Software Powers Next Generation of Pallet Success: Innovative Data Systems Celebrates 21st Birthday with New Installations Coast to Coast
Data Is King: Innovative Data Systems helps pallet and lumber companies track and utilize real-time information that improves production, inventory control and customer service. With its newest installs covering both coasts, the company celebrates its 21st year in business. Find out how Pallet Track or Mill Manager can integrate your data leading to better production across all major departments.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 9/4/2018
Successful pallet companies in the future will have one thing in common. They will have the knowledge to succeed, and that starts with having accurate data and knowing how to use it to improve customer service and reduce production costs.
For over 20 years, Innovative Data Systems Inc. has been doing just that with its Pallet-Track® Mill Manager enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. The company is celebrating its 21st year in business by performing new installations or upgrades coast to coast.
Innovative Data recently installed upgrades at Power Recycling in Amsterdam, New York and is working on an install at A-1 Pallet in Kent, Washington. Both companies hope the software will be a difference maker as data becomes a crucial part of every pallet business.
Power Recycling Upgrades
Better data leads to better management. Or at least that is the goal at Power Recycling. Enrique Lopez, the chief technology officer for Power Recycling, commented, “It is a pretty straightforward ERP software. These new upgrades will tie together all of our core systems with real-time information…Having all those data pointa real time is fantastic in terms of inventory management and ensuring more accurate, timely customer service.”
Power Recycling has used Pallet-Track® software for years. But until now the recycler has been nowhere close to tapping the entire potential of the technology. In the past, the company primarily used the software to track production for piece rate counts. In early August, Power Recycling installed a complete Mill Manager System with plant floor kiosks, automated repair line systems for its robotic repair station, online ordering and integration with its Paragon routing software. Before the most recent install, employees could access the Mill Manager software at desktops and two kiosks on the plant floor. The new hardware will provide greater automation of data collection and more entry points at the dismantling machines and other locations throughout the plant.
With over 150,000 square feet of production and warehouse space, Power Recycling is one of the largest recyclers in the Northeast, and there is a lot going on in the plant at any one time. The recycler uses a suite of Pallet-Track® products including Mill Manager to manage all aspects of day-to-day operations.
Alan Miceli, president of Innovative Data, explained, “Orders can originate in our cloud based online ordering system, allowing customers to place orders and issue pick-ups online 24/7 365 days per year from anywhere in the world. These orders seamlessly sync to the local Mill Manager System, where they show up as if entered directly by the Power Recycling customer service team. Inventory is automatically allocated to the order and if the product is not in-stock, the required amount is automatically posted in the production schedule. This not only updates what needs to be produced, but it also allows the production team to assign the order to the work schedule of any workstation.”
Kiosks in the plant track all workstation schedules and production by station and employee, providing a completely paperless system where any worker can view products required, drawings of each product, special notes that accompany the order and much more.
Lopez affirmed, “The biggest advantage of the software will be real time tracking of everything from inventory to customer data to customer orders, being able to answer questions quickly by going right to the source, being able to pull data that we can research on, find out how we have performed week to week and month to month. The software will help us manage our pricing and determine our productivity and profitability.”
Previously the company tracked a lot of information in a sea of Excel spreadsheets. This information was all disjointed requiring a lot of active management, meetings and communications. Lopez admitted that the old system was a huge waste of time and resources.
Install and Implementation at Power Recycling
Whenever you try to change a process, it requires humans to buy in and embrace the change. This includes software installs and upgrades. Plus, you have legacy systems that must be incorporated or changed to fit the new software solution.
Lopez said, “The biggest hurdles for innovation have been on our end. We have a lot of home-grown software that was developed before I got here. We needed to outgrow those programs and had to integrate them with Innovative Data software.”
Team members who had left the company were not available for consultation, which means you don’t know exactly how legacy systems work on the back end. Beyond just getting data exported, there were hurdles getting employees to buy into the change. Lopez explained, “Adoption was difficult too because people need to see that the new software is actually helping them.”
But the end result is worth the struggle as the company has better vision of its entire plant operations. Lopez worked department by department to find people who would help spread the word and trade others on the new processes. Lopez stated, “Technology can’t champion the software that a company uses. The people need to believe in the software. And you need to find champions within the company who will advocate for the change.”
Why Innovative Data?
