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Full Version of PalMate Released: PalMate v1.0 Provides Streamlined Communication and Real-time Inventory
AMS releases full version of its PalMate enterprise resource planning system for pallet and lumber companies, offering one software platform to manage all aspects of an operation.

By DeAnna Stephens
Date Posted: 5/1/2010

PalMate v1.0 is a revolutionary step forward in smart management and IT integration for pallet and lumber companies. It brings all the various aspects of managing a company into one system.

            Have you ever looked for a better way to facilitate the flow of information between all areas of your company? How would you like to have real-time inventory information available to everyone in your pallet plant and office while actually saving money at the same time?

            The newly released PalMate v1.0 can help you do all this and more.

            Built by Automated Machine Systems (AMS), the first full version of PalMate, an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system designed specifically for the pallet industry, is the result of extensive research and testing. AMS put a strong emphasis on making the full version more intuitive and user-friendly. New features of PalMate v1.0 include a new overall look and aa improved layout for the navigation screen. The navigation screen now groups areas by department, making finding everything quick and easy.

            “The new version is stable, fast and features a new layout that is more intuitive for users,” said Jamie Doyle, solutions manager at AMS. 

            PalMate can take the place of a disjointed system of recordkeeping and tracking by linking all information needed by a pallet company, from ordering lumber to the delivery of completed pallets, in one central database.

            Ed Healy, production manager for John Rock, Inc in Coatesville, Penn, has been using PalMate since the end of 2005 when his company became one of the first beta test sites. John Rock first started looking into PalMate because they wanted a smoother information flow, according to Ed. Before PalMate, they used a number of disjointed programs for different needs – from handwritten orders to Excel spreadsheets to a separate accounting program.

            “Our old way of doing things was really similar to a lot of other pallet companies… piecemeal,” said Ed. “One of the main reasons that we even looked into an ERP package like this was to try to integrate all of our resources into a smoother flowing information stream.”

            In the more than four years they have been using it, PalMate has become an integral part of John Rock’s work flow, according to Ed. They now have 10 work stations throughout the plant that can access the central database. Real-time communication flow is by far the best part of the program, Ed said. When used in conjunction with the Pallet Track software from Innovative Data Systems (IDS), real-time inventory is available to all users throughout the plant and offices.

            Pallet Track provides easy-to-use bar coding, scanning and touch screen kiosks to gather data on inbound raw material, saw line production and inventory, new and recycled pallet production and inventory and more. These rugged kiosks are built to withstand the environment of the plant floor and integrate completely with PalMate for a comprehensive business management system. IDS is the exclusive supplier of all plant floor data collection systems for AMS, including IDS’ kiosk systems, wireless handheld devices, and forklift mounted terminals. The IDS software sends all of the plant floor information to the PalMate software used for administration by managers and supervisors. This agreement was formed by AMS and IDS to avoid unnecessary and costly overlap of solutions in the industry.

            Jim Honey, director of information systems for Universal Pallet Supply in Elkhart, Ind., also sees the real-time availability of information as a large benefit of using PalMate. However, Universal Pallet has taken it a step further by linking two of its locations together in PalMate.

            “We have users on the other side of town, that hit PalMate through our private network,” said Jim. “So we can see real-time from here, what’s happening on the other side of town.”

            Since PalMate allows all aspects of running a pallet company – customers, vendors, production, sales, inventory and more – to be managed and accessed in one central database, retrieving information is also easier. Jim said being able to go to one place for all of the information he needs is the most useful part of the program.

            “It’s a one-stop-shop for all the info,” Jim said. “You can go in there and see sales orders, purchase orders, inventory levels, and the status of all those orders - whether or not a product has shipped. All the information is in one place.”

            Being a comprehensive management system, PalMate includes functions to be used by every area of a pallet company.

            “It does everything. I use it for purchasing lumber, inventory control, inventory for banking purposes, sales, invoices, and keeping track of customers. There isn’t a part of PalMate that I don’t use,” said, Kelly Bennion, vice president and COO of Challenger Pallet, which has locations in Montana, Idaho and Utah, and has used PalMate for about five years.

            Production can be scheduled using the Assembly and Component Schedulers. In this window, each machine or work center can be entered along with their schedule capacity and orders can be dragged and dropped to fill the daily production time of each. This allows production crews to make efficient use of every work center. Every detail about orders, customer information, notes and pallet schematics follow the order through the system, allowing employees on the floor to pull up all the information, including drawings and component lists, of each order they work on.

            “We have all the kiosks out on the floor and all of my men can see everything that’s going on, everything that’s scheduled to their operation,” said Kelly. “They can see it all.”

