A Make to Order Manufacturing Success Story

A Make to Order Manufacturing Success Story

Table of Contents


A Make to Order Manufacturing Success Story

What’s key to achieve Make to Order manufacturing success?

Make to order manufacturing requires unique functionality from enterprise solutions, including collaborative design and configuration, supply chain visibility, serial number/lot number tracking and as-built product history.

Ultra’s independent ERP consultants helped the Knox Machine Company through a business process improvement and an ERP technology selection project.

Over a six-month period, we conducted a current and future state analysis, led ERP identification and selection, improved reporting, eliminated manual data manipulation, reduced hours per order, and automated planning and scheduling.

About Knox Machine: Precision, Highest Standards, Exact Specifications

Knox Machine Company is a make to order (MTO) operation that provides precision, close-tolerance machined parts, mechanical sub-assemblies, and pre-packaged component kits.

The company serves numerous industries, such as the defense, communications, oil and gas, aircraft/aerospace, power generation, and plastics industries.

By the nature of these industries, and how and where they use Knox Machine products, Knox Machine customers require the highest industry standards of quality to fit exacting specifications.

This, in turn, requires robust quality control, stringent inspection processes, and material traceability process to be in place in their make to order manufacturing and from their ERP solution.

Legacy Systems Cause Problems with Make to Order Manufacturing and ERP

The company’s legacy combination of systems consisted of a software package, a home-grown system, Excel for inventory control and reporting functions, and manual processes for material planning and shop floor execution. Knox used MAS 90 for the financials (GL, AP and AR), with FoxPro for quoting, order entry, purchasing, shipping and job costing.

Within this combination, data did not easily move from one functionality to another, requiring multiple entries of the same data – it was difficult to simply access data. Management had no integrated view of the business, no true process flow among the stand-alone systems, and all manufacturing planning and execution was paper-based.

To improve productivity, Knox Machine needed to eliminate its manual and redundant processes, and re-design the data manipulation and reporting that was done outside of the system. Knox had a fundamental need for quick, flexible access to information to make business decisions, as the company was relying on tribal knowledge to ship its products.

An integrated, modern make to order manufacturing and ERP system would support the company’s current business, align the company for future growth, and resolve an aging vulnerable system.

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See how Knox, a Make to Order Manufacturer, did it with Ultra

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Looking for Make to Order Manufacturing Success?  Look at the Current and Future State

Starting off with a plant floor and product line review, Ultra initiated a current state analysis that included a core team workshop, a facility tour, and a plant floor and product line review.

These activities led to our core process improvement services covering business areas such as sales, design engineering, shop floor control, warehousing, among many others and master data review covering data such as item, BOM, routing, customer, vendor, CAD/project file management.

As part of ERP selection services, the future state analysis included educations sessions tailored for Knox Machine managers on the potential ERP vendors and what was possible with make to order manufacturing and ERP, specific to their project goals.

We also developed the future state alongside the company’s core team, building integrated process flows, creating a future state systems context, and defining the sources for master data and how these would be linked to legacy data.


Jon Maxcy, Knox Machine Project Manager, commented on the difficulty of initially understanding ERP software demonstrations, concepts, and terminology, before Ultra’s education and process mapping services:

The first time we went through a vendor demo, it was like watching a foreign movie of two squirrels with no subtitles. You never know what they’re doing or where they’re going, and you don’t understand it.

Results and Recommendations

This case serves as an effective Make to Order manufacturing success story.

With their make to order manufacturing and ERP system in place, Knox Machine has experienced early, positive results:

  • A 40% improvement in reporting
  • Elimination of manual data manipulation within the shop
  • Reduction of hours required per order from 2 hours to 2 minutes. Knox Machine required system flexibility to handle their power generation business.
  • Real-time data and facts replaced internal, personnel-based knowledge to ship their products.

Mr. Maxcy offered an endorsement of Ultra’s ERP implementation services and a positive return on investment for Knox Machine:

“Ultra prepared us very well for the ERP selection and implementation of the ERP project from a current state, education and future state standpoint. It was well worth our investment in Ultra, and their content and processes, for the long-term at Knox.”

Make to Order Manufacturing Success Next Steps

Make to order manufacturers looking to invest in enterprise software need to keep in mind:

  • Business transformation is about more than just new software
  • The right plan for current state analysis, education and future state design makes all the difference
  • Enterprise software selection is successful when conducted in conjunction with business process improvement methods

Looking to create your own Make to Order Manufacturing Success Story?

Contact Ultra to learn more about business transformation for make to order manufacturers.

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