M1 Manufacturing ERP Software Accelerates Front-end Processes by 25% at Air Conditioning Manufacturer
West Bromwich-based Weatherite Air Conditioning Ltd, a UK leader in bespoke air conditioning systems and member of the Weatherite group of companies, has completed its first year of operation since migrating to the M1 manufacturing ERP system from ECi Software Solutions. Among the company’s findings, Weatherite says that the M1 manufacturing management system is more efficient, has better reporting information and is around 25% faster for front-end business processes than its previous ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software.
From modest beginnings in 1972, Weatherite has established itself as one of the leading providers of bespoke HVAC solutions in the UK, successfully operating in highly demanding and competitive market sectors such as retail, telecommunications, commercial, leisure, health and education.
Success at Weatherite has seen group turnover exceed £25 million, while head count now stands at more than 115. To ensure the continuation of this impressive growth, in May 2015 the company opted to review its current software solution as its existing IFS MRP system had been in place for 12 years.
“We didn’t want to simply upgrade to the latest version of IFS without first reviewing the market,” states Rob Lowe, Systems Manager at Weatherite Air Conditioning. “As many of our air conditioning systems are bespoke to customer requirements, we often create bills of materials on the fly, along with parts that we often don’t have in our existing library/inventory, before we raise a quotation. We couldn’t do these tasks using IFS, so we decided to look for an ERP system with front-end flexibility.”
Weatherite created a review team to investigate suitable alternatives. Over the ensuing months, the team conducted a number of workshops with selected vendors, which included ECi Software Solutions and its M1 manufacturing ERP system.
“We invited a number of potential suppliers to deliver presentations, from which we shortlisted two,” says Mr Lowe. “These two were invited to return and engage with relevant departments. The feedback we received from our teams made it obvious that M1 was the right ERP solution and we duly signed an order for a system with 30 concurrent users.”
Why M1 was chosen
The departments reported that M1 software for manufacturing was not only extremely flexible, but had a familiarity about its Windows® based layout and appearance that was appealing. Furthermore, it uses the industry-standard Microsoft® SQL server, while integrated Design Studio wizards have been invaluable in tailoring M1 to suit Weatherite’s needs.
With the decision made, Weatherite commenced IFS data cleansing, finishing any live projects on IFS, but placing anything new on M1 manufacturing system. The process of migrating customers, suppliers, parts and bills of materials also began, with all tasks overseen by an ECi consultant, of whom Mr Lowe says he “can’t speak highly enough”.
“When we were preparing data to migrate into M1, it became apparent just how many different unconnected sources we had previously,” he adds. “We had to import data from IFS, Pegasus, Excel® and Outlook®, but now all relevant information can be kept up-to-date in one place.”
With the M1 manufacturing system going fully live in May 2016, Weatherite has had its new manufacturing ERP system in place across all areas of its business for over a year. The first live job manufactured using the M1 scheduling software was for a cinema called Showcase Southampton – no small feat in the fact that it was for over 20 new AHU’s.
As well as the basic core production system, Weatherite has also taken delivery of most of the available modules for M1 discrete manufacturing ERP, including those for Estimating & Quoting, Project Management, and Call Management.
“Quoting and forecasting is now much better,” says Mr Lowe, exemplifying some of the new system’s benefits. “Our purchasing and production departments can view the manufacturing details, which we couldn’t do with IFS. In fact, increased visibility of information is a major benefit of the system as a whole. If information is entered into M1, any relevant department can review and act upon it. This helps employees to make decisions and plan accordingly, rather than relying on ‘word of mouth’, e-mails or spreadsheets.”
According to Mr Lowe, the reports generated by the M1 software for manufacturing companies offer better and more relevant information, such as stock levels, costings and work-in-progress, which is very useful for year-end accounting purposes. In addition, Weatherite says that the process from quotation to sales order is now much quicker; a vital attribute in an increasingly demanding marketplace where lead-time is key to customer satisfaction.
“We set out to find a system that was quicker and more flexible at handling front-end business processes and we certainly succeeded in finding one,” says Mr Lowe. “I would say that M1 is 25% quicker than our previous system in this regard. We cannot afford to hold up the processing of an order and therefore the slicker we make this procedure, the quicker we can purchase items and plan production.”
After more than 12 months of M1 manufacturing management system use, the company says that ease of customisation has also become a major benefit.
“We have already created numerous forms and reports that were not part of the original software, and we can do this without incurring additional costs or affecting the underlying source code,” says Mr Lowe.
Today, Weatherite has its own dedicated in-house resources who manage and customise the software to meet requirements. The company also focuses on continually training its team to ensure it gets the most from its software investment.
“Our employees have embraced the implementation of M1, and with this positive attitude we are confident that our investment can only be a good thing for Weatherite’s future,” concludes Mr Lowe.