Initiating a digital transformation makes the difference. As Rainier Industries discovered, leveraging automation and big data can streamline your supply chain beyond the factory floor. But the amount of data gained from new Industry 4.0 technology doesn't matter nearly as much as what you do with it.
In 2017, about half of all companies had adopted some kind of big data analytics. Two years later, 62% of companies reported achieving measurable results from investing in analytics for big data.
Seeing Benefits Along the Supply Chain
Based in Tukwila, Washington, Rainier Industries is seeing benefits all along its supply chain since switching to an automated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system in 2015. The system automatically tracks and manages orders, new customers, inventory, invoices, and trends. Rainier has improved its inventory accuracy from about 70% to about 95%.
No More Dropped Batons
Inverso describes Rainier's earlier process as a relay team—employees had to “pass the baton.” Every time workers entered data manually, there was another opportunity for errors and delays. Often, those errors were not discovered until the customer received the wrong product. “Now, the baton is being passed automatically—as opposed to getting dropped, forgotten, or even the wrong baton being passed," Inverso says.
Accurately Forecasting Lead Times
With the new ERP, lead times from quotes to cash have decreased by 20%. Even more important than shorter lead times, Rainier can now accurately forecast those lead times.
The Amazon Effect
“The end user is empowered to place an order, or if they need approval, they can build a shopping cart, see how much it will cost, and seek approval," Eder says.
Based on customer requests, Rainier Industries can grant different levels of access to customer employees within the system.
The automated system generates emails that let customers know their order is in production, when that order will ship, and when it will arrive.
“Savvy online shoppers want the best price, want the best quote on shipping, want to know what's going on. That's the expectation now. Amazon has set the bar."
“Once you get used to using our website, you get spoiled and keep buying from us," he says.
Outside the manufacturing plant, Rainier is seeing actionable insights. The company also has improved communication and relationships with suppliers and customers.
Rainier Industries may purchase the same component from a handful of vendors—maybe even 50 different suppliers at varying prices, quality, and other terms. With the insights gained from big data, Rainier can analyze that information and negotiate more effectively.
“Some of our customers don't have the same digital systems we do," Inverso says. “We are able to tell them they ordered this many widgets from us and this many arrived on time. They have expressed pleasure in the amount of data we've been able to provide about what we're making for them. We can generate a report at any time. Some of our larger customers appreciate the level of detail we can give them. The information helps our customers make better decisions."
The automated ERP system helped Rainier Industries add a retail line of customizable yurts.
“Nowhere else online will you find a tool allowing you to pick your exterior color, choose window and door placement, and check out," Eder says. "It's a powerful tool that gets a lot of users curious. They have fun configuring a yurt on their mobile device or desktop."
The mind shift that began in 2015 continues.
“We continue to learn as we move forward," Eder says.