Holler Trade Saves Time and Money with epic ERP

supply-chain-industry

Holler Trade Saves Time and Money with epic ERP

“It’s taken people a little while to get used to and embrace the new system, but efficiency is improving every day. We are already seeing the benefits as our team sees how the system helps them and saves them time…now nothing is falling through the cracks. Now we are able to focus more on the client and our industry because we’re not spending excessive effort and resources on tracking internal operations.”

Operations General Manager, Alan Coppin

 

Gauteng-based procurement and export company Holler Trade services clients throughout the African continent, taking care of logistical arrangements and supply lines for clients mainly in the hospitality, construction and farming sectors. Holler Trade’s clients include NGOs, embassies and even private individuals who need goods of all sizes and quantities shipped from South Africa to other African destinations.

 

Manual ERP means low levels of efficiency

 

Holler Trade’s operations general manager Alan Coppin says the company operates through a team of 13 buyers, who feed back to a warehouse and logistics department. He says the company faced the same system challenges many SMEs face when they begin to do well and expand from start-up phase.

 

“When I joined the company in 2017, the company was still handwriting purchase orders out of a book. The most advanced thing that they were doing was that they had some invoices on Excel, and it sufficed for the company when it was small, but in the last five years the company has grown dramatically, and manual administration became unsustainable.”

 

Because Holler Trade lacked the kind of information to create full visibility across its business processes, the company was held back from growing as it could have. “We had to physically track down the buyer who had placed an order because the order book would be sitting on their desk. Then, when you were looking for copies of something like an order, that meant physically walking over to the accounts department. Everything was taking many times longer than it should, and efficiency was practically zero. Information was literally scattered around the office and warehouse, so it was impossible to put any reports together,” says Coppin.

 

Instant access to information means a transformed business

 

Holler Trade was provided with an Epic ERP system, with various dashboards and reporting capability which has provided complete visibility of orders, exports and documentation. “We initially specced the system for Epicor but only later realised we would need add-ons so that we could get a complete picture of the business on one screen. It’s an ongoing process of refinement which has taken six to eight months, but already life is so much easier,” Coppin says.

 

“It’s taken people a little while to get used to and embrace the new system, but efficiency is improving every day. We are already seeing the benefits as our team sees how the system helps them and saves them time. The biggest change was in the mindset of the team, which was set in its old ways, but now nothing is falling through the cracks,” says Coppin.

 

According to Coppin, Epicor’s seamless, integrated solution has allowed the company to track order flow across departments, respond to clients more quickly and export goods with fewer bottlenecks. “The information we can give our clients now in terms of reporting is much better. Before, it would take us about a week to produce a project report on a single project, given the time it would take to gather all the relevant information on what had been ordered, what had been received, what had been shipped and what had been invoiced. By the time we would finish producing such a report, it would no longer be relevant because much would have changed in the business by then.”

 

Now, Holler Trade produces the same reports in seconds. “This means the real constraints to our growth have changed to being the capacity of our warehouse and facilities. Without the artificial constraints of inadequate reporting on business processes, we are now comfortable at this size of the business and it’s meant we have stabilised. The switchover to Epicor has gone smoothly and now we are able to focus more on the client and our industry because we’re not spending excessive effort and resources on tracking internal operations.”



Saving time, saving money

 

Coppin says having more reliable information at hand makes for quicker business decisions and allows for quick identification of issues needing resolution in the business. “We’re getting to the point where that is turning into cost savings, because it has certainly increased our efficiency. Processes like filling in a three-page order used to take two days but can now be completed in ten to fifteen minutes. We can put out quotes faster, and every subsequent process is quicker. When we have return customers, orders are easier to convert.”

 

He says it’s not only the operations team that has improved visibility through the business, but the owners as well. “Now we can drill down into all aspects of the business to see what we need to change or optimise. We are yet to start engaging completely with the capabilities of the Epicor modules, such as HR or bar-code scanning, but this is one of the reasons we went with Epicor – all these modules can simply be linked up and ready to use as and when we need them.”

 

Ultimately, the main benefit of implementing Epicor’s solution has been to remove a burden from Holler Trade’s staff. “We can certainly never go back to where we were now – it’s not even an option. A year down the line we’ve got rid of the teething problems we had adjusting to the system, and there are fewer emergencies. We’ve established a good relationship with the Epicor team, and they understand exactly what we need. I believe when we have new requirements, they will quickly put them into context,” says Coppin.

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epic ERP keeps information flowing for Agriplas

agriplas

epic ERP keeps information flowing for Agriplas

“Accessing accurate historical data allows us to leverage the power of information when approaching customers. Analysing costing information that comes through the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, creates opportunities to reduce costs and adjust prices to be more competitive in the market. This type of information can also be used in our customer relationship management architecture to demonstrate improvements in lead times, stock availability and reductions in response times. This builds confidence in our customer base.”

