Relying on Cutting Edge Numbers

3000-based FMS II gives Swiss Army Knife parts maker sharpest accounting edge

Before the HP 3000 took over financials at Hitchiner Manufacturing, economic planning included debate. Company officials weren’t always discussing the future, however – often they were debating how well accounting figures portrayed its present business position.

Hitchiner is the biggest maker of commercial investment castings for industry, wax-cast metal parts used in some of the world’s best-known products. Victorinox has had Hitchiner casting its metal components for Swiss Army Knives for years. Parts of Callaway golf club heads and Odyssey putters roll off Hitchiner lines. Every Pratt & Whitney jet engine, and every helicopter that’s made in the US, has Hitchiner parts in it. Winchester rifles are full of parts cast from the Milford, N.H.-based company’s factories.

Casting an accurate snapshot of all this enterprise was more of a problem. According to Douglas Place, director of corporate accounting, financial results used to come in from a handful of PC-based and minicomputer systems spread across the company. The lack of coordination in reporting led to many a sharp debate over accounting numbers during executive meetings.

“You used to go to a high-level staff meeting or a meeting with the board of directors and you fought more about what the numbers are, versus the strategies the numbers are telling you,” Place said. “My first role here was to bring some credibility to the financials.

“I identified five different modules that we definitely needed. We felt it was best to stay on the HP 3000 platform, particularly if we wanted the integration with the shop floor and our other applications.”

Hitchiner Manufacturing
HQ: Milford, N.H.
HP 3000s: Series 987, Series 928
User base: In the hundreds
Desktops: PCs with Lotus 1-2-3
Database: TurboIMAGE
MPE Solutions: FMS II, Mitchell Humphrey & Co.; DataExpress, M.B. Foster Associates
Performs: Financial accounting, budgeting and inventory control for the largest maker of parts for products such as Swiss Army Knives, Callaway golf clubs and Winchester rifles.
“When I came to Hitchiner, we had a patchwork of non-integrated systems – one vendor for AP, one for GL, one for AR, and so on,” Place said. Hitchiner has remote operations in the Midwest and in South America, which made getting reliable financials more complex. The accounting department also depended a lot on help from the MIS department, Place said.

The director instituted better methods through the FMS II application from Mitchell Humphrey & Co. (800.237.0028, An HP 3000 software provider for more than 20 years, Mitchell Humphrey’s software gave Hitchiner a way to integrate its accounting with the rest of its systems. It also reduced the accounting department’s dependency on MIS.

Place said Hitchiner needed modules for inventory, purchase orders, general ledger, accounts payable and accounts receivable in its system. He likes the integration between these modules and third-party software, provided through an FMS II feature called GENCONs. “It’s really transparent and smooth,” he said. “These are the hooks they’ve built-in to integrate with other software, and it works really easy.”

One of the third-party HP 3000 packages hooked up to FMS II that’s working hard for Hitchiner is M.B. Foster Associates’ DataExpress. With its user base in the hundreds, almost exclusively working at PC desktops, the company is putting client server integration into the hands of 80 active users of FMS II. Place likes the way the two HP 3000 tools work together.

“It’s a great report writer for us,” he said. “Having the hooks back and forth between the two products makes it real easy. We do variance reports on a week-to-week basis, and general ledger is set up to be a month-end tool. Through DataExpress we can grab all the debits and credits from the general ledger, because we’re allowed to put in the beginning and ending post-dates of all of our transactions. We then run weekly variance reports through our ledger by using DataExpress.”

The ease of integration means that DataExpress can help with Hitchiner’s shop floor reporting and work-in-progress reporting. “FMS integrates extremely well with this system,” Place said. “Because of FMS II's powerful account structure and alternate roll ups, we are able to generate reports and inquiries from data stored in both systems.”

Having an easily integrated financial tool helped Hitchiner accountants deliver financial information with a minimum of MIS assistance. “FMS II met my main objectives for a new system – complete integration, ease of navigation, and the capability to run reports and access data without needing to bog down MIS with requests,” Place said. “I believe accounting should be responsible for tracking, entering and reporting on all of our financial data without requiring special programming assistance."

“Every time we added or sold a division, or added new accounts, we had to get MIS involved,” Place said. “We have no involvement with them now. It’s user friendly to the point that we do all our own maintenance. The only thing the MIS department does is the backups at night.”

Place said his company’s implementation of the Mitchell Humphrey tool was thorough. He didn’t accept the chart of accounts from the prior systems, but started from scratch with a new one. “We changed our entire chart of accounts to work with their software,” Place said. “No one is even questioning the utility and benefit we derived from that.”

Hitchiner increased productivity by tapping the FMS II software’s ability to let users debit and credit through common PC tools such as Lotus 1-2-3, Place said. “It’s a tremendous tool,” he said. “I’m a big user of Lotus myself, and I don’t want to key in, extract and upload and download things. Even using DataExpress you have to use several iterations to get things down to your desktop. Here I can grab anything I want.”

Because of the speed of the new process, closing the company’s books now takes a little more than four days instead of the previous nine. “People would argue about what the variance was, or the period cost was, because we didn’t have clear definitions,” Place said. “We’re now closing our third year without senior management questioning a number. When I give them the financials, they believe it. Our prior software didn’t give us that. Mitchell Humphrey was a very big player in that.”

Copyright 1998 The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved