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Advanex realise the benefits of a modern, fully integrated ERP solution
Part of Japan's Advanex Group, Nottinghamshire based Advanex Europe manufactures springs, wireforms, pressings and coil inserts for markets such as the automotive, aerospace and medical device industries.
"By the mid-2000s," explains Paul Clifford — the then Managing Director, and now Company Chairman — "it had become clear that the business (then known as KATO Entex) needed to invest in an ERP system."
"We had a lot of disjointed systems, communications were poor and one department didn't know what the other was doing," he recalls.
On the company's main Southwell site, for instance, a Pegasus accounting package delivered invoicing and basic stock control capabilities, while everything else relied on either paper-based manual systems, or spreadsheets.
Clearly, it was time to move forwards into the ERP era. But using which ERP system? And from which ERP provider?
A search of the ERP marketplace began.
"Any ERP system selected by Advanex had to meet a number of very clear functional requirements," explains IT Manager, Ashley Reast.
"A lot of the company's production is bespoke make-to-order manufacturing," he notes, "and so scheduling and available-to-promise capabilities were important in order to provide customers with accurate and reliable delivery dates for their orders."
Likewise, from a shop floor point of view, it was important that the chosen system fully supported the business's planning, engineering and production processes, all the way from initial Bill of Material (BoM) creation and management, right through to the toolroom, manufacturing and finishing operations that produce the completed product.
Fairly obviously, workstation-by-workstation ‘work to' lists would be vital to achieving the improvements in due-date performance that the company was seeking.
Better costing information was another important requirement, with Advanex wanting to get away from purely manual costing processes and begin automatic cost build-ups based on real shop floor data.
Finally, given the nature of the company's major markets, requirements such as traceability and job recording were very important.
After an extensive search, Advanex settled on the EFACS E/8 ERP system, from Exel Computer Systems.
"Beyond an excellent functional fit, there were a number of reasons why Advanex selected Exel," explains Reast.
"There were no resellers involved, for one, invest in an ERP system from Exel, and you're dealing direct, with no intermediaries involved." As a consequence, Advanex knew that the system would be implemented by Exel's own experts, the people who knew it best.
Moreover, there was a significant body of implementation expertise. "Exel has been in business since 1985, many of its implementation experts were long-serving employees, and Exel had a lengthy roll call of customers in businesses and industries similar to Advanex."
"Finally," notes Reast, "Exel were located close by; should on-site help and support be required, that proximity would be an advantage, as would be the case with any provider-delivered training."
The Southwell site went live first, in 2006, with the company's Bilborough site following in 2012, after the end of the global recession.
"Each site had its challenges," recalls Reast. "Southwell is primarily a repetitive manufacturing site, manufacturing a limited range torsion springs, wire forms and helical inserts to high-precision standards in very high volumes, with BoMs that are very flat. Bilborough, on the other hand, specialises in both low and high volume bespoke orders for coil springs and flat metal pressings which can entail a lot of operations."
In each case, Advanex staff compliment Exel's implementation teams for the thoroughness of the training they delivered, the robustness of the business processes delivered and the enthusiasm with which they encouraged Advanex's staff to explore and exploit EFACS E/8's capabilities.
"It was clear that Exel's people understood ‘real world' manufacturing, and were very familiar with businesses like ours," sums up Chris Green, Engineering Director at Advanex.
EFACS E/8 is credited with delivering a number of significant performance enhancements to Advanex's manufacturing operations.
‘Due date' performance, for instance, has been transformed. Previously poor, thanks to limited planning and available-to-promise capabilities, performance now regularly exceeds 95%. Furthermore, this has been possible while at the same time disbanding a small department of progress chasers.
"Customers can call up about the progress of their order, and we can give them an answer within just a few clicks," explains Reast.
"Shop floor operations have been transformed too," he adds.
"Initially, the Production Planning department would print out the shop floor documentation and route cards, and send this out to the shop floor. The operators would fill them out, hand them back to the Production Planning department, and the data would be entered into EFACS E/8, but this meant that order data could sometimes be a few days out of date.
Now, aided by barcoding and touchscreens, operators print their own works orders and update order progress themselves."
"Similarly," he adds, "quality certification has also been transformed."
"Prior to our investment in EFACS E/8, the Quality department would manually write out certificates of conformity and the associated chemical/physical properties reports, a process which often took over 30 minutes. Now, as all the data is in EFACS, we can print everything off in less than a minute."
Finally, the impact on finance and accounting is undoubted. Accounting periods can now be closed more quickly, and EFACS E/8 has delivered in full on the sought-for costing enhancements, with raw material costs, landed costs, overheads and work centre rates automatically rolled-up in order to provide accurate job costing.
"As a business, we're now all working off the same data, with one source of information that can be used throughout the entire business," sums up Company Chairman Paul Clifford. "Compared to where we were, the transformation has been enormous."