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NIBSC (National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, based in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, is responsible for safeguarding and advancing UK and European public health by assuring the quality and safety of biological materials used as medicines, in particular vaccines for the UK children's vaccination programme. The safe and effective use of vaccines, most biotechnology products in therapy and many other biologicals, such as blood products, also depends on the availability of WHO international biological standards produced and supplied by NIBSC. Their production control systems consisted of Excel spreadsheets for production, an Oracle-based database for stock and separate systems for producing sales and despatch notes. None of the systems were integrated, requiring massive duplication of effort to maintain synchronicity. Said Steve Murray, Head of Operations; "We had no ownership of data. There were separate customer databases in sales and accounts, and we had continual problems tracking goods against invoices along with poor stock accuracy. There was also a backlog of getting money into the company because of these issues." Michelle Andersen, Operations Manager added; "We often had problems with duplicate orders, which would only be picked up at the invoicing stage."
After considering using an industry-specific software solution, Steve, having previous experience in advanced manufacturing systems decided to investigate using an MRP system. After researching online and visiting the CIM show they short-listed two systems, however the other system would have cost 80k including 80 man days of training at 1k per day, with an ongoing annual maintenance fee of between 15-20%. Said Steve; "As a non-profit organisation we could not justify this sort of expenditure for software, especially when we had no guarantees that it would do what we required of it. It also over-complicated our manufacturing process. 123mrp.NET fitted in more with our business and allowed us to implement without the financial risks associated with other products. In fact the rental price was cheaper than the other system's ongoing maintenance cost." Four staff attended free 123mrp.NET workshops in September and October, with the decision to register made in November.
The implementation of 123mrp.NET was started in December 2003, with staff attending Rent-I.T.'s user and administration training courses. Michelle commented; "All of the training material was supplied in electronic format as well as printed - this was particularly useful for us as we were able to customise it for our in-house training." The following month saw the implementation course completed, with a projected 'go-live' date of April 1st 2004, in line with their financial year. Said Steve; "Installation went seamlessly, although we overshot our projected live date by two weeks - this was largely due to internal issues. We went live with stock control, sales and despatch."
Accessibility of information was the most startling of the benefits immediately noticed. Steve commented; "Everyone can get at the data they need within the controlled access defined by the administrators". 123mrp.NET's report writing facilities also proved extremely useful to Michelle; "I can get whatever data I need from both sales and stock control from the same PC, where previously it may be spread across several departments. I can also write reports without going through our IT department."
As information was now being transferred between several departments electronically, NIBSC saw a reduction in paper generated by between 30-50%. Another saving was made in the reduction in contract staff required for accounting processes, with tasks now being handled by internal staff. NIBSC also increased the amount of products being shipped in 2004 by 15% and are centralising the despatch of products from departments, but without the need for additional resources.
Stock accuracy was previously an ongoing problem, with regular discrepancies. Now levels are down from an average of 28.5% across all lines to 2% on the top 30 items, with the global level down to 4%. Stock levels are now reviewed and reduced on an ongoing basis. A further benefit was discovered in purchasing - as NIBSC had accurate stock levels they could now take advantage of more competitive price breaks for high turnover items such as glass vials. A general reduction of errors occurred throughout the system, as information was only entered once.
After recruiting a new Production Manager, NIBSC plans to take greater advantage of the production elements of 123mrp.NET, together with possible integration of the despatch of items from another department, adding another 10% workload to that department. Steve finished by saying; "We will be able to increase our workload without needing more staff, because the system pretty much runs itself. In the early days we called Rent-I.T.'s support a few times but now it's just once every couple of months. Rent-I.T.'s low risk approach allowed us to install and train on the system, ensuring it would meet our needs without outlaying vast sums of money."