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Q&A: Better Data For Better Business Intelligence

Established in 1946, Major Tool & Machine started business as a custom job shop specializing in the production of tooling and aircraft ground support equipment, and has since significantly expanded its market scope and capabilities. By logging years of data, the company is able to refer back to projects from several years back for re-creation, an important aspect for future estimates and traceability.

Established in 1946, Major Tool & Machine started business as a custom job shop specializing in the production of tooling and aircraft ground support equipment, and has since significantly expanded its market scope and capabilities.

Today, it is recognized as a critical leader in providing world-class manufacturing, engineering, fabrication, machining and assembly services to a variety of U.S. and international customers.

To continue being such a successful company, Major Tool has been using Infor VISUAL since 1996. Infor VISUAL helps Major Tool log years of data — including 1.5 million inventory tickets and 3.5 million labor tickets — and enables it to refer back to projects from several years back for re-creation, an important aspect for future estimates and traceability.

Frank Shetterly, quality project manager, Major Tool and Danna Nelson, senior product manager, Infor, took some time to talk about how VISUAL can help companies.

Jon Minnick: What was the corporate environment like for Major Tool back in 1996? What issues was the company dealing with that it looked for in a software solution?

Frank Shetterly: Prior to implementation of VISUAL, Major Tool was utilizing an antiquated software system on an IBM AS400 minicomputer. At that time, dumb terminals were utilized throughout the facility — and even those lucky enough to have personal computers had specialized software that allowed the PCs to act as dumb terminals. The processing of data was performed in batches. There was also genuine cause for concern as were fast approaching the year 2000, since most dates stored in our IBM database utilized packed numerical fields which would not be able to handle Y2K.

Minnick: What led Major Tool to get involved with Infor VISUAL back in 1996?

Shetterly: The makers of our ERP software we used on our AS400 were beginning a journey in a new direction; in the mid-‘90s, this was known as the “client server” era. This new direction would require a significant change in not only software, but also hardware. We decided that if we were going to make a significant change, we needed to look at all of the options available.

When we evaluated the functionality of VISUAL, our users loved the graphical user interface, as well as the integration and flexibility the software had to offer. Our IT Department loved the programming platform of Gupta Technology’s SQL Windows, as well as VISUAL’s utilization of the Oracle database. As we compared VISUAL to other alternatives at the time, VISUAL scored the highest ranking by our team.

Minnick: What functionality does Infor VISUAL offer Major Tool? What can the company accomplish today that it was struggling with previously?

Shetterly: Prior to VISUAL, data was collected in batches and had to be proofed to ensure accuracy prior to updating. Today, the environment is totally different. Transactions are updated in real-time and error-proofed during entry.  Our IT department can develop customized modules that bolt onto the side of VISUAL— providing Major Tool with a strategic advantage over the competition.

Minnick: Talk about how companies like Major Tool have helped improve the software by logging years of data. What type of data is being logged and why is this relationship important?

Danna Nelson: VISUAL customers in various industries need to keep data for various reasons, such as tracking warrantied products, or products that are required to track historical data because of regulation, such as guns, medical devices, or, in the case of Major Tool, products related to nuclear waste storage and various NASA projects. Over the years, these needs have helped the VISUAL team target areas of the software that could be optimized for performance under a heavy data load.

Minnick: Tell me about VISUAL’s ability to refer back to previous projects? Why is this important for companies like Major Tool?

Nelson: As noted above, some products require, either through customer requirement, or regulation, full-history tracking. Additionally, for some project manufacturers, because they are paid either on a cost-plus or on a fixed-bid basis, the ability to understand actual cost down to the penny is critical. With VISUAL's ability to track actual cost on every cost layer, as well as the ability to manage project processes like waterfall burdening, project manufacturers can be confident that they can prove their basis of compensation.

Minnick: What’s next for Infor VISUAL?

Nelson: VISUAL is being uplifted to Infor's .NET Mongoose framework, with increased extensibility, browser interface, contextual business intelligence and the adoption of the Infor Ming.le social business platform.

For more information on Infor VISUAL, please click here. 

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