How to tread the path of Digital Transformation through Application Modernization – A Manufacturing Company Case Study

How to tread the path of Digital Transformation through Application Modernization – A Manufacturing Company Case Study

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How to tread the path of Digital Transformation through Application Modernization – A Manufacturing Company Case Study

By Piyush Bhatt  at Apr 12, 2021  0 Comments

How to tread the path of Digital Transformation through Application Modernization – A Manufacturing Company Case Study


It is very common amongst manufacturing suppliers to have disparate, legacy applications in dire need of modernization. (Sometimes it is not even applications - there are just bunch of excel files.) It is common because suppliers are focused on throughput and often slim margins—leaving operational improvements low on the priority list. However, the pandemic and the corresponding shortage in the workforce caused manufacturers to raise application modernization to the top of the priority list in order to save money and retain/attract employees.

For those looking to modernize legacy applications, this article outlines an approach and provides an application modernization case study to demonstrate the value.   

American MSC – An Automotive Supplier Ready for Digital Transformation


American MSC manufactures springs for torque converters in manual and automatic transmissions. They were an American branch of the Japanese company, Manufacturing Spring Corporation, who had a global initiative for technology innovation. The VP of Operations for American MSC, knew they not only needed to modernize legacy applications, but that there were also a number of processes that were still manual. The first step they took was to make a list of the various systems they used, whether an application or a spreadsheet, and prioritize the impact to the business.

Find a Technology Partner than is a Fit for Manufacturing Suppliers


Once American MSC had their list of systems, they searched for a development firm that could be a partner to them. Unfortunately, this was not an easy task. The company went through multiple firms before they found one that was a fit.

They listed the following as important aspects:

Our business is a priority – The Company experienced firsthand the pain of working with a large development firm where the business of a medium-sized company like American MSC was not a priority.

They are great communicators – The VP of Operations at the Company admits that he is often the bottleneck for communications, which is all the more reason he wanted to work with a partner that could keep him on task and over-communicate.

They understand manufacturing – There are a lot of fluff development firms who focus on websites or consumer mobile apps. The Company knew they needed a firm that understood manufacturing operations as well as backend infrastructure for larger businesses.

Have a local presence - It was also important that resources be local on-site work as needed. The Company selected a technology partner that had strategic resources local and had a team of developers in India to handle the standard coding work. This model helped make the work high quality, yet affordable.

Be high value for investment – Everyone wants development cheap, but American MSC understands the cost of rework. Having a partner that is reasonably priced, but produces high-quality work was critical. Per the hybrid resource model described above, that yielded the best of both worlds for American MSC.

Look for Quick Wins that Yield Big Impact

American MSC and their technology partner - SharpQuest discussed the list of systems and processes in use today and together determined the simplest, yet highest impact place to start. Here are some of the common areas that yield fast improvements:

Integrating disparate systems – If there are existing systems that require different logins and don’t share important data, this can be a great place to start. Employees greatly appreciate less logins and less systems to use. American MSC had this issue. They had a weighing system that didn’t “talk” to their packaging system—which meant shipping labels was a manual process. Employees were thrilled when labels were automatically printed.

Make systems more accessible - Particularly with the pandemic and the need for operations employees to work remotely, migrating key systems to the cloud can be a big win to enable remote work.

Automate a manual process – instead of starting with modernizing a legacy application, it often works better for adoption to create a new application that automates a manual process. Once employees see the value and get a feel for the new user interface, you can begin modernizing legacy applications within the new application architecture. American MSC had a new application created for supplier ordering which eliminated manual invoicing, saving time and reducing ordering errors.

Of course, sometimes there are emergency or high-risk situations that would naturally indicate a starting point. American MSC had this issue as their legacy systems were so outdated that the code was no longer supported and things were breaking. If this is the case, don't hesitate to start there to mitigate risk and improve performance.


Modernize One Module at a Time


Back to the prioritized list of processes, American MSC knew they needed to update their legacy systems and processes one-by-one to show fast value, to iterate and learn, and to make it easy for employees to adopt. This was also the most viable approach because the resources involved on the American MSC side had regular job duties and very limited time to spend on application improvements.

The key to module prioritization is to consider the end users. It is best to limit the number of users effected for early additions, while considering add-ons to the existing user base. That way, adoption of each module doesn’t require heavy training for each module. Certainly, if there are processes that cannot be uncoupled, they must be rolled out simultaneously.  

For American MSC, once they fixed the old code and ensured systems were modernized, they worked on an application for their ordering system. Then it was natural to take the data from the ordering system to create a forecasting system, then a reporting system. Then they moved on to other processes like their weighing and shipping systems—grouping and ordering modules by users.


American MSC is Reaping the Rewards of Application Modernization

Ordering, forecasting, reporting and packing systems were all modernized or automated from manual processes. Employees were thrilled with the new systems saying it made their jobs much easier. And American MSC’s VP of Operations also noted that the onboarding time for new employees was greatly reduced.

Overall, American MSC is seeing a 10-20% cost savings thanks to better employee productivity and fewer mistakes. The improvements have also reduced the shipment processing time between the US and Japan. They continue to look for more ways to improve operations with their technology partner SharpQuest.

Read their full story and watch a video from their VP of Ops here.

Want more Manufacturing Application Modernization Case Studies? See more here. 

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