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Southern Spars sets sail for greater profitability with Epicor ERP

Supplier: Epicor Software (Aust)
29 August, 2008

The Southern Spars Group of Companies (Southern) specialise in the design and manufacture of world-class carbon fibre spars, components and rigging, and the provision of rig servicing for cruising and racing yachts around the world.

Modern masts can be more than 65 metres in length and increasingly use is being made of carbon rigging made exclusively by Southern. The total mast and rigging packages for the biggest super-yachts now exceeds $10 million. Super-yacht projects take up to 35,000 hours over 24 months.

Southern pioneered the design and manufacture using carbon fibre, building its first ultra-light and strong spar in 1990. Now its new EC6 carbon fibre rigging system is capturing the imagination of the world.

The company now employs more than 250 staff and operates in the USA, France and South Africa, with its headquarters in Auckland, New Zealand.

Much of the company's work is project specific. Customers include several America's Cup teams including 2007 BMW Oracle and Emirates Team New Zealand who benefited from Southern's expertise in producing quality products to specific needs.

Premium customers demand premium services

Southerns' customers are very demanding, and so they should be.

"Our customers usually want something special," Xen Zambas, a manager at Southern Spars said, "and can pay between $0.5m to $10m+ for their engineered–to–order products."

"Our customers want the best. They want to win. They want premium products to meet their individual needs. While they can be spending millions of dollars, value for money is still important."

Southern faced the challenge of meeting these expectations while dealing with the normal manufacturing dilemmas, for example

  • Difficulty with planning and scheduling
  • Poor inventory management
  • Under performing suppliers

Southern used to struggle to extract the information they needed as it used a package with poor manufacturing capabilities.

"In those days, expectations were poorly set and commitments were accepted which were almost impossible to keep," Zambas recalls. "We would estimate delivery dates based on how long it took us to do the last job, plus a ‘guesstimate'."

In order to meet increasing demand for products and maintain customer satisfaction, Southern decided to improve their manufacturing system.

The Epicor ERP system was implemented along with manufacturing processing improvements. Huge progress has been made.

  • Quoting is much faster and more accurate
  • Labour resources and material requirements are planned better
  • Significant increases in productivity have been achieved (eg. a recent job estimated under the old structure of 2200 hours, took 1500 hours and was delivered in half the expected time)

Why Epicor?

Southern selected Epicor ERP software as the company felt it was best-suited to the company's wide range of needs. Epicor ERP's workflow allows Southern to:

  • Define what is needed at quotation stage giving better control during the manufacturing process
  • Accurately control project definitions and variations.

Epicor was chosen for its proven experience of successfully implementing manufacturing ERP systems – particularly project orientated engineer to order.


Today, Epicor ERP has given Southern control of its manufacturing processes, making them far more predictable and profitable.

  • All details of projects are visible to enable finer management
  • Quoting has improved as internal costs can now be defined typically in half a day's work, down from two weeks, thanks to a new baseline built into Epicor ERP
  • Purchased materials no longer arrive unexpectedly late

Greater financial control and profitability

"We are more disciplined in sales, project management, design and procurement and we can be smarter across the manufacturing opportunities."

Impressive metrics

The effect of these enhancements has been impressive, with the company saying the following changes have directly resulted from its Epicor ERP implementation.

  • Raw material costs are down by 15 per cent or more
  • 30 per cent reduction in inventory
  • Production capacity has increased

The future

Southern is now using its Epicor ERP systems to plan further business improvements and has implemented the software at a newly-acquired company — Marten Spars. Implementation at its newly acquired operation in South Africa will be starting soon.

"We are looking for continuous improvement and refining our KPI's," Zambas says. Lean Management practices have also commenced.

Cost of ownership

Southern has demonstrated Epicor's claim to a low total cost of ownership by Epicor ERP users. The system and its expansion are managed by a single person — Xen Zambas, including new reports and new processes. The company has grown from 15 concurrent users to more than 50 with additional operations in South Africa and New Zealand.

For more information on Southern Spars, visit www.southernspars.com

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Client interview – Southern Spars