President Engineering Group Ltd. (PEGL) was formed in October 2010 from a management buyout of Conflow and Bestobell from Flow Group. The £20 million turnover business with a 100+ year pedigree was further enhanced by the recent acquisition of Bretby Gammatech Ltd., a specialist provider of coal monitoring products. Across the group, PEGL manufactures 7000 top line items on a 100 per cent Make to Order (MTO) basis, supplying over 200 customers across 30 countries.
Order sizes range from one-off items through to batches measured in their tens of units. At any one time PEGL has approximately 1200 live orders with around 900 of these passing through its machining and assembly areas each month. In other words, as financial director Marie Cooper succinctly states, "there's always a lot going on which puts pressure on our capacity, visibility and ability to meet our stringent 'on time and in full' (OTIF) targets."
The first challenge PEGL faces is the scale of production and the variety of products the group manufactures across its different businesses. These all pass through the machining area comprising 12 CNC units irrespective of which company or customer they relate to, before being separated out into distinct assembly areas, one for each business. Cooper explains why this represents such a challenge to PEGL. "Despite running a seven-day shift, we have a fixed manufacturing capacity with our machines and the challenge is not just optimising this, but achieving a smoothness of flow.
This is complicated by the number of permutations of different routes, considerable setup times and the fact that different processes require different levels of skilled operatives." A further consideration is the group's successful project-oriented business which can potentially tie up a machine resource for long periods of time.
PEGL had been using EFACS 8.2 since 1996 to handle every aspect of the business and as Cooper reflects, "it did everything we needed it to". The biggest challenge came in 2005 when PEGL had to integrate the Bestobell and Conflow businesses because not only were there very different products involved, there were major differences in methodologies, processes and attitudes as to how things should be done within the system.
The situation wasn't helped by the fact that the original EFACS expertise had left the company which left everyone developing their own workarounds and created a general distrust of the system. Boardroom level reluctance to invest in replacing or re-implementing EFACS led to the company continuing to make the best of what it had for the next 5 years. This changed following a successful MBO in October 2010 which gave the newly formed PEGL the freedom to address the issues, and within a month Cooper had invited Exel in to discuss the new group's requirements.
They both identified that PEGL would benefit from upgrading to the latest version, EFACS E/8, which was implemented in partnership with Exel as well as a third-party project manager. The key considerations of the implementation were that it (1) could not impact the day to day running of the business; (2) had to have the ongoing buy-in and input from all users of the system and (3) had to reflect the business processes across the entire group.
Working this way allowed PEGL to benefit even before the system went live as Cooper explains. "Because people had been exposed to what was possible with the new system, EFACS was now being seen as an enabler for people to do their job better. She continues, "Seeing how individual decisions impacted on others helped move people away from an individual job focus to a much more company oriented focus and a greater sense of teamwork."
Immediate improved communication
When PEGL did go live in mid-September 2012, it was a success from the outset with the increased visibility leading to immediate improved communication between commercial and production. Decisions that previously could be delayed for days could now be taken right there and then, while in her own department, Cooper could now drill down into financial data much quicker and easier.
Quality Control, previously reliant on manual processes, now benefitted from the Document Management and Workflow functionality within EFACS E/8 which makes it impossible for any stage to be overlooked or for anything other than the correct documentation to be available. This even extends to the shopfloor where operatives can instantly access the required drawings etc. via Wi-Fi enabled terminals. Helping to keep live data completely up to date is the new EFACS E/8 Audit module which is used to provide traceability about key strategic transactions across all the relevant business processes.
While still early days, Cooper is convinced the investment will continue to bring benefits long into the future. "EFACS E/8 is inherently adaptable and Exel as a supplier has consistently shown a willingness to help us develop and get the very best out of the system."