 

Craig Matthew

Executive Manager: Operations

 

Company facts

  • Client – Agriplas
  • Location – Brackenfell, Cape Town
  • Industry – Agricultural water management solutions

 

Challenges

  • Paper-based, manual invoicing and workflow processes led to business process delays.
  • Difficulty in forecasting due to lack of data and information control.
  • Inaccurate stock management.

 

The solution

  • Epicor ERP

 

About Agriplas

Agriplas is a water management solution supplier to the agricultural, industrial mining and environment sectors. The company partially imports and partially manufactures its product range.

 

Modernising to accelerate performance

While Agriplas aims to supply perfect water management solutions as the basis for helping its customers grow their business, Agriplas was held back in achieving its own growth aims by inconsistent, inaccurate and delayed information. The result was persistent difficulty in forecasting and making important capital expenditure decisions to achieve a return on investment.

 

“We knew that manual business processes could compromise the sustainability of the organisation. It is my mandate to ensure that we are making the right investments and achieving a return on this outlay. Assessing business performance became more difficult because of the lack of visibility into key data,” says Matthew.

 

Crucially, historical data was often either unavailable or stored on disparate systems. “This meant management did not have full visibility of live and historical information, which delayed and hampered decision-making.”

 

Delayed information reduces agility

“Our market changes constantly.  In order to maintain excellent customer relationships, we need to stay ahead of our customers’ needs and stay relevant by developing new products and adapting our offering continually. We needed a system that could help us to remain agile and meet customer demands,” says Matthew.

 

The solution

“With Epicor ERP in place, each day that goes by adds to our database and improves our ability to forecast. We’re making informed business decisions, with improved business analytics which allow us to leverage our existing capabilities and to pick up anomalies quickly. That provides the basis for continuous business process improvement, which improves efficiency and drives down costs,” Matthew says.

 

The implementation

“Our focus is primarily on the logistics and manufacturing side of the business – from orders being placed and entered into the system. We are currently re-evaluating the way we configured the MRP module. Once we have reconfigured it to suit our internal processes, our focus can shift to enhancing our planning function. We used the Epicor ERP system to control jobs, bills of materials, transfers and receiving, including monitoring our production machinery. It has enhanced our operations control dramatically,” he says.

 

“The first step was to focus on getting Epicor Advanced MES live and then to go live with the Epicor ERP functionality. From the initial state the complete rollout took 12 months.”

 

Agriplas has been able to demonstrate significant improvements in costing, which has enhanced capabilities to identify cost reduction opportunities for the benefit of customers. “Drawing from historical data not only allows us to become more competitive on the costing front but provides easily interpreted breakdowns of the value our customers have reaped from using our solutions. This has been helpful in building customer confidence.

 

“We are also now in a better position to determine which stock we need to have available at any particular time of the year. This allows us to respond more quickly to customer needs. As a result, we are a more reliable supplier, which encourages repeat orders. If we could not forecast and predict accurately, our customers may go somewhere else. Regular use of the ERP system has been absolutely key to improving our operational excellence.”

 

Agriplas is now much more confident in stock management. “Stock is obviously an expensive overhead. At any given time Agriplas can hold millions of Rands in stock. If that is inappropriate or unsuitable stock, it could lead to write-offs. With the Epicor solution in place, we are now positioned to make smarter stockholding decisions – a significant benefit for the business,” says Matthew.

 

Seamless integration

According to Matthew, Epicor ERP will integrate with Epicor Advanced MES to provide seamless planning and scheduling capability. “At the moment we are manually planning our machines and scheduling, whereas once the MRP is up and running and the planning model is running properly, that will all integrate directly into the machine. As soon as an order comes in, the MRP will extract that information.

 

“Once the material is in store, the jobs will be created and then automatically scheduled. In terms of working directly with Epicor Advanced MES, Epicor will help us a lot.”

 

Strategic benefit

“The best part of having Epicor running in the organisation is that we have access to live information – an enormous amount of data that gives us the ability to make intelligent decisions. In general, together with ERP, we will streamline the system and empower our employees because it will be more user-friendly and efficient. It will provide all employees with information to help them make quicker and better decisions.

 

“What we have noticed is that working with Epicor ERP has significantly reduced time spent on certain tasks. Time spent doing stock management, cycle counts, stock counts and posting transactions has effectively been halved and the processes have been simplified. Going forward, we see Epic ERP partnering with us in terms of streamlining our processes. We use them as a sounding board where we discuss ideas and opportunities we see in the market. Through that integration, we can unlock new opportunities for improvement and new features that ensure long-term business sustainability.”

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Empowering Fenner Conveyor Belting With a 360 Degree View

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.

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