American Printing House for the Blind

“The braille products industry was ripe for the kind of tech disruption that would better support people who are visually impaired. Using SYSPRO ERP, we are taking a leadership role in providing a faster and better quality experience for state agencies across the U.S. to serve this important community”
Alejandro Erik Franco – APH, Chief Information Officer

The Company

The American Printing House (APH) for the Blind is the world’s largest nonprofit organization for people who are blind and visually impaired. The company manufactures educational, workplace, and independent living products, and provides support services for more than 56,000 visually impaired students across the 50 U.S. states, plus Puerto Rico. Established in 1858 and based in Louisville, KY, APH operates via U.S. federal funding distributed by trustees through state agencies who place orders on the APH site.

APH has a staff of 300+ employees and is recognized as a research & development leader with products like “Nearby Explorer”, is a smartphone GPS app designed to help people who are blind and visually impaired to facilitate navigation inside of buildings and points of interest around them.

The Solution

Franco said it quickly became clear to him that SYSPRO ERP, based on its high degree of configurability, could serve well as the foundational basis for the new and improved technology vision he had for APH. He said that while the financial team ‘loves SYSPRO” because it’s intuitive and easy to use, he had a bigger vision.

“When I arrived, the APH Board of Directors gave me full autonomy to keep or replace SYSPRO, and once I had a good view of all of the many capabilities across the financials, costing, production, scheduling and inventory/warehouse control capabilities…plus the ability to integrate fully to our eCommerce needs, it was a no brainer to keep and exploit SYSPRO. The SYSPRO product was excellent and malleable to deliver what we wanted, and I had an excellent partner in CCSS who quickly picked up the reins to make the needed integrations I wanted. CCSS really understands SYSPRO and what a well-connected ERP solution can do for a business and they made it happen.”

With CCSS’s support, APH did several things with its SYSPRO ERP deployment, including:

  • Documenting all of APH’s current and desired business processes,
  • Gaining operational improvements by connecting and automating multiple business functions both within and outside of SYSPRO, including bill of materials (BOM), shop floor controls; bar coding and MRP (Material requirement planning).
  • Utilizing the Syspro API’s to WooCommerce, an open-source eCommerce based on a WordPress platform and began delivering the Amazon-like front end that Franco had in mind via SYSPRO’S integration capabilities. Today, APH has what they believe is an ideally combined development and production system, and it’s easy to use. “Our internal APH users also have had an awesome experience with our more fully utilized SYSPRO solution,” Franco said.

“The SYSPRO product offers lots of flexible deployment choices, and CCSS has such deep knowledge of it, that they gave us multiple usage options. Not only did they implement SYSPRO ERP effectively, they would provide various choices and recommendations on how to accomplish any given task –based on our preferences for working.” Further, Franco likes the combination of both SYSPRO’s extensibility and future product roadmap with CCSS’s offshore development capabilities to customize any of the SYSPRO products. “They have 10-12 years of programming experience with SYSPRO products and in just 1-2 weeks can program anything new I come up with or envision. I can’t think of any other software and services combination like this in the ERP world where both product and programmers work so seamlessly and fast.”

The Outcome

As a result of its now more widely deployed SYSPRO ERP solution, APH feels like a 21st century company despite its 19th century roots, and recently reported a 16% improvement in sales in just one year.

“The braille products industry was ripe for the kind of tech disruption that would better support people who are visually impaired. Using SYSPRO ERP, we are taking a leadership role in providing a faster and better quality experience for state agencies across the U.S. to serve this important community.”

Franco cites several areas where operational improvements have made things easier for the state trustees (who are administering/ordering APH products) to easily navigate to what they need. The seamless interface to the production side provides both a great user experience and operational improvements like these:

  • Financial Benefits – APH cut its financial headcount budget by 40% by eliminating manual tasks tied to auditing and reporting. They also have cut down the monthly close cycle from 2 days per month to just 4 hours (an additional savings of approximately $5,800 year on performing this one task alone);
  • Order/Production Operations Benefits – APH has been able to shave two days off the order entry to fulfillment process, which delivers approximately $600 savings per order;
  • Customer Service – Pro-Active customer service (for example, communicating lead times for order fulfillment) has replaced reactive customer service that negatively impacts customer satisfaction;

The complexities of state administered federal funding can be challenging for state officials, and APH provides products and services here as well for its customer user community to stay on top of hard deadlines to get annual orders in by September 30th of each calendar year. With very large customers (like the states of California and Texas) that are part of the Department of Education, it’s a massive process for them to collect requirements and submit orders by that cut-off date. SYSPRO assists here by clearly displaying three fields that have been populated by its general ledger: the customer balance, the order balance to date and the current available funding of that state. The customer has a clean, real-time interface to this information.

Franco says they’ve come far, and he envisions doing even more. “Soon we’ll use SYSPRO EDI capabilities to facilitate an even more seamless experience that is 100% automated. No one will even have to touch an order; it will go directly to the production floor, be shipped and never hit inventory. We’re excited about our future, and our ability to get there with our combined SYSPRO and CCSS team.”

“The software enables periodic adjustments for scrap and damaged parts so that physical inventory and the general ledger are always in balance.”

– Bill Beavin, CFO, APH

A message from our CEO, Phil Duff

Close to our hearts at SYSPRO is the need to protect our loved ones, our families, our colleagues, partners and customers. SYSPRO CEO, Phil Duff, shares his message and thoughts around the COVID-19 Pandemic.