Saturday, July 08, 2006

Flows and stocks integrated with SAP

Alcatel Spare Part Management Centre in France achieved integration of Automated management of physical flows and stocks in SAP, through the SAP Console environment.
In close co-operation with Zetes, Alcatel Spare Part Management Centre in France achieved integration of Automated management of physical flows and stocks in SAP, through the SAP Console environment Alcatel CIT, the Alcatel Group's main branch in France, specialises in telecommunication systems, supplying operators in more than 80 countries worldwide with fixed and mobile networks. The maintenance of these systems is centralised in the company's logistics platform, Alcatel SPMC (Spare Part Management Centre), based in the Orleans, France and providing two types of services: - collection of defective items, repair (by subcontractors) and dispatch to the customer, - management and shipment of spare parts. This way of working requiring much faster response times than conventional maintenance operations, Alcatel developed various advanced, high-performance services such as swap (exchange upon reception of the faulty item) and advanced replacement (shipment before reception of the faulty item).

The introduction of these services was made possible thanks to the implementation in Orleans of a new system allowing the management of physical flows and stocks.

This was the fruit of a close co-operation between Zetes' and Alcatel's (ISSM) IT departments.

In 2002 the Orleans centre decided to integrate the management of the logistics platform services, including the administrative management of logical flows and stocks, in SAP (version 4.6c).

Their physical management was carried out by an external system interfaced with SAP (the backbone of the system being the use of auto-ID equipment, particularly Symbol PDT 6800 RF-terminals).

'Nevertheless, if we really wanted to increase our productivity, we would have to shorten the time needed to establish the interface between this external system and SAP', says SPMC manager, Jean-Claude Taillandier.

The solution suggested by Alcatel's IT team and SAP MM-WM Competence Centre Manager, Gilles Imbs, consisted in completely integrating the physical management in SAP, within the SAP-WM module.

'It was a complex integration but we succeeded in integrating the basic flow of logistics activities within Alcatel SPMC, in compliance with all SAP standards,' says Gilles Imbs.

'Zetes largely contributed to the development of the layers, which, above our standard SAP application, provided the necessary automation and optimisation for the management of our physical flows and stocks.

'This project was achieved using the technical SAP Console environment, although Zetes adapted the transactions on the terminal level in order to fine-tune the ergonomics of the front-end system to our specific needs.

'The main key to the success of this project however, was the smooth co-operation between our departments and Zetes.

The project required constant synchronisation and contact between all the teams involved, and both on the formal and the informal level, the collaboration proved to be very good and effective.' Corporate solution 'The system implemented in Orleans is now being installed in a second Alcatel spare part centre in Belgium (Geel), which also repairs ADSL equipment, hence the need for an application managing the flows of repair parts', adds Gilles Imbs.

'It goes without saying that Zetes is closely involved in the project.

The next step will be our third main European centre in Germany.'

Enhancements to enterprise service automation

Epicor Software Corporation, a leading provider of integrated enterprise software solutions for the mid-market, announces significant functional enhancements to Epicor for Service Enterprises.
Epicor Software Corporation, a leading provider of integrated enterprise software solutions for the mid-market, announces significant functional enhancements to Epicor for Service Enterprises, its end-to-end, Web service-based enterprise service automation (ESA) solution that provides a single source for managing and automating every aspect of the project-focused organization. In this latest release, Epicor for Service Enterprises 8.1 adds enhanced project portfolio management (PPM), contingent workforce management, and advanced collaboration and customization capabilities, all enabling greater planning, performance and execution. According to a recent Gartner research report, 'Many organizations still lack the appropriate tools to manage and optimize their resources.

Although the economy has started to recover, organizations are operating with tighter budgets and a huge need for the better use of resources.' (Market Share: Project Portfolio Management, Worldwide, 2003, (Executive Summary) by Nicole S.

Latimer, August 10, 2004.) The new capabilities offered with Epicor for Service Enterprises 8.1, such as graphical capacity planning and portfolio decision support will empower organizations to manage resources with greater precision.

Project Portfolio Management Today's service organizations rely more than ever on maintaining a comprehensive and balanced view of the entire project portfolio.

Epicor for Service Enterprises 8.1 introduces new easy to use project health and portfolio views, helping monitor performance to plan and aligning projects to goals.

By identifying which projects support key initiatives, resources can then be prioritised for maximum efficiency and returns.

Global Project Accounting Epicor for Service Enterprises 8.1 also supports strong corporate governance with enhancements to contract management and project accounting rules, including new currency and multiple customer bill-to features that enable invoicing and expense reconciliation to be easily handled at the task level; a must for services organizations with multi-national engagements and stringent compliancy needs.

Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC), a global leader in high-quality engineering consulting and development solutions headquartered in Sydney, Australia, will leverage the new currency and multiple customer bill-to for its geographically vast project portfolio.

A truly global organization, SMEC may work on up to 500 active jobs across as many as 80 countries at one time, with each project involving multiple customers.

'Epicor for Service Enterprises provides a single-source solution for managing our diverse and complex engagement schedule,' said Peter Busbridge, CEO of SMEC Holdings Ltd.

'By providing the ability to track multiple customers and currencies within a single project, the solution's extended capabilities provide greater flexibility, and will enable further precision in our project accounting and management.' Rapid growth of the services sector has led many companies to append in-house services professionals with outsourced staffers.

Epicor for Service Enterprises 8.1 adds support for contingent workforce management, which enables companies to streamline the process of staffing projects with contracted service providers by integrating Epicor Sourcing, a highly configurable, Web-based solution for strategic sourcing, dynamic pricing, collaboration and negotiation, and complex auctioning.

This integration enables a project manager wishing to staff a project with external resources, to create a sourcing event and invite selected suppliers to bid on that business.

The skill sets required to fill the position, as defined in Epicor for Service Enterprises, automatically populate the weighted attributes in the sourcing event.

Improving User Productivity and Business Process Flexibility In addition to an enhanced feature set, Epicor for Service Enterprises 8.1 adds advanced customization capabilities and increased flexibility for users.

The release includes a new version of Epicor Internet Component Environment (ICE), an application toolset used in the development of Epicor for Service Enterprises and built upon the Microsoft.NET Framework using Visual Studio.NET; now enabling customers to tailor the application to match precise business requirements, as needed.

Epicor ICE 1.2 offers midmarket enterprises a leading-edge service-oriented architecture (SOA), that leverages granular XML Web services to enable greater extensibility.

ICE 1.2 also introduces FireSentry, supporting outside-the-firewall connectivity for the distributed service enterprise, ensuring that globally dispersed personnel can access critical functions, such as time and expense entry, at anytime and from anywhere via the Web.

'The demands confronting today's professional and embedded service organizations are ever-changing.

In order to remain competitive, these organizations must have a clear picture of the pipeline, staffing resources and service profitability,' said James Norwood, senior director of product marketing for Epicor Enterprise Solutions.

'Epicor for Service Enterprises provides a complete toolset to help win business, staff projects, manage engagements, administer operations and analyse activities - all within the parameters of shifting market conditions and changing business processes.' Epicor for Service Enterprises 8.1 is expected to be available in late October and Epicor ICE 1.2 is available immediately through Epicor and its authorised partners to service-focused organisations around the globe.

