Brush manufacturer sees cost saving and increased production with EFACS

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G B Kent & Sons Limited, the renowned manufacturer of a variety of high quality brushes household brushes, shaving brushes, hair brushes, horse brushes, et al, has a history to be proud of.  It spans the reigns of nine monarchs, from George III to our present Queen, which makes it one of the oldest establishments in Great Britain.  From humble beginnings, when in 1777 young William Kent, full of the spirit of adventure, came south to London from his native Yorkshire to make his fortune, and founded the brush-making firm of William Kent near what is now Regent Street, the fledgling business has gone from strength to strength.

So to the 21st century company G B Kent & Sons Plc, By Appointment to Her majesty the Queen.  Producing a range of brushes and combs second to none, to suit every taste and pocket, for both professional and personal use, manufactured from both natural materials and modern plastics, Kents claim to be the worlds finest brush maker would be hard to disprove.  The company sells to large multiples Boots, John Lewis, House of Frazer, Superdrug and other independent chemists and also exports through overseas agents.  With a turnover of 3.5 million, there is the need to use the finest technology on offer to maintain efficiency and accountability, and to offer the best service possible to its high profile clients.

Because of the extensive use of wood in its two hundred plus products, manufacturing lead times are relatively long, as wood needs time to mature and dry, and because many of these products are hand finished, the processes are labour intensive.  To add to this, traditional techniques are still used.  To ensure that Kent offers the best quality finished product, every brush is subject to quality inspection at more than one point in the manufacturing cycle.  There is little wonder that there is a very low return rate!

Kents management team made the decision to replace its old manufacturing technology, a heavily bespoke system, supported by a local supplier which no longer had the resources to carry out its obligations with either the old or new technology.  Steve Davis was assigned to project manage the sourcing, evaluation and installation of a new system.

Bearing in mind the diversity of materials used in the manufacture of its vast range of products, the differing processes, lead times, etc, and mindful of the need to control between 2,500 and 3,000 parts, Steve Davies set out to fulfil his remit.  The hunt was on to source and install the most Kent-friendly manufacturing system possible.

First and foremost, Davis was looking for a manufacturing system which would fulfil Kents criteria without involving a lot of bespoke work, and secondly, one with a suitable accounting package.  Above everything, he wanted a system that worked with industry standards most notably an SQL database. As Kent deals with multiple outlets, margins are tight and costing needs to be very precise; the system would also need to be very easily customised, have excellent reporting capabilities and deliver 1st class stock control. 

The evaluation process was swift and EFACS was identified as the ideal system for Kent. But with the urgency of imminent deadline to meet, which was when the existing support system would be withdrawn, everything had to be fast-track. The accounts package was installed first and soon live, so now, with 20 terminals in place, the problem of training had to be faced.  Exel provides a comprehensive range of training options and Kent chose to tackle its training requirements bytraining a trainer.  Steve Davis, from Kent, did thirty days training at EFACS in two months, participating in every course on offer.

On top of the regular courses, he made on-site visits to established installations, and underwent consultancy training.  He then took his newly acquired expertise back to Kent and passed it on to other users.  So good was his instruction, and so successfully did he pass on his skills that the EFACS support team was on stand-by only.

Speed was of the essence, and there was no time for either a pilot scheme or for parallel running.  This was helped in a considerable way by EFACS user interface that Kent found to be superb, easy to use with good visual images, and clear, simple text.  People very soon accustomed themselves to using the system profitably, and to date, most modules are operational.

Most of the effort expended so far has been getting EFACS up and running although Kent wants to link and integrate other systems.  Exel is working on EDI, implementing the vendor rating, adapting the export sales order process so that it can be better utilised, linking the shop floor data collection and the payroll, as well as looking at integrating the web site to provide an integrated e-commerce solution.

But the benefits are manifold.  Cost savings were becoming apparent by the end of the first quarter, and Kent has now discovered the true cost of manufacturing!  95% accuracy in this area is giving much more control of business.  Better production levels are being achieved by the same staffing levels; stock levels are good; cost margins are being identified and best customers are apparent.

Steve Davis concludes, From the beginning, it was apparent that EFACS would enhance the companys business practices, enabling us to continue to offer the best product at the best price.  The installation has been non-intrusive smooth all the way through which was an unexpected bonus.  Exel's expertise and great co-operation from all our staff have enabled Kent to move painlessly into the future.

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