Founded as Apex Tire in 1924 as a tire and retread retail chain with outlets along the East Coast, Teknor Apex has been on a mission of expansion ever since. Within the first few decades after its founding, the company diversified into chemicals, additional polymer processing and vinyl compounding while expanding nationally across the United States. Today, Teknor Apex is an international custom compounder of advanced polymer materials with a focus on vinyls, thermoplastic elastomers, engineered thermoplastics, bioplastics and colorants.
“For the U.S. market, we manufacture plastic compounds and chemicals such as plasticizers and consumer products including garden hose,” Global Director of Supply Chain Kelly Coutu says.
Because Teknor Apex has a diverse product portfolio and strong custom compound formulation capabilities, it serves a wide array of markets. The seven key industries that make up the majority of its customer base are transportation, electrical, consumer, industrial, medical, packaging and building and construction.
“We are a B2B producer selling plastic pellets of various compound formulations to end molders and extruders, serving many large and well-known OEMs,” Coutu says. “We can serve Fortune 500 organizations as well as many small organizations.”
Adding to its diversity is Teknor Apex’s consumer products division, which is North America’s largest garden hose manufacturer. This allows the company to directly serve big-box retailers and end-consumers.
“We are known for our customer service, honest value and high ethical standards,” Coutu says. “We have a well-trained international salesforce representing us in the field and serving our customer base, with a few key distribution partnerships for select product lines.”
The largest initiative underway at Teknor Apex is the launch of its ERP system upgrade. The company is taking five separate global databases and moving to one single global database operating on Infor’s latest manufacturing ERP software, M3. The upgrade will allow the company to continue to improve the information flow and visibility required to further enhance its global supply chain capabilities and leverage its strength in 14 manufacturing locations globally.
Teknor Apex Company has partnered with a consulting firm, LeanSwift, to help with the M3 implementation as well as to leverage the increased application programming interfaces (APIs) found within M3. This partnership has allowed Teknor Apex’s IT department to deliver truly customized and competitively advantaged software capability not found in standard off-the-shelf ERP packages.
“Through the experienced staff of LeanSwift, not only on the M3 software but with the complementary software from ComActivity, we have brought customized functionality and enhanced user interfaces without having to modify the base software and code,” Coutu says.
In addition to the ERP upgrade, Teknor Apex is also upgrading its demand forecasting capabilities. It is partnering with the software firm Optimity on a global finished goods forecasting tool that soon will be used by all of its businesses and world regions.
“Optimity brings us the technology to be able to generate forecasts at multiple levels,” Coutu says. “This is an essential element to truly being able to move forward our sales and operations planning globally.”
Beyond that, Teknor Apex is joining Elemica’s Supply Chain Operating Network, which is used by many of its key suppliers and logistics providers. The company has started the design of this integration with Elemica, targeting its ocean and over-the-road logistics carriers globally.
“This integration will allow us to better track on-time delivery performance as well as automate the ocean booking and freight tendering process,” Coutu says. “In addition, we have a smaller pilot targeted at a full integration with our top-12 suppliers to automate the PO process and an across-the-board global application of automating advance shipment notification process with all suppliers.”
Many key software and IT partners have worked with Teknor Apex since its first system upgrade in 2003. The company believes in lasting partnerships and in building key relationships through collaboration. It has supplier relationships that extend back for 30-plus years, and collaboration has allowed Teknor Apex to leverage the strength of its suppliers.
“Only through key collaborations and partnerships will we be able to innovate and stay ahead of competition,” Coutu says.
Change management is the largest challenge and priority facing Teknor Apex’s supply chain team over the coming years. The company will strive to balance service versus cost issues through constant monitoring, and it will use the right metrics to track the right objectives against the strategic goals of the business.
“Having the ability to adopt and implement change is essential,” Coutu says. “To be effective in our supply chain evolution we need to create a culture that embraces change and sparks innovation.”