Check production schedules progress in real time

Updated every 30 seconds, a modular 'real time' Graphical Work Planning Board is able to provide a live visual display of what is happening to production schedules on the shopfloor.
Updated every 30 seconds, the modular Seiki Systems 'real time' Graphical Work Planning Board (GPB) is able to provide a live visual display of what is happening to production schedules on the shopfloor. Indeed, with a full integration and two-way communication capability, the new system now available from Seiki Systems of Brighton, is able to transform the data from existing MRP/ERP scheduling systems into a dynamic 'real time' planning facility. This transformation enables automatic updating as time and work in progress changes, thus providing information for advanced decision making in order to maintain production schedules.

GPB overcomes one of the major criticisms of MRP/ERP systems which, from a manufacturing perspective, tend to be regarded purely as generators of 'work to' lists based on due date.

This means they are usually retrospective and are normally only updated, through the completion of a work docket from the operator or supervisor.

Instead of providing a live picture, these systems tend to provide historic information with little or no help to maintain the production requirements, often resulting in a waste of valuable production time or resource in the event of problems.

Ideal for any CNC machine tool based batch production, GPB provides a graphical display of the planned work for each machine in real time.

It shows jobs on time and immediately highlights late predictions with automatic updates as jobs progress, accounting for shift patterns to depict projected lead and finish times.

The full implication of new or unplanned jobs or maintenance, for instance, can be visualised on the graphical work plan as well as the effect of moving jobs to other machines or instigating split-batch working.

The jobs allocated for each machine are distributed electronically to the operators which eliminates paper-based job queue tickets.

Because the electronic work queues are interactive, this enables other departments to add information relative to the commencement of production such as programs, material and tooling availability.

As a result, a major advantage is created to management that whenever a change is instigated, all departments involved are immediately informed.

At any time, any job allocated to any machine can be interrogated to check if critical manufacturing data such as the CNC program or drawing is current with an automatic warning issued to the responsible department in the event of a problem.

In addition, through the communication interface of GPB, when an operator selects a job from the queue, any manufacturing data can be automatically displayed.

And, with the inclusion of Seiki Systems 'optimiser' package, which has access to tooling information, it will recommend the best order to produce jobs on a machine.

This priority order is based on use of fixed tooling present in the machine and thus minimises tool exchange between jobs, further increasing productivity, machine utilisation and maximising profitability.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Invoicing gets green light from HMCE

Spindle Professional from Draycir, the best-in-class Sage compatible document management software, has received validation from HM Customs and Excise as an accredited form of electronic VAT invoicing.
Spindle Professional from Draycir, the best-in-class Sage compatible document management software, has received validation from HM Customs and Excise as an accredited form of electronic VAT invoicing. The approval of HM Customs and Excise is a significant development for Draycir, and means thousands of businesses can now stop posting out unnecessary VAT invoices and simply e-mail or fax them using Spindle Professional instead. Until now, VAT guidelines were unclear as to whether VAT invoices could be accepted as PDF by e-mail, and as far as Draycir is aware, Spindle Professional is the first Sage compatible document management software to be accepted by HM Customs and Excise for VAT invoicing purposes.

For businesses, the need to issue a VAT invoice through the post has now gone, with the emergence of Spindle Professional as the natural choice as an accredited e-mailable, faxable VAT invoicing system.

Robert Ball, director of Draycir, commented: 'We believe Spindle Professional to be the first software of its type to be accepted by HM Customs and Excise for electronic VAT invoicing, confirming once again our commitment to being the industry leader and provider of choice in the Sage environment.

The business benefits of using Spindle Professional to send VAT invoices electronically can be enormous.

Primarily, Spindle Professional has superseded the need to post out VAT invoices, meaning that finance departments can now protect themselves from the high cost and unreliability of the postal system.

The need to use pre-printed expensive stationery has also gone, so further cost savings can be made from taking advantage of the professionally designed business forms within Spindle Professional.' Spindle Professional creates, dispatches and records items such as statements, remittance advices, invoices and confirmation of sales and purchase orders.

It creates professionally finished documents by merging information from the software with form templates such as company logos, address information, and colour graphics.

These documents are then ready for e-mailing, faxing, printing and archiving.

Spindle Professional is currently available for Sage Line 100, Sage MMS and Sage Line 50, Microsoft Navision and other accounting systems.

Affordable hospitality software solution

Epicor's Scala Hospitality solution is a complete enterprise suite for hospitality organizations developed on Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 platform.
Epicor Software a provider of integrated enterprise software solutions for the midmarket, and Choice Hotels International (NYSE:CHH) have entered into an Endorsed Vendor agreement whereby Epicor will offer to provide its Scala Hospitality solution, part of the Epicor for Hospitality and Entertainment offering, to nearly 5,000 potential worldwide property franchisees of Choice Hotels International. Epicor's Scala Hospitality solution is a complete enterprise suite for hospitality organizations developed on Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 platform. The solution will be offered to the following Choice brand properties around the world: Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, MainStay Suites, Econo Lodge and Rodeway Inn.

Designed specifically for hotels like Choice Hotels' franchised properties, Epicor's hospitality solution has been optimized to ensure that property managers receive daily up-to-date management information that is guaranteed to provide a lower total cost of operating.

Because Epicor is an endorsed vendor in the Choice Hotels procurement system, Choice Hotels' franchisees will have the option to purchase the solution via the Web site.

'The combination of the Microsoft platform and Epicor's robust functionality made choosing the Epicor solution the right decision for us,' said Daniel Rothfeld, senior vice president, partner services of Choice Hotels International.

'After looking at a variety of proposals, we ultimately selected Scala Hospitality running on Windows over other solutions running on Linux.

By taking advantage of the power and simplicity of Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003, Epicor's Scala Hospitality will help further lower operating costs, and continue to leverage our financial commitment to Choice's property systems technology.' A fully integrated enterprise solution for financial management, material management, reporting and budgeting, Epicor's Scala Hospitality package available to Choice Hotels' franchisees includes: · Comprehensive Scala Hospitality solution · Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003, including Microsoft SQL Server 2000 · Dell PowerEdge Servers and OptiPlex Desktops · Training and Installation · Integration to Choice International's Profit Manager property management system 'The Microsoft platform is focused on helping customers maximize the value of their technology investments,' said Mark Young, general manager, ISVs, Developer and Platform Evangelism at Microsoft Corp.

'We are excited to see Epicor build on our platform to deliver solutions, like Scala Hospitality, that have been tailored to the unique needs of the hospitality industry.' Epicor's Scala Hospitality solution has implementations in over 60 countries and in leading hotel properties around the world.

The continuing relationship with Choice Hotels and the opportunity to address the needs of its franchise community has allowed Epicor to offer a solid solution to support and enhance the procurement processes at the property level.

'Epicor is committed to delivering practical solutions to hospitality companies around the world,' said Mark Duffell, executive vice president of operations for Epicor.

'We're offering a world-class package that meets the needs of market-leading hospitality organizations like Choice Hotels International.

Our hospitality solution can help Choice's franchisees leverage their existing property management system through standardization, connectivity, integration, and advanced e-business foundations that will only pay further dividends.'

