Connecticut Spring & Stamping (CSS) is an international manufacturer of precision springs and metal-shaped solutions. A family-owned business founded in 1939, CSS has produced custom springs, progressive stampings, fine-blanked stampings, machined components and assemblies for nearly 80 years.
Headquartered in Farmington, Conn., CSS serves OEMs in a variety of industries, including medical, aerospace, defense/firearms, transportation and consumer products. Their products are used in handguns, surgical devices and many other products and are distributed around the globe.
In addition to engineering and producing a variety of springs for customers, CSS has deep knowledge in metal stamping technologies, tool engineering and in-house tool fabrication. The company’s fleet of progressive stamping presses, which range in size from 30 to 300 tons, feature in-die tapping, reel-to-reel processing, modular die options and short-run stamping. Based on customer needs, CSS adds critical features to complicated stampings by relying on its various precision CNC machining centers.
When the ERP software CSS used to manage production could no longer keep up with the company’s growth, management researched several ERP products before upgrading to Global Shop Solutions’ ERP software.
“Our old system never lived up to expectations,” says Dave Fischler, vice president of finance for CSS. “In particular, it lacked the capability to efficiently schedule our 600 workcenters, which resulted in unsatisfactory on-time delivery rates. We selected this ERP system primarily for its robust Advanced Planning & Scheduling (APS) application, but also because it’s a completely integrated system than can handle just about everything a manufacturing job shop needs to do.”
Scheduling in-house work for thousands of part numbers through 600 workcenters was hard enough with the old ERP system. Worse, many of the parts have multiple secondary workcenters to schedule; some with as many as 28 operations, both in-house and at offsite vendors.
With the APS application, scheduling all jobs has become faster and more efficient. More importantly, APS provides the real-time data needed to complete jobs on time, resulting in a huge leap in on-time delivery rates.
“Based on the extensive routers we create for every part, the APS application tells us when we need to do something in each of our workcenters,” says Steve Dicke, executive vice president of CSS. “It gives us the lead times and lets us know when parts need to come out of a workcenter to keep us on time. Equally important, we can see the available capacity of all machines at any given moment, which allows us to make sure we can deliver before promising specific due dates to customers.
“This past quarter, we hit 97.5 percent for on-time delivery, an all-time high for us,” he adds. “The superb visibility of data in the ERP system ensures that we don’t over-promise and under-deliver – a capability we did not have in our old system.”
CSS has also seen sales climb by a robust 50 percent. Although some of the growth has come from new prospects and customers, the lion’s share has come from new product development with the company’s existing client base.
“When we deliver on the dates we promise, it gives our customers confidence in what we can do for them, so they come back to us,” Fischler explains. “As our existing customers have grown, we’ve been able to grow with them by proving our capability and getting the product to them on time.
“We use 45 data collection stations on the shop floor to give production workers instant access to the data they need to complete jobs on schedule,” he continues. “Setup personnel and machinists know what they’re supposed to be working on and when it’s due. Managers can see the status of every job at any given time. People aren’t working blind anymore because everything they need to know is right there in the system.”
The new ERP software has also taken CSS to a new level of materials management sophistication and precision. Long gone are the days of frequent manual counts to track inventory. Now, CSS barcodes everything that comes in the receiving door and immediately issues it to a job or to inventory. All completed products are barcoded, as well. In between, CSS uses the GS Mobile barcode scanning system to facilitate fast, flexible materials movement in real time.
“Using the mobile scanners in receiving and the warehouse gives us superb lot control and highly accurate inventory tracking,” Fischler says. “With GS Mobile, we can scan a raw material or finished goods at any time, which speeds up the entire process.
“Barcode scanning has allowed us to practically eliminate cycle counting,” he adds. “Now we do it once or twice a year just to double-check the numbers. The best part is when we go looking for a raw material or finished part in inventory, we can count on it being there.”
Fischler and Dicke are big fans of one the ERP software’s most popular features – the Global Applications Builder (GAB). This powerful feature enables users to customize the software without changing the underlying code.
For example, CSS has to attach multiple certifications when shipping most of its products. Previously, this required using the work order to manually track down the certifications for all raw materials and outside services used on the job. Now, a custom GAB program automatically generates all the certifications and documentation required by the customer. When the product ships, CSS includes a map of the lot numbers shipped and all the certifications that apply to each one.
“It’s a real timesaver because everything comes out automatically,” Dicke says. “We don’t need the work order. There’s no paperwork to mess with and the data is always accurate. And we don’t have to search for anything. We just need to know which lot we’re sending the customer and the system does everything for us.”
CSS has also created a number of custom dashboards that format and display data in a format more to their liking. Fischler likes the outside processing dashboard, which provides a quick snapshot of every job sent out for processing and when it’s due back.
According to Fischler, the seamless integration of the Job Costing Accounting software with all the other software enables him to produce financial documents faster and more accurately while also getting a better handle on costs.
For example, production personnel often work on five or six jobs during the day. Having them log on and off the shop floor data collection stations makes it easy to allocate their time across the jobs. When requoting old jobs, Dicke can look back and see the actual costs for all parts made in the past. He then checks the work order history to review average costs for parts made and make better decisions on pricing.
“The accuracy of costs in the system helps us determine how much to sell a part for,” he says. “We can also look at parts that have the lowest margins to see where we can improve processes or what we can do to fix the profitability of any particular part.”
Dicke ranks the ease of navigation and responsive customer service as two of his favorite features.
“When I need an answer on how something works or why it works a certain way, the folks at Global Shop Solutions are very accessible,” he says. “I use the online service most of the time and usually get a quick answer. When I call, the account reps are very receptive and willing to help find the answer.
“The best thing about the new ERP software is that it covers just about everything we’re doing,” he concludes. “It encompasses all our operations and integrates them very well. Initially, we purchased it for the scheduling, but now we keep using more of the system, to the point that it basically runs our business for us.”