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.

About the client's project

The client was running a high profile mining project in a remote, mountainous and undeveloped part of Africa. As well as the challenges of constructing and operating a mine in such a location, there were huge infrastructure requirements including the need to construct a railway, a port, many hundreds of kilometers of new roads as well as new power and water delivery infrastructure.

 

The Challenge

Tracking adherence to and providing evidence of compliance against many thousands of corporate, ethical, social, legal and procedural commitments proved to be very difficult.

Parts of the project overlapped areas of high environmental importance so the client had to deal with a tangled web of permit conditions, international obligations as well as local and national laws. The project had several joint venture partners including the country's government which resulted in highly complex contractual obligations. Additionally, the permitting and legal framework in the country was under-developed and there were issues with the government's capacity to manage a project of this scale.

Due to these complexities and the scale of the project, permitting and obligations/compliance management were identified as some of the biggest risks to the project's success. Failure to manage these risks could have resulted in loss of the mining rights over the deposit.

Initially, the project team tried to manage these commitments using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets but found this approach to be extremely cumbersome. Excel relies on manual inputs, it does not provide the ability to interrelate obligations and obligation documentation. As a stand-alone application, it was not possible to solicit contributions to share and to retain control of the information in the spreadsheets. To make matters worse, knowledge was often lost when employees left, and it was difficult, if not impossible, to provide a snapshot or "big picture view" on the overall 'compliance' of the project.

Root Causes

An in depth review of the issues uncovered the following deficiencies:

  • Staff and contractors could not easily collaborate effectively.

    • Staff would often forget to update the spreadsheets. The updating of the spreadsheets also created an entire extra layer of work for everyone.

    • Everyone was completely reliant on email messages to advise an ever changing group of stakeholders across numerous departments within many companies.

    • Geographical, cultural and language barriers made it difficult for people in different parts of the world to work together effectively.

  • There was no central repository for "one truth" which means people would often act on incorrect or out of date information. This also often resulted in a replication of effort.

  • Knowhow and information was often lost as and when key staff and contractors left the project. As different people worked in different ways, it would take months for people to figure out how to resolve complex problems each time there was a change within the team. This again led to a duplication of effort in some cases and the risk of non-compliances in others.

  • There was a lack of clarity as to which tasks and obligations were the highest priority which meant it was difficult to direct resources and effort appropriately which caused over compliance in some areas and under compliance in others.

  • The multitude of project stakeholders with different interests and focuses meant it was challenging to keep everyone up to date. The reliance on Excel also meant that providing focused reports about compliance issues and progress proved to be both time consuming and prone to errors and omissions.

The company identified that in order to properly manage these compliance risks and provide the oversight that stakeholders required, the project needed something that was highly configurable yet simple to use. Since it had to be deployed globally (sometimes in places with very little bandwidth) and accessed from workstations, tablets and mobile phones, the system also needed to web-based.

In looking for the right solution from vendors with purpose build systems, the project quickly found there was 'no one size fits all' solution to complex business problems such as the ones the project was facing. Clockworx was selected for the project due to the highly configurable nature of its platform, competitive pricing and its ability to deliver the system in a very short time frame.

The requirements included: web-based; workflows configured to the local regulations; business processes with well defined accountabilities; visibility to ‘on-the-ground’ activities to facilitate collaboration across organisational silos; minimising costs; and real-time reporting of compliance status.

Our approach

Clockworx is not “out of the box”. It configures the powerful tools in the software to work how the customer wants to work.

We worked closely with the project's employees, contractors and other stakeholders to ensure we fully understood their challenges and requirements through a detailed requirements capture and business mapping process. This involved a "deep dive" and analysis into how compliance was managed and worked within the project ie who was involved in each aspect of compliance management, what they did, what information they needed to do their job and when did they need it, what the workflow was for different types of obligations, what reporting was required and to whom.

Once we fully understood the requirements, in collaboration with the customer, we:

  • provided an initial, online, instance of Clockworx that could be used to manage the delivery of the compliance system.

  • identified the tasks that could be completed in parallel and the jobs that needed to be accomplished serially by conducting a workflow and dependency analysis.

  • structured these tasks into a series of BPMN based, multidimensional workflows which were presented to the customer for approval.

  • helped structure the existing data so that it could be imported into the system and provided an initial system for data import.

  • configured Clockworx to manage the work that needed to be done to ensure obligations were met by defining roles, trackable entities, access rights, workflows, replication rules, default values, automation, wizards, notifications, alerts and escalations.

  • created, within Clockworx, a repository of all obligations that needed to be managed.

As we progressed, we delivered incrementally improved version of the system so that we could solicit continual input from the customer to ensure the implementation was progressing in line with their requirements. This approach meant the end product reflected the way the project team wanted to work. It also meant staff were vested in the project and felt ownership which ultimately led to a very successful roll out.