Efficient inventory planning enhanced

Epicor Software has announced significant enhancements to Epicor Enterprise, the company's comprehensive end-to-end suite of proven industry-specific solutions for the global midmarket enterprise.
Epicor Software today announced significant enhancements to Epicor Enterprise, the company's comprehensive end-to-end suite of proven industry-specific solutions for the global midmarket enterprise. Available immediately, the Financial and supply chain management (SCM) Suites of Epicor Enterprise offer improved forecasting capabilities, better information access and reporting across the enterprise, and improved budget management for stronger compliance and control. The Epicor SCM Suite is a comprehensive solution that streamlines operations - from order fulfillment to warehouse management to supplier relationship management.

Epicor SCM provides immediate access to the inventory, pricing and customer information companies need to increase inventory turns, enhance customer service and improve profitability.

With over 100 enhancements made in this latest release, Epicor SCM enables more accurate demand forecasting, which in turn improves order fulfillment rates and stock movement efficiency.

Empowered to make better informed decisions with Epicor SCM, companies are able to manage to plan and quickly react to changing forecasts while increasing employee productivity.

Real-Time Visibility Improves Supply Chain Accuracy As the world's leading manufacturer of custom storage organizing products, and an Epicor Enterprise customer, Rev-A-Shelf LLC based in Jeffersontown, Kentucky understands that providing the right products at the right time is a competitive advantage.

Rev-A-Shelf employs approximately 250 people in a 200,000 square-foot facility, producing a line of products consisting of polymer, wire, wood, and stainless steel components, manufactured and marketed globally to Kitchen Dealers, Cabinet and Furniture Manufacturers, Cabinet Industry Distributors, and Retail Home Centers.

Prior to implementing Epicor, which includes the Financials, Sales Order Management and Shipping, Purchasing and Receiving, Quality Control, Production and Warehouse Management modules of the Epicor Enterprise suite, Rev-A-Shelf operated with a paper-based receiving, picking and shipping process that provided no real-time inventory visibility.

'With Epicor, we're able to track every item from the time it comes in the door until it leaves our facilities,' said Michael Rodgers, information systems manager for Rev-a-Shelf.

'Productivity has increased in every work cell and we've reduced our warehouse space by one-half because the automated system enabled us to significantly reduce our on-hand inventory requirements.

We've nearly eliminated inventory write-offs, increasing both inventory and shipping accuracy to 98 percent, while increasing our overall productivity by 25 percent.' Streamlining the Demand Planning Process According to AMR Research, companies that are best at demand forecasting average 15 percent less inventory, 17 percent stronger perfect order fulfillment and 35 percent shorter cash-to-cash cycle times.[1] Forecasting has been significantly enhanced in Epicor SCM, enabling users to forecast at a weekly or monthly level, incorporate lost sales data when building a forecast, and create customer-specific forecasts.

Cost Containment and Budget Control Capabilities Epicor Sourcing and Procurement are an integral part of the Epicor SCM Suite.

The procurement cycle begins with sourcing - identifying, evaluating, and negotiating with the optimal group of suppliers.

Epicor's comprehensive sourcing solution automates the process of creating and distributing RFQs, evaluating bids, conducting auctions, and maintaining supplier report cards.

The next step is providing employees with easy access from anywhere to catalogs of approved goods and services required to perform their functions.

A streamlined approval process that is fast and simple ensures that the process is controlled, keeping maverick or off-contract spending in check and staying within budgetary limits.

Enhancements to procurement in this latest release of Epicor SCM include budget and commitment checking throughout the requisitioning and approval cycle.

This new functionality features automated over-budget warnings and hard stops; allowing users to view by period, quarter, year-to-date, and project; budget override permissions; automated escalation; a configurable 'warning track'; and the ability to include commitments from other sources.

Epicor Supply Chain Management Suite The Epicor SCM Suite is a comprehensive solution that enables a business to manage all aspects of its operations - from order fulfillment to warehouse management to supplier relationship management.

Epicor SCM is a proven, reliable suite of applications that provides immediate access to the inventory, pricing and customer information needed to increase inventory turns, enhance customer service and improve profitability.

The following components are part of the Epicor SCM Suite: Sales Order Management; Inventory Control; Supply Chain Execution; Purchasing Management; Supplier Relationship Management; and Assembly.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Monitoring and scheduling system ups efficiency

Installation of a production monitoring and scheduling system provides production monitoring, job scheduling and quality control all updated in real time, together with full historical reporting.
Linpac Materials Handling, Winsford has recently completed the installation of a Plantmaster production monitoring and scheduling system. The Plantmaster system is connected to 26 injection moulding machines, providing production monitoring, job scheduling and quality control all updated in real time, together with full historical reporting. This project complements the Plantmaster system that has been operating reliably, at Linpac's sister plant in Walsall for the past eight years and replaces a Dextralog monitoring system, which had been in operation at the Winsford plant since 1986.

Barco acquired Dextralog , Blackburn, U.K., in 1989.

Moss Haddad (IT Director for Linpac Mouldings Division) commented, 'Barco have supported us well with our existing projects, so when it came to replacing the Winsford system, Plantmaster was the natural choice, not just because of the long association between our two companies.

Plantmaster provides us with the latest systems technology and is compatible with our IT strategy.

The system had already provided benefits at our Walsall site and compared with other solutions was both flexible and cost effective.' Linpac Materials Handling is a market leader in the field of plastics storage and handling containers.

The Winsford and Walsall operations manufacture a range of re-usable containers that are designed to meet diverse distribution and manufacturing needs.

* About BarcoVision - BarcoVision is one of the five divisions of the Barco Group and is specialized in the development and supply of MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) for the plastics and textile industry.

With over 1000 installed systems worldwide, BarcoVision can proudly call itself market leader.

BarcoVision solutions help customers improve productivity and effectiveness.

* About Barco - Barco, an international company headquartered in Kortrijk, Belgium, provides visualization and display solutions for professional markets.

Barco designs and develops solutions for large screen visualization, display solutions for life-critical applications, and systems for visual inspection.

Check up on Mitutoyo gauges through RS 232

A small, low cost interface connects a Mitutoyo or Mitutoyo compatible gage to an RS232 serial port easily and inexpensively, so saving time and money, says the supplier.
The GageWay SM design incorporates the latest technology resulting in a small digital interface that is powered by the serial port, has a 9-pin serial cable built in and requires no setup. Very low power consumption allows use with a laptop or PDA. If your PC does not have a serial port, an optional USB interface cable is available.

Because of its small size (2.16in x 0.79in x 0.35in, the GageWay SM becomes part of the cable allowing greater flexibility for cabling setup.

Transmit gage data in excess of 100ft via the RS232 connection, which allows positioning of the gage at extended distances from a PC.

Single and continuous read modes can be initiated from the computer, by gage read switch, or by remote read switch (foot switch, etc).

The GageWay firmware (software in the GageWay SM) can be updated in the field via the serial port.

We often get asked, 'Why do I need to purchase a gage interface to connect my gage to a PC?' The Mitutoyo compatible gages use a signaling method referred to as clocked serial.

The electronics of the Mitutoyo communications interface are very power efficient.

This power efficiency, along with the very low power required by the GageWay SM, makes for an excellent instrument interface for portable and inspection station data acquisition.

