Based in Berkshire in the UK and Indiana and North Carolina in the US, Xtrac is a prominent ambassador for the UK’s world-renowned motorsport industry.
Established in 1984, the company employs almost 400 highly qualified staff, supplying world-class transmission and driveline products including gearboxes, differentials and gearchange systems.
Xtrac exports 70 per cent of its manufacturing output to Asia, Australia, Europe, South America and the US and works mainly with the high-performance automotive sector alongside its traditional heartland of the motorsport industry.
Reasons to upgrade
With plans to aggressively expand its coverage of the high performance hybrid and electric vehicle transmission market, Xtrac wanted to overhaul its traditional, on-premise IT systems, initiating more flexible and efficient processes that would fuel future growth.
Naturally, improvements were necessary to outdated applications such as Epicor 9 ERP, which had served the company well but had now run out of support options and was showing its age in both technology and stability.
“Over the years, our IT systems had evolved in a piecemeal fashion – and not with a growth or agility strategy in mind,” explains Neil Randon, CIO at Xtrac. “Added to which, the rapid growth of our North American presence to support high profile motorsport championships such as NASCAR and the Indycar Series demanded tight collaboration, integration and productivity improvements.”
Once the need to move beyond Epicor 9 was identified, there was little doubt as to what type of ERP project was needed to strike a balance between maintaining operations and evolving business capabilities.
Steven Ross, Xtrac’s ERP Manager, explained: “As E9 was operating on an older platform that was unsupported, we knew that we would soon need to upgrade to E10 rather than reimplementing to a new solution entirely”.
Key project goals
Once the Xtrac team had decided that an upgrade to E10 was the quickest way to modernise their ERP system and take advantage of ongoing support, the business began to consider additional objectives for the project – including addressing process, data and behavioural issues that had accumulated on the older software.
Darrin Diffenthal, Transformation Manager at Xtrac explained: “we had a large number of customisations built into our old system and part of our reasoning for the move to E10 was to take out as much redundant and unnecessary customisation as possible.”
The most fundamental aspect of the project, however, was to be able to maintain operations and still deliver to customers during and immediately after the upgrade process.
“In the simplest terms, business continuity was paramount. We have customers who race every weekend, so we could not afford downtime”, said Neil Randon.
“For this reason, we carried out the majority of the project go-live over the Christmas period. It’s a testament to the combined Xtrac and CBO Team that we were able to go live with the upgrade with minimal disruption to our day to day operations.”
With this in mind, the challenge for CBO was to support a successful upgrade to E10, guiding the customer through the process, providing support during extensive testing, and to ensure day-to-day activities were not affected.
On Xtrac’s expectations for their upgrade partner, Neil Randon said: “We required that CBO use their experience of the Epicor toolset and experience of upgrades with other customers to lead us through a successful project.”
The project formally started at the beginning of 2021 and CBO and Xtrac worked hard to negotiate the initial challenges that come with a major company-wide project.
“Challenges included getting business buy-in for the project and putting aside business time for the testing and validation cycles”, said Darrin Diffenthal.
With regards to finding business time, this specifically related to softening the blow of any unavoidable down-time within the business with manual records and temporary work-arounds.
Neil Randon explained: “negotiating down-time for the data conversion was a big challenge – this provided part of our reasoning for kicking off the conversion during the Christmas period to give ourselves a safety net.”
The upgrade was treated as a business charter within Xtrac’s existing Transformation program which already had a team of advocates working within the business to drive positive process and behavioural change with improvements, such as significantly improving inventory accuracy.
“One of the biggest wins of the Transformation team has been to take inventory accuracy from 45% to a world class 95% through a combination of process, education, and discipline”.
Through openness and communication, the Xtrac team were not only able to negotiate some of the most common project challenges but were also able to identify opportunities for business improvement along the way.
Benefits of E10
While initial emphasis was placed on access to support and continuity between E9 and E10, the benefits of an upgraded system are already becoming apparent.
“From a functionality point of view E10 is far better,” said Darren Diffenthal.
Steven Ross noted the additional capabilities of E10 in supporting new technologies: “the change of technology has allowed us to use new handheld devices on the shop floor. The speed with which transactions can be processed is now much quicker and far more intuitive.”
For Neil Randon, the benefits to general performance and security of data have also been apparent: “performance has been improved and we have been able to improve the user experience for our US colleagues who are now using the native E10 client. The servers are housed in a safe, third-party, professional data centre that has significantly boosted our security profile.”
The process of assessing the project results is still in its infancy but the early signs are certainly very positive, then.
Praise for CBO
With just a small, in-house IT team, Xtrac needed to work with a trusted partner that could help it undertake an ambitious ERP modernisation programme in a highly structured and modular way, moving from an ageing, on-prem infrastructure to a modern, highly resilient offsite data centre. And all of this in the midst of a global pandemic.
Neil Randon said: “We didn’t want to be distracted for too long with a software upgrade which in isolation doesn’t move us forward, so working with CBO we agreed to approach this as a technical upgrade, though it still brought a number of complex challenges as our business never seems to stop growing.”
“Without CBO, we simply wouldn’t have the resources or manpower needed to successfully undertake and co-ordinate such a significant number of activities in a short timeframe. CBO are able to flex resources up and down, according to our needs – and are on hand to give us lots of options to think about whenever we embark on the next change project,” said Neil.
Darrin added “Being such a small team, we rely on our partners a lot more than some would. CBO remotely supports our internal team in a highly effective way and are on hand to provide us with the additional on-site manpower we need whenever we undertake specific change projects.”
Steven Ross echoed these sentiments: “the best thing I can say is that we identified problems as a team and worked through them as a team; when we need CBO there was always someone on hand to help”.