Simon Harre-Young is IT Manager for HV Wooding and he explains some of the typical challenges that the company faces. “While many of our components do have a significant number of configuration options, our greatest challenge tends to be keeping pace with customer’s changing demands. This is not in terms of specification but more in terms of quantity and delivery date. For longer lead times, this may well be possible but each change has an impact on all the other orders on the system.” He continues, “Optimising our capacity requirements is central, in terms of our highly skilled and diverse workforce as well as our diverse collection of machine resources. With regard to our workforce, this is not just in terms of ensuring availability of appropriately skilled supervisors or set-up specialists; it also includes our sales and admin staff where data entry and data handling can often be neglected.”
Visibility of what information was where, as well as what product was where, had traditionally been a problem and was a consequence of HV Wooding being reliant on a number of bespoke IT systems, spreadsheets and manual processes. Not only did this lead to data variance and duplication issues, it made it difficult to access a coherent sense of finalised information and to then put this into a meaningful report format. Other inherent challenges included the need to balance optimised sequencing with the flexibility to override this when wider considerations needed to be taken into consideration. Stock management, especially with regard to goods in/purchasing where price fluctuations, along with limited shelf lives are key concerns, was also far from satisfactory.
Playing a central role in the company’s IT set-up was an aging UNIX-based EFACS ERP system implemented in 1994, supplemented by loosely connected systems for payroll, employee management, shopfloor control as well as the afore-mentioned spreadsheets. Although EFACS 3.3.3 had served them well in its time, the age of that version combined with the need for supplementary systems led Simon and the team at HV Wooding to realise an alternative was required. Not only was the UNIX server running EFACS showing signs of age, representing a single point of potential failure, it was also running on old Operating Systems and database software.
And as Simon explains, the ongoing success of the company in terms of sustained growth increasingly brought these pain points to light. “It felt like I was spending all day, every day, just trying to get at the data to help people do their jobs.” He continues, “Our user expectations about how IT systems should work kept on rising and the archaic keyboard-only interface seemed increasingly distant from the slick, quick and easy to use systems they were used to. Likewise our customers were expecting more and more from us, yet for the same price, which exposed many areas where we needed information at the press of a button. Instead we would have to spend a long time trying to find it”.”