Weatherford International, one of the largest global providers of products and services to the natural gas and oil industries, operates in over 100 countries and employs more than 40,000 people worldwide.
Nestled in a Leicestershire village, Weatherford Internationals UK subsidiary manufactures scientific instruments for subsurface evaluation within gas and oil exploration. This precise, accurate equipment is used during or after open-hole drilling to provide reliable data as to an areas geologic and zonal characteristics, including compartmentalization, pressure regimes and fluid composition. Leaders in their field, Weatherford have developed lighter instruments with smaller diameters to provide unrivalled access alongside unique methods of conveyance.
Manufacturing approximately 1000 made-to-order instruments per year for supply within the Weatherford group, the UK site has enjoyed phenomenal success. In 2004 our turnover was 3.8 million, says Martin Enstone, General Manager of Weatherfords UK site. Now we have over 120 employees and turnover has risen to 16 million.
Finding that their legacy software system was no longer able to support their rapid growth, Weatherford went to market for a software solution that would offer them greater flexibility and tighter control of business processes. Wed been using our previous system for over 15 years, says Martin, but this solution was becoming untenable as it had been highly customised over the years, much of which was undocumented. What had started as a simple off-the-shelf manufacturing system acquired over 1000 bespoke macros optimising its processes, including bespoke MRP.
Selecting a Solution
After an extensive selection process Weatherford chose Microsoft Dynamics AX for its flexibility and strong manufacturing functionality. We needed an agile system that we could adapt quickly and easily to suit our needs. The ability to customise the system and for these modifications to survive system updates is very important to us. says Martin. We also wanted it to help us control and automate our processes for greater efficiency, as this would be crucial in supporting our growth strategy.
Of course it was crucial to find a system capable of scaling with our business, continues Martin, but that wouldnt require an army of consultants to implement. We reviewed the market but found that many systems could not provide us with the functionality and flexibility we wanted, both now and in years to come. We decided to invest in Microsoft Dynamics AX because, in addition to meeting our current requirements, the system is agile enough to adapt to our changing needs it will support us as we continue to grow.
Weatherford worked with Microsoft Gold Partner Syscom PLC, www.syscom.plc.uk, to implement Microsoft Dynamics AX. The fact that this system is backed by Microsoft was also a big plus, says Martin. It means we can feel confident the solution offers us a secure and future-proof investment.
Since implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX, Weatherford has enjoyed many business improvements, including company-wide integration, enhanced traceability, automation of tasks and greater control of processes.
Microsoft Dynamics AX integrates fully with Weatherfords existing Microsoft infrastructure, creating a unified IT environment. The tight integration has allowed us to use our existing technologies and applications more effectively, says Bob Wiggins, Manufacturing Controller of Weatherford. With the click of a button we can export data into Microsoft Office Excel for further manipulation, for example. It works a treat!
Our recent acquisition of an Australian plant has also made it crucial to have a system in place capable of supporting global operations and communication, says Bob. Because Microsoft Dynamics AX is a fully integrated system, it has enabled us to communicate effectively across departments and plants, reducing duplication of efforts and enhancing collaboration throughout the business here in the UK and overseas.
Our manufacturing process is highly complex and we have nine levels of bill-of-materials, says Bob. Microsoft Dynamics AX allows us to drill down for the information we need on each instrument at each level and facilitates the tracking of components through to finished instruments and back. Not only does having data at your finger tips save a lot of time, it is crucial in helping us control and monitor item costs, lead times and supplier performance. It plays a large part in our quality control process, for example. We test each component rigorously for things like temperature exposure, durability and sensitivity as this is vital to ensure our equipment can withstand challenging conditions and always provides accurate, reliable data. Of course any faults in the parts we are supplied with have cost implications as well as an impact on lead times. Microsoft Dynamics AX allows us to record key data, such as error codes, and store information against supplier records, so we can analyse this information to monitor costs, lead times and the reliability of our suppliers.
Control and automation of business processes:
The instruments we manufacture require many parts and we sub-contract about 80% of the component manufacture, such as production of circuit boards, so we have high number of invoices to process now that our business has grown often around 50 invoices per day, says Martin. Microsoft Dynamics AX has helped automate this process and the integration across the modules means you can easily trace transactions to their origin as well as update customer records immediately. We can also verify and analyse transactions on demand to support internal or external audits, saving a lot of time and resources.
The work-flow planning and task recorder functionality offered by Microsoft Dynamics AX is brilliant, says Martin, particularly as we are IS9001 certified. The work flows help us ensure all our business operations are as streamlined and efficient as possible, which is vital for controlling costs, and the task recorder can be activated whenever we want to automatically track and record actions for a given business process. It then generates a step-by-step guide describing the process, including screen-shots, which we can use as a training document for new staff.
Designed to optimise usability:
Weatherford have found one of the main advantages of Microsoft Dynamics AX is its intuitive interface. Now more than ever you need your staff to be as productive as possible, and streamlining your processes is just the beginning, says Sally Reynolds, Marketing Manager of Syscom. If employees feel the system is difficult to navigate it can slow down or even derail the implementation process, as well as prevent staff from utilising the system to its potential. Microsoft Dynamics AX has a familiar user interface and a logical layout, aiding user adoption. Our staff found it easy to use and took to it quickly because they are used to using other Microsoft programmes like Microsoft Office Word and Excel, says Martin. This helped the system change-over go smoothly and reduced training costs.
A role-based perspective on information and tasks is also a unique feature of the system, helping users extract information in the context of business processes Staff can tailor their user area so that the information they need is readily available and they dont have to sift through a lot of data they dont need. A Financial Director may set his log-in screen to show aged debts, outstanding invoices and customer credit limits while a Production Manager may customise his to show outstanding orders and manufacturing output. In fact the system is quick and easy to adapt throughout, you can add extra fields, for example, and customise reports to suit our needs, so we dont have to call in a consultant every time we want to tweak things.
Whats more, the system is very stable and secure there is no down-time or crashes, says Martin, and access is governed by role or user level so we can be confident in the security of our critical data.
Weatherford will be upgrading to the latest version of Microsoft Dynamics AX in the coming months and is planning to introduce bar-coding in order to gain greater visibility into within the production process and reduce data entry time on the shop-floor. At the moment we manually input information, says Martin. We want to automate this process so that we can simply scan the barcodes into the system. As well as saving time, this will allow us to quickly see what part of manufacturing process we are currently at, whether we are on schedule, to budget and so forth, by simply looking at the system.
The next step for Weatherfords will be to incorporate their Blue Prints electronic designs automatically. We have many complex circuit designs that contain vital manufacturing information, says Martin. We plan to import this data from our design package into Microsoft Dynamics AX to give greater access to everyone internally and externally.
From a strategic standpoint, Weatherford has one key objective, says Martin, growth. For us this boils down to efficiency and productivity. We strive for efficiency, both in terms of delivering results for our clients as well as leveraging our worldwide infrastructure. The ultimate goal in both cases is to help reduce costs and increase well productivity. Having the right software in place has been crucial in enabling us to grow and remains key in helping us achieve our business objectives.