Manthorpe Group, based in Ripley, Derbyshire, is a leading precision engineering and building products manufacturer. The Group comprises four separate companies; Purpose Engineering, Wagstaff & Appleton, Manthorpe Engineering and Manthorpe Building Products. Purpose Engineering produces a wide range of nuclear primary plant components, project deliverables and on-site remote inspection equipment for both naval and energy-based applications. It also provides a range of medical devices including localising and imaging equipment for neurosurgical solutions. In addition, it offers bespoke services for the aerospace and defence industries. Wagstaff & Appleton is one of the UKs leading providers of support services and spare parts to the worldwide tobacco processing industry. It can design and manufacture individual spare parts and assemblies for machines supplied by Molins, GD, Hauni, Focke and Sasib to meet or exceed OEM standards. Manthorpe Engineering provides a complete service from design and site installation of turnkey packages to the aerospace, power generation and process industries. It has secured a sound reputation for the manufacture of high-integrity fabrications used in power generation, process plant and engine test facilities. Manthorpe Building Products manufacture and supply a range of ventilation and associated products to the building industry, with a network of stockists nationwide.
Manthorpe Group had used various legacy software systems that had evolved with the business as it grew from a smaller concern into a leading SME over a number of years. However it suffered a number of constraints such as a lack of supply-chain focus, manual processes, lack of integration and poor overall visibility. The Group realised it needed to source a more flexible fully integrated solution. This is where its relationship with MAPICS and its SyteLine 7 ERP solution began. The Board and myself became increasingly aware that it was necessary to invest in a new, state-of-the-art business software solution that reflected our growing business needs, and could grow along with us, said Michael McDonnell, Manthorpes Group IT Manager. We wanted a mature product that was highly flexible and offered all the core functionality required by our organisation from the outset, rather than a system that cost considerably less, only to need replacing within a three years time, he continued.
McDonnell outlined some of the drawbacks of the Groups previous systems. The core of our previous package was a Pegasus solution, which wasnt designed to support manufacturing processes to the level we required. It was basically a financial reporting tool that wasnt integrated with our other legacy software. This meant we had little consolidation of stock and Work in Progress (WIP), and there were also too many complexities regarding our Bills of Materials (BoM) structures. Wagstaff & Appleton was operating its BoM manually and so was out of step with data held on the system. Indeed, we had all sorts of problems related to lack of visibility because there were too many manual processes involved. And although we might have multiple production jobs in operation feeding into an assembly, there was no adequate control of pegging jobs in the most efficient sequence because of our lack of WIP visibility and planning & scheduling capability.
There was also a lot of dual keying involved because of the lack of integration. This was not only wasteful in terms of time but could also result in a less than perfectly accurate transfer of data from one system to another, explained McDonnell. Because we were in effect running the business on Excel spreadsheets there was a lot of effort required in reconciling WIP at the end of the month. What was stored in inventory was rarely checked accurately and we often held an unnecessarily high amount of stock, particularly in the case of Wagstaff & Appleton. The Group also suffered from a lack of real-time access to information. Our previous software would always report after a job was closed, said McDonnell. Wagstaff & Appleton often has around 800 live production jobs, with many components being involved in a number of sub-con processes. So it was easy for us to overwhelm the shop floor because we didnt have any real-time production scheduling visibility.
Criteria for a replacement system
The Group realised it needed to invest in a solution that would facilitate its strategic vision in manufacturing excellence and to help it deliver the benefits that a connected supply chain could realise. It was decided that the replacement system would have to have vision far-reaching enough to allow the Group to meet and exceed its customers expectations. A lengthy list of potential suppliers was drawn up by McDonnell. Because of my background in manufacturing and my knowledge of the software market, we didnt need to look to consultants for advise and guidance, said McDonnell. I was given a price ceiling by the Board, and this gave me a strong indication of what level of system I could consider. However, I talked this up a little in order to source the type of system I felt was necessary in order for our organisation to gain maximum advantage. After McDonnell and the Board saw five system demonstrations at the Groups premises, the list of potential suppliers was reduced to a final three; IFS, SAP and MAPICS.
