Analytics help this maker of Styrofoam products collect real-time data from materials, machines and people on the shop floor

FloraCraft is now the world's largest maker and supplier of Styrofoam brand foam products. To manage the growth, the company has used new technologies that also helped it win recognition as 2014 Wal-Mart Supplier of the Year.

With exponential growth come big challenges. For starters, FloraCraft shifted its strategy to mass-market production, almost tripling its inventory to 12,000 products and expanding its workforce to more than 300 employees in Arkansas, California and Mexico. The IT system it was using at the time had outdated applications, and its inventory wasn't serialized. What's more, the company had only two IT professionals to support its four sites.

FloraCraft upgraded to cloud-based ERP software from Plex Systems that is able to retrieve a host of real-time data from the materials, machines and people on the shop floor. Today FloraCraft uses the system to forecast its need for materials, monitor workstation performance, track inventory, conduct financial reporting, and monitor employee and shop performance.

FloraCraft accepts the Plex Systems 2015 Plex Impact Award for Innovation at PowerPlex 2015. Plex Systems

The FloraCraft team accepts the Plex Systems 2015 Plex Impact Award for Innovation at PowerPlex 2015.

Since the upgrade, revenue has gone up 20% overall and 50% with its largest customer, Wal-Mart. The changeover played a crucial role in helping FloraCraft earn the retail giant's supplier of the year honor.

With the new software, the manufacturer is able to project more accurate lead times, ensure that the right products were sent to the right stores, and achieve 100% verification of UPC numbers.

One key to the project's success was extensive training of employees, especially the tech novices on the shop floor, says Steve Carlson, director of operational planning.

"We set up simulated kiosks in our factories and trained, trained, trained our associates," Carlson says. "It has elevated all of our users out on the floor to be pretty tech-savvy, and they're all really proud of it."

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