Based in Preston, Lancashire, Baxi is one of the leading domestic and commercial heating solution providers in Europe. An ideas company right from the very beginning, 150 years ago, Baxi has always been keen to come up with new and innovative ways to improve upon its award-winning product offering, from making boilers which are more energy efficient to designing boilers that are easy to service.
Due to the substantial growth of the company in recent years, in particular within the renewable energy sector, it became clear that there was room for improvement in the way that components were moved between manufacturing and assembly.
Aware that a higher amount of data errors tended to creep in when information was recorded manually, Baxi decided to move away from manual data entry and looked to implement a fully automated data entry and handling system.
The new system needed to cover the entire manufacturing process, from goods in through to manufacturing and onto dispatch. For an operation of this size and complexity, data had to be captured at many points in the process to cope with the large number of material movements.
Richard Griffiths, IT Development Manager at Baxi, explains, "With the volume of products moving through the process steadily increasing, it was necessary for us to look at how we could make the whole process easier, faster and generally more efficient. We already had an M3 ERP system in place, but we realised that without accurate data being fed into it, we simply wouldn't get the improvements we were looking for. We decided to move away from manual entry and look for an automated data capture solution that would integrate with our existing ERP infrastructure."
Baxi spent a lot of time researching what the market had to offer and eventually chose a solution from BEC, who already had a partnership with the developers of M3.
Richard Griffiths explains, "BEC really stood out from the other companies we considered because of their long-standing working relationship with M3 business consultants. They were very experienced and had highly specialist knowledge in the data capture area. They gave us every confidence that they would be able to supply an end-to-end solution that would meet all of our prerequisites and criteria."
The first thing BEC did was to carry out a thorough data capture audit of all Baxi's business processes at its various sites, and came up with a solution that would work for its specific needs and requirements.
The solution which BEC implemented was based on its eSmart range of data capture software products. Flexible and fully customisable, eSmart products are designed to seamlessly integrate into a variety of host ERP systems to deliver improved accuracy and productivity.
Whenever items come into Baxi's warehouse, they are now scanned and systematically put away wherever the system tells the worker that a particular product needs to go. Once the item is scanned into its storage location, this data is recorded so that the product can be accurately picked when required. A stock rotation feature within the new system also allows older stock to be picked first in order to maximise value.
In the next stage of the manufacturing process, once all of the required items arrive at the production line, the boiler is then built and scanned off at the end of the line. With the eSmart system, every part required for installation is also scanned, helping to ensure customer satisfaction and allowing Baxi to accurately record that the customer has received everything required for successful product implementation.
The boiler then goes to the wrapping area where it is wrapped and scanned again, before a label is printed and placed onto the pallet which is then moved to the finished goods warehouse. By scanning the pallet of items after wrapping, the system also automatically updates inventory.
Tony Hampson, Managing Director at BEC, explains further "The eSmart solution acts as the front end to the supply chain activities, for recording the receipt of raw materials when they enter the components warehouse, and also manages the movement of items around the warehouse. Staff can bring up product details when they need them, helping them to verify that the item has passed all the essential checks and has been packed properly with the necessary fittings and instructions."
During the implementation process, BEC advised on all aspects of hardware selection, working with Baxi to choose the most appropriate handheld computers, fork lift truck-mounted barcode readers, barcode printers and wireless infrastructure, all for use within a rugged environment. BEC also performed a full RF site survey to ensure that adequate wireless coverage was provided throughout the facility.
The new eSmart system has achieved staggering results for Baxi. As a direct result of the project, Baxi has made huge improvements in its stock management efficiency: stock of raw materials has been reduced by 14%, and work in progress inventory dropped by 10%.
Richard Griffiths explains, "Overall, we have achieved a significantly more efficient system of managing the movement of materials between our sites. The whole process is easier and faster, and we have achieved everything we planned from the beginning of this process. BEC was very flexible and always willing to go the extra mile to deliver everything we required – and more. For example, they even added extra functionality to the eSmart solution that wasn't available in M3, which helped us to capture and control multi-level storage containers.
In terms of support, that has been first class. BEC always responded very quickly to our requirements, and its team is able to consistently demonstrate exceptionally high levels of data capture knowledge. The new system that BEC has implemented has produced tangible results for us as a business and we very much hope to work with BEC again in the future."