Software installation to manage supplied parts

Italy's largest aerospace and defence group is to implement supply chain and database management software to better manage a large number of supplier components.
i2 Technologies (OTC: ITWO), a leading provider of closed-loop supply chain management solutions, today announced that Galileo Avionica has selected i2 solutions to better manage the large number of components the company uses to build its products. Galileo Avionica, which is part of Finmeccanica, the largest Aerospace and Defense group in Italy, aims to achieve faster time-to-market and significant operational efficiencies from its use of i2 solutions. Galileo Avionica produces a broad portfolio of highly complex products including navigation and attack equipment, precision approach radar systems and robotics for use in outer space.

As a result, they manage vast numbers of [components with a high level of technical specifications.

Galileo Avionicas goal is to implement i2 solutions to improve efficiency and minimize costs by managing components and suppliers more precisely, sourcing components more strategically, and responding more quickly to component obsolescence.

Galileo Avionica plans to implement i2 Component Supplier Management, i2 Product Sourcing and i2 Electronics Database.

Component Supplier Management is designed to enable companies to rationalize parts across their various design organizations and reduce product costs and time-to-market by promoting the re-use of parts.

Product Sourcing complements this solution by helping companies perform analysis at the Bill of Materials level to understand the impact of the expected lifecycle of each component on the end system.

Electronics Database offers a single catalogue of more than 12 million electronics parts from more than 500 manufacturers.

Together, the three solutions can provide Galileo Avionica with a platform for more effective and efficient component management.

Galileo Avionica found that the i2 solutions could help address their component management challenges with superior product functionality.

Galileo Avionica also reported that i2 was selected for this project based on i2s strong track record working with customers in the aerospace, defense and high tech industries 'We are very pleased to be helping Galileo Avionica implement technology and processes that will help them make the management of components for their products simpler and more efficient', said Ken Coulter, president i2 EMEA.

'By taking a best practice approach to component management they can potentially gain a competitive advantage as they bring their products to market quicker and more cost effectively'.

About Galileo Avionica - a Finmeccanica company, Galileo Avionica is the Italian leader in equipment and subsystems for space and defence applications.

Its products include avionics mission systems and equipment, navigation and attack equipment, airborne and precision approach radar, microwave components, electro-optical equipment, complete thermal imaging solutions, space payloads, robotics and UAVs.

The company, which has 3,100 employees and five business units, registered revenues of EUR 553 million in 2003 and has a leading role in all major European airborne military platforms including Eurofighter, EH101, NH90 and Tornado.

Learn more at

About i2- a leading provider of closed-loop supply chain management solutions, i2 designs and delivers software that helps customers optimize and synchronize activities involved in successfully managing supply and demand.

i2s global customer base consists of some of the worlds market leaders – including seven of the Fortune global top 10.

Founded in 1988 with a commitment to customer success, i2 remains focused on delivering value by implementing solutions designed to provide a rapid return on investment.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Real time remote inspection reporting

A new software development by Seiki Systems enables remote monitoring of problems in real-time such as tolerance drift or failure to maintain machining limits that can occur.
A new software development by Seiki Systems of Brighton enables remote monitoring of problems in real-time such as tolerance drift or failure to maintain machining limits that can occur, particularly in unmanned or limited manning automatic machining cycles and the capture of information required for fully automatic compilation of SPC data. Maintains general manager David Trowell: 'When a machine tool is equipped with electronic probing, the data is normally collated from its part measurement cycles and stored in the control system. The probe initiates offset corrections and the machine will stop if the part is produced out of the set tolerance parameters.

This means to monitor what is happening, or determine trend information, the operator has to scroll through pages of screen data or print out the probing history.' The Seiki Systems in-cycle probing software, which is part of the Network Manufacturing System (NMS) machine tool monitoring system, uses the RS 232 output compatible interface that operates through the serial port of the machine tool control system (DPRNT) and automatically polls any probing data for capture as an electronic file.

Because NMS works in real time and already holds information relative to which job is being produced on any particular machine, it is able to collate the data as a continuous audit file and despatch it through wireless or traditional hard wired data transmission to a remote PC.

Once captured, the data can be used to initiate a call to the machine of a setter or inspector informing of a pending problem such as tolerance drift into preset warning limits or activities that are building to indicate a pending tool failure.

An important element of the data captured is the ability to pass it to a remote SPC system for automatic calculation of trend analysis or compilation of batch records.

It can also provide supervision or production engineering with valuable tool life/cost data for tasks such as process investigation and tool trials.

Networked manufacturing software raises output

Networked manufacturing software has enabled a company to switch to more economic 'lights-out' production methods and reduce costs to customers and keep better track of suppliers.
The immediate impression of FCX Truflo Marine is that there cannot be many companies in the world with such an in-depth knowledge and level of expertise to manufacture valves for naval applications which range from those used in complex submarine hulls, air systems, weapons discharge systems to surface ship applications. The company has supplied its valves to virtually every navy in the world, including Royal Navy submarines, aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates, minesweepers and assault ships. Part of FCX Truflo Marine's expertise is its capability to understand and meet the demands of quality and reliability set by the defence industry but the downside is that this increases the pressure on the business to create and benefit from any significant competitive edge.

However, against this background, by installing Networked Manufacturing Software (NMS) from Seiki Systems of Brighton, FCX Truflo Marine has been able to take a leap forward, improve its competitiveness and component throughput for its range of flow control products.

Indeed, through the Seiki Systems NMS, not only is manufacturing data, production monitoring and report generation now performed - it has enabled the company to switch to more economic 'lights-out' production methods, reduce costs to customers, even control work flow with outside suppliers and also identify a major production headache involving tooling that has, as a result, slashed production down time.

At its Birmingham headquarters and manufacturing facility, FCX Truflo Marine made the decision to try and gain an advantage through improved management and control of its work-in-progress and planned orders for valve components.

Says manufacturing director Steve Chapman: 'We needed a software system that would be able to feed our CNC machine tools with part programs, set-up and tooling information from a central source and be able to feed our existing EFACS MRP system.' As Chapman outlines, the company set about a lengthy initial investigation and eventually invited a select shortlist of candidate suppliers to provide an on-site presentation.

'Seiki Systems obviously did their homework, had a good look at our existing systems and gave a very professional presentation.

It was clear that NMS had all the features and the capability that we were looking for and, most important, at a competitive package price.' NMS uses Windows Explorer on a host PC to manage and store manufacturing data such as NC programs, tool lists, setting notes and even video clips for each job.

The stored information is distributed to shopfloor PCs, which also provide a DNC link to each of the connected machine tools.

The shopfloor PC can also be used to log each job start and finish together with the facility to record productive and non-productive machine data, communicate with MRP type systems and display job queues while feeding back completed job information for each machine tool.

With the decision made, Seiki's installation team set about progressively installing the system and FCX Truflo Marine immediately saw the benefit with significant gains.

Outlines Steve Chapman: 'With the wealth of data that can be captured and manipulated by NMS, including reports, analysis, charts and log books, we have found it to be a very powerful reporting tool that has without doubt helped our management team improve the running and efficiency of the production machine shop.' He explains that as early as receiving raw material into stock they now assign finished component due dates, load work against machine tools and designate shifts.

The system records cycle and set-up times, and can even compare anticipated times against actual times, which enables the capture of vital data for the company's continuous improvement programmes.

'In fact,' he maintains, 'we have now removed job times from our route cards as NMS will collect more accurate data if the operator is unaware of how long the job had taken before!' Truflo Marine operates a two-shift system, from 06.00 to 13.30 and from 13.30 to 21.00.

