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ELG Carbon Fibre

Founded in 2011 to create and operate the world’s largest carbon fibre recycling plant. In late 2018 the Mitsubishi Corporation acquired a 25% stake in ELG.

Business Imperative

Part of German-owned ELG Haniel, ELG Carbon Fibre was founded in 2011 to create and operate the world’s first – and largest – carbon fibre recycling plant. In late 2018 the Mitsubishi Corporation acquired a 25% stake in ELG, this partnership will increase ELG’s channels to market.

Based in Coseley, in the West Midlands, ELG takes in scrap carbon fibre – carbon fibre waste, part-used bobbins, off-cuts of ‘pre-pregs’ and laminates – and turns them into usable carbon fibre products for the aerospace, rail and automotive industries.

By 2016, the growth that the business had experienced led to a realisation that its existing systems – essentially the Sage 50 accounting suite, Salesforce CRM and a significant number of spreadsheets – were no longer adequate for its needs.

“The business had reached the size where the need for a proper stock control system had become imperative,” recalls ELG Carbon Fibre’s IT Manager Nick Bott, who had recently joined the company. “Plus, it was also obvious that spreadsheets didn’t provide the proper controls, structure and disciplines that the business needed.”

Challenge

German parent company ELG Haniel had recently begun implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365, and in theory this might have provided a solution. But not only was the carbon fibre operation very different from the rest of the ELG Haniel business, says Bott, but there were also concerns over the likely timescale, even if a decision were taken to go down that route.

“We couldn’t wait: the business’s growth plans – which included multiple plants and international operations – called for an ERP system to be up and running quickly.”

The plan: survey the marketplace, identify the system that best met ELG Carbon Fibre’s needs – and implement it quickly, ideally in a hosted configuration, in order to facilitate the company’s multi-plant growth plans.

“We knew that we could get board-level approval for a ‘core’ system offering vitally-needed functionality – sales order processing, purchasing, stock control and accounting,” he sums up. “We could then build out from there, as needs were recognised, and the business case for such expansion became clear.”

A comprehensive 29-page Business Requirements Definition listed ELG Carbon Fibre’s key ‘must have’ needs. In short: a system that was multi-currency, multi-company, scalable, Cloud-based, widely-used, report-rich and supported from the UK.

Some thirty different ERP systems were eventually winnowed down to a shortlist of four, and then reduced once more to a ‘bake off’ between two systems.

The eventual selection: Exel Computer Systems’ EFACS E/8 ERP system.

Why Exel?

“The final four were all strong offerings, with compelling points in their favour,” explains Bott. “The final choice was between Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Exel’s EFACS E/8 – but while Microsoft Dynamics NAV might have had an arguably larger feature set, it was also a lot more costly, and we doubted that we’d really need, or use, any of those additional features. And why pay for features you won’t use?”

The licensing model was also a critical factor. Acquiring Microsoft Dynamics NAV meant nominating ‘named users’, whereas the Exel EFACS E/8 licensing model simply required specifying a maximum number of concurrent users. For a three-shift 24×5 operation – which at times of high demand – can switch for 24×7 operation, the difference in cost was significant.

“We liked the Exel people we met, the system was UK-developed and UK-supported, and the cost and licensing model suited us,” sums up Bott. “In the end, the decision more or less made itself.”

Implementation

The contract was duly signed in July 2017, and the new system went live in the autumn of 2018. Fully-hosted, and browser-based, the system was built as planned around the core functions of sales order processing, purchasing, stock control and accounting.

Almost immediately, relates Bott, improvements were seen in stock accuracy, works order management and productivity, with paper and spreadsheet-based manual systems being replaced by a single integrated set of centralised data and fully-integrated ERP modules.

Moreover, he adds, it soon became clear that adding additional functionality would, as anticipated, deliver even more benefits – factory floor productivity, for instance, could be improved by using barcode scanning.

“We added manufacturing functionality, but not MRP, as our process yields can vary significantly, making MRP difficult. But CRM is being implemented, and the plan is to add shopfloor data collection later this year, too. And we’re actively considering other modules as well.”

Business Benefits

It’s fair to say that the implementation delivered on its primary objectives, says Bott. Fragmented and disparate systems – both manual and spreadsheet-based – have been replaced by a fully-integrated, hosted, browser-based ERP system.

“The sales order processing and finance functionality is notably better and smoother than what was in place before,” he sums up.

That said, the implementation wasn’t without some niggles, he adds. Right from the very beginning, an important objective had been to impose structure and discipline, with everyone in the business working from the same consistent set of data.

So suddenly, users were finding – for instance – that it was not possible to commence manufacturing against a pro-forma invoice, until that invoice had been paid. Yet once people realised that the new system did – as promised – finally give them the information that they needed to do their jobs, the tide turned.

“Having one version of the truth is actually a very powerful selling point for users – and the easier it is to get access to that data, the more powerful it becomes,” concludes Bott.  “EFACS E/8 gave us that one version of the truth – along with the structure, controls and functionality that the business needed.”