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Appian World 2013 Business Track -- Kanban in the Cloud: BPM for Just-in-Time Production

Alena Davis, Appian
May 1, 2013

Once again, Appian World 2013 attendees split into three learning tracks for beginners, developers, and business users. While beginners heard a customer case study from Punch Taverns, and developers learned about enabling records navigation, the business users learned how Energy Alloys improved performance across the value chain. Kaushik Ray, Director of the BPM Applications Group, presented "Kanban in the Cloud: BPM for Just-in-Time Production."

Energy Alloys is a Houston-based, globally located provider of oilfield metals to global oil and gas manufacturers and service companies. Established in 1995, they've been using Appian BPM as their social media application since 2011. Kaushik Ray is responsible for JD Edwards' ERP system, Appian BPM, and DSI Bar Coding Mobile Solutions globally. The company has a raw materials partnership program for clients that require consulting, engineering, supply chain management and other services, so it needs to have its systems talking to each other quickly and accurately, with people being notified of any important events and data.

Energy Alloys provides distribution and value-added services for oilfield metals.

Kanban is a scheduling system for lean and just-in-time production, and is widely used as an industry standard. A Kanban system can dramatically reduce inventory levels and improve the accuracy of manufacturing schedules. Energy Alloys had to implement a manufacturing Kanban system along with one of their biggest customers.

Kanban Pre-Appian: A Manual Process

    • Manually figure out stock outs

    • Manually create sales orders, acknowledgements

    • Wait for emails from customers asking for replacement, wait for email to get to the right person in the chain

    • Call and get updates on manufacturing processes in the warehouse

    • Exchange emails for approvals, send emails asking for approval emails

Clearly, there was a need for change. Ray explained that they were looking for adaptability in the order schedule and visibility into the status of a delivery throughout the entire process. They wanted to reduce the cost of carrying inventory for key customers, easily get an audit trail of activities, and truly make Kanban just-in-time.

Why BPM?

Energy Alloys chose BPM as a solution because it could combine several systems: manual EDI, external workflow systems, and external document imaging systems. BPM also provided more accountability and ownership of customer service issues.

Energy Alloys' Appian Cloud Solution

Appian is part of a bigger solution, acting as the interface between Energy Alloys' ERP system and their customers' ERP systems. The Appian solution creates bi-directional transactions via web services. When a customer generates a purchase order (PO), Energy Alloys acknowledges the promised item, price, quantity and date. Energy Alloys' ERP then generates its own POs and work orders for fulfilling customers' demand. The Appian solution validates pricing between the two ERP systems using XML, and generates appropriate messages to appropriate groups within the two companies.

Energy Alloys' customers appreciated the Appian BPM solution. Customers could now see data, processes, and useful documents from both company systems within the Appian dashboard. The dashboard, processes and business rules bring accountability to the entire relationship.

Kanban Post-Appian - Measurable Business Value

    • Lead time reduced by 90% in some cases

    • Increased pricing accuracy

    • Increased on-time delivery

    • Reduced inventory carrying cost

    • Quick resolution of issues

Implementing BPM had transformational business value for Energy Alloys, and resulted in new business opportunities. Energy Alloys provides their BPM solution as a for-free cloud service to their customers. They've landed a Kanban success story in Computer World Magazine, and Kanban even saved the day when a Russian rig went down!

Ray touched on the lessons learned from their project -- both negative and positive. On the down side, controlling a remote FTP site with Appian is challenging, and they spent too much time/money making Oracle Web Services work. On the plus side, deploying in the Cloud was a success (no IT infrastructure or upgrade support needed), and they appreciated mobile task resolution capabilities. Above all, Ray stressed the importance of working with the right partner for implementation -- they had great success with Vuram.


Venkatesh Ramarathinam from Vuram provided an outline of the Energy Alloys implementation. The implementation team consisted of the SME/Owner/Manager (Kaushik Ray), a Process Lead and Process Developer from Vuram, and BizTalk developers from their customer's team. The project took just 3.5 months to deploy with an onsite/offshore model. The team is now planning for future releases/improvements. They plan on extending their process through shipping, and closing the loop within the payment cycle. They want to add transportation planning & optimization, and quality data management.

Alena Callaghan

Web Marketing Manager

Alena Callaghan