 

The Solution

Following our intensive requirements capture, we were able to rapidly translate a set of complex requirements into a working cloud based workstation and mobile based system which:

  • allows users to work in their own language whilst collaborating in the system with someone working in another language;

  • divides the system into a series of work areas based on different areas of compliance/work;

  • recorded all obligations and simplified the monitoring of adherence to these obligations;

  • allows evidence of adherence to be collected and maintained;

  • makes it easy to locate specific obligations and monitor changes;

  • records actions assigned to specific employees for each obligation which had due dates - thereby making people accountable;

  • implements an automated workflow so that actions are automatically assigned and updated correctly without an employee needing to remember the next step;

  • associates workflows to any/all trackable entities;

  • issues alerts when things were due, late or at risk - this acted as an early warning system which helped people to plan and to avoid non-compliances arising and avoided missing permit renewal dates. for example;

  • tracks the teams, team workload and simplifies the redistribution of responsibilities as the teams change;

  • logs every change to any record within the system for auditing purposes;

  • manages meetings and shared resources;

  • automates escalation of issues to managers when appropriate - thereby helping managers to manage their team and mitigate risks of non-compliances;

  • manages hundreds of thousands of project documents and links them to relevant obligations and actions;

  • provides knowledge bases/help in terms of both using the system but also about the company's process and ways of working such as help with how to manage obligations - this helped to reduce the impact of employee churn;

  • provides vital management tools in the form of real time dashboards providing KPIs and snapshots of compliance status for different areas, identifying areas of risks, areas of over compliance and other data analysis;

  • broadcasts news updates to project teams and project stakeholders;

  • facilitates real time test, voice and video chat between all users;

  • interoperates with Microsoft Windows Server, Outlook / Exchange, Word, Excel, etc;

  • exports data to other applications;

  • imports data manually and automatically from other applications;

  • geolocates everything and can map anything managed by the system - this means that compliance obligations can be viewed geographically which helps to identify synergies and avoid duplication for example where there are overlapping permits with similar compliance obligations;

  • collects real time data from field environmental sensors that is used to provide evidence of compliance or a failure to comply and provide notifications as is appropriate;

  • generates alerts based on significant changes to all affected stakeholders;

  • generates multilingual management reports and distributes as required;

  • could be easily adjusted to adapt to the changing requirements of the projects; and

  • tracks spend on key initiatives.

Due to the changing circumstances of the project and the success of the initial implementation, we were almost immediately asked to extend the system to support a due diligence process covering government permits, environment, social/communities and legal/investment framework. The customer saw our platform as nimble and flexible enough to be quickly adapted to support this due diligence processes. This was also delivered successfully. The software provided a clear audit trail against each source document and individual commitments.

Results

The compliance system we delivered manages compliance with a wide range of areas including mineral rights, environmental and other permits, land access/tenure, audits, government agreements and joint venture agreements. It provides a single place for recording and managing compliance obligations and uses automation to assist users to manage obligations and commitments efficiently and effectively. It also provides real time updates and data analysis about the state of compliance by task/project/area.

For managers and leaders, our software’s real time dashboard of data analytics which provide a powerful snapshot of compliance have proved to be very popular in this project. The compliance system we developed is recognised by the project as a major risk mitigation and collaboration tool.

The system has become a powerful knowledge retention tool which mitigates against the turnover of contractors and staff. Having a cloud based mobile tool allows contractors and subcontractors to easily and securely access safety and other project information without compromising the company’s IT systems.

We are proud to have built a system that allowed stakeholders visibility and ultimately trust that the project teams were doing the right thing legally, contractually, environmentally and socially.

Manufacturing responses to Covid-19

Business in all industries is challenged by the economic fall out from COVID-19. The speed of COVID-19 and the resulting near-global shut down has hit supply chains, demand, and production facility with equal ferocity.

Coming so quickly off the heels of an intense US-China trade dispute, the macro-economic conditions are forcing the manufacturing industry to accelerate its digitization plans.

Indeed the time-old adage 'necessity is the mother of invention' is more true today than ever with many in the commentariat reporting that large as well as small manufacturing firms are exploring ways to stay competitive in the 'new normal'.

With production for most already highly automated, Clockworx is focused on assisting manufactures to digitize their supply chains, order processing across the business and their core back-office workflows in a fiscally responsible way (with cashflows constricted this is perhaps more important now than ever).

Supply Chain

Supply chain has been under pressure for some time from complex logistics, need for speed, increasing labour costs, and volatility. These issues have only been heightened by the closure of borders amid the global health crisis. Days of Supply (DoS), Inventory Turnover Ratios (ITR), and Supply Chain Cycle Time (SCCT) are key metrics that are being used or should be driving supply chain decision making. Indeed it's only when close attention to the metrics is needed that companies realise the visibility and reporting gaps that exist across their organizations.

Clockworx assists manufacturing firms who are struggling under the weight of disconnected data, application sprawl and ad hoc excel spreadsheets. Many manufactures we speak to are caught between limited/slow reporting and visibility on the one hand and disruptive rip & replace initiatives from 'all-in-one' vendors or part solutions from individual software vendors on the other. We take a different and more cost-effective approach. We empower organizations to bind their applications together to create cohesive workflows in an efficient and cost-effective way. Clockworx streamlines high-level workflows through a combination of project management, workflow management, document generation and analytic capabilities.

