Prior to investing in EFACS E/8, this task fell to a bespoke, in-house green screen system that had been in place for 20 years. Being bespoke, it fitted the company’s then requirements perfectly but as the company grew in size and in the nature of its business, this began to change and at the most basic levels. Phil again, “The system was based on all our work being in the foundry. There’s no way it could cope with any element of assembly.” Nor could it cope with the growing need to centralise the expert knowledge distributed throughout the company in individual departments. Only Phil could access each of these individually and use this to put together an overview of what was happening. The task of production planning also fell exclusively to Phil who, as he recalls, “had to keep it all together in my own head. As the scale of business increased, so did my blood pressure.”
Consequently MRT was not as agile or responsive as it needed to be. The lack of visibility meant that customers couldn’t be responded to in a timely fashion and establishing the current state of an order resulted in people constantly walking around the shopfloor. “There were lots of whiteboards in use by different people,” reflects Phil, “which often meant different versions of the same data being used by different people.” To counter this there was a tendency to overproduce orders, just in case there was a problem, but this resulted in lots more down time while people waited for the order to reach them. This in turn led to people starting to make whatever order was at hand or what they felt was needed in order to keep busy even though this might create increased downtime by increasing setup times. As internal efficiency rates slipped, so did customer delivery dates.
Addressing the millennium bug began the process of searching for an alternative as the costly rewrite of the existing system highlighted the company’s reliance on one person to keep the system going. This coincided with an increasing move to the use of email as a business tool, something the existing system couldn’t handle. Customers too were demanding greater degrees of traceability, quality control and responsiveness than could be handled and there was a growing expectation that suppliers should be using industry standard systems. This led to a visit to a trade show, a review of several systems and what turned out to be a quick, positive decision for EFACS E/8. “In the end, only EFACS E/8 offered us the flexibility and customisation that we were looking for,” explains Phil. “We were used to a bespoke system that had been designed to work the way we work. Everything else but EFACS E/8 would have required us having to change our processes to fit a prescribed way of working and that simply wasn’t an option for us.”
Phil acknowledges the implementation was quite a challenge as well as a learning curve for all. However, the persistence of MRT’s vision combined with the support of a regular onsite EFACS E/8 consultant slowly but surely began to bring a growing number of benefits which have been foundational to the company’s continued growth and diversification. Central to these are the increased visibility and increased capacity utilisation across the entire business. “Data is now accessible to every team member, wherever they need it and at the level they require,” comments Phil. “this includes what is happening and where at each individual resource, the status of every live works order, forward visibility of what is coming down the pipeline as well as realistic costing data.” He continues, “Because the data is in real-time for us, we can use this to examine different ‘What-if?’ scenarios when we have a need to react to something, be that a last minute change by the customer or a problem with an asset or supplier.”
It’s one thing having reliable, up-to-date data, it’s another being able to access that quickly and in the exact format required. Here again the ability to easily customise reports helps generate meaningful Business Intelligence (BI) which can be used at a strategic level. Not only can the impact of taking on a new order be seen at a production planning and scheduling level, EFACS E/8 can help determine the competitive advantage by potentially investing in a new plant asset and/or taking on additional staff. Phil describes other ways the visibility from EFACS E/8 directly benefits customers. “Because we can see in real-time whether we are ahead or behind the planned schedule, we can proactively discuss options with customers about what works best for them. This means we can keep more of them receiving more of their orders more of the time.” He notes that they have observed an increasing number of customers now actively expecting visibility of available capacity.
At the heart of delivering this visibility is the implementation of touchscreen/barcoding hardware throughout the shopfloor. Job start/stop, and shift start/stop times are now all recorded directly into EFACS E/8 which removed a huge paper trail from the shopfloor as well as the potential data duplication/variation issues inherent in previous manual paper systems. As this also relied on all the paper information being manually entered into a system at the end of the week, EFACS E/8 has also brought the visibility window down from a week to a single shift. Quality control is further enhanced by the EFACS E/8 Document Management module. Previously any relevant design drawings and documents were stored manually and in a number of different locations which meant it was possible for operators to end up using out of date or even the wrong specifications for an order. Now all this is handled centrally by EFACS E/8 with only the latest information, diagrams and images linked to each order being displayed to the relevant operator.
EFACS E/8 also makes it possible to physically track and know the location of every order, even when this is physically split at different locations across the business. This is especially important for more complex orders requiring final assembly as different sub-assemblies including bought-in components all need to be available at the right place and time for their allocated assembly slot. Previously this would have involved physically walking around the shopfloor and checking the status of every resource and estimating completion times. MRT also uses EFACS E/8 to track the flow of orders to and from subcontractors, all of which makes the daily production planning meeting much shorter and more efficient. “Now at our production meeting,” explains Phil, “we can accurately see what has happened across each resource, department and the business as a whole. This helps us respond in the most intelligent way making it easy to identify trends at production as well as at a sales level.”
Tool lifecycle management is another area which has been improved thanks to EFACS E/8. Each product involving casting requires a dedicated and often very sizeable tool. While this is owned by the customer, there is a need to accurately maintain details of the value, condition and history of each tool. Given their physical size and the fact that only certain resources can work with certain tools, knowing the exact location and availability of each tool, which EFACS E/8 provides, saves considerable time and costs.