Case Study: Maintenance Equipment Maker Paves a Road to Business Intelligence

Case Study: Maintenance Equipment Maker Paves a Road to Business Intelligence

For more than a century, E.D. Etnyre & Co. and its sister company BearCat Manufacturing have built industrial equipment that helps cities, towns, and other organizations maintain and preserve millions of miles of asphalt roads. You’ll find the companies’ beefy rigs in countries across the globe.

Based in Oregon, Illinois, E.D. Etnyre & Co. manufactures a wide range of maintenance equipment—asphalt spreaders, chip spreaders, storage tanks, and trailers—serving the asphalt road construction industry. The company operates under several brands, including Etnyre and BearCat Manufacturing.

Tada Cognitive Solutions, based in Peoria, Illinois, simplifies data management with Digital Duplicate technology that connects people, products, and processes to provide collaboration, orchestration, and visibility across the enterprise ecosystem.

Yet even as Etnyre’s products continue to incorporate a growing range of technical advances to provide customers with quality road performance and reliability, its order-to-delivery process faced significant roadblocks.

The data the company needed to plan for production largely resided within its employee base, as well as in disparate information systems, many of which the company had outgrown. Lacking a single, enterprise-wide repository of information made it difficult for Etnyre to track material costs and other expenses, identify trends, and schedule production to avoid unnecessary costs.

To address these challenges, Etnyre turned to Tada Cognitive Solutions. The provider’s digital twin technology offers multiple benefits, including end-to-end visibility across Etnyre’s entire supply chain. It accomplishes this by efficiently connecting internal and external data from multiple systems, enabling Etnyre to quickly access accurate information, enhancing its ability to make informed, effective, and strategic business decisions.

Since 1898, the asphalt distributors, pull trailers, spreaders, sealers, and other products manufactured by E.D. Etnyre & Co. under several brands, including Etnyre and BearCat, have helped communities in many parts of the world maintain their roads. Since 2020, headcount at the Oregon, Illinois-based company has grown by more than 30%.

Etnyre’s equipment has also undergone tremendous advances over the past 124 years, progressing from products like a horse-drawn road sprinkler/oiler to today’s high-tech equipment. For instance, the computerized rate control for asphalt distributors, a capability offered on BearCat machines, boosts accuracy and eliminates operator calculations and adjustments.

We Are Family

Even as Etnyre has grown, it remains a “family-owned and family company,” says Justin Nelson, senior director of information technology. Many employees are among the second or third generations in their families to work at the firm. They’ve accumulated stores of knowledge about the company and its processes.

The challenge? It could be difficult for others to access the information and then leverage it to guide decisions.

Many of the company’s information systems had been built in-house several decades ago. Not only were they outdated, but they often failed to provide the information Etnyre management needed to move the business forward.

“At the end of each month and the end of each quarter, we would kill lots of trees,” Nelson says. “We’d create tons of paper reports.”

Outdated, Transactional Information

Along with the impact to the environment, the information contained in the reports often was outdated. “We could see only what happened three weeks ago,” Nelson says.

Moreover, the reports contained transactional information, detailing what products had been bought and sold, but didn’t provide “good, actionable intelligence,” like visibility to emerging trends, which could help management make more informed decisions, Nelson says.

In addition, information was scattered across multiple systems. For instance, quotes were in one system and sales orders in another. Because the solutions weren’t integrated, anyone searching for both types of information had to log into each system separately.

Then came the pandemic and its accompanying challenges, including labor shortages and supply chain upheaval. The result was “the perfect storm,” Nelson says.

It was time to change how Etnyre managed the information it generated, so leadership could better leverage it to drive growth. That would require integrating information from multiple systems and ensuring it was both accurate and easily available.

Connecting Systems

To meet this goal, Etnyre turned to Tada, whose name is an anagram for “data.” Tada’s Digital Duplicate technology forms a layer that enables communication across disparate systems, such as inventory, financial, and warehouse management solutions. “It brings together complicated systems under one roof,” says Rohan Parambi, senior director for business and product development at Tada. As a result, information flows between the systems.

To accomplish this, the Tada solution connects directly to source data in primary repositories like enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs) and customer relationship management systems (CRMs), as well as in peripheral smaller systems like warehouse and inventory applications, or Access databases or spreadsheets. Traditionally, these systems haven’t been easily connected.

