FeneTech Expands its Reach with New Manufacturing ERP Software
For almost two decades, FeneTech, Inc. has been a leader in developing enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for glass fabricators and manufacturers of doors and windows. The ‘Fene’ of FeneTech comes from fenestration, referring to the design and building of doors, windows and other openings in buildings.
FeneTech is based in Aurora, Ohio with a European branch, and is now poised to expand its reach with a new software product called Q2S or ‘Quote to Ship.’ Unlike FeneVision’s previous products, Q2S is geared towards clients working outside the fenestration sector.
“We have a very strong presence in the industry. For more than twenty years, we have been developing software, assuming we could branch out to other markets,” states Ryan Anderson, director Q2S division at FeneTech. “We are looking to branch out.”
To this end, the newly-released Q2S solution “is a manufacturing ERP software for companies that do mass customization of complex products.” Potential target markets for Q2S include make-to-order manufacturers, job shops, and companies involved with industrial machinery and building materials.
Q2S offers extremely helpful estimation, order processing, inventory control and tracking functions. The software tracks materials, labor, orders, sub-assemblies, production, and shipments and provides automated quality control in the form of visual or audio warnings if a manufacturing step is skipped or a shipment mismanaged. Q2S boasts a bill of materials (BOM) configurator that lets users easily organize prices, quotes, manufacturing and shipping details. The end-goal of all these features is enhanced productivity and efficiency.
Anderson offers a graphic example of why Q2S is needed in manufacturing circles. “A lot of people we talk to are sitting with an accounting system and a bunch of Excel spreadsheets trying to run their production. We are a benefit when the Excel spreadsheets stop working when your volume goes past where you can track your workload in Excel.”
While there are other ERP programs available for manufacturers, Q2S stands out the competition, says Anderson. “We have a configure price quote tool. There are some [similar tools] out there, but for it to be completely integrated into your ERP means you have complete access to all the information that you need throughout the whole process for manufacturing. That’s what makes us unique. Also, we started from production and worked outward. Many ERPs start with accounting and work down to production. So we have a very deep production software. It can also do CRM (customer relationship management) and pricing and purchasing and inventory,” she says.
In addition to its proprietary products, FeneTech distributes software from other companies. “We are a Microsoft gold partner, so we do resell some of Microsoft’s products,” states Anderson.
FeneTech was founded in 1997 as an offshoot of an engineering integration firm. The company had been working on manufacturing execution systems (MES) software, then decided to focus on new areas. Engineers and technicians spent years developing an ERP software program for glass fabricators and makers of windows and doors. The result of their labor was FeneVision, an integrated production control software system that was introduced in 2000. This program remains the company’s flagship offering for fenestration customers.
Among other features, FeneVision allows users to track production processes, sales, orders, production status, and set schedules. An order entry feature covers quotes, costs, and invoicing and there is also an automated pricing tool. Of particular note, FeneVision is user-friendly, with a full graphical interface.
“FeneVision is the main product, and then everything else you see are modules that are add-ons,” explains Anderson. These modules can be integrated into an existing FeneVision system. Modules include WEB, Tracking, and Trucking. WEB lets customers and dealers make order entries online, Tracking tracks production status data, and Trucking configures shipping routes and prints shipping-related paperwork.
While it is extremely excited about the introduction of Q2S, FeneTech remains committed to its earlier FeneVision fenestration software. “We are protecting that brand. It’s going strong, propelling our growth. That growth gives us the opportunity to look and expand into other markets,” says Anderson. “We are working on two to three new modules to go out for FeneVision in the near future. That’s still a strong focus.”
At present, FeneTech operates two divisions. The FeneVision division looks after fenestration products, while the Q2S division handles Q2S software. The company will concentrate on expanding both divisions in the future.
This makes good business sense, given how popular FeneVision and subsequent products are in the global fenestration market. FeneTech has customers around the world, says Anderson, and the company opened a branch in Luxemburg in 2010 to look after its European clients. “All software development in done in the United States. In Luxembourg our focus is implementation and support services for our existing European clients,” she explains.
Whether in North America or Europe, implementation, training, and support are all important ancillary services provided by FeneTech. Some of these services are offered in-house while other services are handled remotely or at the customer’s worksite.
“Our real goal is to provide a solution for somebody, not just the software. We do the implementation, we help them with designing best practices, and continuing ongoing support is major,” states Anderson.
The company currently has seventy employees, up from fifty last year at this time. This increase in personnel is largely due to hiring new engineers. The company’s overall growth can be attributed to “the strong market right now and a lot of new business coming around in the fenestration industry,” states Anderson. These new engineers – or any new hires for that matter – have much to look forward to.
FeneTech was named third-best company in the glass and metal industry for which to work for (in the category of companies with fewer than one hundred employees) in the September 2016 edition of trade publication USGlass magazine. According to the magazine, employees receive medical, dental, disability and life insurance coverage options, paid vacations, flex time, profit sharing options, and a 401(k) plan.
That same year, the company won an award from Glass magazine for most innovative software. “We feel honored that we are recognized in the industry. It’s a reflection of us living our mission statement,” says Anderson. That mission is to ‘provide the best products, service, and support to each and every customer – every single day.’
Given the company’s rapid leap in employee numbers, Anderson says that managing growth is the company’s biggest challenge at present. While eager to expand, it has no interest in losing sight of its original strengths and customer base.
FeneTech has an active online presence with a website and profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. The company does email and direct-mail marketing campaigns and attends trade shows (it will be exhibiting at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago this September). For a high-tech firm, the company also uses old-fashioned human contact as a means of promoting itself.
FeneTech has been hosting annual user conference since 2002 in the Cleveland area. The events allow company officials to receive feedback directly from customers and give customers the opportunity to network with each other. The latest conference offered over seventy educational seminars.
“This year, we had sixty companies represented with 140 attendees. A couple of them even came from Europe. We do have a European [user conference] as well. The one this year was in Paris,” says Anderson.
The most recent user conference featured clients who use Q2S, but did not feature a specific Q2S track, says Anderson, adding that a Q2S-focused track will likely be included at next year’s event.
A few years ago, FeneTech launched another event called GPAD which stands for glass processing automation days. “We’re the founders and organizers of that event. It’s a two-day conference and occurs every other year and brings the glass industry together to discuss concepts of automating the manufacturing floor,” explains Anderson.
Yet another initiative, called FeneTech University is in the process of being rebranded “to support both Q2S and FeneVision platforms. It’s seventy-plus courses to train companies on how to use our software,” she continues.
The company offers an online customer portal, and sends out weekly technical suggestions to clients on ‘Tip Tuesdays.’ Anderson also founded a customer care group charged with arranging in-person visits to customers on a frequent basis. “We do all this to engage our customers and make sure they’re getting the most out of their investment,” explains Anderson.
As for the future, the FeneTech’s strategy calls for expansion into new territories, as well as new markets. On top of the Q2S software, there is a focus of enhancing the firm’s already strong presence in Latin America.
“We want to expand geographically, potentially have a couple more offices mostly to handle things like supporting different languages and different physical locations and providing other solutions to industries that perform mass customizations of complex products through our Q2S brand,” states Anderson.