From its origins back to 1975 the £7m company has steadily grown and currently has a workforce of 100 producing a diverse range of products across many sectors with a recognised specialism within the aerospace industry. Harlow’s reliance on the EFACS ERP system from Exel Computer Systems goes back almost as long, with Managing Director Bill Timpson describing EFACS as long having been “the brains of the organisation.”
Like most established metal fabricators, Harlow has had to adapt as a business to meet changing customer requirements and highly variable market and economic conditions. As such the company currently exports 20% of its output to Mexico with a further 20% dedicated to the aerospace sector. Approximately 80% of all business comes from around 10 major clients, some of which have been customers for several decades, with the remaining 20% being comprised of over 20 smaller and newer customers. Batch sizes range from single items through hundreds to thousands and into the tens of thousands and the company can be working on up to 1200 works orders at any given time.
Dave Carlisle has been with Harlow for over 20 years and IT Manager for the last 5 years and explains how the company used to meet these challenges prior to implementing EFACS, almost 2 decades ago. “The company was a lot smaller and as such was using a basic MRP system called Micross supported by a bespoke Sales Order Processing program. As the company grew and its operations became more complex, the limitations of this approach became increasingly clear which led to our investing in a UNIX-based version of EFACS. In fact, we have been using a UNIX version up until our recent upgrade to EFACS version 8.5 and are now benefiting from the power of an Oracle database on a Linux platform. ”
Harlow also has to deal with the ordinary production and business issues shared by most other manufacturing companies – namely maximising production capacity, minimising sequence dependent changeovers, avoiding bottlenecks and ensuring smoothness of flow across the business. The latter is assisted by the company not working on a 24×7 basis which allows it to expand its production times as and when required in order for the customer to get their order on time. And as Timpson adds, “Customers are demanding shorter lead time and smaller batch requirements, which means the manufacturing facility has to be flexible to demand and reduce set up times to ensure smooth running of production.