Beacon Industries is a high-end defense contractor that provides precision machining and assembly services to the defense and aerospace industries. Based in Dallas Texas in a 100,000 sq/ft world-class facility, they machine very large and complex aerostructures and assemblies for customers like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and others.
Beacon Industries is a high-end defense contractor that provides precision machining and assembly services to the defense and aerospace industries. Based in Dallas Texas in a 100,000 sq/ft world-class facility, they machine very large and complex aerostructures and assemblies for customers like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and others. Beacon utilized Epicor for 23 years, and like many typical AS9100 certified manufacturers, had a very paper-heavy environment. Every job had a large paper job traveler package that would travel with the parts through their facility with the job router, setup information, tool lists, BOMs, copies of material certs, hardware certs, etc. When jobs would transit to outside processes, another copy of the document package would be created. And yet another for their source inspection process, which would ultimately be scanned back in and then re-printed when the job finally shipped to the customer. For a complex assembly with 10 levels of BOM, the paper package could easily be a couple inches thick with hundreds of pieces of paper. This was very normal to them and didn’t seem out of the ordinary. They also used a paper time clock punch card system for recording time and attendance as well as time tracking on jobs. Everything was very organized and traceable, but in a nutshell, they were drowning in paper.
When Steve Jennett, their President decided that they needed to look at an upgrade to their ill-fitting Epicor system, ProShop quickly became the front runner based on the specific machine shop functionality and the fact that it was a paperless system. After a relatively quick implementation of just 5 months, the 60 person shop went live and started realizing the benefits immediately. One thing that Steve and the team noticed immediately is how much more powerful ProShop was at allowing native creation of content and documentation directly in the browser, as well as significantly better attachment and filing of existing documents which directly lead to an immediate and major reduction in the paperwork needed to manage their jobs. The benefits of this would soon reveal themselves.
A meaningful application of this new capability presented itself just 2 months after going live. They were scheduled for a PAR (Post Award Review) meeting with one of their largest clients, Raytheon. The PAR process is a required process once a contract is awarded, and before a purchase order will be issued. It’s an in-depth audit and review of the supplier’s business processes and quality management system to ensure that all the contract flowdowns and requirements will be handled and there won’t be any big and nasty surprises in the execution of the contract. There is a lot at stake during these meetings and they had been given “sternly worded feedback” according to Steve, by Raytheon on their previous PAR review that the previous Epicor-based system of file folders and paper documents had a lot of inherent risk, and they expected Beacon to dramatically improve their process to reduce the risks inherent in the system. Raytheon gave them feedback that the very tedious and error-prone system of manually configured folders, permissions and paper documents wasn’t up to the level that they were expecting. “Raytheon always had full confidence in the robust manufacturing and quality processes at Beacon, but less so in the management of documentation and paperwork side of things,” noted Steve.
The PAR team from Raytheon scheduled a 3 day review for a newly awarded contract for the RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) system. When Steve and the team started the audit by showing them their new ProShop system, the Raytheon team was curious about what improvements this new system would offer. As the Beacon team navigated the browser based and paperless system, showing them all the built-in processes for contract review, risk mitigation and more, pulling up the required answers and documentation in seconds for the Raytheon team, it became evident that this audit was going much better than the previous one. Steve and the team breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the smiles and meaningful nods of the review team.
Just 5 hours into the 3 day audit, the PAR review was done! “The Raytheon team was absolutely blown away! They LOVED ProShop. They told us they had never been through such an easy, seamless and fast PAR audit before.” said Steve. “They commented that ProShop represented a significant improvement in our management processes and their confidence in us as a supplier to perform flawlessly for them. It was a huge relief, and underscored that we had chosen well with ProShop!”
One of the other requirements from Raytheon is that the access to data for individual employees can be configured and locked down. Steve was able to demonstrate this capability of ProShop with the “Log-In As User” feature. Steve was able to log-in as the janitor at Beacon who is not an ITAR approved employee, and he was able to easily demonstrate that no sensitive data was accessible to that employee. All technical data, drawings, attachments, were completely locked out. This represented both a much more robust capability than their prior Epicor/folder structure system, but also a considerably less onerous process that takes a lot less time to manage, freeing up employees to work on more value added tasks.
