November 14, 2016
Better Off Together
(This article appears in the current issue of Biofuels International Magazine)
These days, many ethanol plants are searching for systems that combine purchasing and maintenance management into one. For the past 20+ years, Mapcon Technologies Inc. has offered purchasing within their computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). Purchasing was integrated into the software to help companies enforce spending controls while reducing the time it takes from requisition to purchase order.
Lincolnland Agri Energy, located in Palestine Illinois, has been a part of the MAPCON family since early 2007. They have found having purchasing within their CMMS to be very helpful. According to Maintenance and Purchasing Coordinator Candace Kincaid, not only is it convenient, but it also saves them time and money. The majority of their purchasing comes from the maintenance department, so Kincaid thinks the integration of CMMS and purchasing just makes sense. Also, since the maintenance staff already knows how to use MAPCON, there is no additional training for employees needed to complete the purchasing process, which is definitely more efficient.
MAPCON’s CMMS can integrate directly with many accounting systems, which prevents employees from needing to enter vendor and purchase order information twice. The accounting department at Lincolnland uses Microsoft Dynamics GP, which integrates perfectly with their MAPCON system.
“It was integrated a couple of years ago and so far it has worked great between the two systems. It is nice for our accounting clerk to not have to enter all of the information twice!” Kincaid stated.
Previously, ethanol plant managers needed to closely monitor their parts and make sure more were ordered once the minimum number required was reached. Since this was a manual process, errors could be made and things could easily be missed. Also, manually tracking and reordering parts can be time consuming. MAPCON has automated that process, which not only saves managers time, but it also ensures that parts are always available when they are needed, and that the repairs won’t be delayed because a part was not ordered. Users can set a minimum and optimum number required for each part. When a technician issues a part to a work order, it is tracked. When the minimum number of parts has been reached, a purchase requisition is automatically created to order enough parts to reach the optimum number set, and a notification is sent to the proper manager for approval. Users can also change the settings so that the economic order quantity (EOQ) is reached, which can help save the plant money. Users that also have MAPCON Mobile will receive a notification on their smartphone or tablet letting them know that their approval is required. Receiving an email or a notification right away can save time by getting the approval process started almost instantly. Once the purchase order is approved, it can be automatically emailed to the vendor.
When the parts are received, users can log into MAPCON and enter the parts into the system. A notification can then be sent to employees that need to know when the part is received so work can begin. After the parts are added, a stocking report can be generated. This report shows employees in receiving exactly where the parts need to be stored. Having this report handy saves receiving from having to ask supervisors where to put the parts. Users can also easily print barcodes and attach them to the newly received parts at this point.
Invoices can be entered into MAPCON, and the information will flow over to the plant’s accounting interface. Adding the invoices to MAPCON first is helpful because the pricing information within the CMMS will be updated if it is incorrect.
In MAPCON, a purchase order can be issued directly to a location, work order, or piece of equipment. This is useful for when a part is needed that is not kept in stock. Purchasing a part directly to a piece of equipment or a work order is also useful when tracking repair costs, as it will be evident what parts were purchased specifically for that equipment and what the costs were.
When vendor information, such as the address and phone number, is saved in MAPCON, it will populate when a purchase requisition or purchase order is created. This not only saves time, but it also helps prevent simple mistakes. Since the information does not have to be entered each time, typos and other mistakes which can delay the order can be avoided. Pricing information is also kept within their CMMS. Kincaid says that having pricing information for parts also stored in MAPCON helps ensure that plants are being charged correctly. There is also a purchase order history within the system so employees can see exactly what parts were requested, how many, and what the charge was for past orders. Vendor terms, such as when payment is required, can also be added. If a vendor gives a discount for receiving payment early, that can be tracked and added to the purchase order and the invoice.
Ethanol plants can also use the purchasing part of their CMMS to track the cost of different projects. MAPCON allows users to create different projects and write purchase orders to them, thus tracking the costs. Currently Lincolnland has several projects going on that they need to track the cost of. They are in the process of adding a fifth fermenter and a fourth grain bin. They need to track how much has been spent on the contractors installing both pieces of equipment as well as any other costs that arise, expected or unexpected. Tracking these costs will help them plan for the future, in case another new fermenter or grain bin is needed.
Since most of the costs accrued in an ethanol plant are maintenance related, it just makes sense to combine maintenance management and purchasing into one system that integrates with the plants existing accounting system. MAPCON did this over 20 years ago, and hasn’t looked back since.