Manufacturing Orchestration and Automation for German Pump Manufacturer

Executive summary

An international manufacturing company commissioned us to provide a platform to meet its requirements to:

  • Present high level, realtime, sales and production KPIs from statistics gathered across multiple business units;

  • Orchestrate the end to end order fulfilment process;

  • Automatically extract data from various external applications (erp, HR, CRM, etc) and software and to provide deep analysis in the forms of real time charts, statistics and reports;

  • Provide a way to 'connect' branch offices globally (in their own language); and

  • Provide a platform on which to automate other parts of the organization, such as:

    • Production / shop floor

    • Quality Assurance checks

    • Post Sales Service, Maintenance and Support

The system was also intended to help this company develop new revenue streams and identify new sales opportunities by providing instant access to product information from the field.

In 2019 we provided this company with a version of Clockworx that matched the customer's bespoke requirements.

About the client

We were approach by a German pump manufacturing company which produced standard and bespoke pumps. It wanted a clearer and more efficient order fulfillment process as well as better, quicker insights into its activities and operations.

Following a general review of the business a number of key issues were identified:

  • Orders were not being prioritised appropriately, Non-urgent orders were being progressed and delivered early, while many time critical orders were late.
  • The sales teams were setting customer expectations that were unachievable as information about production, lead times, workload required to forecast realistic delivery dates was not readily available.
  • Product quality was dropping rather than improving.
  • Similar problems seemed to be occurring time and time again.
  • The inability to quickly gather and analyse accurate and up to date data from the various parts of the business was hindering important decision making.

To add further complexity, the current owner wanted to prepare the company for so needed to be able to present an accurate and up to date financial prospectus.

The customer was not able to assign the required time or money to replace all of its existing software with something that was fully integrated.

Root Causes

A detailed analysis uncovered issues that are common to many manufacturing companies.

Although it had acquired many excellent applications to manage all aspects of its business and although those tools worked well in isolation they did not interact with each other. So it was not possible to create and manage high level, interdepartmental processes. The data that is contained in one system had to be manually entered another. This created procedural inefficiencies and due to human error, lead to inconsistencies in the information held by different systems.

Their high level workflows were managed by a dedicated team of project managers who used excel spreadsheets to cobble together and track high level, interdepartmental workflows. Since manual data collection, consolidation and manipulation was both time consuming and prone to errors, when issues were discovered, it was often too late to do anything about these issues without causing delays across multiple orders. Although they had access to good project management tools, these tools added yet another layer of complexity which further increased order fulfilment timeframes.

Order updates were only communicated verbally or by e-mail and were rarely refreshed as problems occurred. Without a central place to collect and distribute updates people were often acting on inaccurate and out of date information.

Since all of their data existed in independent systems, it could take weeks to extract, compile and relate a consolidated set of usable statistics on which to build and maintain a set of usable Key Performance Indicators. This slowed decision making and made it impossible to identify and deal with bottlenecks before they became critical operational issues. They needed to be able to make informed high level decisions more rapidly.

Our approach

Clockworx allows companies to integrate without having to rip and replace an existing infrastructure. Clockworx integrates with existing software to meet the company's requirements using existing APIs, data synchronization tools and external automation. This enables Clockworx to integrate easily with most other software. Once integrated Clockworx can pull data from these systems and use it to consolidate information to create useful data which can be used for analytics and can also be used to manage any kind of process and procedure within an organization. This approach minimises the cost of integration and the disruption incurred when deploying a fully integrated solution.

We conducted a series of detailed requirements capture sessions with the customer's employees to understand their workflows, identify who needed to know what and when they needed to know it. From this we produced a set of BPMN workflow mapping. The system was then configured to reflect this mapping and requirements . We then involved the customer's employees in using the software during the production phase so that they could influence the design as it progressed. This approach also helps with implementation because employees are already familiar with the system.

As well as integrating with existing software, where there were gaps in the software or functionality, we were able to provide additional functionality and applications such as a quotations management fand CRM capabilities within our platform.

We took a phased approach to the work in line with the customer's requirements & priorities. In fact we delivered an initial version of the platform very early in the process and then used it to manage the delivery of the final system. This way employees became familiar with the system whilst we refined it to meet this company's unique needs.

[CNC... we need to mention that we helped the customer structure their existing data for import into the system]

Our solution

We delivered a system to span the pre-sales, sales, order generation and fulfillment lifecycle and beyond. The system identified and tracked sales opportunities. It then managed quote generation, order management, production, deployment and post-sales servicing. Each step of the way it kept everyone informed and flagged issues before they became serious.