With the review a success, Beacon received the purchase order for the RAM system. ProShop proved itself time and time again by eliminating all the inherent waste with a paper and folder based system. The project moved faster through the shop, and required less overhead to manage things. “Employees no longer need to browse through our mapped network drives and folders,” said Steve. “Everything they need is linked directly in the browser, and available based on their permission settings. It saves vast quantities of time for our team.” Steve and the team were very pleased with the reduced overhead and faster workflows afforded by ProShop, but some of the most meaningful improvements were still ahead.
When it came to the process of sending various machined components to outside processes, and eventually the source-inspection process, Steve and the team could hardly believe how much of an impact ProShop made. “When we used to assemble document packages for source inspection and shipping it took us 45 minutes minimum for just a single part number, and between 4-8 hours for a more complex assembly,” Steve noted. “Now with ProShop, it’s a single click, and those times for a single PN are 1-2 minutes and about 10 minutes for a large assembly of 30-40 total levels of BOM. That’s about a 96% reduction!” In fact, the QA Document Specialist who’s full time job was to assemble document packages, was afraid she was going to lose her job. Steve reassured her that she would not lose her job, but in fact, get an advancement into being a Quality Engineer, providing a lot more value to the company. “Now anybody can do document prep. It’s a matter of clicking a single button and the pre-configured options will do the rest. ProShop even warns us if there is a missing document that needs to be a part of the document package,” Steve said. “We’ve saved a full time overhead salary just with that one feature alone. It’s a game changer!”
In the prior system, the process of releasing a job to the floor would require several steps and take about 3 hours of elapsed time at a minimum. Here are the steps they used to take:
With ProShop, and having no paper traveler the process looks like this:
“The new paperless process in ProShop takes about 15 minutes of elapsed time in most cases, saving us many hours per week, and allowing our team to get started on our Work Orders much faster than we could in the past,” noted Steve.
The amount of paper that Beacon used to consume in the past was staggering, said Steve. “We would buy paper by the pallet load, in the past. For job travelers, we used a heavy paper stock that would stand up to the shop environment better. And then for our document packages we would often have multiple copies that were needed at different times which often consumed hundreds of pieces of paper per job.”
When crunching numbers for what their savings were, a conservative estimate would be $11-15k per year on paper alone, and another $6-10k in toner and printing expenses. “So we are saving around $20-$25k in printing expenses on the low end,” said Steve. “We are saving more in just paper and toner than our ProShop subscription costs us per year, it’s a no-brainer.” Steve also noted that they have recently gone through a process of scanning and purging years worth of old paper documents, eliminating dozens of filing cabinets and bankers boxes, freeing up valuable floor space that can now be used for other purposes.
After the very successful PAR meeting in November 2021, the Raytheon team was so happy with Beacon’s new system and ability to deftly handle very complex flowdowns and contractual requirements, that they quickly awarded 3 more contracts to Beacon. “The next 3 PAR reviews were even easier than the first one we did in ProShop. Now that their team is familiar with how ProShop works, we fly through the PAR reviews,” said Steve. “The last one we did took 1 hour instead of the normal 3 day process it used to take. Now we spend more time touring the shop, our new equipment and capabilities, and talking about more opportunities. Any concerns that Raytheon had about our old system have completely evaporated. I’m confident that our usage of ProShop was a major contributing factor to them awarding us those 3 new contracts so quickly!”
All of Beacon’s clients who have seen the new system have been very impressed. Besides Raytheon, SpaceX and others have also been able to review Beacon’s new processes and have given enthusiastic approval of the improvements that will allow Beacon to serve them better as customers. “I would say that across the board, client trust in us as a key supplier has gone through the roof,” Steve said proudly. “How do you put a price tag on that?”