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Mansfield Plumbing Products Upgrades its Infrastructure to Save Money and Improve Operations

Taft Thomas, Director of Information services for Mansfield Plumbing Products-Photo by Michael Nemeth

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Customer: Mansfield Plumbing Products
Headquarters: Perrysville, Ohio
Business: Manufacturer of bathroom products
Challenge: Upgrade its production software and supporting hardware
Solution: Working with United Computer Group to deploy a new IBM Power Systems server and a modernized version of its ERP application to create a more efficient and cost-effective operating environment
Hardware: An IBM Power Systems 720 Express 8202-E4C
Software: VAULT400 cloud backup services from United Computer Group and Solarsoft ERP from Epicor Software Corporation

Most software vendors roll out upgrades with the best intentions in mind. They’re adding new functionality, promoting wish-list capabilities and improving performance. Often, the deployments go swimmingly, requiring little more than a test partition, and then, once everything’s been given a thumbs up, a nearly invisible rollover.

In other cases, however, these upgrades can result in IT hyperventilation, with systems managers struggling to keep up with issues such as maintaining back-end database connectivity. The causes for this can be many, including poor planning or early-release beta snafus—or merely Murphy’s Law (if anything can go wrong, it will).

Mansfield Plumbing Products broke that law when upgrading its ERP system by working with a trusted business partner to ensure that everything went off without a hitch. Most notably, this included a careful inspection of the company’s computing backbone. When it was determined that its current hardware was likely insufficient to run the new version of the software, the company and its business partner simply decided to upgrade it—and then take a very deliberate approach to putting the pieces in place.

Now, thanks to several factors, including combining its hardware and software maintenance contracts, Mansfield is realizing a 20 percent decrease in its annual IT hardware budget. Not only that, but it has a new, more powerful system—including both hardware and software—that will take it well into the future. “We’re looking forward to learning more about how we can take advantage of everything we’ve put into place,” remarks Taft Thomas, Mansfield’s director of information services.

No Small Feat

Owned by the Colombia-based Organización Corona and headquartered in Perrysville, Ohio, Mansfield specializes in vitreous-china sanitary ware and acrylic bath ware, or as Thomas explains, “bathroom-type products from sinks to toilets to tubs.” The company’s Perrysville location manufactures nonporous, kiln-fired items while its Henderson, Texas, facility focuses on molded acrylic fiberglass-backed offerings, such as whirlpool tubs and shower bases. Its Big Prairie, Ohio, location supports the injection molded plastics end of the business, which includes items such as toilet tank trim parts like flush levers and flushing towers.

“About 77 percent of the products we produce are 98 percent made in the U.S.,” Thomas says. This is no small feat, given that Mansfield produces some 2.3 million parts a year. That number is expected to climb, thanks to a facility expansion and improved manufacturing technology projected to increase Perrysville’s production capacity by 50 percent.

Mansfield Plumbing Product’s distribution is split between wholesale and retail channels. The wholesale channel caters to the trade and largely consists of plumbing wholesalers and kitchen and bath showrooms that resell the products to plumbing contractors, builders and some consumers. The retail channel caters to consumers, who purchase Mansfield products from big-box retailers such as Menards, regional retail chains and retail co-ops. In all, the company’s products are available through a network of more than 2,800 distributors located throughout the U.S., Caribbean and Canada.

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.

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