            Drawings can be imported from AMS’s PalDraw software as well as IDS’s Click-Draw and the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association’s (NWPCA) Pallet Design System (PDS). When drawings are imported into PalMate, it also adds any components not already in the inventory list as well as the new pallet. Once a pallet is marked as built, the components used in it are removed from inventory and the completed pallet is automatically added.

            In sales, it can be used to enter sales orders and track buying trends for each customer. When a new customer is added, all of their information is saved for easy future access. Sales order information is pre-filled based on a customer’s order history, but can be changed with the click of a mouse. This includes contact info, shipping addresses, billing address, shipping mode, delivery equipment, shipping charges, fuel surcharges and sales commission.

            Having all the information stored in the system makes entering sales orders a simple process that anyone can do. At Challenger Pallet, salesmen sometimes call in and have a secretary or someone in the office quickly complete sales orders.

            “That’s the beauty of it. Anybody can put the order in,” said Kelly. “As long as I’ve got everything in place, it doesn’t matter who they are, they can put the order in.”

            In addition, salesmen can use past transactions to create order trending reports and estimate timing and sizes of future orders for each customer. They can even have reminders e-mailed to them if a customer is due for a new order, allowing them to keep in touch with each customer’s needs.

            If the company runs an accounting program that is integrated with PalMate, the process of entering a sales order will additionally take the place of entering orders for accounting purposes. Currently, three well-known accounting programs can be integrated with PalMate – MAS90, Quickbooks and Peachtree. Accounting is a big area that can benefit from PalMate due to reducing the need for paper. All of the information needed for creating invoices can be accessed directly from PalMate,

with no need to track down multiple pieces of paper. Before switching to PalMate, Universal Pallet had five different pieces of paper that had to be sent to accounting to create just one invoice. Now, only the signed shipper has to be returned.

            “We cut it down from five pieces of paper down to one,” said Jim. “You wonder where all the information from those other pieces of paper went? It’s all in PalMate.”

            AMS made the decision to build PalMate to integrate with accounting programs, rather than including accounting within PalMate, to allow users to continue using familiar programs.

            “We chose not to include an accounting component in PalMate because business owners are normally very tied to their accounting packages. They have a sense of security with them,” said Jamie Doyle. “We also felt there was no need to reinvent the wheel with all the good accounting packages out there.”

            The purchasing and receiving departments can use PalMate to enter purchase orders, keep inventory updated, and check the status of orders. The integrated system makes it easy to track what has been ordered and received, eliminating over-ordering to contribute to a better cash flow. In addition this area provides a simple way to manage vender information. In Vendor Admin, product, quantities, pricing and notes can all be stored to enable quick orders in the future. This process eliminates another step in accounting as well.

            Shipping managers can use PalMate to coordinate all drivers, trucks and deliveries. Each driver and vehicle are placed on a spread sheet style calendar, and orders ready to be shipped can simply be dragged and dropped under each driver. The orders are sorted by the delivery date entered when the order was received. The approximate delivery time of each order is calculated based on delivery addresses and all are totaled up to calculate how much time the driver will need to complete the deliveries. Load sheets, packing lists, delivery tickets and driver schedules are all automatically created and can be printed straight from the shipper screen.

            PalMate’s ability to integrate information from all departments eliminates redundancy. Information only needs to be entered once for it to be available to all areas. A sales order automatically creates a production order, a delivery order and all the information needed in each step in between. This elimination of redundancy can save a pallet company thousands of dollars a year on labor costs. At Challenger Pallet, PalMate has taken the place of employees dedicated solely to entering orders and programming Excel spreadsheets, saving the company $50,000 a year, according to Kelly.

            “I don’t think people realize what kind of savings they can have,” said Kelly. “I’ve got a program that pays for itself. It’s a good program for that reason; it’s able to earn its own way.”

            Not only does PalMate reduce labor costs, but it also provides increased accountability and transparency. PalMate tracks all changes made to orders, when they were made and what user made them. Additionally, unique security settings can be set for each user, limiting access to just the information that they need.

            Now that the first full version of PalMate has been released, the development team will be focusing on what new features to add each year.

            “We’ve gone in and cleaned stuff up under the hood from years of development, stabilized and made the software faster,” said Jamie.” Now we’ll choose a number of features each year to add.”

            With many features being planned for addition, the first few years will probably see the highest number of changes. Plans are also in the works to begin annual PalMate training seminars this year based on experience levels. This would help new users learn the system while giving more experienced users training on additional capabilities of the program.

            Along with the new version, AMS released a new quick-start guide for users and unveiled a Website dedicated solely to PalMate, www.palmateerp.com, with more information on the software. Free web demos are also available for companies interested in trying the software. For more information on viewing a PalMate demonstration, contact Jamie Doyle at 616/797-3268.

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