INCOE has a strong heritage. Starting out in 1958, they have developed hot runner technology for injection molded plastic applications in most countries across the globe.
The business is, and has always been, deeply technical and engineering-driven. This, coupled with a high customer expectation for product and services excellence attained throughout decades of operations, means business change is not always at the top of the agenda.
Management saw it necessary to modernize and create a business platform for the future keeping in mind Industry 4.0.Therefore a restructure of the ERP Global platform was needed and the business wanted to focus more on the built to order (BTO) opportunity. A modern ERP platform with strong interface for peripherical tools like PDM, CRM, sales and design, configurators was a must have to bring INCOE on the next level.
A changing industry
This strategic realignment happened at the time when all talk within the manufacturing and engineering world was on the fourth industrial revolution: a world driven through connectivity and automation.
Frank explains: “We could see where the market was going. We had an aged ERP system that was well-suited to our business, but we knew that with a greater focus on BTO our level of visibility and control within the production process – which was very good – needed to be increased.
We also needed to ensure we had a system that could help our transition into this exciting new world of Industry 4.0, with the right interfaces to enable collaboration in the supply chain.”
Going for Epicor
When it came to working with a technology to enable the business’ exciting new future, the decision did not take a long time.
Frank explains: “After considering the wider market, and seeing some demonstrations, we saw immense value in the way Epicor gave us robust manufacturing resource planning neatly wrapped with collaboration tools, a modern user interface and open connectivity standards.
“Our US and China operations were already live with Epicor, so we also recognised that moving to a single technology platform across the continents would give us a huge amount of value in being able to effectively manage our global supply chain operations.”
Processes before technology
After building out a steering group comprising of representatives from various departments internally, the business set about building a project plan and beginning the implementation process.
3 to 4 months into the project, it became clear to Frank and the team that vital structural work needed to be done before they could get into the nitty gritty with their Epicor deployment.
Frank expands: “A lot of what could be gained from a new system deployment in terms of standardisation across global territories and getting better visibility as part of BTO focus depended on a couple of preliminary factors.
“First, we needed to take care of our global design standards. Although having a globally standardised and unitised product there were slightly different design methods across our global operations. Here we had to make sure that the methodology was 100 % consistent from country to country in order to get products designed and built by the right team in the right place.
“As a second step we reviewed our part numbers and introduced a revised globally consistent part nomenclature – designers at INCOE should not only work the same way they should also talk the very same technical language world-wide. So we now have improved part numbers that could be used across the different geographies – a vital step in being able to manage after-sales and support processes.”
Getting Epicor live
After careful consideration and a strong team effort focused on this crucial foundation, it was time to pick back up with the Epicor deployment.
Because a large amount of collective effort and time had been spent internally on those two projects, INCOE acknowledged they needed help with project management and deployment resource.
Having taken support from Epicor in the early stages of the project, Frank sought out some guidance from Clear Business Outcome.
Frank justifies: “I’d worked with Clear Business Outcome in a previous role. Their approach was just what we needed. When we brought challenges to the table, they would provide full and thorough analysis and explanation of the potential paths forward, then make a recommendation as to which was right for us.
“This was vital, as we were juggling our responsibilities for driving the day-to-day business forward with steering group commitments. Plus, deploying Epicor in our EU business was completely new ground. We wanted to work with an organisation that could smooth out the edges associated with go live and steer us away from pitfalls based on their previous experience working with similar businesses.”
Following initial small-scale consulting work associated with the configuration of Epicor for BTO manufacturing, the team had comfort that Clear Business Outcome could be a partner of choice to help get the system live.
After putting back the original deployment date, the business worked tirelessly to meet a new deployment date of July.
Sensibly, the business elected to have a staged approach.
Frank explains: “Go-live was purposefully designed to be a low key affair. For the first few weeks after deploying Epicor, 95% of orders going onto the system still used the previous system. We wanted to make sure that everything was at it should be. You can create jobs within the test system to your heart’s content, but you can never say for sure what’s going to happen once you run it through a live environment. We wanted to micro manage the first orders through the system and get visibility on the process before deploying across the whole business.”
Month-by-month, they started to add more drawings into the new system to gradually begin adoption of the new system until October when 100% of the orders being put on the system were going on Epicor 10.
Frank points out: “This is where we started to really learn about the system and what we could do with it. We were dealing with challenges as and when they arose. We noticed a general trend towards the validity of the data. The better the quality of the user-generated data when putting on a sales order, the less challenges we faced as the job moved through the system.“
Taking more steps
After completing a quick phase two to add some more functionality into the system, INCOE has managed to get everything under control. Attention has now turned to beginning the process of value realisation from their investment.
Clear Business Outcome supported the business in generating business analysis queries to give them the crucial visibility within the production process. This was backed up with a training and adoption package to empower the INCOE team to manage their own reporting needs going forward.
With global sites using Epicor, and visibility in new areas of the production process, INCOE is looking to develop enhanced production scheduling capabilities, giving a rich end-to-end view of of the order-to-shipment process.
Frank expands: “Every now and again a toolmaker will forget to place an order may not place an order on time and will come back with a requirement for a hot runner system in 6 weeks. Our usual lead time for this may be 8 weeks. We want to be able to look into the system and see if we can squeeze it in and meet customer expectations. It will bring a newfound agility into the way we engage with our customers.”
Why Clear Business Outcome?
For Frank, the reasons to use Clear Business Outcome are obvious.
He concludes: “The way they approach ERP projects in a structured and calm way is of huge benefit.
“The project manager came into the business and proved himself to be dependable almost immediately. The way Clear Business Outcome got to know our business, then collaborated and shared their knowledge of Epicor within the context of what we do and how we do it is of significant value to us at INCOE.
“They got so involved in the detail of our business, they were able to provide strong foundations on which to make operational and strategic decisions. It has been of vital importance to us throughout our Epicor journey so far and will no doubt serve as well as we voyage into our exciting new future.”