The special needs of project-based manufacturers:

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Rollalong Limited, a leading provider of modular buildings and portable cabins in the UK, has been delivering space solutions for over 50 years, recently won a significant deal to engineer, manufacture and install modular buildings for the Ministry of Defense (the Aspire Project) writes Thomas R. Cutler.

Rollalong was awarded the 40 million, seven-year contract to design and manufacture accommodations for Junior and Senior Ranks and Officers in Aldershot and Salisbury Plain under Project Allenby/Connaught, to upgrade British Army accommodation. Rollalong will be working in close partnership with Aspire, a joint venture between KBR and Carillion. Rollalong was selected by Aspire after searching the marketplace for a volumetric modular supplier who could deliver reduced risk, short build programs, quality, minimal site disruption and high performance accommodation.

To accomplish the Aspire Project, a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution for the Project-based manufacturer was required. The incumbent ERP vendor specifically lacked deep and broad Project Accounting and Project Inventory functionality which was of primary importance to Rollalong. Technologically, the incumbent system lacked the collaborative, automatic electronically-controlled process, and real-time capabilities derived from the .net architecture in the new VISIBILITY.net product selected. The project-based functionality was the central issue in the technology selection. Project Accounting and Project Inventory functionality is considered a significant value-add by Rollalong because it enables the company to control the costs of the Aspire contract, as well as other contracts they perform in their business; additionally the new ERP solution allowed the company the ability to bill customers in accordance with commercial terms that are the norm for project-driven businesses, such as stage invoicing and retentions. Rollalong viewed these primary requirements as the keys to profitable contracting with appropriate cash flows over the life of the contracts. The .net technology architecture and the capabilities derived from the new technology provided Rollalong with the conductivity and stability required as they invest in their next generation core IT systems.

Dean Williams Rollalongs IT manager and Tim Cowhigg, Managing Director, were central in the decision-making process and noted that the Project Accounting module provided the tools needed to manage all projects on time and within budgets, including multiple budget revisions. The Project Accounting module extended into every module within the enterprise system; providing the means to manage on a project basis. Additionally it also enabled each department to operate optimally with a mix of project and non-project work.

Project Accounting is a cost collection and planning tool that provides the ability to:

- Define and organize projects or master projects and project Work Breakdown Structures (WBS)

- Capture and report actual costs charged to a project through any linked transaction or activity

- Get real-time reporting for analysis of budget vs. actual cost amounts

- Predict final project costs and estimated completion amounts

- Extrapolate revenue to recognize from actual and estimate reconciliation

The project structure is a hierarchical definition of the contract or project. This structure allows for organization of projects into multiple branches and levels of subtasks. Those tasks belonging to the same activity or final product are grouped through the project structure. The project accounting roll-up processes are governed by the project structure when accumulating costs throughout the levels of a project. The reporting and inquiries into a project allow Rollalong to view multiple budgets (including revisions) and actual costs incurred to date.

Labour hours, expense transactions and analysis can be performed in relation to the project tasks or linked work orders, sales orders, or overhead accounts. Accounts receivable invoices may be linked directly to a project cost element and task. Entry of invoice adjustment, credit memo application, or other value transactions can post directly to the linked project cost.

According to Ken Stone, executive vice-president of Visibility Corporation, Our solution has standard pre-defined reports, as well as project data warehouses and cubes that may be used, to create and publish project information across Rollalong's intranet or the internet. The Project Cube provides full analysis across any and allprojects, tasks, cost types, drilling into transactions types, resources, and orders.

Project Inventory

Project Inventory provides the capability for parts to be bought, charged and reserved in inventory for specific projects. Once project inventory items are received into a warehouse location, the new system prevents them from being utilized for any other purpose (other than their reserved purpose.) Once the job/order to build is released, it will use this inventory. Rollalong had specifically required this functionality.

Workflow

The new Rollalong technology selected has the ability to automate business processes through the use of workflow templates; making it easier to control and administer standard processes through the necessary steps. In the past, a flow or process may have been documented outside of an ERP system, where there is no formal way to ensure compliance and visibility, so the value was limited. Using the workflow process, the new system enforces the process. This allows companies like Rollalong to improve and standardize daily functions across the company without burdensome manual administration. This provides employees visibility into the status of "in-process" tasks, making it easier for them to execute their tasks effectively. The VISIBILITY.net Workflow engine automatically monitors the execution of each activated workflow to assure its timely processing. The workflow task list allows users to quickly determine the exact state of an in-process workflow. These workflows include:

- Notification: Based on system status, or transaction event settings, such tasks automatically e-mail alerts to designated personnel.

- Automated approvals: Certain workflow tasks may be set up to require electronic sign-offs. Set into conditional logic paths, the request is routed to the appropriate signature authority.

- Transactions: Purchase requisitions, estimate sign-offs, customer credit checks, and engineering change releases are typical processes which benefit from the use of formal workflow.

- Standard reports: Historic performance and open task reports allow a company to manage and identify business activities, tasks, and bottlenecks.

Rollalong is typical of project-based manufacturers. These one-of-a-kind manufacturers are seeking technology solutions which provide strategic insight, and the ability to differentiate with increased productivity and the flexibility needed to achieve business goals. The strategic advantage must apply across the entire enterprise. Business integration, comprehensive functionality, collaborative capabilities, global features and compliance based controls must enable effective decision making, increased organizational productivity and a system infrastructure optimized for profitable business growth.

Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based TR Cutler, Inc., the largest manufacturing marketing firm worldwide. Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium of twenty seven hundred journalists and editors writing about trends in manufacturing. Cutler is also the author of the Manufacturers Public Relations and Media Guide. Cutler is a frequently published author within the manufacturing sector with more than 300 feature articles authored annually.

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