Anna reached out from Poland to comment on my Website informing me of a new MES product specifically targeted to small-to-medium-sized companies called Prodio. Eventually we set up an interview with company founder and leader Marek Mrowiec.
The product is simple to buy, set up, and use—perfect for smaller businesses that typically lack the “luxury” of an IT department. It’s a production scheduling software housed in the cloud. It performs many of the functions common to traditional MES at a fraction of the cost, requiring no team of consultants to install, and easy for the entire team to use.
Prodio sells in Poland, Romania, and is expanding in central Europe. However, there is an English version and the company representatives can converse well in English. Since it is cloud-based, location does not matter. Curious business owners can go to the website and simply try it out.
Why should a company buy the software? Mrowiec told me this story of a customer. The owner discovered that there had been a scam going on for quite a long time. Night shift workers and a foreman “opened” their own company inside his company, committing extra orders, taking side jobs, and stealing the customers. They used all the machines and materials during their working hours. When Prodio was implemented, they were forced to quit because it was no longer possible to hide their unfair practice. To this day, the company hires fewer than ten people (comparing to 20 workers previously) having the same number of machines as yet, and the staff loves Prodio.
Prodio always had in mind serving a customer base of small-to-mid-sized companies. At present, it has more than 200 customer companies, half of them hiring less than ten staff, 40% of the companies employ 10-25 people, and only 10% are larger enterprises.
Prodio grew out of Mrowiec’s experience working for his father at the family manufacturing business. Like many ideas, the product grew from solving their customers’ problems. Originally developing the idea in Microsoft Excel, then moving to Google docs in order to leverage the Web. But that technology did not scale to handle the amount of data the customers were generating. “These tools I created seemed irreplaceable, and many companies couldn’t imagine life without using them. However, as time passed, more and more problems appeared: obviously, neither Excel nor Google docs were designed to process such an amount of information simultaneously.”
“Some of my clients asked me to change Excel sheets to easy to implement ERP systems. I was supposed to oversee the whole process as an independent consultant and ensure that the implementation went smoothly. There were at least three such projects, and each of them faced similar problems: the simple Excel tools I’d created proved to be far more useful than the new ones, which cost the company 30-50 thousand dollars. It seemed to be impossible to achieve the same functionality using expensive ERP systems. My clients became more and more stressed and frustrated because the companies which sold them new products weren’t keen on improved functionality or increased productivity.”
“After about year and a half, another company noticed that even though the ERP system had been introduced, they still carry on using “my” Excel sheets and Google Docs (although not everything worked perfectly because of the amount of data to process) had a light bulb moment. Why don’t we create a simple software based on the same idea as Google Docs and Excel sheets?”
ERP systems with MES work well in the large companies, with recurrent production, mainly because of co-operation with the numerous suppliers, and components which must be delivered on time. In small companies, you have to fill lots of forms with different data would be suicide, not a facilitator. Imagine a situation where there is an order form where you need one ton of metal sheet, but you can’t use it because this material was assigned to a different order in the system. Although you have it physically in stock, you can’t do anything about it, because of inventory mistake.
We see our product as the first step for small and medium-sized companies on their way to technological transformation in the spirit of 4.0 Industrial revolution. The data collected via Prodio can inspire to buy other machines, to automate, become more advanced. From that perspective, Prodio supports transformation – it is a solid foundation for the company to base on further development decisions. Prodio means the end of chaos, order and organisation, insight into possibilities of growth. All of the above is possible without physical presence 24/7 at the shop floor because the progress is monitored from your smartphone, and orders are scheduled online.