Order Processing

The end-to-end ordering and receiving process has been disrupted by COVID-19. Regardless of industry or product with disrupted supply chains, dwindling stock, and unexpected demand spikes for different products, order processing has become more complex. This has led to some manufactures having issues with order prioritization with non-urgent orders being progressed and delivered early, while many time critical orders arriving late. In our experience this is often due to even though companies have many excellent applications to manage all aspects of their business that these tools do not interact with each other and so interdepartmental processes were disjointed. It is principally the resulting inconsistencies in the information held by different systems that leads to inefficiency and mis prioritization. Another major problem we have seen is that order updates are sometimes only communicated verbally or by e-mail and are 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. Clockworx ability to join applications and create high level workflows with no rip and replace brings visibility, creates consistency and automates the end-to-end order process.

Production

Production lines are already for the most part highly automated environments. However they are still being hugely impacted by COVID-19. Social distancing on high-touch assembly lines, limited ability to travel, and the need for oversight add significant complexity to today’s processes. If these issues are not handled quickly, these challenges could result in delayed launch schedules, lower financial returns, and quality issues in the field that could damage brand reputation. By integrating production applications and back office, Clockworx enables manufactures to manage fast product cycles that ramp up and down in a matter of weeks as well as the issues of limited management over sight (created by social distancing). While daily reports from the factory can help to provide context spreadsheets and emails lead to errors. Firstly the data is pulled at a specific moment in time, but in early production, it’s actually the trends that matter most. Issues tracked in spreadsheets lack critical context. Engineers can piece information back together, but the extra effort required to do so means that correlating failures may be missed until the issue is more expensive to fix. Clockworx provides contextualised workflows and trackable assignments to help management and shop floor worker communicate, be accurate and be efficient despite social distancing.

Dynamic and Frictionless integration solutions are new competitive advantage

The Clockworx solution provides a single source of truth within a business by importing (and often exporting) information from the applications that are used throughout the business by automating key workflows, centralising governance, business-wide audit trails of actions and activities to be enforced through agreed sets of activities and methods for determining standards and procedures and the extent to which the business is meeting those standards.It is fully integrated into the business pushing and pulling data across applications, so that every user can have access to what they need when they need it and in a simple web interface. In so doing Clockworx creates significant savings through existing software license rationalization and productivity gains.

Click here today to request a conversation about our cost and risk saving solutions that will create a competitive edge at an uncertain time.

 

The rampant onset of COVID-19 has meant a near global shut down for manufacturing firms as well as a sharp and aggressive jolt to demand. The necessary closures, on health and financial grounds are widely accepted as appropriate responses to the global health crisis. Manufacturing firms must now plot a course through very uncertain times and the unfortunate truth is that even with government support, many firms won’t make it to the end of the year.

Even the largest manufacturers are not immune to risk. Samsung and Ericsson have both shut down operations in the wake of employees testing positive for the coronavirus. Although experts claim that the impact should not be too significant to Samsung, that there is a much more real threat to mid-sized firms and their supply chains.

One of many responses manufacturers need to look at Supply Chain management. Key activities will need constant review and management. Clockworx provides a high-level orchestrator that spans key applications being used, or not being used but should be used, in the management and control of supply chain activities.

From production planning, business forecasting and demand planning, supplier management and tracking Clockworx can bind together the current applications being used in the process and produce an easily scalable Supply Chain management tool that protects existing investments, costs a fraction of alternative solutions and provides a wider set of functionality than large market competitors. Clockworx partners with experts in supply chain and business analysis and can offer a complete solution designed around your business needs and that will save time, money and effort when compared to larger and more change management heavy alternatives. Get in touch today to find out more.

All businesses are software reliant. The question of what to implement and how has been made harder by the number of applications, databases, under documented processes and even shadow processes that exist in businesses.

Clockworx orchestration solutions, blend business advisory and BPMN services with software that helps bind together high-level workflows across your business, presents data in meaningful ways to your business while pushing and pulling data to and from the existing application ecosystem of the business. In this way orchestration can also saving manufacturers money because Clockworx orchestration solutions is a manufacturing productivity software with its automated workflow management system (WFMS), collaboration tools and project management capabilities, it can also help reduce the cost of current software investments but decreasing the number of licenses needed. Clockworx produces productivity gain and license savings. Key cost savings are:

  • Reduced number of licenses needed from existing software estate
  • Workforce productivity gains through WFMS automation, embedded collaboration tools
  • Increased control reduces errors, oversight and overspend through project embedded management tools, ERP integrations, and cost management capabilities
  • Improved decision making through improved visibility across the business and a single pain of glass for key business metrics improving decisions making leading to faster and more accurate decisions
  • Pausing or cancelling all ERP/CRM expansion activities and deploy Clockworx to the same effect for, at times, a tenth of the price of a full-blown ERP rollout.
  • A per system not per user licensing approach enables businesses to scale adoption without scaling cost.

Clockworx business orchestration solutions empower businesses to protect their existing application investments and become more operationally efficient through the retrieval of relevant information by the right user at the right time. Get in touch today to understand how we can assist you with your next or current digital transformation and cost cutting project.

 

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