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Siderise

Siderise is focused on improving the safety of the world's buildings through their passive fire solutions, and has been for nearly half a century.

Business Imperative

Siderise, established in Surrey in 1972, comprises two quite separate businesses: Siderise Insulation, based in South Wales, which designs and manufactures insulation products for the construction industry; and Siderise Special Products, based in Suffolk, which manufactures acoustic insulation products for a wide range of industries – automotive, marine, rail and general industrial applications.

In early 2016, the company had begun implementing a new ERP system, comprising a CRM system and a combined manufacturing and finance system, linked by a ‘connector’ tasked with keeping data common between the two systems.

At least, that was the idea, says Siderise’s Group Head of IT, John McLoughlin: in practice, the reality was often rather different.

“You couldn’t really look at an enquiry in the CRM system, and then click through to the manufacturing and finance system to view the resulting order,” he explains. “So we didn’t have the end-to-end visibility that we wanted. And, although the manufacturing and finance system was supposed to be one single system, it was really two separate systems.”

Challenge

Things came to a head in 2019, after Siderise had been acquired by private equity investors. The problem, explains McLoughlin, was that Siderise’s fragmented and inadequately integrated systems made it difficult for the company’s management to provide the new owners with the granularity and quality of information that they wanted.

At which point, he relates, the resulting decision largely made itself.

“As a management team we all agreed that it was time to give up: the system wasn’t working, and probably couldn’t be made to work. Even though it had been a six-figure investment, it was time to look for something else.”

The requirement wasn’t difficult to articulate, he adds. Essentially, Siderise needed a multi-company, multi-currency ERP product with CRM and Field Service Management capabilities that could consolidate financial data upwards to higher levels of the business, which was capable of working from a common database, and which could provide full transparency and reporting on both a top-to-bottom basis and vice-versa.

Beyond that, being a hosted solution was a plus, given Siderise’s spread of operations – as well as the two factories in the UK, there were also sales offices in Dubai and Singapore. A mobile interface for field-based personnel was also highly important.

“We spoke to all the usual providers, and looked at all the usual systems,” sums up McLoughlin. “And having done that, we chose Exel Computer Systems’ EFACS E/8 ERP system.”

Why Exel?

“We remembered talking to Exel at a trade show,” he explains. “We were impressed by both the people who we met, and by what they said. It was clear that they were speaking our language – including EFACS E/8 in the systems that we were reviewing made perfect sense.”

In contrast to some of the systems that Siderise considered, EFACS E/8 turned out to be a very good match for Siderise’s requirements, with the added bonus of being flexible and readily configurable, so that it could easily be tailored to Siderise’s two very different businesses.

By June 2020, the decision had been made: Siderise would be buying EFACS E/8, opting to acquire the relevant licenses, but run the software remotely, on a hosted platform.

Implementation

“Siderise’s circumstances called for an implementation pace that, whilst not unprecedented for Exel, would certainly be a challenge for all parties involved.

Exel’s implementation experts had explained that an EFACS E/8 implementation of this size usually took 12 – 18 months, although that timescale could be shortened if additional implementation resource could be made available. Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic added to the challenge, explains McLoughlin: a lot of the implementation work would be handled remotely.

Nevertheless, he adds, the company had two strong incentives: first, the sooner it could implement EFACS E/8, the sooner it could benefit from EFACS’ ‘single version of the truth’ – and second, if it could implement EFACS E/8 ready for the start of the next financial year, in early January 2021, it could avoid the cost of a further year’s licensing on the previous system.

And so, with Siderise’s personnel already having had the requisite implementation training, work got underway, aiming for a ‘go live’ date that was just six months away.

“We took the decision to focus only on the essentials,” explains McLoughlin. “Basically, we wanted to go live with just the functionality that we already possessed – so features such as finite capacity planning, for instance, would be implemented in subsequent phases.”

Remarkably, by early November 2020 it was clear that the implementation target would be met. Indeed, says McLoughlin, it would have been possible to go live a month early if required. Accordingly, by mid-December 2020 the process of switching to EFACS E/8 began: all new sales quotations, for instance, were completed in EFACS E/8, rather than the CRM capability of the existing system.

And so, in early January 2021, Siderise went ‘live’ on EFACS E/8 – right on time.

Business Benefits

Having consciously decided to go live with no new functionality, and simply replicate what was already in place with the previous system, Siderise’s management were clear-eyed about the business benefits that they would see from the initial implementation, notes McLoughlin.

The real business benefits of switching to EFACS E/8, they knew, would come from the second phase of the implementation, which began almost immediately. Finite capacity planning, EFACS’ quality control and continuous improvement module, marketing – the goals were ambitious, yet the omens promising.

Even so, relates McLoughlin, the first phase of the implementation did prove transformative. Firstly, he explains, the move to a hosted solution delivered much better connectivity than Siderise’s leased line connection, which had previously linked the two UK manufacturing sites.

“Remote hosting was also a more cost-effective solution, and our Dubai and Singapore offices can connect to it very readily – as can people working from home, or on the road.”

Secondly, of course, the business was able to achieve its objective of having ‘one version of the truth’, with a single system now embracing the entire quotation-to-despatch process. Niggles about data quality and end-to-end visibility are now a thing of the past, he affirms.

“EFACS E/8 is really, really intuitive,” he sums up. “It’s so logical – as long as you follow the processes, it’s simple and obvious and does what you expect. Why can’t all ERP systems be like that?”

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