Going From Reactive to Proactive: Superior Essex Case Study
BY Waybridge 2022-09-19

“Like everyone else in the industry, Superior Essex was flying blind when it came to copper cathode and rod deliveries. By using Waybridge software we’ve gone from being reactive to the market into being very proactive.

Now we are identifying issues with our shipments before our suppliers even know there is a problem.” – John Gillespie, Commodities Manager, Superior Essex

Superior Essex avoiced five stockouts, reduced Excel usage for procurement by 90%, saw a 60% reduction in transaction-related email, and is now four weeks ahead in forecasted ordering using Waybridge for all its copper procurement.

As a key supplier of the magnet wire used in electric vehicles (EV), the growing rise in the EV market has required Superior Essex and its subsidiary brand, Essex Furukawa Magnet Wire, to expand the amount of oxygen-free copper that it procures. The business demand on Superior Essex has grown from needing 88,000 lbs per month to 500,000 lbs per month in the last year and expects to need 1.6 million lbs of copper per month by 2025.

The problems in scaling procurement were clearly felt by John Gillespie, Commodities Manager for Superior Essex. John handles copper cathode procurement in North America. He explains, “When I joined Superior Essex, Excel files, and email were used to manage all the procurement here. There was a lot of time wasted trying to figure out what was going on, and occasionally it even led to very expensive inventory stockouts.”

John originally thought that the problems Superior Essex was experiencing were in-house issues. As he began talking to others in the industry — including their suppliers — he realized that it was a universal problem.

Due to his background working at tech-focused companies, John collaborated with Scott Wilde, Global Vice President of Strategic Sourcing at Superior Essex. The pair began to evaluate how they could upgrade their technology to eliminate problems of visibility into shipments, inefficient communication with suppliers, sharing of shipping documents, and daily inventory position management. They quickly determined that developing an in-house solution was too expensive and not a part of their core expertise. Additionally, a siloed, internal solution would not be sharing information in real-time with their suppliers so it wouldn’t solve their most pressing problems.

The team at Superior Essex researched what were considered the “best” technology solutions available and found that most of the options were point solutions that only did one thing well. Very few of the software solutions they evaluated were able to would meet all of their needs. John also didn’t want to have to pay multiple different technology platforms licensing fees nor learn how to manage multiple applications and system integrations.

When it came to evaluating Waybridge, John was impressed that the platform went beyond real-time shipment visibility by also providing all the shipment data and details in the context of their transactions. Waybridge’s ecosystem already included numerous Superior Essex suppliers, making it extremely easy to get the rest of their suppliers connected. Multiple eyes from different organizations reviewing the same transactional and shipping information in a uniform format help to mitigate risks for both Superior Essex and its suppliers.

“Waybridge is our center of truth. It is where everything occurs when it comes to procurement and inventory, plus we have all our suppliers on the platform seeing the same relevant data.” – John Gillespie

When it came to implementing Waybridge, John was impressed that it worked so well for them within the first 30 days. The Waybridge team worked with him directly to get product feedback and implemented many of his suggestions quickly.

The results from using Waybridge have been extremely powerful for John and the Superior Essex team. Waybridge has eliminated 90% of their Excel usage for procurement and inventory management while also reducing transaction-related email by 60%. By using Waybridge’s Stock and Flow predictive inventory reporting, Superior Essex was able to assess when shipments were due to arrive and accurately predict current and future inventory levels. This visibility into their incoming material flows allowed Superior Essex to completely avoid at least five otherwise imminent stockouts and plant shutdowns.

“We had a situation around the 4th of July holiday where I noticed, through Waybridge, that a buildup of railcars had locked up 4.5 million lbs of copper cathode that was supposed to be delivered to us. The rail line sent out a mass email explaining that they were having labor issues due to COVID-19 and the holiday weekend so they would be very limited in unloading railcars.” John said. “Using Waybridge, I was able to pull information on which railcars in which railyard were a priority for us. Our plant manager was so pleased when 2 million lbs of cathode ended up on his doorstep before the holiday weekend, and we avoided a plant shutdown.”

Besides using Waybridge to help solve difficult situations, it has also allowed Superior Essex to get a full month ahead in their forecasted ordering. The platform has allowed for better time management and provided the ability to stay ahead of issues at a time when supply chain disruptions have become the norm.

It has also aligned with Vision 2030, a holistic sustainability initiative for Essex Furukawa. Waybridge is key to both Disruptive Innovation and Agile Digitization core value as well as Responsible Sourcing, Supply Chain Transparency, and Carbon Reduction Targets as outlined in the program. Essex Furukawa recently released its first annual Sustainability Report as well as set carbon reduction targets. Its full, 25-page report can be found here.

Copper cathode procurement is now running so well for Superior Essex that they are expanding their Waybridge usage to include their aluminum and chemicals procurement. Additionally, the success in North America has led to considering an expansion of Waybridge into their plants in Europe and Asia, extending the same transactional-level visibility to their operations worldwide.