Workflow management

The solution focused on managing the workflows for various aspects of the order fulfiment process so that at any point in the process a worker know what they need to do and have the information immediately available to do what is required. We used automation and rules based on the requirements capture process to govern the workflow - users are presented with a range of buttons for each stage in a task so that it is clear what their options are and things are not forgotten or let slip * Incoming invoices management workflow including checking against SAP for purchase order and incoming goods information, and managing the approval process in accordance with business rules.

  • Tracking of sales opportunities from identification to won/loss, including a post mortem process to identify lessons learned.
  • A medium for the compilation of quotes and technical documentation as well as a mechanism that automatically generates multilingual quotations, contracts, product sheets, technical documents, etc from a variety of data sources.
  • Workflow so that quotes went through the correct chain of review and approval (based on price etc) before they were issued to customers.
  • The ability to call information from the ERP system to send to the production floor.

Project management
The customer needed a series of project management tools. By integrating these with the workflow and other tools and the other functionality in the system, there is one truth. Everything is interelated and updated in real time.

  • A prioritisation system so opportunities and orders which met certain criteria were prioritised.
  • User friendly resource, project, SCRUM and KANBAN management boards that help tame highly complex processes and procedures.
  • A news broadcasting system, knowledgebase and technical intranet that helps keep everyone up to date.

Efficiency improvements

We used a series of tools to help reduce what workers needed to do to get a job done as well as assisting them with how to focus their time and efforts.

  • Document generation software to allow users to create a range of documents such as quotations, technical data sheets and bills of materials. The software enables users to generate documents from templates of various types and to then edit and customise the document. The software automatically inserts data into the document from many sources which hugely cuts down preparation time. The user also works in their own language but can select that the document is generated in another language.
  • Collaboration: user can collaborate on a task within the system which is particularly useful when people are in different locations.
  • Alerts, Warnings and Escalations to let people know when things go wrong, become due or late.
  • User configurable, real time dashboards so users could monitor their own performance and workload such as their sales statistics and tasks assigned to them. This put all relevant information available in immediately or in a single clock.
  • Detailed information from quotes which were won can be automatically transferred to the orders process.
  • A fully integrated, enterprise scale document management system that is capable of managing billions of digital assets.

Data oversight and management

We gave management oversight of what was happening in their business in a number of ways

  • Management dashboards containing real time charts, reports and statistics to give an instant oversight of the business. The data in these charts comes from various applications and programmes giving the "one truth".
  • Centralised contact management system as well as integrated CRM capabilities. All data in the system is interconnected and, for example, from a customer record a user can instantly see all relevant activity for the customer such as opportunities, orders, products, invoices and purchase orders.
  • Tracking of products sent to customers, maintenance management and post sale servicing workflow management. This enabled the identification of potential issues as well as opportunities for further sales.
  • An ADHOC analytics capability.
  • Geolocation capabilities such as location of customers, branch offices, orders.

Results

A system for a modern international business to improve efficiency, decision making and oversight

  • Ideally suited to an international company with multiple offices spread across the world due to:
    • its multi-lingual capabilities where each user experiences the system in their own language;
    • system access from anywhere - phones or tablets as well as workstations - making decision making on-the-go easier; and
    • multiple users in different branch offices can collaborate on a task in their own language so there is no disconnect.
  • Decision making is improved as the end to end system provides management with a much clearer picture of the health of the business:
    • the dashboards provide real time data with a focus on sales figures and the sales pipeline and eliminate the need for manual excel worksheets;
    • prioritisation systems mean management can identify conflicts and balance high, medium and low priority orders which allowed everyone to focus on the highest priority jobs. This resulted in the company improving its ability to deliver critical orders on-time; and
    • all data relating to a customer being interlinked and readily available made it easier to make decisions about quotations, pricing, where to focus sales and marketing efforts. It also helps with managing customer relations.
  • Improving worker efficiency by:
    • a single source of truth rather than relying on long email chains and manually updated excel documents;
    • eliminating of large chunks of manual repeat work and data entry;
    • providing the information a user needs at each step of the process to do their job;
    • automating the workflows;
    • user alerts so a user knows when something needs to be done as well as automatic escalations to managers when things are not done on time; and
    • automated document generation.

The system has also been designed to be easily reconfigured to reflect the customer's changing processes and circumstances. Most aspects can be changed without needing a software developer to work on the system. This ensures Clockworx remains relevant and continues to evolve in line with a customer's business. The platform is easily expandable allowing the customer to use it for many other services in the future.

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