Brooks Forge Ahead with M1
Brooks Forgings, one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of forged, fabricated and machined components, is using M1 ERP software from ECi Software Solutions to help its business evolve and succeed in a fiercely competitive marketplace.
First installed 10 years ago, Brooks Forgings continues to add modules and automate even more of its operation. This helps the company increase turnover without adding significantly to its sales or administrative staff.
Established in 1960, Brooks Forgings offers a diverse range of manufacturing processes from a new and dedicated 45,000 sq ft facility based in Stourbridge, West Midlands, UK. This is supported by a newly refurbished warehouse facility nearby housing over 2500 pallets of stock comprising standard items and specials for customer call-off orders.
The company’s impressive in-house manufacturing capacity not only ensures full traceability and quality of components, but also reduces reliance on subcontractors. What’s more, lead-times are improved by having a rotational method of production. For example, components can move to the next manufacturing process, such as machining, while the batch quantity is still being forged.
Existing ERP system replaced
This blend of innovative manufacturing processes and management guile, in combination with an ongoing programme of investment in new technologies, means Brooks Forgings is among the industry’s star performers. In addition, investment at this ISO9001 accredited company extends way beyond new machinery or tooling. A case in point is the company’s ERP system.
“In 2003, we decided to replace our existing ERP system as it was no longer being supported and new updates were taking forever to be implemented,” explains Financial Director Adrian Brooks. “M1 emerged as the favourite to replace the system as it not only offered greater functionality from a completely integrated package, but all of our existing data could be switched seamlessly with virtually no disruption to our ongoing business.”
A decade down the line and M1 has become an integral part of operations at Brooks Forgings and, with the introduction of more modules, is gradually automating greater parts of the company’s day-to-day business functions.
“In the past 18 months we’ve added the Time Attendance module,” says Mr Brooks, by way of example. “We’re using this across our entire business, enabling us to see staffing levels, track holidays and identify absence patterns. Like many aspects of the system, M1 provides a great visual tool for key performance indicators [KPIs]. Not just regarding time attendance, but things like sales and purchasing figures, as well as invoicing. We can see at a glance who is paying on time and who isn’t.”
ECi M1 is an ERP software solution designed for growing manufacturers. It automates and integrates every business process from quoting through invoicing and point of sale (POS). The system is both flexible and easy to customise.
“Simple customisation is a strong feature of M1,” confirms Mr Brooks. “This was a factor when we were deciding which ERP system to install. We wanted to look at future-proofing, the ability to customise and how the software was going to behave. Is it modularised? Is it built-in units? Today, we can happily customise reports and searches in-house, and add fields to forms. Only when we want to create entirely new forms, which for the most part we can do ourselves, do we sometimes call on the expertise of ECi.”
M1 has many essential functions that can help manufacturers achieve competitive gain. These include: scheduling production to efficiently make use of resources; managing production jobs through job costing; controlling inventory of raw materials, finished goods and sub-assemblies; analysing pre- and post-sales activities; maintaining contact details for customers and suppliers; and ensuring quality and managing warranties.
“Traceability, from enquiry through to payment, is excellent,” states Mr Brooks, “as is inventory control and maintaining customer contact details – the pop-up memos are very useful. However, my favourite feature of M1 is the search and filter facility where we can see all of the orders for a particular component or customer, filtering by parameters such as date range or part ID. From this filter we use the ‘open with’ feature to open a source form or record. For the next stage of our evolution we will be looking to introduce scheduled production along with even greater job analysis.”
Brooks Forgings is keen on progress and the use of investment to drive market differentiation. For instance, the installation of a Model C Chambersburg automated horizontal counterblow system, possibly the only operational machine of its type in Europe, offers higher volume production while using less energy through the use of programmable energy levels and blow patterns.
Additional recent investment has been made in strengthening the company’s machining capacity. Here, the purchase and installation of several additional CNC lathes and vertical machining centres has increased capacity to 16 machines. Among other positive developments, in July 2013 the company was audited for and subsequently awarded certifications in ISO 14001 for environmental management systems and OHSAS 18001 for health and safety management systems.
These efforts, along with the establishment of its new facility, helped Brooks Forgings win the ‘Manufacturing Achievement’ category at the 2013 Made in Midlands Business Awards.
“Without M1 and our internal server environment, I think we would have struggled with the move to our new Stourbridge site,” says Mr Brooks. “I know ECi is currently developing a new version of M1 but we are really happy with the current software. Even after a decade of use we find it becomes more and more integrated every week.”
Relocation places Brooks Forgings in a position of strength, with many options for future expansion, not just in terms of footprint, but turnover too.
“While it’s difficult to quantify the exact savings delivered by M1, there is no doubt in my mind that the software has helped this business achieve greater turnover in the past 10 years – during the worst recession in history – without vastly increasing our sales or clerical team. Furthermore, M1 will continue to be an asset moving forwards. We shall have more accurate data collection allowing us to move jobs around more quickly and plan for bottlenecks, while at the same time accounting for unforeseen costs.”