Cygnus Instruments, based in Dorchester, Dorset, manufactures ultrasonic thickness gauges. The company had implemented an MRP system in 2011, however through a process mapping exercise they realised that it was hampering business growth. Lulu Crosthwaite-Eyre, Managing Director said; "You needed so many different windows open to get through a process. It was very unintuitive. We realised that it was that inefficiency that was holding us back from being able to process and despatch more orders in any one given month. This was the main breaking point in the end - it was limiting our growth."
There were also some major flaws in the system which caused staff to have to double-check and correct mistakes; "We would despatch items but they wouldn't leave stock."
Cygnus did not want a repeat of the implementation and go-live experience of the previous system, with many customisation tasks falling to them, straining internal resources. Also, despite assurances beforehand, these were unsupported in later releases; "We put everything on one person and we were encouraged to make a lot of customisations to the system, which we used our own technical resources to do. We were assured that they would be supported but when it came to it they weren't, so quite soon we had to cut loose and work with a static system that didn't receive any updates or bug fixes."
Wayne Brown, Operations Manager, had previous experience of 123insight at another company. He joined Cygnus shortly before the previous system was implemented and recommended they reconsider. Lulu noted; "Quite soon within his first year he mentioned to me that he'd used 123insight before and even organised a meeting for me to go and visit his old company to see it. I almost couldn't get my head around it - it was so clean, simple and quick, but we'd made our choice and felt that we had to go with it. Seven years had past and we realised that it was really now holding back our growth, so it was a no-brainer to look first at 123insight. We compared it with other systems and also looked at upgrading the system that we were using because it had got to this static point where it wasn't supported. We were doing cost benefit analysis across all of them. 123insight just came out on top in every possible way."
The Evaluation Workshop approach worked well for Cygnus, with staff compiling a long list of questions in advance; "We'd printed out all of our questions on an A3 double-sided sheet. Each and every one was satisfied - not only answered but shown and demonstrated."
Cygnus made the decision to select 123insight, allocated key staff from each department for the project and sent them on 123insight training. Given the company's previous experience of paying for a system before truly knowing if it would work for them Lulu liked the fact that 123insight's training was offered under no obligation; "The model where you do the training up front before you decide whether to go for the system or not means you are making a really well-informed decision when you do go for it."
The company initially set themselves an implementation period of six months, but the team extended this to 10 months. Wayne, in particular, knew that they would have to do some significant data cleansing before migration could begin, due to the way that they had originally been advised to create and store 'phantom' product data; "We had an awful lot of work to undo that and create 'real' parts all the way through to what we despatch. That was a lot of work - a sub project in itself. We had a few sub projects to sort through and restructure our data. That's why we decided to give ourselves a longer implementation project period. Another reason was that we knew that we had some resistance to change, even though we took everyone along through those initial decision points."
After training was completed an implementation day was scheduled on-site, where 123insight staff worked with an implementation team formed within Cygnus to run through the various steps. Lulu found the day extremely useful in helping to allocate tasks, with the 123insight implementation mentor providing guidance; "He was just excellent at keeping us on track. The schedule of tasks spreadsheet he provided was unbelievably helpful - it covered all of those things that in 123insight's experience you need to do. We'd never had anything like that before when implementing the previous system. It was all so spot on. Quite a few of the areas where we needed to restructure our data surfaced during the implementation day and Craig very deftly added those in as additional tasks. Everyone agreed the very reasonable timeframes and ownership was allocated, mostly volunteered for, task by task that then formed the backbone for the whole implementation project."
A key difference with 123insight is that Cygnus was no longer reliant on the provider or their own internal development resources. Cygnus was able to take responsibility for the implementation, yet still had assistance available when they needed it, which Lulu found reassuring; "To be able to take ownership of all of those settings was what we needed. This was particularly useful after our previous experience where we had to go to the vendor each time we wanted to change something or prey on our Design Engineer's time - or even worse our Technical Director. We really liked the way that the 123insight Help Desk would show us how to perform tasks rather than doing them for us. That's really empowering, and it's given us more ability to do more with the system. Since implementation we're constantly exploring doing things in slightly different ways - we're self-sufficient and it's so much more efficient as well."
Cygnus anticipated that there might be resistance to change based on previous experience, so plans were put in place using the supplied 123insight electronic training documentation and with down-stream training; "We ran in-house downstream training sessions where all of our implementation team members trained other people in their departments or relevant neighbouring colleagues. Everyone had really got to know the system by then and had taken ownership of their new processes, so that was another really smooth part of the process."
