From humble origins in 1968, Linecross has grown to become a £16 million turnover supplier of innovative, high-quality engineered polymer solutions to a diverse range of international industries. These include automotive, transportation, off-highway, leisure and speciality markets. Linecross's finance director, David Austin, explains that the company mantra is "the customer's assembly line can never be allowed to stop".
This is all straight forward except for the fact that different customers have different methods of confirming actual delivery requirements. For example, some confirm actual delivery requirements on a daily basis, to be fulfilled for the next day, while others work on a more traditional Kanban replenishment system.
Given that some finished products including tractor roof panels and front and rear end panels for caravans are bulky, there are storage considerations and this is further compounded by certain raw materials either only being available at a certain time per month, in certain unit sizes or in varying unit sizes where the most economic batch quantity might not be the one required. Each order also has its own unique tool that not only has to be created for the customer but then stored on site for many years in order to fulfil the company's after-sale commitments.
Austin reiterated that the company's biggest challenge stems from the sheer variety and number of different parts it manufactures, many of which may then require assembling to achieve the customer's final product. "Accurately knowing how much to make, and when, across such a wide range of products is a real issue," he said. "When things can change on a daily basis we have to be flexible to react to sudden changes as and when they arise, which of course has a knock-on effect on everything else that is either being manufactured or scheduled for production."
Prior to investing in EFACS E/8 from Exel, Linecross had relied on a bespoke DOS-based manufacturing system that was entirely separate to the company's Sage accounts system. The lack of any support combined with considerable sustained growth which the system was not designed to handle led the company to recognise that the system now increasingly represented a constraint to future growth so it began a search for a replacement. Linecross knew it wanted a fully integrated system where its accounts and manufacturing worked seamlessly together.
Equally as important, the company recognised from the outset that an investment of this nature involved making a long term partnership/collaboration with a supplier. "Once the system is in you are reliant on them if anything goes wrong," explained Austin. "We therefore wanted to work with a partner that shared our ethos, our approach and our passion for our business." He continued: "It was obvious from the outset that Exel not only was a similar size to ourselves but also shared many of the same values. It was as passionate about its own products as we are to ours, understood our business and was committed to developing its products on a long term basis."
The decision to invest in EFACS E/8 was therefore made in April 2006 and was a genuine collaboration. Austin again, "There's no way it would have worked if it was all down to us, or them. They clearly understood what we did and needed to do and worked with us to ensure that EFACS E/8 facilitated this." The system went live in October 2006 with the first visible benefit being the MRP module's complete fulfilment of all of the company's needs and expectations. Austin credits this alone with a time saving of several days per week. Looking at a company level, Linecross finally had both accounting and manufacturing data contained within one system which has saved days in time when it comes to the preparation of management accounts.
The EFACS E/8 Quality Control System has also proved invaluable, especially in the company's dealings with its automotive industry customers. Combined with EFACS Workflow, this has helped Linecross achieve the TS16949 industry standard as well as reduce overall levels of non-conformity by helping to identify and address causal factors as and when they occur.
Recognising that EFACS E/8 has more benefits to deliver, the company is currently working with Exel to refine its Shop Floor Data Capture (SFDC) requirements including the addition of Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards. No wonder Austin concluded: "We simply wouldn't have been able to grow without Exel and EFACS E/8. If we double in size, will EFACS E/8 be good for that? Without a doubt."