Sistema is an iconic New Zealand-based company that manufactures, markets and distributes stackable food-safe plastic kitchen storage containers.

From humble beginnings in 1982, the company has grown to become a world-leading brand that exports to more than 100 countries worldwide and counts its customers in the millions. A recognised innovator in the field of plastics manufacturing, the company operates from a new state-of-the-art production facility in Auckland that’s packed with automation and robotics technologies.

The challenge

To ensure its products remain internationally competitive, Sistema wants to maximise production output and quality in the most cost-effective way possible.

“Based in New Zealand, we’re a long way away from many global customers, so optimising manufacturing performance is mission-critical for offsetting the impact of high logistics costs on our business,” explains Greg Heeley, Chief Technical Officer at Sistema Plastics.

Ten years ago, the company implemented Epicor Mattec MES to manage its production and assembly processes. Handling everything from scheduling to the monitoring of 10 assembly lines, Epicor Mattec collects and analyses data directly from equipment and operators on the shop-floor to provide an up-to-the-minute view of machine and production availability.

“Without Mattec MES, our shop-floor wouldn’t know what to make, or when to make it,” confirms Heeley. “Using the system has enabled us to run more machines with the same number of staff and move from a 24/7 to a 24/5 shift pattern without compromising output.

“Integrating Epicor ERP with Mattec MES would allow us to connect our planning, scheduling and quality data with shop-floor realities in one unified system. This would enable us to work smarter and further optimise operational efficiency.”

Optimising outcomes

Sistema’s pioneering production facility features a variety of automation technologies that include  robotics and vision recognition systems. Integrating Epicor ERP and Mattec MES has delivered real-time access to machine and quality data that can be imported into the ERP system to better plan schedules and resources.

“The ability to pull data into a seamless bi-directional information environment means we can now plan more effectively and identify efficiency opportunities that go beyond those generated by automation alone—for example, improved job scheduling, better cycling of things like colour changes, and minimising downtimes between jobs,” explains Heeley. “We’ve also integrated our warehouse management system (WMS) with Epicor ERP – today our WMS knows the location of everything, while Epicor ERP reconciles stock in and out of the WMS.”

Tight integration and real-time feedback between the ERP, MES and other systems has been enabled by an Epicor REST API that delivers a holistic view of the entire operation—delivering the real-time insights Sistema needs to pinpoint critical issues, reduce waste, and improve quality and customer service.

“Without the two systems, we wouldn’t be able to run an effective operation,” continues Heeley. “Everyone in the business can see the same data and easily review and discuss findings. It also helps us to target the top exception issues and focus effort where it’s needed the most.

“For example, we can now highlight to the shop-floor if we’ve got a job running but haven’t done an inspection plan for it, helping production supervisors to stay on top of things while adding depth and dimension to the production data delivered to operators via touch screens on the shop-floor.”

Future-proofing operations

Having successfully leveraged an integrated ERP and MES platform to streamline production and generate additional efficiencies, Sistema is about to embark on a series of additional connectivity initiatives that will enable truly smart manufacturing.

“Next we plan to harness the two systems to generate predictive analytics that will tell us what will go wrong, when, and why,” explains Heeley. “This will enable us to initiate a maintenance avoidance strategy that ensures our production never misses a beat.”

To enable these granular insights, the firm is initiating sensors on all its machines and pulling this data into Epicor and extending its quality assurance into Epicor ERP/Mattec MES too. Finally, a project is underway to deliver video work instructions direct to the shop-floor using Epicor ERP, DocSTAR and the Epicor REST API.

Business intelligence that drives growth

Delivering a real-time digitalised close loop between business systems and the plant floor that’s essential for improving operational effectiveness and responsiveness is just one of the gains that’s resulted from the integration of Epicor ERP and Mattec MES. The availability of unified business intelligence from across the organisation is helping to make the company fit, fast and flexible for future market growth.

“We now have a single source of truth and one source of data that’s vital for our finance and operational teams, rather than multiple systems containing parts of the story,” says Heeley. “Everything comes back to Epicor ERP, which gives us an enterprise-wide view of business operations and costs that supports better, more informed decision making.

“Not only can we better utilise shop-floor data to better plan to meet customer demand and seamlessly automate multiple processes to drive down costs, we’re also able to improve efficiency across our business operations and, in the future, predict what the future will look like.”