SYSPRO Helps Comtek Advanced Structures Keep Pace With Expansion

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Aerospace Designer and Manufacturer Capitalizes on SYSPRO’s
Scalability and Efficiency During Time of Rapid Growth

Comtek Advanced Structures Ltd. was founded in
1994, and in 2007 became a wholly-owned subsidiary
of Avcorp Industries Inc. In a nutshell, says Brett
Richardson, Comtek’s Director of Finance, the company
designs, manufactures and supports advanced
assemblies for aerospace and defense applications.
Those include “honeycomb sandwich” panel
solutions, infusion and out-of-autoclave technology
solutions, and high-end repairs for regional aircraft.
Headquartered in a 54,000-sq.ft. facility in Burlington,
Ontario, Comtek employs sixty workers to service more
than 100 customers worldwide, and enjoys annual sales
in the range of $12- to $15-million.
In 2000, Comtek realized that its reliance on manual
accounting procedures was not up to the task of
controlling every aspect of the company’s accelerating
growth. With expansion into US markets imminent,
Comtek went shopping for an enterprise resource
planning (ERP) business solution. “Ultimately, one
of the biggest reasons that SYSPRO ERP was chosen
was customer referral. The company right next door
to Comtek at the time was running on SYSPRO, and
they were very pleased with it. That and SYSPRO’s
affordability were the two most important factors in
its selection.” Comtek moved quickly. In six months,
working on the implementation with a VAR, the
company was up and running with SYSPRO ERP.
Brett Richardson was hired as Comtek’s Director of
Finance in 2008. Having implemented and upgraded
SAP ERP in a former position, Richardson has an
intimate understanding of the road map that leads
to optimal ERP adoption and leverage. “One of the
reasons I was hired,” says Richardson, “was to drive the
use of the ERP. I suppose you could call me the ‘ERP
champion.’” Moving from SAP to SYSPRO, he claims,
was comparatively simple. “Because I had a strong ERP
background, I was able to pick up SYSPRO in a matter
of days.”
Since taking on the job, Richardson has been active in
promoting the development of SYSPRO power users.
“We encourage our workers to develop their expertise,
and engage them to spread their knowledge throughout
the company, instead of folding that information
into their individual silos. We even bought a one-year
license for the SYSPRO learning channel [a web-based,
collaborative learning environment].”
Richardson’s passion for ERP was also important
in fostering management commitment. “We now
promote a simple philosophy: Whatever the challenge,
we will address it in SYSPRO, and we discourage the
use of anything else. There was always an excuse
before, because of the unknown. But because of my


background, I know the benefits that a fully leveraged ERP can bring, as well as the dangers of not being fully committed.”
In line with Comtek’s new philosophy is its decision to purchase a key piece of software that will integrate with SYSPRO. “One of our core activities,” says Richardson, “is to manufacture aerospace floor boards from large sheets of raw composite panel. For that particular job we offer just-in-time service - we’re shipping in three to seven days. The downside is that the sheets have to be cut to shape quickly, and that results in significant waste. For the last three years, we’ve been thinking of creating homegrown nesting software, but now we’ve finally found a package that will review the orders as they exist in SYSPRO, and optimally nest the shapes on the material. This will cut out the middle man, reduce time and wastage, and should drive down our just-intime lead time.”
With any ERP implementation, says Richardson, you have to spend some time adapting your business processes to the system. “What you must have is discipline, which is why I believe that every company should have an ERP champion. The beauty of SYSPRO is that it’s not so regimented that it forces you to be exact, but it does put thresholds on deviation. One thing I like about SYSPRO is that rogue employees get identified pretty quickly. Sometimes we’re running so fast we don’t have time to think, but SYSPRO lets us know when something isn’t going the way it’s supposed to. It usually means that the employee doesn’t understand something, or isn’t familiar with the process.”

Finding precise figures to demonstrate SYSPRO’s return on investment isn’t always possible, but as Comtek’s Director of Finance, Richardson keeps his eye on the effect of SYSPRO on the company’s bottom line. “Our annual spend rate for SYSPRO is less than $40,000,” says Richardson, “including all the hardware. Because of SYSPRO, we easily save on one accountant  position and one planner position. Those two positions alone account for $80,000 to $100,000 in savings, without including ancillary costs. In addition, if we get busier, SYSPRO scales easily, which saves time from an accounting and inventory perspective. When we added an additional business unit onto the system the work required was minimal.”

There are also monetary and operational advantages to having an ERP that has carved out its territory by serving the needs of small to medium-sized enterprises. “Our VAR does not run a typical corporate help desk,” says Richardson. “When we call for help, we connect to experienced users who really get involved. The support we receive from our VAR helps us solve issues promptly, enables us to keep a smaller number of staff, and keeps us from having to hire consultants. That’s definitely a SYSPRO advantage.” Overall, says Richardson, SYSPRO ERP is having a positive impact at every level of Comtek’s operations. “We are absolutely happy with our ERP,” he adds, “and I’m very impressed with its level of functionality. For the money, I keep coming back to SYSPRO.”

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