Case Study: Cogent Technology Ltd
As the company holds ISO9001, ISO13485 and ISO14001 accreditations, traceability of components is paramount to the business. They previously relied on a combination of an MRP system linked to an in-house written serial tracking database. After their MRP vendor changed database platforms (and demanded a massive cost to migrate to the new version) coupled with the resource that developed the serial tracking no longer available to them, Cogent decided to research the market. Of the several vendors approached 123insight was the only company that were open to developing the required functionality into the core product, rather than having a bespoke module developed.
- 123insight was more cost effective over 10 year period than other systems
- Major functionality added to the core product for all
- Using SDK, CRM and Access Dimensions
- Tablets and barcode readers reduce errors
- Networking with other 123insight users has netted over £1m in sales
- Low monthly subscription
Cogent Technology Ltd, based in Woodbridge, Suffolk, provide contract electronics manufacturing services specialising in the medical sector. As the company holds ISO9001, ISO13485 and ISO14001 accreditations, traceability of components is paramount to the business. In 2002 their previous MRP’s software licence was due for renewal. They reviewed the market and came across 123insight, but at that time chose to stay with their existing provider. Nigel Slator, MD recalled; “We were quietly impressed back then by the simplicity of 123insight but decided at the time to stay with our existing system. 123insight was still relatively new then and we wanted to be serviced by a company with a larger customer base. We also had other priorities in developing the business at the time which made staying with our existing provider the more attractive option.”
The selection process
In 2007 the MRP software licence came up for renewal again, however the cost was going to be considerably greater as their existing database infrastructure was no longer supported. Nigel commented; “Investment was going to be fairly significant and the system was also looking a little archaic in comparison to newer products, so we started to look at several systems. We again reviewed 123insight and I sent our Engineering Manager Michael Charlesworth, who was somewhat reluctant, to an Evaluation Workshop.” Michael added; “By this time we’d also developed an in-house system to handle serial number tracking in compliance with ISO13485. However, the resource behind that development was no longer with us. So in addition to a replacement MRP system we were looking for something to replace this as well. As we approached MRP vendors we were also asking them how they could fill this gap. Quickly we found that even top end systems could not cope, and any system would need significant customisation. Prior to the Evaluation Workshop I initially thought that 123insight might be too limited for our needs as I’d been looking at much more expensive systems, but in speaking with them we found synergy to improve the 123insight core product and provide us with the functionality that we needed to replace our bespoke system. I found the evaluation workshop approach very different compared to other vendors. The fact that we actually got to look at the software instead of having salesmen telling us for hours how good their product was without actually showing us anything was great. After further discussions we decided to move forward with 123insight, and worked with them to scope the required development.” Michael also took advantage of the multimedia DVD, which contains role-based videos that allow key staff to see functionality relevant to their departments.
Cost-effective subscription versus purchase
When reviewing the cost of all the systems Nigel noted; “By the time we analysed all costs over a 10 year period the subscription basis for 123insight was very attractive, as we could increase or decrease licences with demand, which removes the risk. We also didn’t have to secure funding, which would have detracted from our ability to invest in capital equipment. Over the 10 year period 123insight was in the mid point, but it was the only system where the vendor was committing to integrate all the features we needed into the core product. It was very important to us that a vendor was supporting this development of features within the core, rather than having bespoke development that wouldn’t necessarily be maintained as the vendor’s product moved forward.”
The company sent staff to the 6-day user training in July 2008 and performed in-house training using the provided electronic documentation. Nigel felt that this delivered several benefits, including managers training their own staff which gave them a sense of ownership.
123insight has exceeded our expectations. We now have a system that does everything we wanted incredibly well, and it also includes other features we didn’t think of.
Advanced Serial Tracking
Cogent implemented the software to facilitate data transfer whilst working with 123insight on the advanced serial tracking development. Once all of the necessary functionality was available they went live across all departments in April 2009. Nigel noted; “The implementation was slightly more extended than most users would experience due to the amount of changes we needed to the core system. By the time the new functionality was released to all 123insight customers we’d already beta tested it in-house. The go-live process was quite streamlined as we had already done it several times before on test databases. The biggest observation after go-live was that people who previously were experts in just one module now found it very easy to engage with other areas. The interface was common throughout and it was very easy for them to do what they needed.” Michael noted that there were fewer data input restrictions; “We were not limited by what we could enter into fields. Previously if your part number or description was longer than the limited number of characters you had to come up with ingenious ways of abbreviating them, as there was no way to increase the field lengths.”
Cogent also switched to Access Dimensions accounts software at the same time to take advantage of the tight integration between Access and 123insight. Said Nigel; “It was seamless, and required no extra transfer of information. People that need to know customer or supplier information can see it live through 123insight without having to go into the accounts software directly or even having a licence for it.”
The 123insight Software Development Kit (SDK) has also provided Cogent with an easy and safe way to pass data between systems. It provides a common ‘gateway’ that does not change as versions of 123insight change - so Cogent can be confident that the links they build which push data into 123insight will not need to be significantly reworked when they upgrade. The kit consists of a suite of SQL Stored procedures and documentation that a developer can then use when linking their application to 123insight. Said Michael; “We use the SDK to transfer results from external test equipment. We also integrated BOM and part master data to other external systems as well.”
Cogent also use CRM across their sales department, and plan to utilise it to control various other areas. Nigel commented; “We’re only using it as a sales tool at present, but as time allows we want to broaden it out to be a full business tool. We have a number of quality and business processes that we want to include that are currently either paper-based or a little disjointed. We think we will get a lot more control out of using CRM to drive our business.”
Tablet computers, barcode readers and touch screens are now used across the shopfloor to quickly move products between locations and processes with minimal data entry whilst maintaining serial number traceability. Rolling stock checks can be performed quickly using the tablets, and large LCD screens also display production information on the shopfloor exported directly from 123insight.
Further benefits after go-live
Since going live Cogent has discovered many benefits across the business. 123insight’s ability to email purchase orders, invoices and despatch notes, along with associating documents with given part numbers has been of great use. ‘One to many’ relationships e.g. unlimited vendors per part or unlimited price breaks where previously they were limited to three of each, has also been useful. Said Michael; “Previously we had a system where we put numbers in the boxes that the system told us to, but we did not necessarily understand where that information was used. 123insight gave us a lot better understanding of the information we needed to run our business, and we’ve gained a lot more power in terms of being able to extract, manipulate and use it.”
Cogent has been very proactive in working with 123 Insight Ltd, attending several user groups and open days. During these events they have networked with several other 123insight customers within the electronics industry and as a direct result of these introductions have seen over £1m of new business.
Michael concluded; “The golden moment for me came last year when all the functions we’d asked for plus some that we forgot to ask for were live, and we felt that we had achieved what we set out to.” Added Nigel; “123insight exceeded our expectations. What we’ve experienced is fairly unique in terms of us setting and conveying the requirement, 123insight telling how they’d implement and then actually delivering. We now have a system that does everything we wanted incredibly well, and it also includes other features we didn’t think of. Yes, we’ve shared our knowledge with the rest of the world, but other customers have come up with ideas that have been of benefit to us. There’s a growing community of 123insight users that really adds strength going forward.”
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