Vista Metals – A Profile of DRI’s First and Oldest Customer

December 18, 2018 | Modern Manufacturing Blog

Vista Metals
The 50-year-old manufacturer was one of the first to invest in cutting edge ERP technology in Pittsburgh

Founded in 1969, Vista Metals Inc. has established itself as a global leader in manufacturing high-strength, long-lasting, tungsten carbide preforms.  In 1985, Vista Metals, like most manufacturing companies at that time, was tracking almost everything on paper.  There were multiple copies of production orders going in different directions, quotes were created with generic lead times, and all the information had to be consolidated manually before any analysis could be done.  Vista knew they had to analyze revenue and seek potential opportunities in the market if they wanted to gain a competitive edge.  This required tracking market data they weren’t equipped to collect using their manual system.

Early Technology

In 1985, Vista Metals’ executive team went searching for a technology solution that could eliminate as much of the manual paperwork as possible and provide expanded reporting and business intelligence.   At the same time, DRI – who had been working with manufacturers for several years – had just committed to selling the Symix manufacturing system and we were looking for our first customer.  Vista Metals had a strong management team committed to improving production turnaround, accuracy, and reporting.  This made them a perfect candidate for the new MRP system that DRI was working with.  In 1985 Vista became DRI’s first Symix customer.

Vista was a true ERP innovator, fully implementing the software by 1988 and using the resulting data to make strategic product and market decisions.  Vista’s team automated production scheduling and tracking, allowing them to coordinate sales and financial planning to get a complete, real-time picture of the business.

Symix later became “SyteLine” and is now known as “Infor CloudSuite Industrial.”

Focusing on What Matters to Customers

Vista Metals has always prided themselves on being a reliable supplier for their customers.  They were the first company in their industry to allocate maximum resources to specific customers, authorize rush work when needed, and embrace the concept of “make a promise, keep a promise” when quoting availability and ship dates.  While other companies have followed suit, Vista remains the leader in their industry when it comes to credibility and dependability.   Mark Shelleby, Vista’s Treasurer, says that it can be difficult at times, but “we strive to communicate achievable commitments to our customers, which means that our customers know that they can rely on the delivery dates that we provide them.”

Using Technology to Gain a Competitive Advantage

The data they have gathered has not only allowed Vista’s management team to make better long-term decisions about the business, but also to withstand the ups and downs in the market.

“In 2008-2009 our market took a significant downturn.  The data we were tracking in SyteLine was critical in allowing us to react quickly to the changes in our market and minimize the impact to the business.”  –  Mark Shelleby

Shortly after Symix was installed, Vista Metals brought John Ramsbotham on board as an AP clerk.  John had some experience in software programming and, while familiarizing himself with the Symix system, happened upon the “query screen.”  With a little help from the DRI team, John learned how to write code within that screen to develop and modify custom reports.  This new skill came in handy for Vista, who desired more sophisticated analyses than the standard reports could provide at the time. Today, John is responsible for all of Vista’s technology, including their current SyteLine system.

The technology that allowed users to easily modify and customize the software was the feature that drew DRI to Symix. The experience working with and witnessing the success of Vista Metals sealed the deal for DRI.  We’ve been committed to the product ever since.

What’s Next?

Since implementing Symix, Vista Metals has grown six-fold by remaining close to their customers, diversifying across markets, and continuing to invest in their production capabilities.  Vista continues to develop and explore different grades, applications, and industries for their products.

Vista Metals is now planning to upgrade to the latest CloudSuite Industrial system.  Vista’s team will be working closely with the DRI team to review current modifications, evaluate new system functionality, and plan an upgrade project that will keep them moving forward and keeping promises.  And as DRI celebrates our 40th anniversary, we look forward to congratulating Vista Metals on their 50th anniversary in 2019!