ERP for Chemical Manufacturing

Athea Labs Completes Their ‘ERP Overhaul’ With BatchMaster ERP

Athea Labs is now in the final stages of their BatchMaster ERP with SAP Business One implementation and they couldn’t be more energized. Athea Labs knows how to leverage its manufacturing, quality, and product development expertise within the company, and implementing BatchMaster ERP will both complement this expertise and be key to their future growth.

For over 35 years, Athea Labs has been fine-tuning its knowledge and skills and has been delivering specialty chemicals and specialty products to customers in the Midwest and surrounding states. Athea Labs is an industry leader in the niche market of chemical specialties, manufacturing products from herbicides to insecticides to industrial cleaners to aerosols. In addition to their enormous private label business, Athea Labs developed its own product label, Total Solutions.

Long Overdue Need for a Comprehensive, Integrated Solution

Over the years, Athea Labs has utilized several independent programs and the knowledge and knowhow of many key employees with department expertise to keep things running smoothly. At the main core of the business operations was an old ERP solution (20+ years) running on an AS-400. Like most old solutions, the product had become so specialized for Athea’s needs that updates to current releases were no longer possible. To add to this limitation, their old ERP solution was missing key functions, such as MRP and MPS, which was needed to drive Inventory and Manufacturing requirements. This meant that Athea had to get creative with developing many of their own functions, outside the old ERP solution.

One of the functions maintained in Athea’s old ERP solution was Production Work Orders and routings, but without Planning. “Without an MRP/MPS integrated solution, we needed to manually enter our customer orders into the system Pick Slips,” shared John Olson, VP Operations. “Our old ERP solution did not maintain a Lot Number/Location relationship for our items and since we inventory all our chemicals and finished goods by lot number, the process of locating the First Expired, First Out (FEFO) quantity of our chemicals could sometimes end up being a long and tedious process,” added Olson.

“Between our own chemical manufacturing, our private label manufacturing and our wet Wipe manufacturing, we have a large quantity of work orders per week. In addition, we also have multiple locations where we store our chemicals,” discussed Olson. “BatchMaster ERP is going to help us in manufacturing in a number of ways. First having the lot number with location on the Pick Slip will be huge. Expiration dates will also be linked by lot number, so that we are certain to be pulling the FEFO quantity from the area.” Olson said another big benefit will be with their inventory stock levels. “The integration of inventory quantities with Manufacturing, Sales Order and MRP will result in much lower quantities of inventory being stocked and much faster turnover of our inventory,” commented Olson.

Olson shared that without MRP in their old ERP solution, Athea experts needed to manually combine products with like formulas in a spreadsheet, so that manufacturing could optimize the material quantities required to fulfill multiple orders with a single production batch. “BatchMaster ERP will balance our material requirements and combine finished goods with like formulas, which is going to make us so much more efficient,” smiled Olson.

Streamlining the R&D Process with BatchMaster ERP’s Sample Management

Athea Labs has both strong Research & Development and strong Quality Management departments and both these operations are leveraged effectively for the entire organization. With neither of these functions being managed by the old ERP solution, Athea had to again get creative in designing their own systems to manage these areas. “Having the ability to enter a customer’s product needs into BatchMaster’s Sample Management is going to streamline our entire operation,” states Misti Gerbensky, Director of R&D for Athea Labs. The old process of managing and documenting our customer’s new product requires many steps and sign-offs. Sample Management has an entire process dedicated to handling customer samples prior to ordering,” added Gerbensky. “Also, having access to all the chemicals and their properties right within one system will be revolutionary!”

Gerbensky listed several other benefits with using BatchMaster ERP such as improving communication by having visibility from manufacturing into R&D, ending redundancies by moving formulas maintenance from dual systems to one system and centralizing QC results into one database. “I’m a big cheerleader here for BatchMaster ERP and the time-savings we will see is going to provide a huge advantage,” stated Gerbensky.

Bringing Quality Management under a Single BatchMaster ERP Solution As the Quality Technical Director, Dale Hamann heads up Quality Management for the entire organization. Because Athea’s old ERP solution did not manage quality tests and results, Hamann built a Quality Management System (QMS) to track tests and results for chemicals, batches, and cleaning & sanitizing lines including company-designed inspection forms. “Some of our products are FDA regulated, so we must maintain SOPs, test methods, QC procedures and additional SOPs for cleaning & sanitizing to meet cGMP compliance and like several other functions, our QMS existed outside our old ERP product,” discussed Hamann. “Our philosophy is that Quality is everybody’s responsibility and integrating Quality Management within BatchMaster ERP will make tracking Quality for each item at the lot level immensely easier. Also, using BatchMaster ERP for Inspection Plans and Checklists will weave our SOPs in to the system,” shared Hamann. With BatchMaster ERP, we plan to roll out our quality standard used by our wipes for all Athea products.

Eliminating Paperwork and Streamlining Processes

A key benefit that Athea Labs will recognize at Go Live date is the greatly reduced paper trail of their financial reporting and record keeping required by the old ERP solution. “With SAP Business One as the Core Financials for BatchMaster ERP, we are extremely pleased with record keeping reductions and cost savings we’ll receive right away,” stated Kevin Behm, CFO. “With our old ERP solution, we needed to use an outside service to generate our invoices. If we had changes to invoices, this would begin a manual paper trail that was archaic and time-consuming.”

Behm shared that bringing the financial record keeping into BatchMaster’s OEM SAP Business One for Chemicals solution will improve their Order Management and their Credit and Collections process tremendously. “We plan to use the Approval and Workflow functions within the solution to streamline our sales process. Some of our orders have several stages and processes, and the BatchMaster Workflow function can automate this. Also, we plan to reduce the paper shuffling that had been necessary when we sold our non-chemical products, such as protective clothing, along with our products. Automating these processes will streamline our ability to provide outstanding customer service,” concluded Behm.

Stacking up the Benefits

IT Director and Internal Project Manager, Tom Jones, was hugely instrumental in the decision to partner with BatchMaster Software and has been internally managing and following the implementation process along the way. “Getting lot tracking into one solution where we can apply the lot number beginning at PO receipt through manufacturing into shipping will most likely prove to be our biggest benefit of moving to BatchMaster ERP,” attested Jones. “The additional time it takes for us to maintain our lot tracking independent of our old ERP, especially when we have an issue with a product is super time-intensive. A single integrated solution was a top priority when selecting BatchMaster ERP,” added Jones

“We’ve seen how the Lot Traceability Dashboard is a key compliance function within BatchMaster and will be essential for Mock Recalls and FDA Inspections. With the full integration of BatchMaster ERP with SAP Business One, we can easily validate our FDA reports, showing that products are released following all FDA standards. This is a must for our business,” discussed Jones. “And using Bin Management within BatchMaster ERP will vastly speed up the process of locating first expired lots at their exact location.”

Jones shared that learning a new system has been both exciting and challenging. “As the Internal Project Manager, I’ve been involved in most of the training sessions,” states Jones. “Since an overhaul to our old ERP system with independent programs is overdue, we’re bringing together many people and departments within our organization. I can say that this project has unified our team and will continue to improve our collaboration. We are nearly ready to Go-Live, so it’s an exciting time at our company and we’ll be working side by side with the BatchMaster Software team,” concluded Jones.