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Ever wonder who puts the twist in all the millions of pretzels produced each year? E. I. Groff, one of the founders of Reading Pretzel Machinery Company, patented the first commercially successful automatic pretzel-twisting machine, revolutionizing the industry. Since that first breakthrough, the company has made other developments, including the first combination baking and drying oven, and the first fully integrated pretzel production line, which has been in full operation since it was first commissioned more than 50 years ago. Today, Reading Pretzel & Snack, a division of Reading Bakery Systems, is the undisputed leader worldwide for pretzel production systems, with more than 200 installations worldwide.
Reading Bakery Systems is comprised of two divisions, Reading Pretzel & Snack and T.L. Green Biscuit and Cracker. T.L. Green Biscuit and Cracker has been delivering performance and reliability to producers of biscuits, crackers, sheeted snacks and other baked products for more than 110 years, in over 500 installations worldwide. With both Reading Pretzel & Snack and T.L. Green Biscuit and Cracker, Reading now offers a variety of processing lines capable of producing a virtually limitless range of snack products, such as cookies, crackers, fabricated potato chips, pretzels and bread snack products.
Headquartered in Robesonia, Pa., a 90-minute drive northwest of Philadelphia, the majority of Reading equipment is manufactured at the company’s main plant in Robesonia. The company also owns a parts manufacturing plant in Indianapolis, the original home of the T.L. Green Company.
Systems and Units and Jobs, Oh My!
Reading builds “unit” machines – individual dough mixing and forming machines, cutters, dispensers, ovens, dryers, conveyors, sheeters, laminators and more. The company also assembles machines and associated equipment into complete turnkey production lines.
Until recently, Reading was relying on homegrown programs that were unable to provide the information and control that the company needed for effective operation and growth.
“Our old business system didn’t really provide the things we needed to run the business,” said Michael Cox, information technology manager. “Over the years, we developed our own procedures and wrote our own programs to address those deficiencies.”
Reading’s new system would need to include scheduling functionality that was capable of tracking complex production jobs, as well as multi-job projects, keeping all of the activities coordinated and properly scheduled. Costing and financial management also needed to recognize both individual jobs and entire projects for proper control and accounting.
Given the need to engineer, build and test lines, planning and scheduling were also critically important requirements. Reading needed a fully indented bill of material (BOM) as part of an integrated computer-aided design (CAD) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Moreover, when scheduling and releasing jobs and sub-jobs to production, Reading wanted to flatten the BOMs. This challenging combination of requirements would all need to be a part of the system Reading ultimately chose.
No Translation Needed
“The Encompix team understood our pain,” said Chip Czulada, Reading’s chief financial officer and director of olperations. “We can produce a line that has up to 12 unique machines, and the Encompix team understood how engineering, production, shipping, billing and accounting works. We could implement Encompix ERP and accomplish all of our goals. With other systems, it would be a long, painful task.”
Reading also required a tight integration between its CAD and ERP systems. The Encompix team understood these business needs and developed the integration solution to match Reading’s specifications
Reading achieved its project and job-costing goals, and has benefited greatly from the way Encompix manages projects, sales orders and work orders. The implementation went smoothly, “even though we missed the date by a week or two because of some personnel issues,” Czulada said. “We were worried about the shop-floor guys learning the new system, particularly in terms of collecting data on jobs and sub-jobs throughout the day. It required more interaction with the computer than they were use to doing, but it went surprisingly well.”
“Out of the box, Encompix was going in the right direction,” said Czulada. “The system works for us.” Encompix has been especially important in enhancing Reading’s ability to gather and manage costs. “We pull costs every couple of days,” said Czulada. “It was almost impossible to identify costs in the past. Plus, the visibility to purchase orders is a big improvement.”
Cox added that the system provides “improved accuracy and speed in generating estimates. When we quote new equipment, we need the costing data from previous projects at our fingertips. In this competitive market, we may lose business if we quote too high, or lose money if we quote too low.”
Reading increased revenues by about 68 percent during the first year after implementing Encompix ERP, with minimal additions to the staff, and those additions were mainly production staff, such as welders. “It is hard to identify the all the causes of our recent success,” said Czulada. “However, Encompix ERP has definitely contributed to our improved productivity.”