Few people knew the definition of "ergonomic" when Productive Tool Products started selling tools to reduce repetitive stress and job-related injuries.

Few people knew the definition of the word "ergonomic" in the mid-1980s when Productive Tool Products (St. Louis) started selling tools designed to reduce repetitive stress and job-related injuries. "We actually had a plaque in our lobby explaining what ergonomic meant," recalls John Ebert, vice president of Productive Tool. "No one knew what we were talking about."

Introducing ergonomic tools paid off when customers realized the value of the products. "When customers realize that our tools reduce workers' comp claims and last 10 times longer than less expensive products, they come back for more," says Ebert.

As the vice president, Ebert watches inventory levels closely. Because the company's ergonomic tools can cost three or four times as much as their traditional counterparts, "we can't keep seven or eight $12,000 tools on our shelves if we only sell one each month," says Ebert.

Ebert maintains a well-balanced warehouse with Prophet 21's (Yardley, PA) CommerceCenter, a Windows-based real-time inventory tracking and management software. Ebert estimates that CommerceCenter has enabled him to cut inventory levels by 30 percent, without affecting customer service. "CommerceCenter lets us use just-in-time principles to manage our stock," he says.

CommerceCenter includes tools for order management, warehouse management, purchasing, financial management, reporting and analysis. It also works with personal digital assistants. It helps distributors optimize profitability by improving inventory management strategies and automating processes.

Even as the company grows, Productive Tool maintains a relatively small staff-about 20 people at its two locations. "Some of our employees represent three departments," says Ebert. "We run a lean operation."

CommerceCenter helps Ebert's employees get their myriad tasks done by providing easy access to the information they need. "We can get information into and out of the system easily and drill down into just about anything to get what we need," says Ebert. "We don't have clerical staff pulling reports. We want to sell assembly and production tools, not develop software. CommerceCenter helps us make sure we're getting our products to market instead of worrying about whether or not our system works."

For more information on manufacturing software, call 800-PROPHET or visit www.p21.com.