 and we’re going to be using it and relying on it for years. It’s definitely a program for the long term!”
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