Why SyteLine 7 was chosen
According to McDonnell, the decision to source SyteLine 7 was not technology-based. People often sing its praises by saying its Microsoft-based, its built on .NET and it sits on an SQL server database. But we were looking at a replacement system purely from a business perspective; in other words the scope of its functionality. Also we fully realised that it wasnt simply a manufacturing solution we were sourcing, it was supply chain focused. So we were not just looking for functionality related to production execution. The other aspect that convinced us that SyteLine 7 was the solution for us was the Advanced Planning & Scheduling (APS) engine. I had spent a number of days with the various sales consultants, and we went through many planning & scheduling scenarios. We then appreciated just how advantageous APS would be. For example, it operates in real-time, and offers seamless supply chain synchronisation and dynamic overlaying of estimates. We realised this was a different world compared with our previous system.
Implementation and go-live
The initial proposal for the acquisition of SyteLine 7 was put forward in March 2003. We implemented the system ourselves, and everything went very smoothly. No major modification was undertaken, just some minor customisation of the reports function., said McDonnell. We didnt get consumed in six months of bespoke work, and thats largely why we were able to go live as quickly as November the same year at Process Engineering and Wagstaff & Appleton.
When these companies went live, the first task McDonnell was confronted with was the reviewing of WIP and inventory records. The old system was still showing some old jobs in WIP even though we knew they were closed, shipped and the invoiced, he said. These issues only came to light when we were migrating data into SyteLine 7. Because the BoMs on our old legacy system had been paper-based, we had got used to simply printing out forms and releasing them to the shop floor. But because this wasnt a properly structured data and manufacturing system we had to build the BoM structures from scratch when we went live with SyteLine 7. It would have been a lot easier if we had run a disciplined system that could allow us simply to uplift and transfer data to SyteLine.
McDonnell spoke of a number of advantages gained through the use of SyteLine 7. We are now better able to track or predict customer buying trends, and can make better informed decisions about what we carry in inventory and what we turn around in a Just-in-Time (JIT) manner. This is particularly important in the case of Wagstaff & Appleton and its tobacco machinery and component production because of the vast amount of inventory that is carried. We also enjoy better, real-time communication with customers and suppliers through the use of the supply chain management engine. It is now easier for us to be more accurate with promised customer due dates, and benefit from greater visibility of our suppliers schedules etc. This means everyone is kept more accurately up to date regarding the progress of an order. So, all personnel involved at each link in the chain can feel more confident and more connected.
McDonnell outlined some of the benefits of SyteLine 7s APS functionality Because SyteLine 7 provides full APS capability, we can plan and schedule everything from workforce, machine and materials. Its Bills of Materials (BoM) structure looks at our capacity in real time, and determines when we can deliver to the customer. APS clearly shows us item ID, due-date, the projected date of supply, and any lateness factors. Now that we have proper visibility of multi-level BoMs we can make smarter decisions regarding production processes. For example, we can anticipate the impacts of building early or building late, and work out how this will affect multi-level jobs. SyteLine 7, through its planning engine, will take a decision on what jobs need to be released first to satisfy supply of orders to the customer. It takes care of all the job-pegging decisions for us.
McDonnell pointed out that the use of the APS engine continues to be refined as the Group learns more about the scope of functionality. From go-live both Process Engineering and Wagstaff & Appleton have gained some major benefits from APS. However we are constantly finding smarter ways to get the best from the system. For instance, it is great for what-if analysis. I can prepare an alternative plan by taking a copy of the existing live schedule, and making changes such as double-shifting a machine. I can make these changes relative to what is shown on the current live Gantt chart and the multi-level BoM. This alternative plan is then printed out, with the changes clearly marked. Then, if I decide the alterations would work better than the existing live schedule, I can add them to the core data on the system. Such changes are made manually because the live production plan may have changed since I first began the what-if analysis.
Manthorpe Group has always had to keep a tight control on process and methods of manufacture, even with when relying largely on manual processes and legacy systems. If we didnt have a reliable mode of control we simply wouldnt be allowed to manufacture to the grades of component we do, explained McDonnell. Two of our companies Manthorpe Engineering and Manthorpe Building Products are yet to go live with SyteLine 7. Nevertheless, in the case of Manthorpe Engineering for instance, we have always needed traceability back to when the raw metal materials and components came on site from the suppliers, and even back to the foundry each metal came from, and which milling shift it came off. But because SyteLine 7 is a fully integrated system, traceability will become a lot easier and more convenient for both Manthorpe Engineering and Manthorpe Building Products when it goes live, in the same way that it has already enhanced the overall efficiency of operations at Purpose Engineering and Wagstaff & Appleton. In essence, through sourcing SyteLine 7 our whole Group will soon be able to baseline processes such as supply chain visibility, production planning & scheduling and overall traceability within a formal business system.