Agility, sustainability and manufacturing: What I learned from MEC
- Posted on April 11, 2022
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
How do you make a family-owned business more agile and adaptive to meet changing consumer demands while staying true to its sustainability goals?
As part of Microsoft Envision, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Tom Marklin, Vice President of Information Technology at Metal Exchange Corporation, who shared his perspective on how MEC has continued to expand its definition of agility.
From my vantage point, MEC symbolizes what it means to be an agile business in today’s world. The family-owned trading and manufacturing business, based in St. Louis, has gained a competitive advantage by modernizing its operations, embracing sustainability and empowering employees with digital tools – all while meeting the changing expectations of both consumers and partners.
We can all recognize that this is no easy task and that it requires the willingness and commitment to shift when opportunity strikes. Case in point: MEC saw the emerging electric vehicle (EV) market – which relies on aluminum as a key component in making electric vehicles more efficient, aerodynamic and safe – as a massive opportunity to not only drive new revenue but further its own sustainability and responsible business goals.
To seize on the opportunity, MEC ramped up a greenfield manufacturing operation to handle and fulfill orders from one of its newest customers. It knew that it also needed to modernize its IT infrastructure to meet the needs of EV customers who are 100% digital and looking for partners who can deliver high quality parts at speed and scale.
Avanade partnered with MEC to deploy a Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform so the manufacturer could better connect the dots across its people, processes, external suppliers and subcontractors while continuing to maintain its focus on operational excellence.
Here’s what I learned from our conversation about business agility:
- Staying agile requires an agile approach to IT development. MEC relied on Avanade’s agile methodology to drive the implementation, which enabled the company to adapt and deploy quickly. Using the Minimum Viable Product concept, MEC was able to focus on limiting the scope to do what was absolutely necessary first, then build out capabilities based not only on its goals but also on its observations and experience. This enabled MEC to get to market faster and resist the temptation of doing everything at once.
- Speed to market requires agile solutions. MEC chose Dynamics 365 because of its architecture and the opportunities created by the Microsoft Power Platform suite of tools. The company’s IT staff are now able to extend and expand the capabilities of its new platform without costly or risky customizations to the Dynamics 365 base code, enabling it to spin up small extension solutions in a matter of days. This is critical as MEC seeks to quickly address emerging market opportunities.
- Agile solutions should also help an organization achieve its sustainability goals. With its new Dynamics 365 platform, MEC can now accurately capture scrap throughout the manufacturing process. Recycling more aluminum saves more than 90% of the energy that would be needed to create a comparable amount of the metal from raw materials. This is a win for MEC customers, who are being asked to account for the sustainability of their suppliers, and for MEC as it focuses on both being a responsible and profitable business.
The reality is that the marketplace is changing faster every day and no industry is immune. Those like MEC, who start small and then scale to the rest of the organization incrementally, are much more likely to seize the opportunities that lie ahead.