Formed in 1981, Webro is a leading supplier of high quality cables and connectors to a wide range of sectors including broadband, satellite, TV, automotive, telecoms, security and renewables. The £14 million turnover company with a team of 24 staff supplies 1500 different lines in order sizes ranging from £150 to £20,000, to household names such as BSkyB, BBC, BT and Virgin.
Managing director Peter Edginton is the first to admit the company's business model is far from complex. "In short, we source cable from a number of different suppliers in order to supply the right cabling solutions to our customers.
The only additional process that may be involved is cutting cable to specific lengths." However, each of its approximately 800 strong core customer-base expects next day access to over 1500 lines from 3.5mm to 25mm outer diameter, in lengths from 50m to 1000m. Over half of all of the 50 orders per day are standard "off the shelf" items, 40 per cent are specified to order with a further 5 per cent being completely bespoke. It's no wonder that managing stock levels and the flow of goods-in/out represent one of Webro's key business challenges.
Positive sales outcome
As does managing customer contact. "If a customer calls in with a query or asking for a quote, the ideal is to have all the information there at hand to deal with the query and complete the sale to the customer's satisfaction. Each time someone has to go and check something and call the customer back, it adds to the possibility of losing a sale." He continues: "There are also times when we have to have delicate 'cost versus quality' conversations with our customers where the ability to have all previous order history and product specifications immediately to hand along with visibility of actual stock levels again increases the chance of a positive sales outcome."
When it comes to suppliers, 40 per cent of cable stock comes from Europe with a lead time of 4-6 weeks, with the remainder coming from the Far East where lead times can be 12 weeks. As the company can only buy mixed container loads which contain 100's of kilometres of cable, it is continually having to anticipate what is essentially an unpredictable market. As a consequence, the company's current stockholding is almost £2.5 million in order to ensure it can meet its customers' delivery expectations.
Prior to investing in EFACS E/8, these challenges were tackled by a rudimentary DOS-based CRM/management system supplemented by a number of spreadsheets and reliant on a considerable amount of paper. As part of the company's commitment to ongoing continuous improvement, the system continued to be reviewed and the impact of its shortcomings became increasingly apparent.
These included high levels of data entry duplication, repeated manual checking in of goods, and a cumbersome paper trail. There was also very little visibility throughout the company, a divide between those using IT and those who weren't, and a growing gulf between how IT was used in the company compared to how everyone used it in the rest of daily life.
A search for a modern, integrated replacement began in 2010 and lasted 3-4 months where, as Edginton puts it, "we had our minds blown in a positive way". He continues: "I always felt a lot of what we do could be automated, but one of the things which stood out about EFACS E/8 was just how much it could speed things up. EFACS also stood out light years by having all your standard functionality such as Stock Management, CRM, etc. but also including other elements such as Document Management and Container Bookings as part of the integrated solution. We also liked the fact that the system was designed to be customisable to the way we wanted and needed it to work."
A decision was therefore made to invest in EFACS E/8 in late 2012 and 9 months later, Webro had gone live, with a lot of hard work, an element of firefighting and strong support from Exel personnel who were on-site for the first week to help. At the heart of the implementation lay the approach of identifying a positive in every part of the business that everyone using the new system would encounter on a daily basis, and then focussing on delivering that.
The resulting benefits were felt very much from the outset in the form of centralised information that provided increased visibility and access, automation of simple tasks and the eradication of duplicated processes. For example, now when a customer rings for a price, there is no need for someone to physically have to go and find the relevant paperwork and call the customer back.
"Now," says Edginton, "it's click, click, click, and there it is while you're still having the conversation." He cites another example, this time relating to real-time stock level visibility. "Historically, we might have say 11.8km of a certain cable which is supplied on 1000m drums. We'd have no means of seeing whether the 0.8km comprised 2 x 400m lengths or a single 800m length. If a customer wanted a 400m length we can now see immediately if this is available and avoid unnecessary re-cutting."
Another area where EFACS E/8 has brought benefits experienced on a daily basis is in the standardisation of product data and the instant access to past customer records. This is particularly of relevance where customers have their own internal names for Webro products which may bear no resemblance to the actual Webro product name. Increased visibility and efficiency have also come through automation, most notably in the removal of significant amounts of the company's paper trail.
The EFACS E/8 Document Management module has been especially useful here. For example, spec sheets historically were kept in different folders on different PCs; now whenever anyone looks up a specific part, the correct spec sheet is automatically available right at the point of use. Quotation management has likewise been improved in the same way, as has delivery management.
Higher level of service
The increased efficiency has enabled Webro to operate more effectively at an overall business level. For example, EFACS E/8 allows technology to be integrated throughout the warehouse which means that stock management can now be done within the warehouse where it is most effective. Another example is how the ability to automate email order acknowledgements and statements means customers are kept up-to-date at all times, which they rightfully recognise as a higher level of service.
Looking to the future, Webro has plans to implement non-conformance reporting as well as making increased use of the Container Booking module for pricing, whereby containers of multiple products and prices can be quickly and easily entered onto, and managed by the system. Workflow is to be extended to other areas of the business with a view to removing spreadsheets and paper wherever possible, and QR scanners are also being explored to help manage goods-in/out.
One area Edginton is particularly keen to make more use of is EFACS E/8's powerful mobile workforce capabilities. "We have a sales manager and three mobile sales/service engineers that are highly valuable assets to us and so we want to make sure they are being best optimised." Other plans include integrating the despatch process with the systems used by Webro's carriers and looking to make increased use of the planning capabilities to help with forecasting.