GW Martin had recently invested heavily in modern machine tools and improving their factory premises, but had long shied away from adopting an integrated manufacturing control system. Although the business operated successfully, their internal processes for scheduling work, tracking progress and forecasting completion were rather inefficient and prone to human error. Furthermore, the information was not stored in one system, which made insightful reporting impractical to achieve.

The new Managing Director, Stuart Yalden, wanted to embrace a modern manufacturing control system or ERP system. (ERP = Enterprise Resource Planning. Loosely, this can be considered as a manufacturing control system and an accounting system in one.) However, Stuart perceived three challenges:

  • Creating buy-in and enthusiasm amongst his senior team for making the change
  • Choosing a suitable system from such a wide range on the market – and even knowing where to begin
  • Implementing it successfully

Stuart heard the Director of another of Thinker’s clients speak about how Thinkers had helped them overcome similar challenges, so invited us to help.

First Thinkers helped GW Martin’s management team explore what is good about the company, as well as what needs improving, to ensure that “the baby didn’t get thrown out with the bathwater”. We educated the team about how ERP systems work, and helped them form a picture in their mind’s eye about how the company might modernise, and how a new system might work for them. We identified characteristics which were exceptionally important, in their case:

  • managing long lead-times for specialist raw materials
  • material batch traceability throughout the manufacturing process
  • planning production (scheduling)
  • being able to adjust the plan easily in the face of change in the real world such as sub-contractors delivering late or machine outages.

We identified one ERP system which was well suited to these challenges, and worked with that vendor to create a tailored demonstration of how the system might work for GW Martin. The result was an overwhelming desire to proceed.

The next step was to cast the net wider, and identify and evaluate other systems which would also fit the bill. The insight obtained from the initial demo made it realistic and cost-effective to evaluate many candidate systems remotely. We then created a script for a short demonstration which focussed on the critical aspects. This made it economic to evaluate a reasonable number of systems. Eventually a short-list of two was chosen for full final demos, and a winner chosen.

Thinkers role in the final stage will be to mastermind the implementation, collaborating with the professional services staff from the chosen vendor and ensuring that the system goes in smoothly and effectively.