For Immediate Release
29th March 2016
Eco-Burner, based in Waterford, Ireland, manufactures the Chafo burner. Although the company was founded in 2004 it was not until 2010 when they received external investment that sales began to grow significantly. At that point they were making products for stock and using a series of Excel spreadsheets to manage orders, stock and even to print out invoices prior to being entered into their Sage 50 accounts software. Said Ciaran Doyle, CFO; "The key challenges for us with that system was the lack of traceability of components within each batch produced. Each department was working independently of the other, so finance only knew that we bought something when the invoice came in the door. There was no approval or authorisation process in place. There was also difficulty in forecasting the right stock purchase levels for the quantities that we were trying to make. Given the size of the business at the time it was achievable but difficult and frustrating, and there's no way we could have scaled from where we were then to where we are now with that kind of approach."
In 2010 the company set about evaluating ERP systems, considering several costing up to around €200,000, with ongoing annual maintenance of around €13,500. Ciaran found that while most had entry-level systems at lower prices they did not meet their needs; "Most of the competing systems offered five or six different levels of functionality. We quickly discovered that with the lower levels we weren't getting the traceability as part of that. They were very simple transaction-based systems, but they couldn't control all of the component level batch numbers for us. So with those systems we very quickly ended up going from level 1 to 3 or 4, and the price tag rose accordingly. One of them quoted €200,000 for a system that in my view wasn't simple to install or user-friendly."
After further online research Ciaran discovered 123insight and reviewed the Multimedia Disc. He also liked the subscription-based pricing model; "The SAAS (Software As A Service) model where you are paying a fee monthly rather than paying a significant capital amount up front, created a certain attraction to the point where we decided to find out a bit more about this offering to see whether it would meet our needs."
Ciaran attended an Evaluation Workshop in Southampton in September 2011, although he was initially reluctant; "I have a background in IT and the standard model when you say 'I want to buy a piece of software' is that they will come to your door and show you their wares. I guess I'd been trained into that mindset through previous roles. My initial reaction was 'I don't really want to travel to do an initial evaluation to see whether this was something I wanted to proceed with or not'. It took a little while for me to get over the 'you come and have a look at us rather than us coming to you' approach to the initial product demonstrations."
Eco-Burner's products require minimal assembly time, so Ciaran wanted to ensure that whichever system they selected did not add complex and time-consuming IT-related processes to this. As the company had staff with programming experience they planned to write a bespoke shop floor interface and wanted a system that they could easily connect it to. Ciaran explained; "When the product goes through assembly there are a number of components and sub assemblies involved. The unit itself is serialised and the production labour is around 4-5 minutes per unit after all of the subassemblies have been put together. We needed a process that could accurately and consistently record every component that went into it but that didn't add 3-4 minutes of processing time onto the assembly time. One of the things that set 123insight apart was the ability to interface via the SDK (Software Development Kit) option. That allowed us to write some very simple screens where staff just have to scan the barcode on the front of the unit and 123insight would, through the SDK, update all the stock and works orders. Transactions that could have taken a minute or two were reduced to simply waving a barcode under the scanner with all of the stock transactions in the background. The ability to take away any requirement for transaction processing from the operators was quite an appealing concept for both us and them."
The decision was made immediately after the workshop to select 123insight, and the six days of no-obligation training were scheduled in November for two key staff in production and finance. Eco-Burner also added an extra day to each trip to allow time to discuss their unique requirements with the development team, which Ciaran found invaluable; "We had some interaction with the developers to understand exactly what each of the SDKs was doing, what it was calling and each of the processes that were involved behind it. We went over, did the training and then tacked a day on the end of it with the dev team, updating them on what we had done so far and what we thought the process flow would be from our perspective. It seemed like quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and yet from the time of our first meeting through the training and implementation was less than three months. Once we made the decision to go it was a very quick process."
Once training was complete Eco-Burner used 123insight's Data Import Toolkit to reshape the data from their Excel spreadsheets, which Ciaran found extremely easy; "It wasn't a case of trying to go through one at time to set up your products, as if you've got it in an Excel format it's very easy to see all the fields you need. If there's something that's standard, such as a unit of measure, you just put one and drag it down the whole column in Excel. It's very quick to get the data in. " They also elected to replace their Sage 50 accounts with Access Dimensions to benefit from the seamless integration between it and 123insight.
