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A single solution for ERP and FSM turns out to be a game changer for Safetell, a manufacturer and installer of security solutions such as bullet-resistant doors and partitions, and attack-resistant screens for use in banks.

Business Imperative

In 2014, Dartford-based Safetell recognised that the business systems on which it depended were no longer adequate for its needs.
A manufacturer and installer of security solutions such as bullet-resistant doors and partitions, and attack-resistant screens for use in banks, it required tight integration between the manufacturing system, which orchestrated the production of its products, and the field service system that managed the subsequent installation.

Safetell’s Pegasus Opera manufacturing system, in use for almost 20 years, was based on Microsoft’s Visual FoxPro database language. Tesseract, the company’s field service management system, was SQL-based and more modern. But the two systems were not properly integrated and required complex and manually-intensive data feeds in order to communicate at all.

“There was a lot of manual data entry, with a significant potential for error,” recalls Andy Norris, Safetell’s IT Manager. “Coupled to a significant increase in business activity, it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep the two systems synchronised.”

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A move to the modern SQL version of Opera would incur expenditure on migration and still leave a gap in regard to the required level of Field Service functionality. Whilst integration between an SQL version of Opera and Tesseract could be achieved, this would incur further costs and may never be completely seamless.

Fairly clearly, the time had come to move to a more modern, fully integrated ERP solution which includes feature rich Field Service functionality – a move that would not only provide the required connectivity, but also deliver important benefits, such as improved reporting, greater system stability, and an accelerated order-to-cash cycle.

But which ERP solution specifically? It was clear, says Andy, that while there were a number of ERP systems on the market that would meet Safetell’s manufacturing-specific requirements, there were far fewer that met its field service needs.

“Over a period of six months, we conducted an exhaustive review of what was on offer in the marketplace,” he explains. “What quickly became clear was that a lot of systems could be disregarded, because they either didn’t have an acceptable field service module, or it offered only basic functionality.”

Eventually, a list of 15 potential systems was reduced to a shortlist of seven, and then to a decision between two systems, with Exel Computer Systems’ EFACS E/8 emerging as the clear choice.


Why Exel?

There were a number of reasons why Exel’s EFACS E/8 won out, sums up Andy. Some, he explains, related to EFACS’ superior ‘fit’ and functionality. But others related to Exel itself, and to the Exel people that the evaluation team had encountered.

“We felt very comfortable that Exel would deliver for us,” he relates. “They were a British company, about our sort of size, and we’d be dealing directly with the developer of the software, rather than with an intermediary reseller. The users that we met were very enthusiastic about the product, and we knew that some of our own suppliers were Exel users as well. In short, there were a lot of positive factors, and no real negative ones.”


The decision to go with Exel was made in March 2015, with an anticipated implementation timetable of six months. But in fact, relates Andy, it was to be just over a year before the new system went live.

“In retrospect, six months probably wasn’t achievable,” he explains. “We really wanted to ‘stretch the envelope’ in terms of what we wanted the new system to deliver, in areas such as mobile access, reporting and workflow.”


Business Benefits

And those ambitions have continued to drive the solutions’ direction today, he adds, with the single, integrated system delivering for both the manufacturing and field service aspects of the business. An installation order raised in EFACS, for instance, is now automatically pushed out to field service engineers’ mobile devices.

“The impact on cash flow has been significant,” says Paul Lovell, Divisional Director of Safetell’s service division. “As soon as an engineer has closed off a job, it is available for invoicing – which is a significant improvement on the monthly cycle that we were forced to operate previously.”

Nor is that all, adds Andy. The new system has delivered measurable improvements in areas such as better inventory management, better utilisation of field service engineers and better supplier management.

“Compared to our previous systems, we’re comfortably handling a higher workload, without requiring any more administrative employees. Everything is connected and integrated, people can call up a contract and see its entire history, right from their desk. We’ve never had that capability before, and it’s made a huge difference.”