JAWS manufactures buckets and face shovels for excavators ranging from 4-800 ton, as well as front-end loader buckets, and material handling attachments with its speciality being the provision of these attachments for giant mining machines.
The company operates in a very competitive industry, with Mark Howard, the company's financial controller, identifying four competitors for heavy mining products and "dozens" at the low end bucket manufacturing.
"Mines cost millions of dollars a day to run, so if they machinery is not operating they are not making money," Howard explains.
"Our advantage is quality, reliability and warranty backup," as these traits give the company's clientele comfort that the machinery they depend on will be operational as often as possible.
The initial impetus for the company's adoption of ERP was the millennium bug, which forced change upon it. Since then, new pressures have emerged, notably the price and waiting times for high-grade steel the company relies on to build its products.
These factors make it important to have adequate control over the manufacturing process, to understand when it will be possible to schedule production and deliver products. The cost of labour is another concern. It is sufficiently high that the company needs to manage its workforce's productivity carefully to remain competitive.
The company's old, DOS-based, tools were not up to the job either. "We scheduled jobs manually on a two-metre long board; we kept adding more white boards to the end."
These systems also made it hard for staff in different areas of the business to understand their role on a project.
"People on the shop floor would start a job and then need a part, so they would wander to the machine shop and ask for it to be made."
Nor could supervisors access information that would help them understand how to direct other workers more effectively.
"It is too challenging for foremen to tell 100 people what to do next all the time," Howard said.
JAWS acquired Epicor ERP and Supply Chain Software in 2000 and now uses more than 20 modules, including several financials and engineering modules, along with document management and field service. In 2006 the company added advanced materials planning and manufacturing execution modules and a mobility extension.
The company chose the Epicor ERP for its superior integration, especially between engineering modules, as some specialist manufacturing management tools the company considered lacked native financials.
The software's implementation was driven from the very top of the organisation, Howard said.
"The managing director got right behind it and pushed. If you don't push from the top then it doesn't work. Our MD uses the system every day. He even set up the work centres."
Thanks to Epicor ERP, and the senior executive attention its implementation received, JAWS is now a far more efficient company.
"We have made major efficiency gains with processes like the flow of componentry in the workshop. We no longer have 100 guys walking around looking for a part or walking to the machine shop to ask for something to be made. Now everything relates to a drawing," and staff work according to a job plan, often with components waiting for them to include in the current project.
Productivity has also been enhanced thanks to the fact staff are logged into Epicor ERP for much of the day. The length of time they are logged in, when mapped against the company's output, is allowing the company to measure efficiency and productivity to understand its capacity and therefore to offer better forecasts of product delivery to customers.
"We now have actual vs. estimated cost looked at for every job," Howard said.
"The MD looks at the report and then digs into the details in Epicor ERP to understand the variables." Having this data available lets the company understand if it will need to allow overtime or outsource some work, further enhancing its ability to control costs while also satisfying customers.
Financials are also tighter.
"Our purchase orders are consolidated and ordered with required amount of lead time," Howard explains. "They used to be ordered as required. Now we have gone from sales order book to purchase orders and we purchase according to forecasts."
The combined effect of these changes has allowed JAWS to enjoy incredible growth.
"Epicor ERP has allowed us to concentrate on a different market," Howard said.
"Before Epicor, we concentrated on the end user. We now supply to the OEM heavy machinery companies like Hitachi, Komatsu, Caterpillar as well as direct to mine sites nationally and internationally.
"Sales have gone through the roof."
Best of all "stress levels in the organisation have dropped. The panic manufacturing approach was insane. We had trucks waiting for a bucket which was still being painted. Epicor means that's all in the past for us now," Howard comments.
More Epicor ERP for the future
The company is now looking at making further use of Epicor ERP, with an upgrade to Version 8 and its new CRM module on the horizon, along with a new report writer. Customisation for use on mobile devices on forklifts so their activities can be tracked in real time is also planned, as is greater use of barcoding.
"We want everything live," Howard said.
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