Founded in 1981, Melbourne-based E-Plas is a specialist plastic materials supplier with offices throughout Australia. The company’s wide product range caters to a diverse range of industries including mining, orthotics, nuclear medicine, ship building, transport, manufacturing, food production, bulk handling and conveying. This broad business base has enabled E-Plas to forge enduring relationships with many of the world’s leading polymer material producers.
For many years E-Plas relied on a comprehensive accounting software system to meet its financial management needs. It was in around 2018 that the limitations of that system, and of the ERP system that that same vendor was about to launch, became apparent, leading the company to seek out a replacement system that could not only handle accounting but could also capably manage inventory, purchasing, warehousing and other core day‑to‑day business processes. After researching the options available, Sean Kelly, General Manager at E-Plas, came across Jiwa and decided that it would be the best fit for the company.
“Our previous accounting software provider was about to release an ERP system and was encouraging suitable users to migrate to that product”, said Sean. “But I wasn’t all that impressed with their ERP solution – its database structure wasn’t great, its inventory management capabilities were weak and the process of extracting basic information was too complicated. So we looked around for a system that would better meet our needs. We soon came across Jiwa and found that it would not only fulfil our current requirements, which can be quite demanding, but also our future needs as our business evolves.”
“Jiwa has a clean and simple interface that doesn’t create unnecessary confusion for the user.”
Whereas at some customer organisations the Jiwa system is used by fewer than a handful of key personnel, at E-Plas – which has purchased 32 Jiwa licences – it’s a different story. The majority of E‑Plas’s 51 employees use Jiwa for one purpose or another. With so many users with varying degrees of computer skills, it was important that Jiwa be easy to learn and use. In this regard Jiwa has, according to Sean, lived up to its ease-of‑use promise.
“Unlike some other ERPs we considered, Jiwa has a clean and simple interface that doesn’t create unnecessary confusion for the user”, said Sean. “Because each Jiwa module uses the same layout and menu structure it’s a relatively easy system to learn and become proficient with. This ease‑of‑use functionality is important to E-Plas because we have a lot of staff members using the system and we’re not in a position to closely supervise every user as they go about their Jiwa-driven tasks.”
IT system downtime is something no business manager looks forward to. And the more reliant a business is on its technology infrastructure, the more disruptive downtime becomes. For E-Plas, prior to the deployment of Jiwa, each month the company’s finance team lost half a day of accounts processing while Rosie Cutropia, E-Plas’s Financial Controller, took over the business’s accounting system for the necessary production of close‑of‑month statements and reports. The half a day of downtime was a problematic thing to go through every month but became a thing of the past when Jiwa arrived on the scene, as Rosie explains:
“With our old accounting and business management software, routine accounts processing and end‑of‑month reporting couldn’t be done simultaneously, so we used to have to kick people off the system for several hours while we performed our close‑of‑month tasks”, she said. “This was very frustrating because any time that key staff can’t get on the system to service customers and run operations is valuable time lost.”
“Fortunately however we were able to put an end to all that because Jiwa enables transactions to be recorded and updated in the general ledger in real time. We no longer have to do any end‑of‑month processing because at any time on any day we can gain a completely up‑to‑date picture of how the company is tracking financially and perform our analyses accordingly. Not only is this a huge time‑saving benefit, it also allows us to more accurately monitor our ongoing financial activities and progress.”
For E-Plas the installation of Jiwa has also produced an increase in the accuracy, reliability and ultimately the overall quality of the company’s day‑to‑day accounting processes. With the previous accounting/business management system it was too easy for finance team members to perform clunky workarounds, conceal mistakes and adopt other practices that undermined E-Plas’s quality control efforts. By contrast, the Jiwa ERP solution has been developed in a way that does not allow users to take shortcuts, hide errors or circumvent designated accounting procedures.
“One of the great things about Jiwa is that it provides a complete audit trail, meaning that every aspect of every transaction is recorded and tracked to its source”, said Rosie. “With our old system users would sometimes make changes to an invoice or a sales order and we wouldn’t know who did it or why it was done. This quickly became an issue because whenever we tried to investigate problems with our accounts records – for example when there was a discrepancy between the price on the invoice that the customer received versus the invoice that’s in our system – we had no way of knowing who raised the original invoice and followed the transaction through. But Jiwa makes everyone accountable because it tracks everything. This is a huge plus for a company like ours where we have lots of people using the system.”
A large part of E-Plas’s operations involve the importation of plastics products and materials, primarily from Europe and the US. It would typically take around four months to receive an order. Being able to accurately predict what materials will be in demand several months down the track, and therefore worth ordering, was always a difficult task for the company. E-Plas’s previous business system lacked functionality that would enable confident demand forecasting.
Jiwa, however, is rich with capabilities in this area. By indicating the trading volume of individual products and by telling the user what stock is required, when it’s needed and in what quantities, Jiwa can take the guesswork out of inventory forecasting. “Predicting inventory demand – and striking that fine balance between being over‑stocked and under‑stocked – had always been a challenge for us”, said Sean. “Jiwa’s strengths in inventory forecasting give us the ability to predict future needs based on data regarding sales histories, customers, supplier lead times or whatever else we decide is relevant. After years of lacking the information that would enable us to confidently predict demand, well-informed data‑driven decision making when it comes to forecasting is now a reality for E-Plas.”
After E-Plas made the decision to go with Jiwa as its ERP, the next steps were system deployment and training, both of which were undertaken by Jiwa Solution Partner (JSP) Reporting Solutions.
Sean says, “Like presumably all new Jiwa customers, we wanted the transition from our old system to be carried out seamlessly, within a short time‑frame and with minimal disruption. And with no unpleasant surprises along the way. As it turned out, Gary Christieson and his team at Reporting Solutions delivered on all fronts. Having been down the business system deployment path before I know that things don’t always go to plan. But our Jiwa installation and training project went almost exactly to plan. Particularly impressive was that Reporting Solutions took the training side very seriously, setting up a classroom environment that was perfectly suited to system learning.”
Into the Future
It has been more than two years since E-Plas installed Jiwa and this leading plastics supplier is still discovering new ways to get the most out of the system. Ultimately at E-Plas it is all about increasing efficiencies, streamlining operations, improving productivity and keeping costs under tight control. Those types of benefits can only be achieved when E-Plas’s managers have access to and can easily analyse data that can drive sound decision‑making.
“Jiwa has improved operations throughout all our business units and the simple fact is that we wouldn’t be as successful as we are today without Jiwa“, said Sean. “Amongst a heap of other benefits Jiwa gives us the information we need when we need it and this alone has dramatically improved our ability to make sound business decisions – decisions that have ultimately resulted in a healthier bottom line.”