- Location: Poole Dorset, United Kingdom
- Industry: Manufacturer of Pulleys, Belts, Conveyors, and Medical Machines
- Number of Employees: 50
"Having the visibility and control of Vantage has allowed us to maintain healthy margins, been important to us."
Chris Cowler, Manufacturer Manager | Transmission Development
Poole Dorset UK-based Transmission Development makes pulleys and belts for a wide range of industrial applications - conveyors for food and industrial companies, medical machines, and even the mechanism that moved the video cameras that followed the runners at the last Olympic Games.
While the belting department had little direct competition several years ago, and was a perpetual moneymaker, things were not quite so jolly in the pulley department. Special pulley manufacturing was a perpetual money-loser; plagued with late deliveries, production bottlenecks, and a record of consistently shipping products at least two weeks past the quoted 8-week lead time. Despite several attempts to implement a computerized information control system, the software's inflexibility prevented Transmission Development (TD) from getting control of the department.
"We had to change our business to fit the software," manufacturing manager Chris Cowler explains, "because the software was too restrictive. It just didn't work for us."
The adage "third time's the charm" proved true for TD's pulley department. In 1997, TD brought Epicor Vista into the pulley department and succeeded admirably. Within six months, the increased visibility provided by Vista reduced customer lead times to six weeks and brought the department to break-even. Within a year, lead times were down to three to four weeks and the department was making a profit. After 18 months, TD consistently shipped pulleys on time to a 3-week quoted lead time and made a comfortable profit on the pulley business.
Spreading the Joy
Based on this success, TD decided to try Vista in the Transback department, where special shapes are imposed onto one side of a belt, typically for timing belt applications. This department had problems similar to those in pulleys: bottlenecks, disruptions, and consistent inability to ship on time. Within six months, this department, too, had turned around and was now shipping product within the customer expectation of seven to 10 days. Transback had also turned profitable, much to the delight of TD management.
An interesting finding in the Transback department was that production bottlenecks were not always where they seemed to be. Looking at piles of work-in-progress might imply that one area was at fault whereas, in reality, it might be that some difficulty in another area was the real culprit. The Vista system allowed TD management to clearly see where capacity problems really existed and take immediate action to get work moving smoothly through the plant once again.
With these two successes under their belts, TD was convinced that Vista would offer benefits in the belting department, even though there were no delivery problems and the belting area was profitable. Although there had been little competition in the belting area, new competitive pressure was beginning to come on strong.
TD had never done much with pricing and cost for belt products and the new competitive challenge had them concerned about whether prices and margins were consistent and justifiable. Vista promised to help them find out.
Once Vista was controlling all production it became clear that some products were being sold at an uncomfortably thin margin (or no margin at all) while others were overpriced and probably not competitive in the marketplace. The visibility afforded by Vista allowed TD to adjust pricing, firm up margins, and be more competitive.
Virtually every Transmission Development product is configured-to-order; that is, the part is defined based on answers to a multitude of inputs defined by TD, which are then used to generate a bill of material (versus traditional engineer-to-order parts, where a drawing is provided). At the start, four full-time quoters were employed for this task, handling an average of 150 quotes each workday. Although an attempt was made to do the configuration in Vista, TD needed a product configurator integrated with their business system.
Since configuration was the most demanding process at this point, and the one that offered the greatest potential for additional benefits, in early 2002 TD moved the entire operation over to Epicor's Vantage system. "The conversion was quite smooth, actually," recalls Cowler. "The two software products are very similar," so the transition for the users was easy. The systems team began working with Vantage's product configurator before the actual conversion, and the migration itself was accomplished in just a few weeks.
"We ran parallel for a few weeks, and then cut over," Cowler said. The pulley department was first, handling about 80 quotes per day with three people dedicated to the task. Using Vista, TD was able to reduce the function from four to two people. When Vantage came on line, quoting was accomplished with only one person dedicated to the task; and this one person took over quoting for all manufacturing- the entire 150 quotes per day. It only takes about 30 seconds now to generate a quote.
Epicor Software Corporation is a global leader delivering business software solutions to the manufacturing, distribution, retail, and service industries. With more than 40 years of experience, Epicor has more than 20,000 customers in over 150 countries. Epicor solutions enable companies to drive increased efficiency and improve profitability. With a history of innovation, industry expertise and passion for excellence, Epicor inspires customers to build lasting competitive advantage. Epicor provides the single point of accountability that local, regional, and global businesses demand. For more information, visit www.epicor.com.