Caliach Vision - Broadwater Mouldings Q and A
Q. Please give a brief snapshot of your company, its unique selling points, and particular management challenges and solutions.
A. Broadwater Mouldings Ltd was established in 1972, offering engineering solutions in the manufacture and supply of Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) mouldings and assemblies. We operate from a purpose-built manufacturing facility in Suffolk, UK, with works extending to 6,500m² and employing 110+ personnel.
A range of moulding techniques are employed, each with its own unique mix of setup time, capacity, processing speed, material types and skills. The choice of process is dictated by volume , accuracy, aesthetics and geometry. Post moulding operations comprise hand and robotic machining, bonding, assembly, painting, final assembly, and a significant amount of outwork, kitting, pre-assembly and coating. Volumes range from between one per month to several thousand per year. Particular challenges include the following: -
- A varied client base, each with particular ways of controlling supply, demand, engineering, design, quality performance and accounting.
- Multi-level BoMs and Process Routes, mid-process outwork and pre-process outworked kitting and assembly.
- A range of work modes from low daily volume / slow process / single or multiple tools / high labour content; through to higher daily volume / faster process with single tools and lower labour content
- Demand including spot orders, schedules, forecasts, supplier managed inventories (KanBan) and off-site stock locations.
- Customer prescribed specialist components/suppliers, long purchase lead-time items & longer-term commitment coupled with shorter supply availability to our customers.
Q. Why did you select Caliach Vision?
A. We had looked at many systems over the years in all price brackets. When we selected Caliach, the business used an in-house relational database handling top level part information including labour. That system handled SOP, POP & WOP, all at single level. Our lack of experience and resources meant that investment and implementation of the complete system from the outset could not be justified. We were driven by a backdrop of blue-chip clients expecting increased visibility and more robust information control, to complement our high overall performance levels.
Caliach looked to be scalable at a sensible entry cost, allowing for a very flexible approach (although that in itself can allow undisciplined methods which can cause problems later). One important selling point was the concurrent user licensing model which does not restrict the number of workstations, promoting flexibility in use.
Q. What was your experience of the implementation? Did any problems arise and how were they addressed?
A. Any difficulties could be attributed to our lack of previous experience and formal training in the use of such integrated systems - for example the importance of establishing part numbering conventions and the structure of BoMs / Routes etc. With hindsight we should have been more disciplined, but following Caliach best practice from the outset would have required big process changes that we did not have the resources for. Learning about the capabilities of the software whilst simultaneously working out how to adapt existing processes to it was difficult.
As we were initially implementing the Inventory licence option alone, MRP & financials didn’t factor because we continued to plan manually and accounting was carried out at central office. Whilst this made implementation seem easier in the first years, it also masked the contra effects of our approach. Since adding the Manufacturing licence option in 2012 we now realise the quality of much of our legacy data is questionable. That is an ongoing project taking time to address.
Q. How has using Caliach software has helped you run your business and achieve your goals?
A. We are using Caliach to validate and update all our manufacturing costs, and multi-level planning has simplified the process – it now makes sense. In 2012 the organisation of the business saw significant change - the accounting functions running on legacy systems at central office were transferred to our site, and we introduced the Ledgers licence option to integrate them with our main data. After a steep learning curve, the Ledgers functions are working well - we have eight staff using ledgers on a daily basis and information is both visible and up to date. Credit control has improved, cash flow is now well managed and proper management of supplier payments has allowed us to agree improved terms with several key suppliers.
Q. What would running your business have been like without Caliach Vision, and how has the total cost of ownership compared to expectations?
A. Put simply, we could not have run the business as it is now without the software. Caliach Vision has proven to be reliable and scalable - we have developed and integrated both what we do and how we do it with the system over the past eight years. We have looked at other ERP offerings over the years but found none that can better Caliach overall at a similar cost.
Q. Are there any changes you plan to make in the way you use the software, to address particular operational issues particular to you?
A. A key development area for us is the management and monthly valuation of inventory. Again, success here will rely on disciplined use of Caliach Vision tools, and increased use of MRP.
Production planning is performed using legacy spreadsheets because we have been unable to find a sufficiently flexible IT solution that is visually intuitive. Duplication between the spreadsheets and Caliach Vision scheduling (which uses visual work centre loading and make-to-lists) is far from ideal and I am regularly ‘challenged’ to justify it. We are aware that Caliach Vision has a dedicated link to finite scheduling software with Gantt Chart visualisation, but we have first to implement detailed process routes and shop floor data collection before we are ready to consider using it. One alternative may be to automatically extract work information from the system using ODBC, into spreadsheets directly.
Q. Do you feel the new language editions / data language swap, and Key Performance Indicator functions of V4 will help?
A. The language swap function has no immediate benefit for our business. However, an immense amount of work has been invested in performance measurement throughout every level of the business over the past three years or so I am keen to roll out V4 so that we can automate more of the KPI’s. I also want to leverage that functionality to achieve increased discipline around inventory and work order processing.
Matt Herbert, Managing Director, Broadwater Mouldings Ltd - 2013