Subcontract fabricator doubles sales revenues with M1
Bedford-based Seeco (UK) Ltd, a specialist in precision sheet metal manufacturing, says it has not only doubled its sales revenue since installing the ECi M1 manufacturing ERP software from ECi Europe 10 years ago, but it has done so with 25% fewer employees.
M1 at Seeco (UK) Ltd
Established in 1986, Seeco today enjoys an established track record of high-quality, competitively priced sheet metal component provision to sectors that include medical, electronics, defence, railway and shop-fitting to name but a few.
With 12 employees and annual sales revenue in the region of £1.2 million, this forwardthinking sub-contract job shop bases its success on a mixture of astute decision-making, agile manufacturing and investment in the latest technologies. Planned programmes of investment have become a way of life at Seeco, which is why the company operates a programme of continuous improvement aimed at both quality and cost effectiveness. Among the recent machines to arrive at the Bedford site are an Amada CNC profiling centre offering a combination of 4kW laser and 28-station punching unit, and an LVD press brake with in-process laser angle-monitoring and correction.
'One of our differentiators is that we always try and meet the exact requirements of our customers', explains George Cunningham, Managing Director at the ISO9001:2000-accredited company. 'One of the most pertinent requirements at the moment is quick response times'.
This demand is met, not just by using ultra-fast production machinery that can run unmanned overnight, for example, but via the application of world leading software capability, which today includes SolidWorks 3D CAD, Lantek CAM and ECi’s M1 manufacturing ERP software.
'We’ve found that real-time data collection and monitoring has increased our efficiency at each phase of production'.
'From a front-end business perspective it allows us to provide customers with very rapid response times to enquiries, as well as fast order generation'.
Eliminating Business Disruption
Like many small and medium-sized manufacturers, Seeco’s business management requirements have changed as the company has evolved. Originally it operated a bespoke MRP system, before switching to a business management software suite (a competitor to ECi’s M1).
However, it soon found there were unacceptable pitfalls that required addressing, and around 10 years ago, Seeco decided enough was enough. 'To be honest we were getting by using the business management software in combination with a couple of other packages', explains Mr Cunningham. 'But the situation was far from ideal—the set-up was inflexible and if the need arose for a change, regardless of size, it always seemed to cause a major issue. Around a decade ago, we saw M1 and trialled it at Bedford. Immediately we could see the benefits'.
M1 from ECi is an advanced Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution designed for small-to-medium sized manufacturers that can help reduce operational costs, improve productivity and increase profitability. It has the ability to simplify production planning, identifying shop floor capacity problems at a glance, provide an efficient method of collecting and controlling labour records, reduce on-hand inventory, boost cash flow and improve on-time deliveries.
'At the time, I believe we were the first company in the UK to install M1, so it wasn’t without its risks, but our decision has been fully vindicated', says Mr Cunningham. 'We swept out three ill-fitting software suites and today M1 runs the business. We couldn’t cope without it'.
Getting the most from M1
Seeco makes use of the full gambit of M1 functionality, including features that enable the management of contacts, sales, orders, production jobs, shop floor data collection, inventory, purchasing, shipping, labour, scheduling, accounts, invoicing and quality. In fact, the only feature not deployed is payroll, simply because there are only 12 employees. After a decade of operation it has given Mr Cunningham time to reflect on his overall experience of M1. 'Put it this way, 10 years ago we had annual sales revenue in the region of £500,000 with 16 staff. Over the years certain people have left or moved on for various reasons and we find ourselves at £1.2 million with just 12 people, only six of whom are directly involved with production'.
'The efficiency of the M1 system is one of the main reasons we haven’t had to replace people. By my estimation, the software paid for itself extremely quickly'.
Another big advantage of M1 is its flexibility, particularly when it comes to customisation. According to Mr Cunningham, the company has never encountered a “can’t do that” issue—he can recall many instances of customising forms, for example.
M1 users can apply customisation using the software’s design studio to ensure the most unique business processes can be handled in the most efficient manner. This tool allows users to add new fields, change input form, move and introduce objects, and view information in different ways through search grids. Additionally, the start page provides a fully configurable dashboard for each user to monitor the parts of the business that are considered most important with real time information.
'Furthermore, system interrogation is extremely straightforward', adds Mr Cunningham. 'Whenever we need to drill-down to retrieve information, M1 offers excellent accessibility'.
'Overall, we’re convinced that we have the best business management software available on the market. M1 is now so integrated into our business that it tells us what to do, and when to do it'.
Today Seeco views itself as a one-stop-shop resource for sheet metal components. Everything from profiling and folding, through to welding and finishing can be accommodated. Additionally, although not a design house, Seeco is extremely proactive at suggesting design alterations that can help reduce manufacturing costs. It is differentiating factors such as these that have helped the business enjoy the best six months’ trading in its 25-year history.