When Lopez joined Power Recycling, he began developing a more complete in-house software solution. But then he discovered all the versatility of Mill Manager and decided that it made more sense to use a solution already developed for the pallet and lumber industries.
Lopez said, “Alan Miceli went the extra mile for us. We had several choices in front of us for management software, and Innovative Data offered us the best of all worlds including cost, support, functionality; it was the total package.”
A big plus working with Innovative Data is expert support and flexibility to ensure the software works well for each client. Lopez explained, “I like the personable aspect of IDS. I like that I can talk with Alan or others at his company. He is very flexible with the software and is looking to improve the software.”
One example of a feature that Innovative Data added for Power Recycling was a screen showing all orders in queue sort of like a schedule of flights at an airport. Employees can quickly see the production scheduled for that day on a 70" monitor right in the loading dock area. They can input trailer numbers and details at the attached kiosk when orders are finished to improve traffic management.
Innovative Data is always working to add features to the program. One notable option is a customer portal where pallet users can input data, see historical information, pricing and even place orders. This is a fairly new process for Power Recycling. But Lopez believes it will grow in popularity as more customers are accustomed to order online and like the convenience of it.
Lopez explained, “The portal makes everything easier for the customer because they have everything at their fingertips.”
The portable is always available even when the office is closed, and the system will not allow an order to be finalized until all the required fields are completed. This ensures that every order has the right information to quickly work through the system. And it also creates consistency in the ordering process. Lopez added, “With the online portal, we don’t have to go back to the customer to verify or clarify their order request.”
A-1 Pallets Seeks Better Data Management
Innovative Data has pallet and lumber companies spanning the entire country from coast to coast. And its most recent new installation is taking place at A-1 Pallet Inc. located in Kent and Auburn, Washington. Both a pallet manufacturer and recycler in the Pacific Northwest, A-1 Pallet has two facilities and a variety of departments. The company is putting in plant floor kiosks and the Mill Manager software to more efficiently manage orders, inventory, compensation and scheduling.
Miceli said, “We have provided A-1 Pallet with the Mill Manager software and plant floor kiosks to track all of their incoming cants and long lengths. They process all purchases and orders through Mill Manager allowing them to use kiosks to receive material, track inventory, production runs, shipping and quality control – all in a paperless environment.”
The Secret to Innovative Data’s Success
There are two major reasons why the company has been successful in making its software a mainstay in the pallet and low-grade lumber industries. The first is the company’s focus on this niche sector. Miceli explained how he “got in the pallet business.”
Miceli said, “It was 1996, and Pallets-R-Us (PRU) of Long Island, New York has just purchased a repair line. After spending a large sum of money, the company found that production had gone down. Management had lost accountability of their repairers, and no one was motivated any longer to increase production. Fast repairers slowed down and slow repairers slowed even more. At that time, there was no accurate way to track individual production.”
Thomas Sorge, one of the owners of PRU approached Miceli and asked, “What do you think about barcoding the pallets to identify each person’s production?” Miceli commented, “I thought he was crazy, but he was persistent. He called in tech companies that designed barcode systems and knew right away, they couldn’t make a system that would work for the pallet industry. He kept on asking me, and I eventually agreed to develop something that would work. Innovative Data Systems was born out of necessity, and Thomas Sorge became my business partner.”
Not only did the software solution work, in fact it worked so well that repair line manufacturers began asking to package it together with their equipment. Miceli said, “We still partner with most of the major repair line manufacturers today! If you see barcodes on GMA pallets, the odds are very good that they are our customers. We are flattered to see that other companies are copying our systems. Obviously, they agree that this is the only correct way to track a repair line.”
Even though Innovative Data has grown to add software for sawmills, foresters and logistics, the company has remained dedicated to its pallet roots.
The second major reason for the company’s success is the dedication of its founder, Alan Miceli. He said, “We’re not perfect, but we try very hard to accommodate our client’s requests without nickel and diming them for every little change. My clients appreciate that, my wife, not so much, but it’s a formula for success that has worked well for me.”
Celebrating its 21st year in business in 2018, Innovative Data and its products are crucial for the next generation of the pallet industry where data will be king. For more information on the Innovative Data software, visit www.pallettrack.com or call 631-244-0069.
Miceli stated, “I really want to thank all of our customers over the last 21 years. It has been an honor to serve them and a privilege to become true friends. I believe that if you treat your customers like you would like to be treated, you will build a successful and satisfying business.”
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Data Is King