ITW Construction Products

ITW Construction Products (ITW CP) is the leading manufacturer of fixing, fastening, and drilling systems for wood, steel and concrete applications. It is one of seven major divisions of the Illinois Tool Works family, innovating, designing and manufacturing advanced industrial technology.

Designing high quality products and solutions across different construction sectors, ITW CP has several sites in the UK – from Crawley to Glasgow – with over 200 staff members all needing to work effectively and efficiently. With internal teams spread across the full breadth of operations management, technology and commercial making sure the systems are able to support the business’ requirements is a daily occurrence for Mark Burridge, ICT Manager for ITW CP in the UK and Dirk Deblaere, Divisional IT Manager for UK & Nordics.

Dirk explains: “Between the two of us, we look after users spread across the whole of the UK. That means if we have an issue with the way a system is performing, it can impact our operations on a national level. In short, we have many plates to spin to make sure we are competitive in the marketplace.”

As a long-term Epicor user, ITW CP was struggling to make Epicor 9 work within their organisation.

Mark continues: “Epicor 9’s use of the progress database was giving us challenges. Internally we were having to use a sticking plaster on the General Ledger (GL) Tracker. When invoices landed in Accounts Receivable (AR), sometimes it would take a while for them to appear. In some cases the database replication would not complete correctly and we would have to go searching for individual invoices.”

Performance issues with the previous system meant ad hoc reporting was a real headache. Interrogating the system needed to be done around the progress layer, making running simple reports take much longer than anticipated. It also meant formal financial reporting at month end took a whole week.

Mark expands: “Anything up to 70% of my working day was spent fixing issues that were caused by Epicor 9. Typically, this would be anything from app server reboots through to system processes locking up.”

Suffice to say it wasn’t just the tech team who were experiencing challenges. Internal team members were continually asking the IT team about their screens being “stuck on the egg timer”. Life as an end user was, at times, frustratingly laggy. Ultimately, they were on the receiving end of a poor performing setup.

Time for change

With the system at breaking point, the business took the decision to look into upgrading from Epicor 9 to the Epicor 10.

Mark explains: “First, we visited a couple of businesses running 10, to see first hand the performance benefits that companies were realizing after deploying Epicor 10. Frankly, we wanted to know if it was worth it!”

Suffice to say it was. Epicor 10 has been rewritten to feature a standard SQL server database and a pure-play .NET framework. Without exception, all the businesses they visited spoke very highly of the power, ease of use and stability of Epicor 10 as a product.

With internal sign off for a move to 10, Dirk and Mark set about completing the upgrade project. Dirk comments: “We didn’t have the resource we needed to get the job done, it’s no exaggeration to say the whole go-live was under duress. As such, we decided to reach out to one of Clear Business Outcome’s consultants who Mark happened to know.”

Mark expands: ”From the outset, Clear Business Outcome were on the ball. They have proved to be extremely knowledgeable and saw to it that all our outstanding tasks had a consultant assigned to them. They even helped with a business critical integration with a third party warehouse management solution, not only getting the systems working together but even improving the actual performance. Without their help, there is a chance we would never have made our go live date of April. But thankfully, Clear Business Outcome got us there.”

New beginnings

With a new system at their disposal, the transformation has been nothing short of incredible:

  • Closing a month has come down from a week to 2 days – reducing waiting times by 71%.
  • Processing time for the Cost of Sales/Work in Progress report has come down to 5 minutes from 4 hours – reducing process inefficiency by 98%.
  • End user complaints for time taken to fill in orders at the order entry screen have been completely eradicated.

Stability within the system is significantly better. Data extracts can now be run with ease without having to worry about synchronisation and any impact to end user productivity.

In improving the efficiency of reports and significantly reducing end user helpdesk enquiries Mark and Dirk are now able to prioritise the things that matter.

Dirk explains: “We can now get into the real issues in the business, get away from the niggly things we used to have to deal with. Our IT team now operates more strategically across the wider business to ensure that technology is used to best effect.”

What comes next?

With a strong system to support their endeavours the sky’s the limit for Dirk, Mark and the IT team at ITW.

They have a wide range of business improvement projects planned over the coming months, including streamlining the PO approval process, Accounts Payable automation using Docstar and some specific work looking at how Epicor can be used to provide greater efficiencies in the production process.

Clear Business Outcome

So what of Clear Business Outcome now the dust has settled on the upgrade project?

Mark answers: “We’ve been delighted with Clear Business Outcome. Since the upgrade project we have gone on to increase our usage of their resources. Recently, we started using them to support our system too. That’s the level of trust we place in them and their people.”

Dirk expands: “If you are going to do an Epicor upgrade project, use Clear Business Outcome. They explain things using easy to follow language and help us to figure out the best route forward with minimum fuss. With other suppliers we didn’t have the resource to understand the problem let alone how to resolve it. With Clear Business Outcome we simply contact them, someone looks at the issue we’re facing and comes up with a solution. It’s ERP made easy.”