An Exceptional Software Solutions LLC Customer Success Story: American Torch Tip
American Torch Tip President Jack Walters, CFO Dan Engel, and Exceptional Software Solutions LLC President Tod Replogle tell the success story of partnership, innovation and Exact Macola ERP.
American Torch Tip Company Background
In 1940, John Walters Sr. began The American Torch Tip Company in a small garage. Recognizing the need for quality replacement torch tips for welding, he founded the company on the ideals of innovation, research and better designs.
In 2015, American Torch Tip celebrates its 75th anniversary. A third generation family company, American Torch Tip is now headquartered in a 72,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Bradenton, Florida where it produces the majority of its 16,000+ welding parts. Additional divisions strategically located around the globe support American Torch Tip’s large international demand, as the company ships around the clock to customers in over 50 countries.
Continuing the Legacy: Innovation, Research and Better Design
American Torch Tip prides itself on controlling its manufacturing process from beginning to end; not relying on outsourcing. With over 16,000 different parts going to over 50 countries around the world, American Torch Tip not only employs innovation, research and better design in its products, but in its processes.
For about 20 years, American Torch Tip had been using an open-source distribution and accounting system, with features equivalent to Quickbooks, in order to manage its back-end processes. Highly customized over the years to meet the company’s specific needs, the system handled business management, order entry and general ledger data, but wasn’t built to meet American Torch Tip’s manufacturing needs, handle the scale of its desired growth or provide the data needed to help make more informed decisions.
“You have ideas regarding what your business trends are and what you think might be happening in your business, but you need data to help validate or refute that,” says Jack Walters, President of American Torch Tip. “I knew what I wanted our system to do, and the data that I wanted to get out of it, but I didn’t know how to get there.”
Therefore, in 2012, American Torch Tip began its search for a change agent that would continue the company’s legacy of innovation, research and better design as well as revitalize its processes using rich data. In October of 2012, Jack brought aboard Dan Engel, long-time Exact Macola expert and self-proclaimed “manufacturing wonk,” as CFO.
A Change Agent
“Dan has seen the evolution of the Macola product and the manufacturing and distribution industry as a whole,” says Tod Replogle, President of Exceptional Software Solutions LLC. “That kind of experience and perspective is invaluable.”
A Macola user and consultant since the 1980s, Dan has held roles such as CFO, COO and General Manager for several manufacturing organizations, and also owned his own 15-year Macola consulting business as a CPA starting in the mid-1990s through the 2000s.
With between 30–40 ERP implementations under his belt, one would be hard-pressed to find a professional more qualified and knowledgeable regarding ERP and manufacturing than Dan. However, when Dan first interviewed at American Torch Tip, Jack wasn’t completely convinced that an ERP/MRP system would work within the company’s complex environment.
But Dan’s deep knowledge of the manufacturing industry and the benefits of an end-to-end ERP combined with the company’s desire to continue to grow all pointed to Exact Macola. Within months, American Torch Tip began implementing Exact Macola ES ERP.
“I have a distinct worldview when it comes to ERP,” says Dan. “Manufacturers are all essentially the same. We buy stuff, and then we add value to it using the manufacturer’s particular set of magic. ERP is the mechanism by which this magic and its processes can be accounted for.”
Exact Macola Benefits: Data as a Business Driver
In American Torch Tip’s case, Exact Macola ES was a good fit for a number of reasons. First, at its core, Exact Macola ERP is built to efficiently manage manufacturers’ “magic,” filling in the gaps in functionality of a standard accounting solution like the one that American Torch Tip had been using. “Macola was the first mid-range ERP to come to market with this type of functionality,” says Dan.
Yet, not only is its core manufacturing capability strong, but Exact Macola ERP allows for the addition of peripheral and customized solutions on top of its core functionality.
“I like to think of a good ERP solution like a Christmas tree. You can hang as many baubles as you want on a Christmas tree, but the tree has to be strong and stout in order to support the baubles and the number of customizations and add-ons.” American Torch Tip had 20 years worth of customizations to its prior solution, and its ERP had to handle this level of complexity with ease, and without the need to change the software’s source code. Exact Macola fit the bill. “The ability to add whatever functionality comes to your mind on top of Macola’s core manufacturing functionality is what makes the solution dynamic,” says Dan.
For American Torch Tip, implementing Exact Macola ERP wasn’t just about performing the same functions as the old system while filling in voids. It was about the ability to use the data produced by the ERP to help the company make better decisions and thus support growth.
“The amount of data that we are getting out of our Exact Macola ERP is incredible,” says Jack. “The act of entering our information to into the system forced us to think about each of our processes. We started to see that some things were the opposite of what we thought they were, and the money being spent and the processes that were in place weren’t aligned in the way we had hoped.”
Thus, since implementing Exact Macola ERP, American Torch Tip has improved a number of its business functions from shop floor control, to inventory, to purchasing.
Data from Exact Macola ES, in conjunction with Exact Synergy CRM, has also helped improve American Torch Tip’s sales processes. The company has used the two integrated systems to create a new catalog sheet mechanism wherein it stores PDF documents of catalog cut sheets in Synergy, then exposes these sheets to Exact Macola ES within order entry and sales screens so that the cut sheets can be emailed straight to the customer from the various ERP screens. And as about 30 percent of the company’s business is international, Exact Macola has allowed American Torch Tip to efficiently manage multiple currencies and pricing changes.
Exact Macola has allowed American Torch Tip to:
- Extract data and develop analytical reports to help drive business decisions
- Utilize manufacturing functionality that it lacked in its legacy solution
- Create and add customizations to fit its unique business needs
- Improve shop floor control, inventory, purchasing processes
- Improve sales processes
- Manage international currencies and pricing
The Exceptional Software Solutions LLC Advantage: A Critical Partnership
For manufacturing and distribution organizations that don’t have in-house ERP expertise acting as a driving force behind process innovation and business growth, partnering with a reselling and consulting organization such as Exceptional Software Solutions LLC provides these organizations with access to an entire team of manufacturing and ERP professionals at an affordable price. And many times, even with an in-house expert such as Dan, a knowledgeable partner is an invaluable resource.
“Even with my years of expertise, there’s a lot to be done when it comes to an ERP implementation. I needed the guidance and assistance of Tod’s team at Exceptional Software Solutions LLC to put all of the pieces into place at American Torch Tip,” says Dan.
Dan and Tod’s team worked closely to implement Exact Macola ES along with companion solutions to fully meet American Torch Tip’s needs, including:
- Developing customizations
- Implementing credit card processing and ERP integration
- Integration of the shipping system, StarShip
“With over 300 years of combined expertise, our team of professionals loves to tackle complex situations and create solutions that help our customers grow and allow them to continue to do what they do best. We’re focused on building long-term solutions and long-term partnerships,” says Tod.
Although Jack was initially unsure if ERP would work within American Torch Tip, Dan says this is often the case when a company is first introduced to the concept. “Organizations often think they have everything in place — but what they need is a system to show them what they’ve been missing.”
“The fear you can name is the one that you can overcome,” says Jack. “The structure of the Exact Macola ERP system has allowed us to recognize areas for improvement, have conversations and accurately keep score of our company’s processes. Having people by our side who understand and are experienced in the capabilities of our ERP is a great benefit to our company.”
With its Exact Macola ERP in place and fully embraced as a critical manager of its manufacturing “magic,” American Torch Tip is poised to continue its legacy of innovation in both products and processes.
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