However, office staff typically work from 07.30 to 16.00 which means there is no office support for a considerable portion of the second shift.

This working schedule immediately put pressure on NMS to be a reliable and query-free system that could confidently be left to manage production in the evenings because the CNC machine controls are hard wired directly into NMS, giving full machine cycle visibility even in remote locations.

Chapman explains: 'Such is the flexibility of NMS that should something go wrong, I can simply log-on to its Graphical Work Planning Board at home, to see in real time the graphical display of jobs for each machine and can quickly reschedule or reprioritise jobs accordingly.' Then he adds: 'It's even allowed us to run lights-out production, which has meant we have been able to pass on a reduced cost-rate to our customers - something that we could never have dreamed of doing before.

This has helped to prove we are competitive.' All the company's operators are well aware of the new production scenario and this has proven to be critical with them being perfectly happy to have taken the technology on board.

'We were completely open with our staff,' says Chapman.

'Yes, software of this ilk can be seen as 'Big Brother' technology, but once we explained the benefits of productivity and quality improvements that we could achieve and the fact that it would strengthen our market position, everyone was keen to buy into the idea.' FCX Truflo Marine has even found that NMS is proving a help to the operators especially through communication and its ability to share information when needed that was previously unavailable.

For instance, the screen will display component drawings and photographs of set-ups and tooling arrangements, which is important for many of the complex, multiple set-ups required on certain components such as manifolds.

And as a result of the success of NMS, the company has even extended the system into the assembly and cleaning/finishing areas.

FCX Truflo Marine currently has a central, office-located hub station at its Birmingham factory with two further restricted access stations and six other satellite stations located adjacent to CNC machine tools on the shopfloor.

The company currently has up to 6,000 part programs stored centrally, which are made available by loading them into job queues.

However, most important is traceability where any programs or planning information is checked for compliance by NMS upon its return to the system database and assigned to the works order.

Any changes made to the cycle or set-up are highlighted and a decision can be made whether or not to retain it.

In operation, the NMS machine status display covers: production, waiting, alarm messaging, setting, maintenance, housekeeping and programming.

Each main element has various sub-menus for more detailed information.

Data can be viewed in real time with respect to a specific job part number or machine and various bar and pie charts along with numerous tabulated lists can be produced to show performance in any of these areas.

A common colour code is used throughout the screen displays whereby green relates to production running, red is machine waiting, yellow depicts a machine is under setting and blue means housekeeping or not cleared for work.

Maintains Chapman: 'We have found we now have a very powerful tool and, especially from a quality point of view, one that provides a simple tracking system, which is important to an industry that demands full traceability and integrity.

Not only do we use NMS to manage our in-house work, we now have the facility to track orders placed with outside contractors, which even enables us to reprioritise work on them as and when required.' As a prime example of the application of NMS to problem solving, using Pareto Analysis, which states that a great majority of problems (80 per cent) are produced by a few key causes (20 per cent), Truflo determined that tooling preparation was at the root of quite a few of its production headaches.

So they decided to select one of the CNC machine tools and run a pilot scheme through NMS against 'named tools'.

Here, the Seiki Systems software was used to write a batch script to populate the company's thousands of part programs with the inclusion of tooling annotation.

As a result, tools are now kit marshalled directly to job lists taken from the software so that a job cannot be queued until the tooling is available and is cleared on the schedule.

Says Steve Chapman: 'This has dramatically cut our production downtime and we are now expanding this idea to all our other CNC machine tools.' Concludes Chapman: 'NMS has not only improved our throughput and delivery times but also our cycle times which has led to more cost-effective in-house component manufacturing.

The support we have had from Seiki Systems has been excellent and it's not difficult for us to realise that we are enjoying significant payback from our initial outlay.

More important, is that as we make use of even more of the functionality of NMS, the more of a competitive edge it opens up for the business.'

Line-feed fastener and tool stocking makes savings

Latest line-feed stocking system with wireless communication has delivered substantial savings in administration costs and staff time at a UK market leading static holiday home manufacturer.
The latest line-feed stocking solution from Serco Ryan has delivered substantial savings in administration costs and staff time at a UK market leading static holiday home manufacturer. Serco Ryan staff are on-site monitoring stock during production hours and use a new wireless system to instantly order required components from Serco's main distribution warehouse. The company produces over 4,000 homes annually using ten separate assembly lines, all of which are continuously fed by Serco Ryan with over 200 different types of tools, fasteners and fixings.

'The Line-Feed stocking and digital ordering system has been designed to simplify product ordering and minimize delays in production caused by shortage of components,' explains Serco Ryan's General Manager, Jerry Howe.

'Thanks to our extensive range and stocks, we can guarantee delivery of the 200+ fasteners, fittings and even production consumables needed, directly to the ten production lines exactly when they are required.

Our staff constantly monitor line-side bins of fasteners and fixings and use a new mobile phone based barcode readers to instantly order new stocks from the main computer at the branch, removing the need to hold expensive stocks and saving all the associated paperwork costs when dealing with multiple suppliers.' Added benefits of the Line-Feed stocking system included the removal of three operations traditionally used in the assembly process.

Items such as cupboards and doors would have the required fastener kits assembled in the stores and sent to the production line, disassembled and then fitted, however the new system removes these labour intensive operations and saved on storage space.

The company produces in excess of 4,000 holiday homes annually which includes seven models each available with over 36 standard optional extras, from foldaway beds to full gas fire ranges.

They had previously used Serco Ryan for supplying components such as the 9,000,000+ screws used annually, but have now extended that with the Line-Feed system to include fixtures and fittings from hinges and toilet roll holders to handles and cutting tools.

The system has reduced the paperwork for these purchasing areas to one invoice a month, has guaranteed delivery, helping them significantly reduce costs and exceed production targets.

The 200+ fasteners, fixings and consumables supplied to the company represent only a small selection of the range available from Serco Ryan.

Their stock exceeds 80,000 separate product lines, all of which are accessible through a nationwide network of over 40 branches.

In addition to JIT/DLF and kanban supply management services, Serco Ryan also provides impartial technical advice, including engineered fastening solutions and manufacturing cost reduction studies.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Manufacturing software to reduce 'lean' costs

Europe's largest independent supplier of electronic subsystems for missiles and munitions has chosen software to help improve productivity and reduce lean manufacturing costs.
Europe's largest independent supplier of electronic subsystems for missiles and munitions has chosen manufacturing software to help improve productivity and reduce costs in a 'Lean Manufacturing' environment. Mestec announces major 'Tactical and Strategic' software win, to deploy their manufacturing execution system (MES) software at Thales Missile Electronics Ltd (TME). TME, Europe's largest independent supplier of electronic subsystems for missiles and munitions, has chosen the Mestec MES system to help improve productivity and reduce costs in its innovative 'Lean Manufacturing' environment.

' The decision to deploy the Mestec software is both tactical and strategic' said David Barnes, Chief Executive at TME, ' We have calculated that by getting rid of paperwork at a production level and increasing our configuration and control capability, the system should provide a return on investment very quickly.

This first phase will provide us with the experience to ensure that further deployment across the business will be able to realize the long term strategic benefits of MES.' Like most manufacturing organizations TME is under constant pressure to continually improve productivity, and the primary focus is on the shop flfloor to reduce waste and improve quality, whilst still remaining responsive to customer needs.

