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Gripple

Sheffield-headquartered Gripple, a manufacturer of wire joining, tensioning and suspension products, first implemented Exel's EFACS ERP offering in the mid-1990s, partially upgrading and extending it in the mid-2000s. But by 2013, it was clear that the business had outgrown the capabilities of the system.

The Client

“We were a growing business, with overseas operations, and were looking for greater functionality than was provided by the old version of EFACS that we were using,” explains Steve Wilson, IT Manager. “Ease of customisation, improved workflow, greater ease of working with a multi-company structure while retaining a single master database, touchscreen interfaces in the factory, better capacity planning, Business Intelligence dashboards—newer software would make all of this possible.”

Challenge

But software from which provider? When it came to replacing a system of such a vintage, all options were on the table. Yet although systems from other providers were examined, explains Wilson, senior management were acutely aware of the risks entailed with switching providers.

“The more we thought about it, the more we realised that upgrading our existing system, and remaining with Exel Computer Systems as our ERP provider, was a lower-risk option. We knew the people, we knew the product, and we felt that the overall risk to the business was significantly lower.”

Accordingly, in March 2015, the decision was made: Gripple would upgrade to Exel Computer Systems’ latest EFACS version, E/8, in which all the major pieces of functionality that Gripple required were available within the standard solution.

Why Exel?

Instinctively, says Wilson, the decision to stay with Exel Computer Systems’ EFACS E/8 solution felt like the right one.

“We’d be dealing directly with the people who had developed the system, and not working through intermediaries,” he explains. “Plus, the data migration would be straightforward, and our people already knew the system well. In terms of risk avoidance, it was by far the better option.”

Implementation

Gripple comprised three separate businesses, two of which were overseas. Originally, a nine-month implementation period had been envisaged—but after visiting a number of other EFACS E/8 users, this was extended to a year. Even so, it was a timescale which was challenging, relates Wilson.

“The big problem was the amount of bespoke code contained within the existing system, none of which was supported by the new solution. All of that functionality needed to be reviewed to see if it was still required, and then recreated if not covered within the new system, which took longer than we had envisaged. In some cases, the bespoke code had so much of the ‘look and feel’ of the existing systems that users had assumed that it was part of the standard solution—and only found out during the testing phase that it wasn’t.”

The international element of Gripple’s operations complicated matters too, he adds, with logistical challenges in terms of bringing people together for user workshops and training sessions. Sometimes the solution was for people to visit the international operations; at other times it seemed best for people from the international operations to travel to Sheffield.

In the end, after the ‘go live’ date had been postponed several times, the new system went live in November 2016.

“It wasn’t totally smooth, largely due to some stock accuracy issues that emerged,” says Wilson. “But the speed with which we were able to resolve issues as they emerged is a testimony to how well our people knew the system, and how to use it.”

Business Benefits

A little over a year later, the new system had thoroughly bedded-in, he relates, and was delivering the sought-for stability and support for the Gripple businesses – now totalling five in number, up from the original three.

“The ability to move away from static reporting, and on to Microsoft Power BI dashboards that are fully integrated with EFACS E/8 is tremendously powerful,” reports Wilson. “Better still, EFACS E/8 now embeds those dashboards in the menu structure, making them even more accessible.”

The support for EDI, too, is timely, with a number of important Gripple distributors now having that as a key requirement. On the factory floor, the deployment of inexpensive Android handheld devices is eagerly awaited, enabling Gripple to finally process completed works orders in real-time, rather than in batch mode.

“It’s a journey,” he sums up. “We were a modern business with a legacy system – and now, we’re a modern business with a modern system.”