Case Study: Advanced Plastics Ltd
In 2002 Advanced Plastics selected 123insight after reaching the limits of their previous MRP system, with a case study written on their successful implementation a year later. The company saw improvements in purchasing, stock accuracy and logging of scrap, as well as much better traceability. As part of our ‘10 years on series’ we revisited them in 2015 to see how their business had evolved over a decade and what part 123insight played in their continued success.
- Turnover up 530%, but staff increase only at 385%
- Acquired TS16949 quality accreditation and vendor award
- Now use tablets in stores
- Tight integration to SPC system using SDK, and to Sage 50 with AAI
- Received R&D tax credits through 123insight relationship
- Painless upgrades
Hull-based Advanced Plastics have endured a double-dip recession, yet the company has seen over a five-fold turnover increase since adopting 123insight back in 2002, without a similar growth in staff. Initially mainly serving the automotive industry, they have diversified into other markets such as supplying internal and external components for a major boiler manufacturer. Said Rob Anderson, Managing Director; “We’ve always been a technical moulder, but we’re getting more into larger packages that fit together. So there’s assembly requirements, print requirements, welding requirements etc. Our quality requirements have gone up - we’ve recently become accredited to TS16949, which has really given us a boost in terms of profile in the industry.”
There has been heavy investment in new machinery along with robotic automation, however staff numbers have grown significantly less than turnover. Noted Rob; “We’ve moved into larger format moulding. Running a 1500 tonne machine as opposed to a 40 tonne delivers a much higher hourly recovery rate.” Although staff numbers have risen from 28 in 2002 to 108 in 2015 turnover increased from £1.9 to £10.2m. When asked if this growth could have been achieved with their previous system his response was swift. “No”, he laughed. “We were at the limit, which is why we looked at changing at that point. We haven’t looked at changing in more than ten years.”
Initially the main benefit felt in stores was accuracy and traceability. 123insight has since introduced the ability to use mobile devices such as tablets to book stock in/out or check availability. Rob noted; “All of our stores movements are done through the tablets. It gives us data in real time and everyone can see it is updated. Stock taking becomes much simpler. We don't tend to do big six-monthly stock takes anymore - we just run perpetual stock takes. Obviously the ABC facility (highlighting fast-moving items) lets us focus on the bigger issues.”
Integration via Software Development Kit (SDK)
As any company grows its reliance on software dedicated to specific tasks also increases, with the problem often being data transfer between systems. Advanced Plastics needed to replace their ageing SPC (Statistical Process Control) Quality Control system and chose to get a bespoke system written. They were able to integrate it tightly to 123insight using the SDK (Software Development Kit). This ensured that future updates on either side would not ‘break’ the link between them. Said Rob; “The SPC pulls product data out of 123insight via the SDK and allows us to manipulate that within the SPC system. All of our measurements and part records are logged so that we can see and identify trends in terms of measurements, tool wear etc. We can then conduct predictive maintenance on the tools rather than go out of limit on the product.”
My experience of 123insight commenced about 7 years ago when I joined the business, and for a business of the size that we were then I felt that it was a very advanced and user-friendly system. I came from a much larger company - Japanese owned, billion dollar company running a large ERP system. This system does equally as much but I thought it was a lot more user-friendly, the interface was better, lot more flexibility, so yes, my experience has been good.
As a longstanding user of 123insight, Rob has overseen several upgrades, although has had less involvement in recent years. Despite less direct interaction the feedback he has received from staff has been overwhelmingly positive; “We’ve sort of grown up with the system, and were quite happy with the upgrade instructions with the earlier upgrades. From the input I’ve had on recent upgrades, which probably tells its own story, the ability to upgrade is even more streamlined and we don’t really have any issue with rolling it out to users.”
Advanced Plastics have been in line with the 123insight average of one call per customer per month over the last decade, with Rob stating that all calls are dealt with swiftly and fully. In addition to 123insight Special Interest Groups, which Rob takes an active interest in, a member of 123insight’s Customer Care Team also regularly visits, which Rob found very beneficial; “It’s useful just to be able to sit down and talk through ideas. The fact that they visit you to understand what you are doing as a business is massive. Obviously not everyone gets involved with the Special Interest Groups, but everyone will have a conversation with their customer care person and you can get your points across – and they do come back to you. ”
Advanced Plastics use Sage 50 and have also recently taken advantage of the Advanced Accounts Interface (AAI) to pass information seamlessly between systems. Rob noted immediate benefits, but is still looking at where further improvements can be made; “For a number of years we didn't bother with the accounts interface. Two years ago we got a new finance manager. He looked at AAI, within 3-4 weeks it was in place and we were seeing the benefits. The key benefits for us were the speed of transfer and not having to input things, not making mistakes and having to go back in to correct them, and it's been very good ever since. He's currently tasked with looking at the Access Dimensions options. Early indications are that he sees a lot of value in there in terms of visibility, so it wouldn't surprise me if we take that forward.”
'Best in Class' manufacturing
One of Advanced Plastics’ larger customers is Ideal Boilers. After Ideal won a Queens Award for Industry they issued a series of awards to their vendors during an annual supplier event, with Advanced Plastics picking up the ‘Best in Class’ award for the plastic products. Rob puts this down to their ability to provide consistency; “The big thing for us is being able to keep records of what we've done and when we've done it. All our trialing and measurement activities go through works orders now because we have the ability to track it, we have full traceability. Certainly the auditors from TS16949 were very impressed with our ability to pull data out of our system and prove what we've been doing, how we've been doing it and the record-keeping element.”
Also, as a result of recommendations from 123 Insight Ltd they were able to apply for Government R&D Tax Credits, obtaining a 6-figure sum for the first year, with the prospect of ongoing future funding. Chris Pearson, Commercial Director commented; “We were first introduced to Business Solutions Midlands by 123 Insight Ltd in September 2014. It was a very swift and straightforward process - we had the cheque back from HMRC during January 2015. This was not an insignificant amount of money. We are a growing business and continually reinvest back into the business, so it's allowed that investment programme to accelerate faster than it would have done otherwise and allowed us to purchase more new machinery, more innovation and more technology.”
In 2014 the company invested in much larger new premises, and Rob concludes that it is 123insight’s subscription model that helps to keep capital available for constant investment; “It’s been a constant success. We've had conversations with people trying to sell us alternative products, and I think it's a very difficult one to improve on.” Chris added; “My experience of 123insight commenced about 7 years ago when I joined the business, and for a business of the size that we were then I felt that it was a very advanced and user-friendly system. I came from a much larger company - Japanese owned, billion dollar company running a large ERP system. This system does equally as much but I thought it was a lot more user-friendly, the interface was better, lot more flexibility, so yes, my experience has been good. ”
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