Leading the way in digitalisation

Finding the right partner to take with you on the digital manufacturing journey can save money and increase orders. Manufacturers’ Monthly finds out.

With the digitalisation of manufacturing processes speeding up, it can be hard to imagine what process and workflows would be like without our digital tools. But the journey
to a connected manufacturing ecosystem, even within the one plant depends upon the individual nature and design of each business.

Mapal Australia, a supplier of cutting tools and metal working fluids, took its own, unique path on the digitalisation journey. According to Kanak Raj, managing director of Mapal Australia, the first area to be digitalised was the accounting side of the business, which turned to Xero for a solution.

“When Xero kicked in then Mapal looked at their inventory side as well. That’s the time they found that Unleashed was a platform that supports inventory and Unleashed also integrates with Xero.”

An inventory management software designed for manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors, Unleashed fitted into Mapal Australia’s business operations, being the local sales arm of the German machine tools manufacturer.

Coming in to the organisation once Unleashed had been integrated with the accounting system, Raj saw the potential of the platform.

“I saw that Unleashed was not being utilised to its full extent. We were on one of the oldest subscriptions levels and so I changed it to the full capability, and from then on, we found that it was more suitable for the business in every way.”

What distinguishes Mapal’s integration of Unleashed software, is its relationship to the German parent company. As Raj described, the business’s local operations melded into what functionalities Unleashed could provide.

“Mapal’s business in Australia is only trading, so we bring in goods, we sell it and we also carry some inventory here. We’re managing the inventory and making the re-orders go smoothly. For all those things, Unleashed is very powerful and useful.”

When the German arm of the business began to direct its subsidiary to utilise SAP as an ERP platform, the local characteristics of Mapal in Australia meant that bringing such a large program to the business was not realistic.

“Globally it’s 5,500 employees – here in Australia we are 12 employees. Headquarters wanted enterprise software program SAP to be introduced to every subsidiary and at that time, I asked the question ‘who’s going to pay for it?’ and they said every subsidiary has to pay for it,” said Raj.

“I said, ‘You don’t have to install it, you may as well shut the business down,’ and they asked why, to which I said ‘Who’s going to pay $50,000 for a system when you have only a $5 million turnover?’”

Continuing with Unleashed provided the local company a way to cost effectively improve their business operations, however without sacrificing interoperability. While Mapal Australia’s suppliers utilise SAP and other software platforms, the current project Raj is pursuing is integrating Unleashed’s inventory management system with the systems of Mapal’s suppliers.

“Testing is going on and we are just ironing out some of the issues, and once that is done we will be using that. The idea is that when we raise a purchase order in Unleashed or a sales order in Unleashed the data is pushed automatically into the other platform.”

Within the business what we’re trying to do is take the data from Unleashed directly into our reporting packages to the headquarters’ system and that will also go through an API.

This saves Mapal from completing orders via email, over the phone or on paper, smoothing out any bumps that are caused in the business’s operations.

“The supplier doesn’t accept any paperwork anymore, they’re all digital. They have their own platform and if you want anything purchased from them you need to actually enter the order on their platform. Instead of duplicating the same work, what we’re trying to do is integrate it so that when we place a purchase order on Unleashed, it is actually automatically getting pushed into the other side, while also taking data from the other side, so we can update our order confirmation dates and delivery dates,” said Raj.

The successful utilisation of Unleashed in Australia has also influenced the approach that Mapal has taken in expanding to new sites in South East Asia. At the company’s Malaysian facility, which is also handling production, Unleashed has been the platform of choice.

“Within the business what we’re trying to do is take the data from Unleashed directly into
our reporting packages to the headquarters’ system and that will also go through an application processing interface (API),” said Raj. “Once that is successful, we will roll this into a couple of other units in Southeast Asia.”

Creating a digital business from the ground up has been informed by Raj’s experience working with integrating Unleashed into a business that has been in Australia for half a century. Integral to the success of that has been the support which Unleashed provided Raj at both ends of the process. While Raj has premium support in Australia, the site in Malaysia only had a basic level of support, knowing that the two businesses were connected, however, Unleashed provided the same level of service.

“To get it kicked in and manage that in Malaysia, the staff from Unleashed over the phone helped me, even though we didn’t have telephone support function for that particular account. Because I have it on my Australian account, I just dialled in and had a couple of questions that they answered me. For that reason, I should thank the staff at Unleashed for doing it because they could’ve turned around and said, ‘You don’t have the telephone support. You need to send everything by email’.”

Not only has partnering with Unleashed been part of Mapal’s story of expansion, it has also streamlined the business internally – a key saving that can be found in digitalisation. Raj estimated that Unleashed reduced his labour cost by 50 per cent of one full time equivalent position, and with the subsequent integration of the B2B eCommerce store from Unleashed, Raj only  expects the number to grow. “Bringing in the B2B Store helps us reduce our internal work. It’s just a matter of getting our customers in the right mindset to start using the platform because if the order is placed in the B2B Store it is only a matter of accepting that particular order in Unleashed to process it.”

In this sense, Raj sees the potential of Unleashed’s functionality to go beyond the cost savings normally associated with digitalisation.

“Unleashed is going to cut down costs, but at the same time, the B2B is a tool actually to increase the business. For an online shop, you don’t want anything complicated. You just want to pick what you want, put it in the cart, and pay for it as quick as possible. The simpler the shop looks and feels, that’s when the customer will do more shopping on it.”

Raj estimates that between 30- 35 customers have embraced this digital ordering process, which in expanding the digital aspects of Mapal’s business beyond accounting and inventory, comprise the next step of digitalisation.

For Danielle Dadello, country manager of Unleashed, this example of the utilisation of the B2B store on the digitalisation journey, is one area where Australia is a world leader, and has the potential to increase accuracy.

“Phone orders and email orders, they have mistakes and they’re very time consuming for your sales team to punch into the system.”

As customers look to this functionality, Dadello highlights the importance of having a partner such as Unleashed in managing this change.

“People are pushing that message into digital transformation and ensuring you’ve got the best of breed system helps take you into that digital form, rather than passing pieces of paper around.”