The Mestec MES system will be used by shop floor, engineering, and management staff: it will provide assembly staff with all instructional information (including work instructions, drawings, engineering updates, etc) as well as collecting essential plant-centric data at source.

MES will replace the current paper-based methodology and will interface to the TME Internal LAN to enable data to be passed to and from other business tools.

To support the project accounting process the system provides for automatic transaction of materials and assemblies on the line directly into the ERP tool (Oracle 11i E-Business Suite).

Also collected is an electronic, comprehensive as-built record set for all assemblies and sub-assemblies produced on the line.

Finally, it collates assembly floor quality and performance data.

Using real-time reporting, it presents decision support information to allow management to make valuable decisions leading to rapid improvement.

' We are in a highly competitive global high tech niche where in order to succeed an organization must be truly world class at all levels.

We are a volume producer with a powerful track record in successfully applying lean manufacturing techniques and involving our suppliers at all stages of the product lifecycle' continues Barnes.

' MES can be seen as the next logical step for us as it creates the kind of visibility, control and discipline we need to continue to be able to demonstrate real production efficiency and manufacturing excellence to our customers.' Added Peter Kipling, TME's Operations Director.

TME has a policy of continuous improvement of both processes and facilities.

The Operations directorate is responsible for the cost effective manufacture of all deliverable product.

A review of working practices highlighted the problems currently seen on the Assembly floor associated with complicated and bulky supporting paperwork.

Not the least of these problems was the increased risk of product damage and non-conformance as a result of the presence of unprotected paperwork in an ESD area or clean room.

The review went on to consider the format of 'the assembly station of the future', and a proposal was accepted for a paperless assembly environment for installation in 2003.

TME uses state of the art ERP in the form of Oracle's E Business Suite and it was important to find an MES system that could both integrate with it and bridge the gap between the enterprise and the shop floor.

' Our previous processes meant that we moved from electronic data to paper, to paper again, then back to electronic - it was easy to see that this was inherently inefficient' said Kipling.

' As part of developing our approach to Lean Manufacturing we quickly came to realise that we needed to focus on further reducing variability in the production process.

We knew that in our increasingly complex production environment adopting a system and process that could ensure we consistently manufacture to the correct build standard would give us real reductions in materials and rework costs.

' States Barnes.

Kipling continues; ' MES complements a Lean environment because both have a strong process base and both have inherent 'cell' structures.' ' Not only do we see MES as offering a route to creating real savings on product cost it will allow us eventually to order direct to line from a far greater proportion of our supply chain creating greater efficiency and further cost savings.' ' From a management perspective the Mestec system provides real time information that will allow us to spot any non conformance early on thus ensuring the impact is minimised and allowing for far greater and quicker trend analysis so that the true nature of any issue can easily and quickly be understood.

We measure customer satisfaction in terms of on-time delivery so it is business critical for us to spot and solve problems early.' Once the overall requirement had been established TME were able to review the MES system in live operation at Thales Sensors in Leicester where it had been running for 18 months.

This enabled the team to evaluate the software in a live manufacturing environment as well as understand the user's perspective on the productivity gains being made.

' Being able to 'see and touch' the system at our facility in Leicester gave us the confidence and belief that it would work for us' concluded Barnes.

' We assessed various alternatives before deciding on Mestec' added Kipling, ' we rejected the idea of an in house solution as we felt it would be unlikely to be sufficiently adaptive and scalable.' ' In the end not only did we feel that the Mestec system was right for us but the approach was flexible and the team did the most important thing for us - they listened to the customer need!' Mestec is a leading UK provider of MES (Manufacturing Execution System) software delivering tangible business benefits to its manufacturing customers.

The Mestec solution is designed specifically for the manual-intensive discrete manufacturing sector.

With a turnover of GBP 35m and 275 staff Thales Missile Electronics (TME) is Europe's largest independent supplier of electronic subsystems for missiles and munitions, selling products and services worldwide.

The core business for TME is the design, development and production of advanced fuzes, sensors and seekers, with additional expertise in battlefield systems, hazard analysis and environmental testing.

Scheduling solution optimises production planning

North America's largest heavy-duty truck maker now has a scheduling solution that gives it more reliable parameters for optimising production planning and better scheduling quality.
Tecnomatix, the driving force in Manufacturing Process Management (MPM), has announced that Freightliner LLC, North America's largest heavy-duty truck manufacturer and a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler, has implemented eMPower software throughout all of its manufacturing plants nationwide, enabling Freightliner to significantly reduce the time it takes for daily production planning. Portland, Oregon-based Freightliner is using the eMPower eM-Sequencer scheduling tool from Tecnomatix to optimize the assignment of production orders among its assembly lines and to sequence orders per line, with the goal of achieving a constant product mix over time and a balanced workload throughout the day. eM-Sequencer is a turnkey solution for sequencing and allocating orders to assembly and feeder lines.

If many different product variants have to be produced, and sequencing of orders is restricted by a large number of rules, eM-Sequencer can help production planners improve schedule efficiency by reducing the manual effort involved in creating the most efficient schedules.

In addition, eM-Sequencer helps production planners quickly and easily generate optimized schedules to define and maintain scheduling rules.

The software is easily integrated into most existing manufacturing IT environments and can be connected to a wide variety of database management systems.

'Using eM-Sequencer, we now have a scheduling solution that gives us better and more reliable parameters for optimizing production planning and an overall better scheduling quality,' said Curtis Rhodes, industrial engineering manager, Freightliner LLC.

'After implementing eM-Sequencer in our planning environment, we were able to reduce the time it took to schedule a production sequence from three days to 30 minutes.' 'The growing use of eMPower solutions by market leaders like Freightliner truly reinforces the acceptance of our MPM solutions as critical components in the manufacturing process,' said Harel Beit-On, chairman and CEO of Tecnomatix Technologies.

'Freightliner manufactures more than one-third of the trucks sold in North America, and the dramatic planning time reductions made possible by eMPower, along with the accompanying cost savings, are helping them maintain their strong market leadership role.

Freightliner joins the growing list of worldwide market brand leaders in a variety of industries who are strengthening their competitive positions by implementing MPM strategies with eMPower solutions at their core.' About Freightliner LLC - Freightliner LLC is the leading heavy-duty truck manufacturer in North America.

The company produces and markets Class 3-8 vehicles under Freightliner, Sterling, Western Star, American LaFrance and Thomas Built buses nameplates.

It is a wholly owned subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler, the world's largest commercial vehicle manufacturer.

About Tecnomatix Technologies - Tecnomatix Technologies (NASDAQ: TCNO) is the driving force in Manufacturing Process Management (MPM).

Today's leading global manufacturers are adopting MPM solutions to expand revenue potential and reduce costs by enhancing manufacturing's ability to support the business strategy of choice.

These companies are using Tecnomatix eMPower MPM solutions to accelerate product introductions, shorten time to volume, and optimize production execution.

eMPower enables our customers to succeed with its collaborative, open platform and applications for defining, simulating, managing, and executing manufacturing processes across the extended enterprise.

