For Immediate Release
30th October 2009
FisherCast UK Ltd, based in Welshpool manufacture high precision zinc die castings and assemblies. The company was running a bespoke AS/400 system written by their parent company in Canada, however the system was no longer being developed. After selecting a new accounts system in late 2007 FisherCast also chose the integrated manufacturing solution from the same vendor, however several months down the line the system was still not implemented, so the company decided to consider alternative solutions.
Said John Jackson, Sales Engineering Manager; "The previous system was unfriendly and did not provide good visibility for forward planning." Dave Ashford, Production Manager added; "We tried to implement the manufacturing module that accompanied our accounts software but never went live with it due to its inflexibility of handling process routes, bills of materials and its drawing control. We were approached by one of our leading customers about 123insight and they gave us the multimedia DVD, after which we attended an evaluation workshop in Wolverhampton in April 2008. Also, one of my colleagues from University is a director of another local company which uses the system, so I was able to get a good insight into it. I found the workshop very useful as it wasn't in our office environment so we weren't pulled out of a meeting to deal with internal day to day issues."
The decision was made that month to select 123insight and seven people attended the no-risk training. Shortly after this the company went through a takeover, which shelved implementation until October of that year, after which other key staff were trained and the company set about implementing the system. In total ten staff attended the user training, with four staff attending the implementation, administration and CRM training. One member also attended the advanced administration training. Dave noted; "The training was good in the fact that we actually went through live situations - things like putting customers on the system, sending out despatch notes. For me that was a good point as this is exactly what you'd be doing back at the factory. It was one of the best training courses I've ever been on."
The implementation took place between October and December 2008. John recalled; "We imported 300 live parts with bill of materials and process routes, along with supplier and subcontract costs. The data import pack allowed us to validate the data offline prior to importing, which was a major plus. We could ensure that component weights were up to date. These can vary depending on when it was made during a tool's life - a component will be lighter with a newer, sharper tool whereas an older tool will create a slightly heavier part. When validating this data we could enter the weight tolerances per part." Dave added; "The system did go in a lot easier than I thought it would. We had a few issues in the first few days, mostly relating to customising reports. After attending the advanced user course this gave us a much better insight into writing reports correctly." John agreed; "In hindsight we would have ensured that someone attended this before implementation. After the course we quickly corrected the errors in our reports - and they were 'our' errors."
The company went live across all departments in January 2009. Immediately the company noticed several improvements. All departments had complete visibility of sales, works and purchase commitments. Stock control improved, and the automatic reminder to order parts where minimum stocks were held proved beneficial. Dave observed; "The 'visibility' word comes up again here - a failing of the old system was that we had nowhere to specify minimal stock amounts for parts we carry for major customers. 123insight prompts you to make more when you are running low, like a simple kanban system would - that has helped us tremendously."
With many parts finding their way to automotive and medical parts, traceability is crucial. 123insight allows FisherCast to provide full traceability information to its clients. Said David; "Some of our customers require traceability from raw material through to production and delivery, so for every delivery we need to quote a 'heat' (batch) number for every tonne of zinc we ship in. 123insight provides the flexibility to prompt users to enter the numbers at point of despatch." The number of errors, and the time spent resolving them has been reduced. The price list published to any given customer automatically follows through to the invoice, which has significantly reduced the number of invoice queries. John commented; "The way that they system handles price lists allows us to specify the correct price break quantity, so whenever any query arises it's easy to reproduce electronic documents to email to the customer."
Due to the fluctuating nature of zinc pricing, staff often need to modify customer price lists, which in the previous system was a manual process. John recalled; "We used to spend at least a day every quarter just entering prices for customers. Now we can simply export to Excel, perform updates and import it back in within 20 minutes. We can also validate data with lookup tables from Excel." Dave added; "Zinc prices have been volatile of late. We've been able to link prices to customers so that we can change pricing automatically where relevant as the raw material price changes. One major problem with the old system was that it was difficult to manipulate data, and if it was wrong it was hard to put right. With 123insight it's not only easy to get it right in the first place, but if it is wrong it's easy to change, and easy to get data in and out, or to check using Excel. Also, many of our clients, especially in the automotive industry like to give blanket orders running for up to 3 years. The old system would keep the initial price and lock it in for the duration of the order. Prices could not be changed easily, whereas with 123insight we can change prices at will or at specific time periods e.g. quarterly."
With price of material an ever-changing factor, and customers often ordering tens of thousands of components weighing less than half a gram it is important for FisherCast to have accurate and automated methods of correctly weighing parts. The company has integrated their weigh station into 123insight. The operator scans the bar code of the works order and the relevant quantities for each line item are displayed. As components are placed into the packaging an on-screen counter shows the real time number of parts in the box, based on weight, versus the number required. Once the desired number has been reached the item is signed off as complete and 123insight is immediately updated.
The use of paper also saw a huge reduction, with David citing that customers previously often required dozens of documents for one shipment; "We had a bank of printers in the shipping room, with 3-4 printers using different types of paper for all the different paraphernalia we had to produce, whether it be bill of ladings, customs invoices, certificates of conformities etc. Now it's fed through one printer and is consolidated into only a few pages." John added; "With the old system, if the customer needed a certificate of conformity, we could not specify if they also needed material analysis documentation as well - it was very much a manual system. There were no prompts, so it was a case of remembering on a case by case basis, which is not acceptable. You need a system which automatically makes you input relevant information, and 123insight has helped tremendously with that." Many documents such as invoices are also now sent electronically.
FisherCast are now taking full advantage of 123insight's reporting capabilities, but still export data to perform further external analysis. The CRM option, and the ability to attribute analysis codes to any company record type has also played a useful part in this. John explained; "We can now monitor the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns, be it telemarketing, trade shows or word of mouth, with the ability to see which methods are yielding the best results. 123insight allows us to assist the sales team to target resources to enable growth in sectors we want to focus on in the future. Looking at the sales analysis for this year to date was easy in 123insight and took just five minutes to export the right data - to run the same data from our previous system to get a comparison to last year took me three days."
John noted that support has been excellent; "We're always able to speak to someone within three rings of the phone. We find it a very friendly and informed support - even when the error is on our part we found the team have been quick to put us back in the right direction. Most queries are answered during the call or same working day. We always get feedback on calls and have never had to chase an unanswered query."
The company is planning to expand the services they offer, including introducing new manufacturing processes for existing components, and will make use of 123insight's ability to allow alternative routes for each part. John finalised; "We can quickly add new resources or process steps into the system, which can be cascaded back to other components. We now have our customer and prospect databases, quotations, components and tool ownership, drawing control, process routings and price lists all under one system which is linked together." Dave added; "The main reason for choosing 123insight was the sheer visibility it gave, and the links between all areas that were previously running separately. The way that the product is provided in terms of cost is novel, and it works. I like the fact that you don't pay a penny until you sign up - it's a good way of obtaining the product."