East Branch Engineering and Manufacturing in New Milford, CT was founded by Paul Guidotti in 1989. His son, Chris, joined him as the VP of Manufacturing in 2003 following his graduation from engineering school. With ~20 machines and 16 staff, East Branch specializes in high-precision, multi-axis milling and turning and has built a reputation for providing outstanding service and quality parts to a wide variety of industries.
In April of 2017, East Branch Engineering and Manufacturing sent in an impassioned plea in an online inquiry form on our website:
“We’re trying to pull in larger customers, but we feel we are constantly hitting our heads against our ERP to get things done. There’s a general feeling of a “square peg round hole” with E2. You can get a square peg to fit in a round hole if you hammer on it enough. We’re starting to realize that ‘hammering’ is getting expensive and hindering growth.”
East Branch came to ProShop as an experienced ERP user. Early on they purchased JobBOSS and used it for several years before they moved on to E2 by Shoptech. E2 promised an easier to use interface and better integrated functionality. Chris became an adept E2 user and quickly became one of the most active members of the E2 Community Forum. With time, growth and increasing industry demands, Chris’s participation with info and training via the forum changed to requests for new features and bug fixes. When Chris reach out to us in 2017, his frustration could be heard in his question,” Why should some very simple things be that difficult?” and his provided examples:
“- Paper based travelers are static and often times not updated with current information. For example: A finishing requirement is updated, but the paper traveler was never reprinted with the new information. “Where’s the traveler?” is a common question.
“- Blanket orders are an absolute nightmare to manage. Blankets are becoming more common, and as a result of the current system not handling blanket production well we tended to overproduce for stock. Triggering order generation based on inventory levels is a completely manual process and many times overlooked.
“- We currently manage certs outside our ERP system and there is no direct tie-in with the ERP. E2 can handle attachments to parts, orders, PO’s etc, but it’s a cumbersome and clunky procedure. (We wrote internal web-based software to scan and store documents).
“- The Quality Module was difficult to use at the best of times. There was no control of records, or revision control processes. If you wanted to make a change, you had to edit the document and re-link it. We spent many hours a week just dealing with paperwork and often got errors when trying to link NCRs to RMAs.”
Selection and Implementation
By 2016, Chris was actively researching other ERP options. He reviewed and did demos with dozens of software packages. Then Chris read about ProShop in Modern Machine Shop in 2017 and reached out through the ProShopERP website. Within four days of a detailed demo of the system, East Branch had signed on to implement ProShop.
East Branch put in shop computer kiosks at each workcenter for ProShop’s paperless system. The ProShop team configured, migrated data and facilitated a series of remote training sessions. The trainer used videos, personal training sessions, and practice exercises to get the East Branch team up to speed on estimating, order entry, planning, programming, purchasing and more. Within 4 weeks of sign up, East Branch was running work orders in ProShop.
Chris and Paul almost immediately started noticing some changes they hadn’t expected. Employees were initiating work on jobs without being told. They could see the work queues at each machine and they could start preparing the jobs in advance. They also started taking pictures of all their setups and putting them in ProShop’s work instruction page for each part. This lead to shorter setups and less time with spindle waiting idle.
The Bottom Line: Chris estimates 10% of machines sat idle for 1-2 days per week waiting for material, gages, and tools when there was no easy way to manage and see such details in E2. Downtime has been virtually eliminated with ProShop. Previously, downtime also led to jobs often being late. About 75% of outside process orders used to require expediting; at 10-15 orders per week, it cost close to $20k per year in expedite fees. Inbound orders of tools and materials also added up. Within a year of implementing ProShop, East Branch has seen
- Increase in revenue of 18%
- $20,000 reduction in expediting fees
- $12,000 reduction in shipping fees
“On top of that, we used to be only 70% on-time for our largest customer, and now we’re 100% on time and we’re spending less time and money to do it. Recently, we had a stretch of 2 full months where every machine in the shop was running every hour of the workday, or in active setup without a single hour of downtime. That was unheard of before. It’s really a testament to all the improvements we’ve been able to make.” – Chris
Shift from batch processing to flow processing: “A machinist would setup the first machining operation, we’d run out the parts, then tear down the machine and setup for OP2. We had more frequent setups and the typical wastes with batch processes.” Chris explained, “Now because we can show in ProShop that 2 or more operations are supposed to be flowed together, and it’s easy to document the setups with photos, we are setting up all the machining ops on the same machine and running a flow process for a longer time. It’s led to reduced overall setup times, higher spindle uptime, less scrap,and we can send partials ahead much easier than we could before. We didn’t expect a new ERP system to allow us to shift our method of making parts to a more lean way.”
- A few months into implementation, the departure of their buyer had East Branch re-evaluating the need to find a replacement. Chris explains, “In our old system, job travelers would be put into a basket for purchasing material, etc. It was kind of a FIFO system and material would be ordered when she could get to it. It didn’t work well and we were always waiting for material or paying expedite fees to get it in. Now with ProShop, we can order the material very quickly with a click of a button, and we know the date we need it to support production, so it’s always here in advance. So we freed up the cost of a full time salary and are still getting better results from the system, another big ROI from ProShop.”
- Josh joined the team when increased production and growth meant the need for a full time Quality Manager. The shop he came from also used E2. “I used to spend nearly 30 hours a week just dealing with paperwork. Uploading documents, downloading, editing and re-uploading, managing certs, and more. It was nearly a full time job. We used to do our inspection using Excel spreadsheets because E2 doesn’t have an inspection capability built in. ProShop actually has a fully functional QMS system that works. I can build an inspection plan in ProShop much faster than I could in Excel and I don’t have to link any documents.”
Increased order size:
East Branch’s customer, a prominent medical device manufacturer, had given them some small orders in the past. Following a vendor site audit, the next order was a much larger making them now their #3 largest customer by sales volume. Chris said: “I’m confident that our ability to show them ProShop and how we now run the company was a big factor in them deciding to give us those larger orders. It instilled a great sense of confidence that we could successfully handle their orders and deliver great quality on-time.”
The takeaway: Chris summarizes their first 18 months with ProShop like this: “ProShop has become the backbone of our company and has allowed us to make significant improvements in throughput, company organization, cost savings, and overall company profitability. It has helped in so many ways that we never even considered before. It’s evident that ProShop was designed and built by people who ran the same type of business we do. They just get it, and it has made a huge difference to us as a small family run machine shop. We’re very excited about the future of East Branch.”