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M1 ERP Helps Buck the Trend

HBS Ltd, a specialist in valve manufacture, service and repair for the power industry, based in Wigan, is managing to hold an even keel during what is a particularly choppy time for the energy segment, largely due to the low oil price. According to the company, one of the differentiating reasons behind the outstanding business performance of HBS is its reliance on M1 ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software from ECi.

Maintaining Business Growth

'We had good growth up to 2013, when oil prices started to fall', explains Phil Blackledge, Technical Support at the privately owned company. 'However, while lots of our competitors are now around 30% down, we have managed to plateau, which is no small feat in the circumstances. We’ve had M1 installed since 2009 and I firmly believe it is helping ensure we maintain a steady business course, despite the current market difficulties'.

Beyond the oil and gas, offshore platform, power station and petrochemical markets, where HBS is a key partner to several major valve OEMs around the world, the company can also provide large/high horsepower diesel engine components, industrial pump bodies and filtration systems. This bedrock of expertise has seen the company thrive in the 30-plus years since its formation. Today, HBS can boast a turnover of circa £3.5 million and 45 employees, along with five seats of M1 ERP software.

'Before M1 we had very little in the way of planning systems beyond a Microsoft Access database loaded with a few basic part numbers', says Mr Blackledge. 'M1 proved to be a fresh start and allowed us to begin inputting lots of data that would assist in running the business'.

At the time, HBS was transitioning away from a pure repair and spares environment into the original manufacture of parts. The order book was full and the company was seeking a better way to manage its busy production schedules.

'We were moving towards a greater quantity of production work and knew that M1 would not only help with our internal business organisation, but deliver confidence to customers that we had the capacity and resources to accommodate their orders', says Mr Blackledge.

Since installation, HSB has worked with the M1 team at ECi to develop the various modules so they are effectively customised to suit the company’s business.

'For instance, we now have large import routines that allow us to mass-schedule certain jobs,” explains Mr Blackledge. 'We’ve also introduced a quality management module where we only had a manual system previously'.

One of the major benefits of M1 is its ease-of-use, something that has helped the company enormously over the years.

'We can pretty much do everything ourselves now in terms of customisation, although if we do encounter anything beyond our know-how, we find the support team at M1 offers a very good response. We’ve worked together on a couple of big projects over the course of the past 2-3 years, both of which proved successful'.

Setting Customer Expectations

The investment in a dedicated facility, machines, technology and equipment, through to continual investment in the skills and training of its employees, clearly enables HBS to deliver a high quality machining and welding service to many of the world’s leading valve OEM and blue chip companies. In combination with M1, the company’s customers recognise that HBS can provide the highest standards of both technical and administrative excellence.

'The best feature of M1 is the traceability that it brings', states Mr Blackledge. 'If required, we can use the system to drill down and see everything we’ve done since the day it was installed, which is invaluable in markets such as ours. The fact that it’s all linked, from initial quote to sales invoice and everything between, makes it even better. In short, the system has become integral to our business'.

Mr Blackledge also says that M1’s scheduling module is pivotal in the company’s daily operations as it gives a really useful “snapshot” of how the workshop is loaded at any one time.

'It’s always difficult to quantify the cost savings associated with investing in a system such as M1, but in simple terms, without it we wouldn’t have the customers that we have now,” he states. 'It’s definitely a big time and money saver for us, and we found the upfront cost was small compared with other ERP systems we investigated at the time. Furthermore, it’s not expensive to maintain and support'.

The manufacturing facility at HBS encompasses a wide variety of precision CNC and conventional machine tools, in conjunction with on-site Stellite® depositing capability, and over 2000 approved welding procedures. Technical excellence, fast response and high quality standards form the ethos here – all of which are underpinned by M1.

Supporting Future Growth

'We’re looking to expand in the coming five years and it’s good to know that the flexibility and modularity of M1 means it can grow with us and make the process easier'. concludes Mr Blackledge. 'We have five seats at present but I’m sure we’ll add more as and when required. There are now a number of people within the business who are familiar with the software. In fact, we took on two new starters a couple of months ago and they’re now better than me on M1, which just goes to highlight its intuitive nature – very little training is needed to use the system'.

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