For Immediate Release
22nd January 2008
RH Technical Industries Ltd (RHTI), based in Andover, Hampshire manufactures plastic labels, nameplates fascias and flexible or rigid format membrane switch panels assemblies using screen print technology. The company relied on an ageing AS/400 powered MRP system which was not only cumbersome but was also starting to prove unreliable. Said Chris Hills, Director; "Reporting was a real problem, often taking us more time to get the data out of the system than we spent analysing it. We needed a lot of IT input - we had to spec very broad and well-defined queries. A lot of information that we wanted we gave up trying to get because it was just too difficult. The biggest issue was trying to keep the database simple, as the very structure of the data within the system tended to create duplicate lines."
After a hardware problem RHTI decided to take stock of their production control software; "The AS/400 ran four mirrored disc drives, which could cope adequately if two went down. We actually suffered a failure of three drives and were very fortunate that we could recover data from tapes. The near disaster came because we were missing one line of code which for whatever reason was not backed up - this prevented any PCs from accessing the system, effectively rendering our network useless. Thankfully one of our support company's other customers had an old AS/400 with the same line of code, so we were able to get up and running again. That really brought home to us that the system was getting old. If we were to upgrade the hardware it would also have meant upgrading the operating system and the MRP software running on it, which was a huge upgrade in terms of time and cost for a system that in many ways was too big for us anyway. There was also a significant maintenance fee for the MRP software of about £16k per year, which did not include support for the hardware or OS. These figures tend to get lost after you have been signing them off for so long but when you start to add it all together you realise what it actually costs you."
The decision was made to move away from AS/400. Chris added; "We decided to go for a PC based system and I did some initial investigations of a couple of systems online. I came across 123 Insight Ltd and attended an Evaluation Workshop. I immediately suggested that others attend, and after key staff attended we agreed that it was a good fit for us. The Evaluation Workshop approach was very interesting, and a very pleasurable process in comparison to a previous experience I'd had elsewhere. When evaluating a previous MRP system it required nearly a month of consultancy time, plus the time of various staff in the company. After this we did several site visits in the UK, and four of us then travelled to the company's US headquarters, seeing six or seven more customers while we were there. What that did to our carbon footprint I would not like to think! With 123insight it was just two trips to the workshops."
In October 2006 three people attended the three-day training course, two on the administration course and two on the Implementation course the following month. With 123insight prospective customers can choose to attend training courses, only paying if they subsequently sign up to use the software. Of the training Chris commented; "I was very impressed from the start as all of my immediate concerns regarding heavily charged consultancy disappeared. All attendees found the courses extremely valuable. We then went back to our offices, put the software on a PC with a projector and ran through some of the training exercises, initially with demo data and then some of our own. With my previous experience this sort of pilot required twenty people and took four weeks - with 123insight it involved nine people and took four hours. Everyone was clear that 123insight answered the questions they had. The concept of structures were very easily achieved within the system."
RHTI invested in a SQL Server, installed by BlueChip, a 123insight Approved Partner. Of the install Chris commented; "It was a very well supported, clean change. There's also a remote support service which is virtually transparent."
Data transfer was an initial concern, with RHTI holding almost all product information electronically; over 3500 part masters, 6700 routing files and over 37,000 BOMs, which were extracted from several spreadsheets containing over 403,000 lines, many of which were duplicated. RHTI used the 123insight data transfer facility to export their data to a structured Excel format, also performing test runs on a test database to evaluate how well the data went in. Noted Chris; "The data transfer proved very easy, especially if you already know your way around Excel. It was much less hassle than we originally anticipated." Implementation was originally planned for November 2006, but due to outside factors was delayed until May 2007. "We closed down the AS/400 on the Thursday night, transferred the data on the Friday and went live across all departments on the Monday."
What was immediately noticeable was the speed at which the system operated. Previously, running MRP took 4Â½ hours, with backups taking an entire day to perform at weekends. RHTI now run MRP several times a day. Said Chris; "We used to run the old system on a net change basis every night. Now we run it 6-7 times a day without even thinking about it. To be able to run MRP immediately and firm up requirements is very valuable to us." Report generation and obtaining data in general also saw a drastic improvement; "We have various daily reports that are now automatically generated, ready at people's desks when they start work. We don't even worry about getting data out of the system anymore - it's just available to us. Generating month end statistics used to be a full day's work just to try to get the data to make sense. Now it's a standard report that requires very little manipulation. Overall we have halved the time we spent analysing production data. Information that was previously spread over several screens was now displayed on one within 123insight."
Stock holding also saw a reduction of around 20% due to better visibility of future orders and existing stock. Routine task such as purchasing, loading orders to the shop floor and despatching goods took less time, with some operations such as labour booking also benefiting from bar code scanning to further reduce the possibility of data entry errors.
Another additional benefit that was identified related to RHTI's stocking and handling of ink used for orders. "This was previously particularly difficult to control, as any one ink can be made up of four or five colours, which are unique to each product. The price of the ink was roughly put into the cost of the product but was never truly controlled. We also did not accurately control the amount of ink being made for each job, meaning that a lot of ink was often made but never used. Now we have valid quantity per job information, along with issue and stock control over the ink. The waste cycle of the ink is usually over a 2 year period, with RHTI historically throwing away at least £20k. With 123insight we will reduce this to a very low figure."
The subscription costs associated with 123insight are considerably less annually than the maintenance alone of RHTI's previous system. Chris concluded; "I don't believe that under the old system we would have coped with the huge business peak we saw in 2007. 123insight definitely smoothed the whole process of releasing new work. Any one month we are releasing 30-40 new part numbers in addition to all of our general work. The thought of going to a new MRP system without even having a contract in place was very attractive. It's an easy decision to make, and doing the training at no risk made the decision even easier. As reporting is now instant we spend more time analysing the data rather than struggling to obtain it."
Digital images are available for immediate download from: www.123insight.com/images/cs_rhti_pics.zip