“Tada sat on top of the whole ecosystem and connected the dots,” Nelson says.

Once the Tada solution assembles this information, technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence help business leaders analyze the information and make rapid, intelligent business decisions, Parambi says.

Tada’s technology, along with connecting people, systems, and processes within an organization, can link vendors and customers, promoting collaboration and providing visibility across the end-to-end supply chain.

For example, once a customer places an order, the Tada system can check whether it’s in manufacturing or assembly. The company can see if an individual supplier or part is holding up the schedule. “They know immediately what the issue is,” Parambi says. This knowledge enables companies to quickly address any challenges, providing a competitive edge.

Etnyre implemented Tada’s solution in 2020. In the months leading up to the implementation, Etnyre made its data accessible to Tada’s team members, so they could enable the connections between the various systems.

Most areas of Etnyre were involved in the system implementation. The Tada system covers everything “from quote to cash,” so departments involved in or impacted by these functions were involved in the implementation.

Getting Smarter

By leveraging the Tada solution, Etnyre was able to create information dashboards showing, among other data, operating and sales trends over time, along with key performance indicators. “Almost overnight, we got a lot smarter about our business,” Nelson says.

For instance, supply chain and other leaders could easily see where inventory was being used and identify any suppliers that were falling short of their service-level agreements. With information no longer scattered across multiple systems, “we could shine a light on this,” Nelson says.

Etnyre implemented the system in phases. Nelson and his colleagues would make some information accessible, and then Tada would use it to develop, say, an inventory turns dashboard. Etnyre would make sure the dashboard met its information needs.

Because Tada’s solution is delivered over the internet, Etnyre didn’t have to implement new hardware or systems. The solution also sits as a layer outside Etnyre’s current systems, so it can be implemented without “breaking continuity,” Nelson says.

In contrast, when a company shifts from one system to another, it often can be difficult to continue producing analytics that include past information, allowing for apples-to-apples comparisons.

Tada completes many of its implementations within six to eight weeks, Parambi says.

The Relationship Is Key

One key differentiator from many other initiatives has been Etnyre’s strong relationship with Tada, Nelson says. As the two companies worked together, Tada would often identify information Etnyre might not have thought to ask for.

For instance, as Etnyre began using the Tada solution to analyze its supply chain, Tada built supplier scorecards that measure promised delivery dates against actual ones. This allowed Etnyre to identify any suppliers that were holding up orders. Etnyre also built a capacity planning tool, which was outside the initial project scope.

Along with the expertise they provided, Tada employees were on-site at Etnyre to help employees understand and learn the solution, and recognize the value it could provide. Their involvement helped encourage adoption across the organization.

“Tada has also been a key driver in breaking down information siloes,” Nelson says. Now, among other changes, sales can see planning and production scheduling and identify the locations of any bottlenecks. And as employees have become more used to sharing information, they’ve engaged in more collaboration and bridge-building. “That has been the biggest return on investment,” Nelson says.

In addition, “strategically, we’re a stronger organization because we have greater access to information,” he adds.

For instance, information made newly accessible because of the Tada solution has helped management more rigorously evaluate its product mix with respect to profitability.

“We’ve made decisions regarding where to divert resources to run our business most effectively,” Nelson says. In contrast, several years ago, many of these types of decisions were based on “conjecture and assumptions,” he adds.

In the future, Etnyre plans to expand its use of the Tada technology. Currently, the schedule is on hold as Etnyre replaces a range of other systems with a single ERP solution.

Casebook Study: Seeing Double

The Challenges

E.D. Etnyre, which produces maintenance equipment for asphalt roads under several brands, including Etnyre and BearCat Manufacturing, lacked timely visibility to its operations and sales data, as well as to its suppliers’ performance. Transaction information was scattered across multiple systems and retained by employees as tribal knowledge, making it difficult to access and bring together.

The Solution

Digital Duplicate technology from Tada Cognitive Solutions forms a layer that facilitates communication across disparate systems, including inventory, financial, and warehouse management solutions, among others.

The Results

Etnyre gained in-depth, timely information to its own and its suppliers’ performance. Implementing the Tada solution also helped to break down internal siloes to foster more collaboration. In addition, Etnyre has been able to more accurately assess the profitability of its multiple product lines and determine where to allocate resources.

Next Steps

Etnyre plans to expand its application of the Tada technology, although the schedule is yet to be determined.