Known as “The Solvent Company,” Fairfield, Ohio-based Tedia Company manufactures high purity laboratory chemicals and reagents. With just 60 employees it produces an extremely diverse line of products to meet the most demanding needs of companies with manufacturing, research, and analytical applications.
Tedia produces its high purity solvents for many well-known brands in the US and around the world. Fifteen years ago Tedia also began marketing 361 of its products under its own brand. Today, Tedia is a leading high purity solvent brand in China.
Hari Nalliah, IT Manager says, “Because our reputation is built on the quality of our products, 100 percent of Tedia’s high purity solvents are produced in-house in our Fairfield, Ohio facility. We take pride in our advanced purification processes and superior packaging techniques.”
Complex manufacturing processes offer up a challenge
Dedication to quality is one key ingredient to Tedia’s success. Another is Tedia’s willingness and ability to do custom purification for its OEM customers.
“We use over 14,000 liters of state-of-the-art distillation units with batch volumes varying from a few liters to 6,000 liters,” Nalliah notes. “Our storage capacity is over 80,000 liters, which gives us room to increase our production and packaging capability to expand our business worldwide with minimum additional capital investment.”
Of course, this flexibility compounds the complexity of Tedia’s manufacturing processes, requiring the company to handle small pilot batch jobs as well as large and complex purification, blending, and packaging operations. Noted for responsiveness to customers’ needs and their technical expertise, Tedia prides itself on getting products to the market quickly for its customers.
Amazingly, until August of this year Tedia managed its complex manufacturing on a system developed by Nalliah’s father that was based on Microsoft Access. This tailor-made system worked well for production, but all of Tedia’s business functions – finance, marketing, sales, and HR – operated independently, in isolation from one another.
Nalliah says, “In a company the size of Tedia, a lot depends on the personal interaction of people in each of the various departments. The specialization and stovepiping common to big companies just doesn’t exist here, or people couldn’t do their jobs. We’ve worked well together because people are flexible and willing to wear a variety of hats. Of necessity people are cross-trained. They have to be able to see the big picture.”
Crystallizing a more proactive vision
Tedia executives knew that even though the company was doing well, they could do much more if they were able to integrate all the manufacturing and business functions. “Culturally we were somewhat reactive in our customer relations and response to market changes, and we wanted to become more proactive,” Nalliah acknowledges.
So one year ago Tedia executives asked Nalliah, who had worked at the company before, starting when he was still in high school, to come back to lead the search for the best way to move from QuickBooks for accounting, Microsoft Access for manufacturing process scheduling, and Microsoft Excel for sales and marketing to an integrated enterprise management environment. Presentations by several vendors didn’t uncover a solution with the capabilities Tedia needed for flexible manufacturing. “Our fallback plan, which was to customize our existing environment, wasn’t particularly attractive, either. We’re not an IT development company. It’s not our core competency and we don’t want it to be,” states Nalliah.
A local Cincinnati SAP partner recommended that they consider Fourth Shift Edition for SAP Business One from SoftBrands. At first Nalliah and his team dismissed the idea because they felt that while SAP solutions and applications suit the operations of many of their larger customers, SAP was probably too big for Tedia. Nevertheless, a call to SoftBrands started the ball rolling.
Getting manufacturing into the mix
Nalliah says, “The biggest challenge was to win over the hearts and minds of the manufacturing side of the house, which had operated fairly well on the in-house Tedia Access solution. They preferred not to be disrupted.” He went to manufacturing, which happens to be managed by his father, and asked the key players to make a list of what they wanted in their ideal system. These three came out high on everybody’s wish list:
- More efficient and accurate BOMs for improved scheduling and inventory control
- The ability to better manage, maintain, and access product structure information
- Improved coordination of purchasing, manufacturing, and shipping activities
The SoftBrands representatives weren’t in the least intimidated by the complexity of Tedia manufacturing. They flowcharted Tedia’s needs and asked pointed questions that enabled them to develop a day-long demo just for the manufacturing team – so they could actually see that it could work for them.
Sales, marketing, and finance said “of course” to the solution. So in the first week in January of this year, with agreement among the various business functions, Nalliah gave SoftBrands the okay to begin implementation.
“Truthfully, none of us at Tedia had ever worked on an integrated system before,” says Nalliah. “And MRP was new to us, as well. So we knew we’d all have some studying to do, but we were ready to move forward.”
Benefits precipitate out immediately
In August, within 48 hours of “go-live,” Tedia’s shipping department sent a 40-foot container to its largest customer in China, right on schedule. The Fourth Shift Edition for SAP Business One application was in place and supporting the business.
Various departments started realizing benefits of the solution quickly. People in Receiving appreciate that they can verify in real time that a shipment matches its purchase order. This is a big advantage over the old system in which it might have taken two days to verify, and of course the delivery truck would have been long gone by then.
The order process is cleaner now. For example, the accounting person caught a problem with a purchase order that previously would have populated itself throughout the Tedia process. It was easy to detect the problem early, which bodes well for far cleaner orders moving forward. The new system also provides relief from repetitive data entry with all the possibilities to inadvertently inject error. And nobody has to chase purchase orders ever again.
“Another benefit that is going to help us become far more proactive is the ability to run and print trial balances on the fly,” says Nalliah. “Also, the costing benefits are enormous. We can question decisions based on actual data, not just on personal opinions and theories.”
The second phase of the Tedia application will include bar code capabilities to enable shop floor data capture and improve inventory management and shipping/ receiving. “We anticipate continuous improvement in shop floor planning,” says Nalliah. “With our increased insight into the whole operation we will be far more efficient. For instance, because of our increased ability to forecast we will be able to reduce lead time for Tedia label products. This will make staging containers for shipment far more effective and it will be easier to ensure that containers are full. Additionally, it will be far easier for us to make sure a container leaves on time, and we will be able to set better due date expectations for our customers.
“My dad and I worked very hard with a programmer right to the end of the implementation process,” concludes Nalliah. “And it’s all worth it. We have far better communication and linkages between people and processes today. Fourth Shift Edition for SAP Business One can be as flexible as we want it to be, where we want it to be, and it also is helping us be very disciplined where we need it.”
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