Case Study: Lawtronic Ltd

In 2001 Lawtronic Ltd were relying on their Sage accounting software to control stock, however as the business was changing from being a one-off manufacturer to repetitive runs MRP became a necessity. MD Dave Tester had previous MRP experience and, after evaluating the market selected 123insight. The company went live in just over a month, with a case study being written in 2009. This case study, a part of our '10 Years On series, explores the long-term benefits that Lawtronic have seen over the years, how their business has diversified and how 123insight has met their ever-changing needs.

Lawtronic electronics mrp software case study
  • Close relationship between Lawtronic and 123 Insight Ltd
  • Special Interest Groups deliver beneficial functionality for all customers
  • 123insight helped Lawtronic deal with a changing supply chain culture
  • CRM+ assisted with quality accreditation
  • 123insight helped Lawtronic deal with a double-dip recession
  • Lawtronic have since discovered many of their customers and suppliers using 123insight

Lawtronic, based in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, are an industry leader in the manufacturing of electrical control systems. Founded in 1986, they adopted and implemented 123insight in 2001. After achieving the common benefits that 123insight users see after implementation in areas such as stock control, paper usage and interfacing into their Sage accounts system the company started a period of diversification, which turned out to be extremely fore-sighted.

Changing business

Initially a bespoke panel shop serving many different industries, Lawtronic started to look for customers requiring larger production runs. Said Dave Tester, Managing Director; “In the last 10 years we've seen dramatic growth in that area, including some multi-nationals as well, so we've become a big player in the repeatable panel business. We've spread the portfolio across different markets and we’ve had quite a lot of success in this regard. That's been good for the business and given stability through tougher times as well.”

Recession hit the UK in 2009, yet Lawtronic did not experience the same pain as many companies, for which Dave cited two reasons; “I wouldn't say we were recession-proof, but because of our vast spread across markets you tend to find that one props up another if one industry is struggling. Also, as our systems were already in place we could manage fairly leanly from an admin staff point of view. Even as we were taking new customers on we didn't really see the need to add extra staff in that area. In fact, during the recession we took the opportunity to roll out 123insight further across the business. We looked at efficiencies that we could achieve, with Shopfloor Data Collection (SFDC) being one of them. Up to that point we'd been booking time sheets manually and requiring a higher overhead in staff. It made much more sense using SFDC,  knowing where we were on an up to the minute basis, which has worked very well for us.”

As business began to increase after the recession there was a culture shift in how distributors held stock of electronic components, but Lawtronic were well-positioned to handle this change. Noted Dave; “We have a vast range of products and needs, and have to hold stock for a multitude of reasons, covering lead times, outages, seasonal fluctuations, etc, but 123insight copes with it. The biggest change we've seen over the last 10 years is that distributors don't hold the amount of stock that they used to anymore, which can sometimes make life very difficult but by implementing contracts where we have commitment from customers we can smooth out supply issues with long-term purchasing.”

Special Interest Groups

123 Insight Limited has held several Special Interest Groups over the last ten years, with each one focussing on a specific area of functionality. Customers are invited to attend to help steer development to meet the needs of as many users as possible. Dave has been extremely proactive, attending sessions covering functionality such as Advanced Serial Tracking (AST) and landed costs. “I’ve seen the product change dramatically over the years, and have an interest in trying to give my experiences from a customer point of view, but also to help develop the product to make it better. Yes, I enjoy it, but I also think we get something back from it as well, getting a good result. We did another special interest group some years ago relating to attaching work instructions to routings and that's been very beneficial. For AST we had one particular customer that had an insistence that they wanted to track certain components within the product, and AST fits the bill very well with that. It's meant that the customer is satisfied with our systems and as a result it’s an account that we've progressively grown. So it does have benefit to us but at the same time it has benefit to 123insight and other users as well.”

123insight was right up front with subscription in the early days whereas the rest of the industry is only recently following suit... I like the fact that it’s pretty much one size fits all and you get the total product.

Dave Tester - Managing Director
Dave Tester - MD, Lawtronic

Lawtronic implemented ISO9001 back in 2001, and since then 123insight has been the backbone of maintaining their accreditation; “It helps our traceability without a doubt. We have a mature quality system here, and to a degree people don't even realise that they're doing it, but the traceability factors within 123insight have assisted us on countless occasions.” CRM+ was also implemented in 2009, and Dave is extremely satisfied with what it already delivers; “One of the problems we do have as a business is that everyone gets emails, and it's difficult to make information publically available to everybody else. CRM+ has been rolled out in part and has some successes, certainly within the projects side of the business, and it has helped communication generally.”

Benefits through updates

Since going live with v3 in 2001 Lawtronic have implemented several version updates, with each one delivering further savings and the update process itself becoming even more streamlined. Dave commented; “I'm one of the early upgraders. Depending on timing, sometimes it does not suit us to do it immediately, but we've kept up with the new releases, and generally it's been an easier path in more recent times than perhaps it was a few years back. There’s been quite a few enhancements over the years that I’ve had some input towards. Advanced Serial Tracking has been a huge benefit to the business, and has ended up being an everyday operation that people don’t even have to think about. Landed costs is a relatively new introduction, but as we import significant amounts of stock from overseas the additional costs incurred from importing it makes a big impact in the overall material cost. This is an area that wasn’t being captured before, but will make our decisions a lot easier going forward.”

Growing with the business

With the company growing around 2 1/2 times over the last decade new staff have needed to learn the system, but with a combination of 123insight training courses and in-house training they are up to speed very quickly; “If you go back to 123insight's core values it has always been very easy for people to pick up and use. We do send people on training, but a lot of the smaller, less regular users we've trained in-house and they’ve picked it up very quickly. I still think that's a core reason to use 123insight.”

Good support is paramount for mission-critical systems such as MRP, and Dave has been very pleased with the assistance he’s received over the years; “Support has always been very good. There’s a good team there - people that are experienced in dealing with day-to-day problems. It's a fairly slick system setup. If we report any issues staff come back to us very quickly.”

Although some view subscription-based systems with suspicion Dave feels vindicated that he selected 123insight at a time when the business model was rare, and concluded; “123insight was right up front with subscription in the early days whereas the rest of the software market seems to have only recently followed suit. It has worked well for us as we've scaled up and added extra licences as we needed to. We did look at alternatives early on, each of which had significant upfront costs, and decided that subscription was the right way to go and that has worked well for us. I like the fact that it's pretty much one size fits all and you get the total product.”

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