The company set a target go-live date across all departments of January 2019, allowing for a longer than usual shutdown over the Christmas period to handle final data transfer. Given their previous experience Lulu was apprehensive, but was surprised by the reality of the go-live experience; "We gave ourselves a week for the final switchover on the dynamic data, but all of the static data had been done for a few months already. During the week prior to Christmas we moved across open sales orders, purchase orders, etc. I then realised that about half the staff had decided to stop updating the old system - we had effectively gone live across half the company. Wayne commented that this was 'the most uneventful go-live ever'. We came back after New Year and no-one batted an eyelid. Wayne was looking round and wondering where the queue of people was. We were still pinching ourselves 2 weeks later, 4 weeks later, but it was so smooth. It was wonderful."
Immediately the company saw benefits. Despatch previously relied on two people, but this is now comfortably handled by one, with the other free to cover other areas. KPI (Key Performance Indicators) data that was previously non-existent is now immediately available. Staff are now able to work easily across different disciplines, allowing a drastic change across the business; "This multi-skilling and flexibility has allowed us to move the entire Technical Support function out from our design department into operations. That has made an enormous difference to the business, where our design engineers are now more focused on product development."
Cygnus delivers on tight lead times to customers by building to stock, and 123insight's batch control and general ease of use has reduced errors and bottlenecks; "There were stock inaccuracies before, and we didn't have good batch control. The previous system used to force sales staff to select a particular version/issue of parts. They may not know what revision or issue a part is at, so we used to get a lot of errors around that, which were very difficult to undo in the old system. We don't get any of those mistakes anymore and we have much better batch control."
Cygnus also opted for 123insight's CRM+, which Lulu noted is already helping their sales and marketing activities; "We're a lot more organised about our follow-up activities. We find it really useful keeping key notes in the header page for each customer, which means everybody knows key aspects for that customer such as special discounts. The data that we're getting out for marketing is an enormous improvement. We're not having to fill in separate spreadsheets on the side to get our sales enquiry data into marketing; it's all part of the normal processing - it's really nice."
A further commercial and environmental benefit has been that the Sales Support Manager has been able to consolidate both inbound and outbound deliveries with just one courier; "He set up the ability to track which couriers we ship with, the value and quantity. He's used that to negotiate better rates, and with those better rates we then put more of our shipments with one particular courier, which reduces the number of vans that are visiting us on a daily basis. We're about to consolidate goods received through that same courier as well, so it's going to be one driver from this courier visiting us probably just once a day."
Traceability is paramount to a company that holds ISO 9001, ATEX and CSA certifications. Lulu noted that information in general is just much easier to find; "Wayne cited that looking back through traceability on certain version changes in our firmware through to a customer literally has taken him two days to crunch through the reports to work it out. Now it's done in 60 seconds."
Support is an important factor for any MRP system, and Cygnus falls well within 123insight's statistic of one call to the Help Desk per month; "Questions are always answered and they always manage our expectations. Normally they can answer straight away. If it's something to do with the system they can show us, so we keep that ownership and understanding of how it works, but if they have to get back to us they let us know and keep going until it's done." There was no comparison to the support of their previous system; "We wouldn't get an answer. No-one would contact us. We would be waiting weeks in spite of chasing. It was awful, ridiculous."
Cygnus had implemented Sage before going live with 123insight and selected Accounts Gateway® to handle data exchange between the two. The visibility of accounts data such as credit limits within 123insight provided unexpected knock-on benefits; "Overall our credit control has improved dramatically because the sales team is able to see a statement of account for each individual customer. They are able to set the credit limit so it's not left in limbo between sales and accounts. Everyone can see everything, they're communicating a lot better and it's had a massive positive impact on cashflow. Accounts Gateway has given our bookkeeper a lot more time now."
Lulu concluded that although there have been tangible and visible benefits, it's the overall morale change with staff that has made a significant impact on overall performance; "Everyone is pushing to sell more and despatch more in any one month. It's not just about the people that we didn't need to recruit in this period of growth - it's also helped us to achieve that growth. The greater visibility on the data that everybody can see has made a really big impact. Everyone is pushing because they can see the progress that we are making. I would say 123insight has easily paid for itself inside a year, but my gut feeling is maybe half of that. I reckon that we could grow by a third before we would need to take on another person in Operations or Admin because of how much we can process through 123insight."
- Halved staff in despatch, with all ops staff now multi-skilled to cover other jobs
- Traceability reports down from 2 days to seconds
- Improved cashflow due to integrated accounts
- Consolidating both outbound and inbound deliveries
- CRM+ assists with marketing activities
- Could grow by a third without more ops staff
Video case study available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKAU0Is0G9c
Hi-res images are downloadable at: https://www.123insight.com/images/press_downloads/cs_cygnus_pics.zip (13MB)
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About 123insight: The company was founded in 2000 as a response to the fundamental flaws inherent in the traditional MRP selection and implementation process. They have been either nominated or have won dozens of awards, often due to the speed of implementation and the immediate return on investment.
123 Insight Limited
10 Mill Court