Lean manufacturing modules enhance Axapta

A complete series of Lean Manufacturing modules is designed to complement and enhance the powerful functionality of Microsoft Business Solutions - Axapta.
With competitive benefits becoming increasingly important in an ever toughening market place, many enterprises are now looking to adopt lean manufacturing practices to drive out waste and increase value enabling them to deliver what the customer wants in the fastest possible time at the lowest possible cost. Drawing on a comprehensive training background in lean methodologies, eBECS recognised a specific need among UK manufacturers for software that could assist a lean business strategy. This experience coupled with eBECS' early adoption of Microsoft Business Solutions - Axapta enabled eBECS to develop its lean enterprise Solution which includes Lean Manufacturing using pull techniques including kanbans, Lean Supply Replenishment, Flow Scheduling, Lean Ordering and Vendor Managed Inventory.

The eBECS solution is available to customers who have already implemented as well as new customers.

Lean Manufacturing - this is the ability to establish manufacturing cells where downstream triggers pull kanbans through the supply chain.

Cells are loaded with orders from Lean ordering and other sources with extensive usage of visual techniques for execution.

Lean Supply Replenishment - while similar to Lean Manufacturing, this module provides functionality which extends electronic kanbans out to suppliers.

Lean Supply Replenishment supports everything from simple email kanbans to email alerts for secure website schedule and call-off support.

It also handles pulling materials from a central warehouse where the practicality of serving multiple points on a shopfloor makes that appropriate.

Both also enable more sophisticated kanban triggers, like backflushing for materials consumption and monitoring bin weigh scales on production cells.

Flow Scheduling - this module supplies demand for a cell in a 'scheduled manner' and is an aid for manufacturers moving from make-to-stock-or-forecast towards lean make-to-order.

By considering planned orders from a master production schedule while also reading kanban replenishment requests, the Flow Scheduling module provides the cell supervisor with a representation of items and quantities required.

Electronic heijunka card functionality assists with the pragmatic compromise of production smoothing of ordered and forecast product that's essential in the transition from traditional batch manufacturing to a lean strategy.

Lean Ordering - Lean Ordering ensures that production rates anywhere in a plant are dictated by, and subservient to, the potential of the bottleneck cells or resources.

This is achieved by ensuring that sales orders are loaded here first, with other resources following.

Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) - this module caters for vendor managed inventory and consignment stock handling, both increasingly common practices in lean supply chains.

Sales and Procurement Schedules - many organizations need to balance and level flow as their interaction up and down the supply chain takes place via schedules as opposed to discrete customer orders.

The solution supports the use of such schedules to the level required by the automotive industry.

Andrew Rumney - Solutions Director at eBECS comments 'What prevents organizations delivering on the need to rapidly respond to customers, to deliver what customers need on short notice, and to provide increasingly diverse products are challenges that confront all manufacturers today?

In a word, MUDA, the Japanese word for waste, specifically any activity which absorbs resources but creates no value.

To answer this challenge of eliminating waste many companies are turning to a solution that is not new, is proven and for reasons that can't be explained are largely not recognized - Lean Manufacturing.

We have developed the eBECS Lean Enterprise Solution for Microsoft Axapta specifically to assist manufacturers that have recognized the need to migrate to a lean manufacturing strategy.

The modular approach recognizes that this migration route will be different for different manufacturers, and offers maximum flexibility.

Axapta is a perfect product for companies looking to use a Lean approach due to its flexible nature and the ease with which it can be configured and changed as an organization moves forward' Clyde Bennett - Microsoft Business Solutions' supply chain management Expert and Product Manager for Axapta reflects, 'Lean Business concepts as illuminated by authors Dan Jones, and Jim Womak and practiced by many, represent a stream of compelling tools for any kind of enterprise looking to improve performance and prepare for future improvement.

eBECS are proving that a manufacturing software solution plays a key role in lean thinking.

The goal is to make the right decisions at the right levels in the team.

EBECS have developed a comprehensive solution within Axapta that use lean principles to deliver on this objective.

By using pull and flow techniques and providing front-line supervisors, operators, and suppliers the right information in a timely way.

We integrate the process to make it both more efficient, and more responsive to customer needs.

By integrating these lenses with ERP base data, both the teams making production happen, and the corporate management get better views of what they need.

The Axapta toolset, including some clever applications from eBECS, and the organizational impact of learning problem solving techniques in the lean thinking portfolio can make a real difference to any business, quickest seen in production, but accessible to any business needing to satisfy customers.' About eBECS - eBECS is part of the eBECS Group, dedicated to business improvement by the use of 'Lean Thinking' throughout the extended supply chain.

eBECS have developed expertise in the removal of waste from all aspects of the organization together with the specific solutions on defining value, establishing flow and running an enterprise based on pull techniques.

eBECS's focus has been to enhance the Axapta product, enabling organizations to quickly take advantage of all that 'Lean Thinking' has to offer.

The eBECS Group provides a technology and business partnership approach, which at its heart, removes the complexity and hype surrounding the Lean and e-business world.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Assessment tool checks readiness for Lean

Supply Chain Assessment and Lean Evaluation System (SCALES) is a free assessment tool created to assess a company's readiness for adopting Lean Manufacturing techniques.
K3 Business Technology Group plc has launched a Supply Chain Assessment and Lean Evaluation System (SCALES). This is a free assessment tool created to assess a company's readiness for adopting lean manufacturing techniques. Designed for SMEs, SCALES is easy-to-use and easy-to-implement.

It is based on a simple question and answer format which is freely accessible on K3's special Lean website

It will also be available from TA/Net (the DTI Sponsored Technology Network) and Benchmark Research (UK's foremost technology research company).

Other organisations will be able to license the software for use in their own Lean Manufacturing programmes and initiatives.

SCALES creates a simple rating for each of five key areas - Company Culture, Organisation Structure, Business Process, Lean Awareness and Technology - and it provides a good, lean analysis tool offering simple suggestions and recommendations to help a company move forward.

Another key benefit is automatic benchmarking which enables companies to compare themselves against the average for their market sector.

K3's CEO Andy Makeham says: 'The Engineering Employers Federation cites the lack of adoption of Lean Manufacturing amongst the SME community as the biggest threat to the recovery of the UK manufacturing sector.

I believe that whilst larger companies readily adopt new Lean techniques, the SMEs are somewhat harder to influence.

K3 is focused on the delivery of supply chain management software solutions and improvement programmes to the SME sector.

So while Lean Manufacturing has little to do with software, and everything to do with changing perceptions of how the workplace and work practices are viewed, I would like our customers to regard K3 as Business Improvement Partners, and look on our software as one of a range of tools from which they can benefit.' As with many tools, the benefit of completing the SCALES questionnaire to companies is not in the answers, but in the questions, and is designed to make key people in an organisation think and open their eyes to the scope and impact a lean enterprise initiative will have on their business.

It can also provide a useful insight into how staff perceive the business.

K3 also offers a free Lean Starter Pack with SCALES to introduce companies to Lean concepts.

Software adds manufacturing flexibility, control

Architectural ironmongery business hinges on flexibility and control of new manufacturing solution software.
Specialist manufacturer Royde and Tucker has invested in an integrated manufacturing and enterprise system, Vantage by Epicor, to drive their business forward in real-time Specialist architectural ironmongery manufacturer, Royde and Tucker, is to roll out Epicor's Vantage Manufacturing solution to its two UK sites in a GBP 100,000 investment. Flexibility, usability and real-time control of the business are the reasons behind the move. 'The beauty of the new system is that it will give us real-time control and flexibility we never had before,' states Jon Simms, Royde and Tucker's manufacturing manager.

