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Bioquell manufacture and service environmental filtration and infection control systems for the Pharmaceutical, Life Sciences & Healthcare markets.

Business Imperative

Hampshire-based environmental filtration and infection control manufacturer for the Pharmaceutical, Life Sciences & Healthcare markets, Bioquell has been a satisfied user of Exel Computer Systems’ EFACS E/8 ERP system since 1995.

But no business stands still – and in the search for even greater efficiencies, enhanced integration and the adoption of emerging new technologies, it has been necessary for the original system to be significantly extended and upgraded.

Most recently, explains Bioquell’s IT Business Systems Manager, Zohair Ahmed, the company made the decision to upgrade from EFACS E/8 version 8.5.6 to the latest version, 8.6.1.


With the company since 2015, Zohair was aware of Bioquell’s long history with Exel, and the evolution of Exel’s system footprint within the business over that time.

In particular, he explains, he was keen to eliminate some of the customisation that had taken place within the previous version, and return Bioquell to the standard EFACS solution.

Another goal, he adds, was to move away from stand-alone third-party shopfloor data collection, and embrace the newly-updated shopfloor data collection functionality in EFACS. Finally, the plan was to also take advantage of the additional reporting functionality offered by EFACS E/8 version 8.6.1, which

would help to eliminate a series of ‘bolt on’ spreadsheets that had been developed.

“With everything carried out within EFACS, we’d be seeing a ‘single version of the truth’, thereby eliminating debates about which system had the right data,” he notes.

In striving for this goal, Bioquell was consciously mirroring an earlier enterprise software decision taken within the business back in 2010, when it had elected to abandon a previously-implemented field service management system and adopt Exel’s competing Field Service offering instead.

It had made sense for as much as possible to take place under the Exel umbrella, taking advantage of the complete integration inherent in EFACS E/8, and the efficiencies achieved by avoiding double data-entry and ‘data creep’ between systems.

“What that has given us is a centralised system for both manufacturing and field service: everything that we need is there in one seamless system, stretching all the way from the sales function to the service function,” says Zohair.

And now, with the decision to migrate to the latest, newest version of EFACS E/8, Bioquell could exploit not only the new version’s upgraded shopfloor data capture capabilities, but also its powerfully-enhanced reporting and business intelligence capabilities – Microsoft’s Power BI, and BIRT-based real-time dashboards and business intelligence.

Why Exel?

Bioquell’s original decision to deploy Exel software had been taken in the mid-1990s, almost a quarter of a century earlier; and as the business had grown and evolved over those years, it was a decision that had stood the test of time.

As Zohair put the upgrade decision to senior management for their approval, he knew that the arguments that had underpinned Exel’s original selection, as well as the various extensions and upgrades since, were all still valid.

EFACS still had a solid reputation as a flexible and fully integrated ERP system – the company was still privately owned and British; for support and advice, Bioquell would still be dealing with the original developers of the system, rather than resellers.


The decision to proceed with the upgrade was made in January 2018, relates Zohair. Work began almost immediately, with a planned go-live of the new version in October 2018, and the shopfloor data collection aspect of the system following a month or so later.

In some ways, he explains, the implementation of EFACS’ shopfloor data collection capabilities would be the most extensive piece of work involved in the upgrade project – and certainly so in terms of manufacturing users’ experience with the EFACS software.

“It’s barcode-based, and stretches from the stores at the beginning of the manufacturing process, to the warehouse at the end of it. Progress is tracked with hand-held barcode scanners, which gives us real-time visibility into where works orders are at a particular point in time. With the previous system, works orders were manually captured and entered into the system – an approach which was obviously slower and more administratively costly.”

Likewise, he adds, the dashboard capabilities of EFACS E/8 version 8.6.1 would provide the business with much more granular insight into ongoing exceptions to manufacturing schedules.

“There’s the choice of Power BI derived dashboards, or BIRT derived dashboards, and we needed to identify the most appropriate dashboard for each aspect of the business that we were monitoring. The Power BI dashboards were more powerful, but based on a data snapshot at a point in time – the BIRT dashboards, on the other hand, gave us more of a real-time view.”

Business Benefits

Among the various enhancements that Bioquell has made to its Exel systems landscape over the years, the move from EFACS E/8 version 8.5.6 to EFACS E/8 version 8.6.1 was never going to be the most revolutionary or transformative, suggests Zohair.

But it does point to a shift in philosophy, he believes – adding that the shift in question could indeed herald long-lasting benefits on a substantial scale.

“Do you follow a pre-existing business process and try to reflect it in your ERP system, or do you aim to use the system to its maximum potential, leveraging its capabilities and reporting tools to the full? Increasingly, as we looked at EFACS E/8 version 8.6.1, we could see features that we liked – and the closer we were to the standard system, the more we could leverage those features. Going forward, that will make an important difference to us.”