Prior to investing in EFACS E/8, these challenges were tackled by a rudimentary DOS based CRM/management system supplemented by a number of spreadsheets and reliant on a considerable amount of paper. When business was especially strong, for example during the digital switchover, Edginton candidly admits it wasn’t mission critical to get everything right all the time. However, as part of the company’s commitment to ongoing continuous improvement, the system continued to be reviewed and the impact of its shortcomings became increasingly apparent. “There was a lot of data entry duplication,” he explains. “The Purchase Manager would take information from the IT system and then manually enter it into a spreadsheet. Goods-in involved manually checking the received goods and entering them into the existing system, but you needed to keep all the accompanying paperwork to make sense of the data. When it came to sales orders and pick lists, we are talking more paperwork and carbon copies!”
Consequently there was very little visibility throughout the company. It was difficult to know what goods were coming in, when things were expected and even when they had arrived. Customer data and order data had to be physically looked up whenever required which meant sifting through lots of paperwork. All of which meant having to get back to the customer with the information required. Edginton adds, “There was also a divide between those using IT and those who weren’t, with each having incorrect assumptions about the other and this was having an impact on how the company operated as whole.” Add to this the growing gulf between how IT was used in the company compared to how everyone used it in the rest of daily life, coupled with the awareness that competitors were improving their systems and it was inevitable that a decision was made to look for a modern, integrated replacement.
This search began in 2010 and lasted 3-4 months where, as Edginton puts it, “we had our minds blown in a positive way.” He continues, “I always felt a lot of what we do could be automated but one of the things which stood out about EFACS E/8 was just how much it could speed things up. EFACS also stood out light years by having all your standard functionality such as Stock Management, CRM, etc., but also including other elements such as Document Management and Container Bookings as part of the integrated solution. We also liked the fact that the system was designed to be customisable to the way we wanted and needed it to work.”
A decision was therefore made to invest in EFACS E/8 in late 2012 and 9 months later, Webro had gone live. At the heart of the implementation lay the approach of identifying a positive in every part of the business that everyone using the new system would encounter on a daily basis and then focussing on delivering that. Whilst this was successfully achieved, Edginton remarks that it did have an unintended kickback, albeit only in the short term. “When people began to see not just what was going to be delivered, but also the potential for further improvement that wasn’t going to be ready from the outset, there was a slight dip in buy-in to the system. This was short lived because people soon saw how quickly and easily changes could be made.” Continuing his candid reflections he adds, “With hindsight, we didn’t make as effective use of the 9 months as we could have done which meant we weren’t as prepared as we would have liked to have been.”
This notwithstanding, go-live was a success; albeit with a lot of hard work, an element of firefighting and strong support from Exel personnel who were on-site for the first week to help. The benefits were felt very much from the outset in the form of centralised information that provided increased visibility and access, automation of simple tasks and the eradication of duplicated processes. For example, now when a customer rings for a price, there is no need for someone to physically have to go and find the relevant paperwork and call the customer back. “Now,” says Edginton, “it’s click, click, click, and there it is while you’re still having the conversation.” He cites another example, this time relating to real-time stock level visibility. “Historically, we might have say 11.8km of a certain cable which is supplied on 1000m drums. We’d have no means of seeing whether the 0.8km comprised 2 x 400m lengths or a single 800m length. If a customer wanted a 400m length we can now see immediately if this is available and avoid unnecessary re-cutting.”
Another area where EFACS E/8 has brought benefits experienced on a daily basis is in the standardisation of product data and the instant access to past customer records. This is particularly of relevance where customers have their own internal names for Webro products which may bear no resemblance to the actual Webro product name. Previously someone would have had to check all back orders and then visually try and confirm the correct specification. And, as Edginton adds, “That’s before you have the situation where different purchasers in the same company use different names for the same product!”
Increased visibility and efficiency have also come through automation, most notably in the removal of significant amounts of the company’s paper trail. The EFACS E/8 Document Management module has been especially useful here. For example, spec sheets historically were kept in different folders on different PCs which meant finding the correct sheet whenever an order or enquiry made this necessary. Now whenever anyone looks up a specific part, the correct spec sheet is automatically available right at the point of use. Quotation management has likewise been improved in the same way, as has delivery management. Edginton again, “Previously, if there was a problem with a delivery, someone would sort it out in a variety of different paper-based ways which other people in the company might not know about. Now this is all done via EFACS’ Case Management module so everything is immediately visible to everyone.”