Instead of installing 123insight on a server in their offices Ciaran decided to opt for a subscription approach. He noted; "We're a relatively small company. We don't have in-house IT or server support people and decided from the outset that if we were going to take 123insight on as a monthly subscription why not take the same approach for our servers and emails. We'd then have a set IT cost per month without any additional in-house costs. We decided to rent some server space from a company in Manchester, and our 123insight database and applications are hosted there, which we can then access remotely from anywhere."
The decision was made to go live on April 2nd 2012, just 8 weeks after implementation was started. The company stopped production on the Thursday, performed a stock check and transferred data over the weekend. "We came in, installed the final version of our shopfloor software, made sure that all the stock counts were right, ran some reports, and on Monday we switched it on and it worked. The production team started manufacturing Chafos, accounts had raised some purchase orders to make sure they flowed through the system correctly and that we could print them off and there were no issues. It was really a non-event to be honest."
123insight's powerful batch traceability was highlighted when the company had to pursue a patent infringement, proving that their design had been manufactured since a certain date. Commented Ciaran; "That really came home to roost when we had to trace a product prior to 123insight's implementation. We were so used to going into the system, putting in a batch number and seeing who manufactured it and when, who it was sold to, etc. We ended up going back to paper archives to find an old purchase invoice. If it happened today we'd have the information in 30 minutes."
Reporting has benefited significantly. A minimum stock level 'traffic light' report is generated for the weekly production meeting, instantly highlighting any potential issues. Ciaran liked the flexibility that 123insight's reporting provided; "If you have anyone in the business that understands a little bit about SQL or Crystal Reports, within an hour they'll have written the report that they want to have, customised exactly the way they want it. We have a scheduled Crystal Reports app that runs a stock report on month end along with a WIP report, with all of the reports in exactly the format and layout that we want them. When the financial controller comes in on the first working day of the month everything is there in her inbox, customised with groupings for our own product classes."
In addition to ISO9000 Eco-Burner also have CE and the gas product related ETL approval status. In virtually every quality audit each auditor has complimented them on their excellent levels of batch traceability because of 123insight. Customer satisfaction is also being tracked using 123insight's CRM+ option; "We make quality follow-up phone calls to the end user of the product and get their feedback which is entered into CRM+. We have an automated Crystal Report that runs every Thursday. All of the management team within the business plus key shareholders get a copy of that report where we hear what the customer has to say. We also capture a KPI metric for customer satisfaction, so week on week we can see the feedback that we're getting from end users."
As Eco-Burner continued to streamline processes Ciaran noticed a further benefit from sending both production and financial staff on training; "We discovered a few things that we'd been doing in the past that we could actually scrap. Department 1 only did things because they thought department 2 needed it and department 2 just filed it because department 1 gave it to them. It gave us some additional benefits that weren't really related to the training, so I definitely recommend that companies should train as many people on as much of the software as possible."
At Eco-Burner's request 123 Insight also developed a feature that became standard within the product. 'Packing and Unpacking' allows Eco-Burner to scan all Chafo units placed in a box and produce a single label for the outer box. When the goods arrive at the distribution depot they simply scan the outer box label to 'unpack' all of the individual serial numbers back into stock.
Eco-Burner has taken advantage of 123insight's scalable licencing, taking as many or as few as required on a monthly basis. Said Ciaran; "Clearly the benefits are financial first - we only pay for what we use in any given month. As we bring in people we just make a phone call to 123insight. When we then come to the point where we pass that seasonal blip and we're going back down to a lower level of production we just ring up and cancel those licences."
The company has new products on the horizon and is continuing to expand. Ciaran concluded; "123insight is the cheapest employee we have in the building. We've been on the system for just over four years and our revenue has grown over 100% each year without any additional administration to support that growth. To add five production facilities, four overseas warehouses and 800-900% growth with the same resources speaks for itself. It's just something that is now simply a part of Eco-Burner - it's just part of the way we do things"
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