Chassis and axle manufacturer AL-KO Kober Limited produces axles for caravan, motor home and industrial trailer makers. The range of variations is huge. Even when units are destined for the same application they may be shipped as knock-down kits or part-assembled unitsand some may be bought as spares.
With this kind of variability in despatch, its easy to get in a mess with kitting lists, despatch notes, part-shipments and to-follows, says IT Manager Marc Wassall. infor:COM has imposed a discipline on us that we can only ship what we have in stock. The system gears us up to ship complete kits ahead of time or on time - rather than just behind time! This means our customers get a better service and we do less chasing around to fix the paper-work after the event.
Upgrade with infor
AL-KO Kober currently employs 90 people at a purpose-built Warwickshire factory. Many of the components are shipped in from the parent company in Germany, who chose to implement SAP four years ago.
The caravan and mobile home market has been healthy in the UK of late - our business has grown 50% in the past 3 years and we have entered the growing static home market, and we have entered the growing static home market, so we needed a stronger system to manage our growth, says Marc. We decided that upgrading from our existing infor:32 system would be quicker and easier than implementing SAP.
The upgrade took place over a 9 month period, with a go-live in Aprilwhich also happened to be one of the busiest sales months ever. Things were a bit hairy for the first month, admits Marc, and its taken time to get the process changes bedded in. Now they are, everyone is happy with the system. Its quick and has lots of functionality. The facilities are there to be more flexible than the old system. You need to take more time to explore them, but when you have, its so much more useful.
Kits versus assemblies
For example, the same part can be a phantom in one Bill and a finished assembly in another. We may order it from Germany as the phantom because they ship it to us as a kit of separate parts. For some customers we might assemble it before on-shipment, for others it would stay as a kit. Given the labour differences between these two options, its important to keep careful track. This is easy to control in infor:COM.
The move to infor:COM was seen as an opportunity to take a more structured approach to planning, with an upturn in demand on the horizon, and Mike Burgoine was recruited to a new post of Production Planner. For Marc this was an opportunity to share ideas on how to set things up. He was well versed in the best-practice concepts, but Mike was closer to the needs on the shop floor.
Bills were transferred from the infor:32 system in bulk and then tidied up afterwards having first attempted to filter out little-used items en-route. Technically, the transfer was easy, but cleaning up the data involved a lot of late nights. However, it was seen as an ideal opportunity to clear obsolete data that had built up in the old system over the years.
The change from Sage financials to SunSystems was straightforward. Head of Finance Alan Sparkes had previous experience of larger systems. He finds the open-period accounting in Sun to be very useful, allowing the month-end to be closed when he chooses, and there is considerable time-saving in all the routine processes. Vision is also liked for its drill-down ability into
The Accounts department feel that things are a lot smoother and its easier to keep things up-to-date.
Simple things made simpler
Some of the improvements are in the simplest of things. Copying sales orders or purchase orders, for example, says Marc. With our AMC (Automotive Conversions) trailers each vehicle has to have a separate sales order to match the vehicle identity number, but theyre typically ordered in batches of twenty. Create the sales order once, copy and tweak nineteen timeseasy.
The Set facility is used to configure each major chassis from various base standards, and this listing is reflected through the order-acknowledgement, picking list and despatch note, keeping everything in track.
Planning is run to generate bulk requirements and job certain items, but not to check capacity plans. Production is cell-based, but cells are allocated to a customer rather than a product line, and are sales-order driven rather than works order driven, so certain works orders are tied to the sales order with fixed requirements allocations. A customised work-to report is then run for each cell. In short our business has become far more customer driven and responsive, says Marc.
A feature of the resource-list planning mode in infor:COM is that materials are pulled in ready for the operation that needs them. This means that items in the final kit that are out-sourced, and are on-shipped without additional work, can arrive just-in-time for despatcha lean approach.
Marc is very impressed by the stored statistics in the infor:COM archive. Pretty much everything is captured. The standard reports are pretty good, but I can create my own Crystal reports across the time-sliced data, and with just a few parameter tweaks, see a wholly different view. You can also do a global change on the archive to re-align things like product groups to the latest designations. He also likes the ability to take data straight out to Excel if required.
Current projects include installing infor:COM terminals at AL-KOs Hull assembly plant. This is a small operation that assembles kits shipped from the main plant, but will now start to control stock as it is delivered direct. Hull is much closer to a number of major customers, and this eases transportation of the bulky completed chassis. The terminal will link via a standard VPN connection and Citrix.
Marc has already begun to extend the system into the service and spares operation, recently bringing RMA return and repair orders on-stream. This might also link in with plans for a combined CRM system for Sales and Service. Marc is a strong advocate of integrated solutions from a single vendor. infor:CRM would therefore be a good choice, with its integration with COM for customers and installed-base, plus visibility of quotations, sales orders and despatches.
AL-KO run a 10 day hot line for special axles. These are used by a wide range of industrial trailer manufacturers for things like compressors and lighting towers. They are generally specified against a set of parameters for, widths, fixings, brake-sizes, etc. infor:VARIANTS could speed up order input and provide a little extra configurability checking here, but AL-KO are keen to keep things as simple as possible.
Everything runs more smoothly
It seems that the infor slogan, Everything runs more smoothly is an apt description of the benefits achieved by the AL-KO Kober teams upgrade to infor:COM. It has provided more autonomy for each department, allowing them to organise their own workflows, trigger their own documentation and maintain their part of the integrated dataset, which then forms the common information pool across the whole company.