Empowering Fenner Conveyor Belting With a 360 Degree View
“The Epicor ERP system has become such a vital part of Fenner’s business that it’s difficult to imagine how we operated in the past. There’s a partnership and the operating model as it stands now plus the support from a fully-fledged ERP system can only lead to long-term growth in terms of efficiencies, product enhancement, and zero stoppages in work. It has really created an environment for us where the whole company is efficient.” – Financial Director, Chris Bekker
Fenner Conveyor Belting
Fenner Conveyer Belting is the world’s market leader in conveyer belting, producing a premium range of products including steel cord and solid woven conveyor belting, primarily used in the iron ore and coal mining industries. The Fenner brand globally is associated with premium products, and the South African company services some of the largest blue-chip customers in the country, such as Anglo American and Sasol.
Despite Fenner’s significant contracts and global presence, the South African operation remains a fairly small, tight-knit team in which all staff – including directors – are hands-on across many facets of the business.
Financial Director, Chris Bekker, says his role cuts across finance, operations, marketing and sales. “I don’t just do number crunching; I’m involved in all aspects of the business in conjunction with the managing director.”
A lack of integration and visibility was slowing Fenner down
This means Bekker was intimately aware of the major challenges in costing products, tracking inventory and carrying out inventory evaluations. “Before, it was all done manually, although we were on an ERP package. But the ERP package only worked in rands and cents – there were no units. Everything was driven by major spreadsheets and brought in with journals. It was segregated. We had five platforms the company was operating on, and no platform was linked to another. It was basically bringing in transactions via the journals into the ERP system.”
According to Bekker, pricing out to the market was a challenge because Fenner was unable to easily break down products to sub-levels in its existing ERP setup. “ERP is critical in procurement. People don’t just place orders – there’s a hierarchy in terms of PO approval.”
Epicor’s solution provided a complete view
“The implementation of the Epicor system took a little longer than we initially envisaged, but the outcome was successful and most importantly we now have proper segregation of duties. Vijay Mohanlal, the Managing Director, and I know exactly what is being ordered at any given time, what is still to come and what is outstanding. From a procurement point of view, this has assisted the company greatly in reducing our working capital, as well as managing stock. You know exactly what’s in work in process, I can see my finished goods and I’ve got a clear handle on raw materials,” Bekker says.
Since Epicor has been in place, Fenner now has a fully integrated system with traceability and visibility, says Bekker. “There’s one source of truth. Now, in the coming year we will be adding a product line and leveraging our fully-fledged integrated Epicor ERP system. Epicor has become this company’s backbone: everything that we do is system driven. There are no more manual spreadsheets and transactions happening outside of the system. Whatever we do, it happens on Epicor.
“If I want to drill down in transactions, I can see exactly what happened in a transaction. I don’t have to fight spreadsheets trying to trace a transaction.”
Bekker says this has reduced Fenner’s reaction time significantly, since there are no time lags in obtaining the correct information. “I can pull data and make business decisions far more quickly, with more accuracy than we could rely on in the past. It has improved operational efficiencies – there is no black hole where things sit anymore and searching for an item does not have to be a manual process.”
A further benefit is that the Epicor ERP system has increased visibility of tasks and productivity. “This has had a huge educational effect on everyone in the business, even on the shop floor. If someone is not doing what they are supposed to be doing, it becomes visible. It has created a culture in the business where nobody wants to be found out. Then, as far as flexibility is concerned, we can change production runs far easier and quicker than we could before.”
Better decisions, faster decisions
Fenner’s costs in inventory management have fallen, and the company has improved its working capital position substantially due to having a better grip on procurement and inventory consumption.
The most prominent reward for having implemented the Epicor solution, says Bekker, is being able to react quickly, whether to market conditions with adjustments in pricing, or to errors in production.
“Having business data that is sanitised and true, there is no doubt behind the numbers, and it has taken out the human error factor. In a transaction, especially in manufacturing, the bills of materials are set up so any given belt can only consume x amount of raw material because there’s a standard. As soon as we pick up these variances, correcting those errors is now done on an as-and-when-required basis, and not when the product is finished. You realise that the product is over or under-engineered. Those corrective actions can be done in time.”
This has improved Fenner’s ability to take corrective action, making sure every manufactured product is fit for purpose and up to the global brand’s exacting standards. Every raw material can be tracked throughout the system in terms of its consumption.
“It has taken doubt out of the business. We can defend our figures, we can defend our manufacturing processes, everything is clear and defined, there are no grey areas and there is one source of truth. Before Epicor, running on five different operating models, there were no linkages and it created a lot of issues in the business. Someone would raise a PO and forget to approve it, then there would be shortages of raw materials and the factory would come to a standstill. The business continuity, linking all the chains of the business together, has vastly improved,” Bekker says.
“The Epicor ERP system has become such a vital part of Fenner’s business that it’s difficult to imagine how we operated in the past. There’s a partnership and the operating model as it stands now plus the support from a fully-fledged ERP system can only lead to long-term growth in terms of efficiencies, product enhancement, and zero stoppages in work. It has really created an environment for us where the whole company is efficient,” he says.
Want to Read More on the Solution we Implemented with Agriplas?
Input your details below and the full case study will be sent straight to your inbox: