Robert Beatty, a mechanical engineer, founded Michigan-based Plex in 1995 with the aim of building the "best manufacturing performance system on the planet." It's since been sold, but the original goal may have been met. Enterprise resource planning software from Plex puts Ralco Industries' plant in Auburn Hills, Mich., in the hands of CEO Tom Gitter, who can monitor and control the plant all the way to shutdown from his smartphone. The software monitors machinery in real time, tracks servicing and maintenance needs and can halt a malfunctioning machine at the 60,000-square-foot facility.

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