Requirements & Solution
To ensure this, the company replaced its ageing legacy system in 2006 with the EFACS E/8 Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution from Exel Computer Systems. According to Paul Taylor, Manufacturing Manager, the first of the many benefits that this brought was the recognition that the system had much more to offer. Even the more traditional area of shop floor quickly saw the possibilities that it opened up to fine tune how their work could be improved. “Much of this comes from the fact that from the outset the data in EFACS proved itself to be accurate. The manufacturing team would check and re-check the figures and each time EFACS would be right. This proven trust helped cement the high expectations of the system, especially to people who had never seen a complete Works Order before.”
The visibility of the system was also quickly recognised and appreciated. For the first time ever, Gesipa had real-time access not just to what was actually happening in every part of the production process, but also the projected flow of work into the production area. Not only could they at last keep accurate track of what products were with which subcontractor, they could also determine when these products should be despatched to the subcontractor as well as alerting when deliveries back from the subcontractor had not materialised as planned. This real-time visibility of data has, in Taylor’s words, “Allowed people to make much more intelligent decision making by immediately letting them see areas where we may potentially have a problem.”
Other benefits have come from the centralised database structure within EFACS E/8. This removes all the data entry and duplication error possibilities that Gesipa had previously struggled with as a result of so much reliance on manually written lists and hand-typed spreadsheets. As IT Consultant Steve Ellis explains, “Even just by applying basic error checking we have made it practically impossible for someone to enter data incorrectly. The joined-up nature of EFACS lets you see the impact of each order on the rest of the business which gives you greater confidence when dealing with customers and suppliers alike.”
The lack of visibility of the former system makes cost savings hard to quantify, but Gesipa have identified a reduction in Sales arrears from £150k per month down to under £30k per month. Administrator Sue Lamb adds that, “Customer satisfaction levels have also risen dramatically because we are now getting the right product to the right place at the right time. While not the sole cause, this has had a direct impact on our ability to grow the business. EFACS has helped us get to where we are.”
In keeping with its recognition that EFACS E/8 offers far greater possibilities than they had anticipated, Gesipa continually reviewed other areas within the company that could benefit from the system. One of the first areas identified was the finished goods warehouse where operatives use forklift trucks to locate, pick, deposit and move goods. According to Taylor, many stock transactions end up being carried out “on the hoof” but the process was far from streamlined, even with the company now using EFACS E/8. “Take the example of an operative who has been issued a pick list and goes to get the required product from its store location. When he has collected the products there may be times when small quantities of product are left that would need to be relocated. He would then have to drive back from the location, walk from the forklift to the computer running EFACS E/8, and then assuming it was free, update the actual stock inventory and product location before walking back to the forklift and drive it to the required location.” While not a regular occurrence, a guided estimate study by Gesipa revealed that this and similar situations effectively cost the company 1 work hour per day. “What we ideally needed”, says Lamb “was a means to interrogate and update the system while the driver was on the forklift – at the very place where the transaction needed to take place.” Gesipa was aware that Exel had a recently developed touchscreen module for EFACS E/8 and so discussions began about how the company could make best use of this.
While the principles behind the Touchscreen module and indeed the actual use of the system are very simple, the physical implementation itself was more challenging albeit for reasons not relating to EFACS E/8. The first challenge was to physically connect the touchscreens to the company’s forklift vehicles which meant ensuring compatibility between the forklift’s power supply and the touchscreen’s power requirements. The second challenge concerned the wireless infrastructure in the warehouse. Testing revealed that a more powerful wireless network infrastructure was required in order to maintain continual connectivity at the extreme limits of the warehouse. Given the company’s commitment to making every aspect of the system deliver as intended, Gesipa wisely invested time and resource to get this stage right.
Learning and using the system itself was much simpler as Taylor recounts. “Even considering we had a number of employees that had very little computer experience, the easy, intuitive nature of the EFACS Touchscreen system meant that they found it very simple to use.” He continues, “We also had the advantage of a very positive Stores Controller who could clearly see the benefits the system would bring and he helped drive the project forward. The team from Exel were very helpful in ensuring that we were getting the best from the system.”