Ralco runs 225 “modules,” or specific components, of the software
system. This has increased productivity and efficiency astronomically,
giving the company a competitive edge in areas such as managing
production capacity and minimizing waste, both particularly important
in difficult times, such as the automotive industry downturn.
Gitter says his company’s entire finished inventory turns over more than
once a day—compared to the industry gold standard of 40 times a year.
“That can only be done if you know everything there is to know,” Gitter says.
In fact, he knows exactly where every component of every product
comes from, who assembled it and when, who bought it and for what
price, and how much it cost to make. Plex’s system saves “probably two
dozen people chasing papers around,” Gitter says. Information is live and
accessible online from anywhere, so production schedules can be tweaked,
orders changed and staff called in as needed.
“I can be in Germany on my cell phone and control my plant,” he says.
Pointing to Nike, which sells customized sneakers from its website,
Oksanen stresses that the manufacturing industry has changed and must
now be more responsive to its customers.
“Manufacturers are looking for ways to up their game,” he says.
Plex’s founders have always had a keen interest in manufacturing.
When forming the company in the late ’90s, they opted against popular
systems, such as those from SAP and Oracle, which relied on locally
installed software. Many of those legacy providers now offer some form
of a cloud-based system, but Plex was first and was the only complete
system, Oksanen says.
In 2012, Plex’s previous shareholders, led by Apax Partners, decided
it was time to sell. “Revenue had roughly tripled,” Oksanen says. “The
business had done well.”
Francisco had its eye on what Blessing says is a $25 billion global
manufacturing ERP market. Once in control of Plex, the private equity
firm hired more experienced leadership, including a new CEO, chief
financial officer and head of sales. In December 2012, it brought in
another partner, Accel Partners, which invested $30 million and got a
seat on the board. Francisco maintained its majority share.
CEO Blessing came on board in January 2013; shortly after, the
company began recruiting heavily across the board, adding 119
employees to end the year at 365. Headcount jumped to 382 by the end of
the first quarter of 2014.