Concocting success with the right IT system

Vickers Laboratories reveals how Exel was the unanimous choice as an IT system to fit the world of hazardous chemicals.

Established in 1969, Vickers Laboratories is a £3m turnover company supplying a diverse number of markets including primary and secondary education, pharmaceuticals as well as specialist niches including the highly regulated environment of dangerous goods.

Goods are either purchased in bulk and repackaged into smaller amounts and sold on, either as own brand or third party, or they are purchased, mixed to form new products and then packaged into required sizes.

Vickers Laboratories supplys a diverse number of markets including primary and secondary education, pharmaceuticals and specialist niches.
Vickers Laboratories supplys a diverse number of markets including primary and secondary education, pharmaceuticals and specialist niches.

With a product range of 2,500 plus items and over 6,000 SKUs, orders ranging from 10ml bottles to 1000l batches, and with raw materials being supplied in sizes from 0.01gm to tonnage quantities, some of which are hazardous and therefore need to be stored in specific ways to comply with ever changing regulations, Vickers is a complex business to run successfully.

Understandably, according to IS manager Rob Brown, “finding optimal use of the company’s capacity is our main challenge because we have to balance specific order requirements against Economic Batch Quantity considerations which vary depending on the shelf life of the raw materials involved as well as the finished product.”

As senior developer Mike Grimshaw adds, “We also have to factor in that different products require different cleaning and set-up times, with certain products actually requiring an interim test stage to check that the vessel is free from contamination.”

Such a highly regulated business requires rigorous processes to be in place and any IT system therefore has to be highly customisable to ensure compliance and deliver value. For Vickers, this was a 1970’s off the shelf COBOL-based system, which had continually been modified in house over the years.

Vickers Laboratories PQ

For many reasons, not least the recognition of just how much the system relied on Grimshaw, a decision was made to implement a modern, fully integrated solution. A long list of twelve vendors was reduced to four from which EFACS E/8 from Exel Computer Systems was the unanimous choice as it offered the best functionality, technology platform and ease of customisation to fit the world of hazardous chemicals.

Implementation was complicated by a number of internal factors but it was worth getting right because when EFACS E/8 finally went live it did so achieving minimal disruption to daily business and delivering benefits from the outset due to the inherent workflow built into EFACS E/8, which significantly tightened up what could and couldn’t be done at each process step.

Every department now benefits, not just from the real-time visibility and availability of information within EFACS, but also the ease with which this information can be communicated, most notably in the dedicated printing and dispatch area.

Every department now benefits from the real-time visibility and availability of information, and the ease with which this information can be communicated.
Every department now benefits from the real-time visibility and availability of information, and the ease with which this information can be communicated.

For example, re: the latter, now all essential data such as service level, product description, hazardous warning information, materials safety data sheets (MSDS) is automatically generated, and where necessary, can be transmitted direct to the courier/ transport company.

With this in mind Grimshaw offers his concluding thoughts on what EFACS E/8 has brought to Vickers. “With EFACS E/8, we have the ability to tailor our system to meet the requirements of our customers while maintaining the benefits of a commercially developed and supported integrated package.”

To this, Brown adds, “It’s a toolkit which has already helped us improve a number of ways we work as a company and offers us the potential to keep making improvements as the business grows.”