'Everything we need is on screen with a few clicks of a mouse.

Now management will have usable and up to date information, so we can concentrate on running the business rather than struggling with numbers on a screen.' Royde and Tucker manufactures specialist hinges and door closers at the quality end of their market, often specified by architects taking advantage of durability and long life guarantees.

Epicor's Vantage Manufacturing system will replace an existing Keywill system at Royde and Tucker's two sites at Tottenham in London and Hitchin.

The end-to-end solution will include a fully embedded advanced planning and scheduling tool, e-Scheduling, full mixed mode manufacturing control including make-to-order and make-to-stock, plus Enterprise Business Intelligence (EBI).

Simms continued, 'We wanted a system that would allow us to focus on things that add value.

We also needed to make rapid changes in our manufacturing and be alerted to what is happening at the two sites, as it happens.

Epicor understood what we needed to achieve, and although this is a significant investment for a company our size, we are looking forward to more efficient manufacturing and more responsive customer service as a result.' Epicor's Vantage Manufacturing solution will be delivered to 20 concurrent users across two sites, including Vantage Manufacturing, EBI, eScheduling and Workflow Conductor modules.

On-time deliveries and lead times much improved

Luxfer Gas Cylinders has achieved Class 'A' status in Planning and Control through a remarkable culture change and business transition over the past four years.
Luxfer Gas Cylinders has achieved Class 'A' status in Planning and Control through a remarkable culture change and business transition over the past four years. This, and a massive programme of Lean Manufacturing, Continuous Improvement and other techniques, have dramatically improved on-time deliveries, lead times and productivity. Part of the international Luxfer Group, Luxfer Gas Cylinders is the largest manufacturer of aluminium gas cylinders in the world.

The company has six manufacturing plants world-wide, including one in the UK at Nottingham.

It makes around one million cylinders a year for use in fire extinguishers, scuba diving, breathing apparatus, beverage dispensing units, medical and speciality gases.

Four years ago the Nottingham plant had no effective business processes, integrated IT systems, performance measures or management information.

A customer survey indicated that while product quality was considered to be excellent, lead times and delivery performance were extremely poor.

For example, even after waiting the quoted 9-12 month lead times, customers could still have to wait another month or so before product delivery.

Luxfer CEO Ian McKinnon charged the company's management with turning the business around, improving customer service and initiating fundamental change through an Oliver Wight Class 'A' Planning and Control implementation, which commenced in 1996.

Coupled with this was the implementation of an EFACS MRP II system.

Andy Butcher, Operations Director, observes: 'Resourcing five sites, throughout the UK and US, to Class 'A' is difficult because it is basically a do-it-yourself project requiring full time commitment, and the people who need to do the work are already very busy.

We decided on a full time project team, backed up by an executive steering committee and various task forces.

The Luxfer plant in the US was also carrying out a similar implementation and it used broadly the same project organisation.

Production Manager Tim Jeffery, comments: 'Oliver Wight's Andrew Purton guided us through the Oliver Wight business model and ABCD Checklist.

A number of multi-disciplinary task forces were created to re-engineer our business processes and we achieved a steady rate of improvement as we got to grips with planning and control.

We concentrated on driving up delivery reliability and speed, and over the last three years our On-Time-In-Full (OTIF) indicator has risen from the low teens to consistently over 95%.

A lot of work has been done to reduce manufacturing and supplier lead times by managing sales demand better.

Delivery speed has reduced from over nine months to two months or less for some products.' Andy Butcher, adds: 'In both the UK and US, we believed communication was important and launched the Class 'A' project with an interactive presentation to everyone in the business and used notice boards to keep people informed.

However, when we surveyed employees we discovered that awareness was very poor.

So we greatly increased our efforts with a whole raft of activities such as one-to-ones, newsletters, posters, freebies, competitions and more regular briefings.

'In the US, approximately 25% of employees attended five-day or three-day overview sessions led by Oliver Wight Europe and USA.

Key process owners were also involved in extensive outside education, and internal communication sessions included using Oliver Wight videos and Luxfer-prepared materials.

Communication of progress was monitored through quarterly self-audits via the various steering committees, and the results communicated in a bi-monthly newsletter.

The extra effort paid off and another survey found excellent awareness and belief.' Luxfer US had been badly bitten in the mid-90s by an ERP supplier who had promised the world but failed to deliver.

Determined that this would not happen again it shortlisted Oracle and SAP.

ERP Manager Duncan Banks says SAP was chosen and implemented on-time and on-budget due to a number of key reasons.

Foremost, the design teams first developed the key business processes and used Oliver Wight education and methodology to establish high level process redesign before implementing SAP.

Also crucial is that Sales and Operations Planning (S and OP) had been functioning for two years at the time of implementation, so there was a clear understanding of the sales forecasting, supply management and financial forecasting processes.

In addition, before going live with SAP all master data was at, or approaching, Class 'A' performance levels.

The benefits for Luxfer US are impressive, including a totally integrated business system and a significant improvement in business process execution.

For example, the 50 steps to undertake procurement have been cut to 10.

Manufacturing lead times have also been slashed from 30 days to just eight.

Performance at Luxfer UK has also been transformed with extensive improvements in customer service and business performance.

The company has achieved cost benefits which have resulted from increased control, particularly of work-in-progress (reduced by as much as 67%), stocks of raw materials and bought-in supplies, and inspection costs.

Around GBP 1 million was taken out of fixed costs in 2000.

Luxfer UK has also benefited from putting S and OP processes in place.

S and OP is a monthly management process providing the link between a company's strategic plan and its operational planning.

This enables management to monitor the balance between supply and demand (production and sales), the implications of new product introduction, and the financial projections arising, and so improve control and understanding of the full business ramifications.

The process encompasses a Demand Review to assess changes in the market followed by a Supply Review to establish how the Supply Chain will respond.

There is also a New Product Development Review to monitor the progress and impact of change.

The process concludes with an S and OP meeting (Management Review) to review business projections, understand change, rubber stamp proposed actions and give direction to future activities.

Andy Butcher summarises the key tips for a successful implementation: * Commitment from the top.

* Full-time project manager and team.

* Cannot do enough communications.

* Cross functional task forces/design teams.

* Use S and OP for early benefits.

* Education should be the foundation.

* Develop the 'system' blueprint on paper and understand business process requirements prior to detailed software design.

* Master data accuracy prior to going live is essential.

* System training is often underestimated.

* ERP system is a tool, not the solution.

Luxfer gained Class 'A' in Planning and Control last December but the massive cultural change the company experienced went much further.

It also carried out extensive Continuous Improvement, Total Quality and New Product Development (NPD) programmes.

In the area of NPD the company utilises a multi-disciplinary team that meets weekly.

New product proposals are brought to the forum and evaluated by the team.

'NPD has enabled us to get new, lighter and stronger aluminium alloys to the market much faster,' adds Tim Jeffery.

'We have achieved more in one year than the previous seven.

Previously, sales people would say we could make something and then find that we couldn't or, if we could, it would be at a loss.

At the very least we would have a dissatisfied customer due to a missed due date.

Since we introduced NPD two years ago we have developed GBP2 million in extra revenue.'