Success Story: Wagner Machine Co.

On a Strong and Healthy Growth Curve with M1

Cher Wagner still remembers the way things were before they implemented the M1 Business Management System from ECi Software Solutions. 

The company where she works, Wagner Machine Company in Champaign, Illinois, was founded in 1982 by her in-laws, Werner and Elaine Wagner, as a precision machine shop. Over the past 30-plus years, it has seen steady growth, thanks to a combination of outstanding customer service and company-wide attention to detail. 

But sometimes, growth can also bring some problems of its own and that’s what happened at Wagner Machine. As the company grew, management found the largely home-grown systems that were being used to run the business simply unable to keep up. 

“Before we brought in M1, we were using six different software programs to run the company,” Wagner recalls. “None of them actually spoke to each other and one of our key programs was crashing frequently because the database could not handle the volume and complexity of the business we were processing.” 

Fast forward to today—with the company now using M1 to steer the ship—and those six different programs have been replaced by a single system that seamlessly integrates all the company’s critical management and data functions, providing the kind of efficiency and productivity the Wagner team needs to maintain its solid growth pattern. 

Wagner points to several features that made M1 the right choice for the company. 

“I really like the way M1 gives you the ability to have multiple modules open at the same time,” she says. “Switching back and forth from Estimating and Quoting to Purchasing, for example, is seamless with M1. You don’t need to close out one window before switching to another and you certainly don’t need to open up a second instance of the program and use up a second license,” she points out. 

M1’s ability to provide quick and easy access to critical business information also earns high marks. “M1’s search functionality is incredibly robust,” says Wagner. “I can modify M1’s search grids however I want and then save my preferences in the system so they’re there when I need them again—that’s a huge plus for just about any aspect of our operations.” 

And if all that wasn’t enough, M1’s overall ease of use and ease of customization put it far ahead of any of the other ERP programs Wagner looked at. 

Wagner doesn’t have a software background herself—“I took one course on Visual Basic for Excel in college and that was it,” she says with a wry smile—but that hasn’t stopped her from become the company’s self-styled M1 guru, with the ability to tailor the M1 program to meet most special needs without having to call on outside resources. 

“With M1, adding a new field to a database, for example, is something we can handle in-house and it takes 15 minutes at most,” she reports happily. “That’s a whole lot better than getting someone to give you a quote on the cost and then having to wait several weeks for it to be installed.” 

Wagner also likes the program’s impact on the company’s overall productivity. M1’s customization capabilities have enabled Wagner Machine to move away from paper-based document management to an increasingly digital platform. 

“It used to be we would keep all our set-up information on paper and before we could start on a job, we’d have to go to a filing cabinet, track down the set up information and photocopy it,” she recalls. “Now, our set-up sheets are part of the system so that when an order is placed, the set-up information is right there and it prints with the job. None of that,” she points out, “would have been possible without M1.” 

When the Wagners founded their company back in 1982, they started out with a simple business philosophy—run a lean operation, make high-quality parts and offer them at a reasonable price. The company has come a long way since those early days. 

Today, it operates out of a 30,000 square foot plant that houses more than 20 CNC mills and 20 CNC lathes. Also on tap: full four and five-axis milling, multi-axis turning, Swiss turning, abrasive waterjet, wire EDM, sheet metal fabrication and multiple types of grinding and honing. 

But even with all that growth, the basic philosophy the Wagners put in place continues to drive the company, due, in no small part, to the power and flexibility M1 has provided. That’s good news by any measure. And what’s even better is that regardless of where future growth may take the company, M1 will be more than able to help keep it healthy and profitable.