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Komfort Partitioning

Komfort Partitioning Ltd design and manufacture internal glazed
and solid partition systems with integrated doorsets.

Business Imperative

Originally part of the nine-company Laidlaw Interiors Group, Wednesbury-headquartered building partitioning system manufacturer Komfort Partitioning Ltd first adopted Exel Computer Systems’ EFACS E/8 ERP system back in 2012.

But in 2015, the Laidlaw group hit financial difficulties, going into administration in December 2015. A few days later, Komfort Partitioning was sold to a private equity group.

The immediate challenge for Komfort’s IT team: separate the Komfort business’s EFACS E/8 instance from the rest of the nine-company ERP installation. The longer-term challenge: exploit EFACS E/8’s extensive customisation toolkit, analytics and development extensions to build a fresh new ERP system customised for Komfort’s own requirements.

Challenge

For the first three months of 2016, relates Komfort IT Manager, Scott Foxall, the agenda was all about stability – moving servers, and closing down active ledgers and financial reporting systems in the pre-administration companies, and transitioning Komfort away from a multi-company instance of EFACS E/8.

“We’d been operating as a single company within a multi-company structure, so we had to strip out a lot of the resulting complexity and multi-company, multi-site capabilities,” he recalls.

But with that chore complete, Komfort could then begin to build something precisely tailored for its own needs – for which Foxall and Komfort’s broader executive team had ambitious plans.

“CRM was an obvious priority, and mobility was important too: not just for salespeople on the road, but delivery drivers also. We could see that with a little thought, it was going to be possible to completely re-imagine the system’s workflow and levels of inbuilt automation.”

The starting point: process-mapping the entire business, and then designing – on a test system – an entire new instance of EFACS E/8, covering Komfort’s Wednesbury-based company headquarters and manufacturing site, and its two combined sales offices and warehouses in Leeds and Crawley, Sussex.

The ‘feel’ of the eventual rollout – which went live in April 2017 – was very much akin to a whole new implementation, recalls Foxall, with extensive user training, local ‘champions’, steering groups and executive sponsorship. Also important, he adds, were the extensive customisations and workflow automation powered by Exel’s customisation toolsets.

Finally, CRM was added, with Exel’s CRM and a mobile CRM solution being deployed in late 2018. It went well, explains Foxall: so much so, that within a few months of the CRM ‘go-live’ data, Foxall’s attendance at a Komfort sales conference resulted in him coming away with a list of eight urgently-wanted extensions to the system. Alongside this deployment, he adds, Komfort also deployed Exel’s Project Control and Contract Control modules – vital functionality for a business that is largely project-oriented.

Building on Success

The mobile-enabled CRM system, which provided Komfort’s salespeople with the ability to access customer account details whilst on the road, was the first step in Komfort’s move to a more hybrid architecture, with business functionality split between the company’s on-premises instance of EFACS E/8, and those systems and capabilities that were hosted in the cloud.

This development was to receive significant further impetus with the adoption of aspects of Microsoft’s Power Platform – in this case, an extension to Komfort’s EFACS E/8 in the form of Microsoft Power BI, and the use of Microsoft PowerApps to provide additional functionality. Browser-based, and hosted, Microsoft Power BI as an integrated add-on was a good ‘fit’ with EFACS E/8, he notes, with EFACS E/8 also being browser-based.

The Microsoft Power BI implementation came first, relates Foxall, and stemmed from attending an Exel Computer Systems’ EFACS E/8 customer event at which Exel was demonstrating how Power BI could be deployed alongside EFACS E/8 in the form of a low-cost ‘add-on’.

“It blew us away,” he enthuses. “We came back, started doing some research, and discovered that there was an entire Power Platform. The speed of development that it enabled was amazing, as the software does so much of the work for you.”

Very quickly, he adds, Komfort was running Microsoft Power BI – in the Cloud – and using it to both generate reports embedded in EFACS Dashboards and feed Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

Microsoft PowerApps came next, with Senior Systems Analyst, Laura Anderson using PowerApps to develop a proof-of-delivery app for delivery drivers’ smartphones. Using the phone to scan a barcode on the documentation as they make their deliveries, drivers call up the online order, capture customers’ signature on the phone’s screen and upload a notification – including the signature – to say that the delivery has been made. This is combined with an E/8 workflow that automatically dispatches and invoices the order.

Business Benefits

It’s a testimony to the versatility and flexibility of EFACS E/8 that the transition from the original multi-company, multi-site deployment of EFACS to today’s enhanced single-company instance has been so smooth, says Foxall.

Equally, he adds, EFACS E/8’s browser-based platform has simplified the move to a more hybrid deployment, leveraging Microsoft Power BI and Microsoft PowerApps, and seamlessly combining on-premises functionality with functionality residing in the Microsoft cloud.

“The key to both of these has been investing in the acquisition of a thorough understanding of EFACS E/8’s workflow, and understanding how Exel’s customisation toolsets interact with those workflows,” he notes. “We’ve got a standard, ‘out of the box’ EFACS E/8 system – but we’ve also got one that has been tailored and extended to uniquely fit our business. From an IT Manager’s point of view, that’s a very powerful combination.”

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