Controlling variation through ERP

Posted on 1 Mar 2015 by The Manufacturer

Meadowmead, one of the UK’s leading sofa and chair manufacturers, explains how it is using WinMan’s Product Configurator to offer a vast range of options across four furniture brands, each made to an individual customer order.

The Product Configurator has applications across a wide spectrum of bespoke manufacturing environments as it allows products to be defined with all their available options. It can also use built-in rules to determine which options can be combined. To give a simple example from the automobile industry, a car sun-roof can be selected on a saloon but not on a convertible.

The WinMan Product Configurator is integral to the WinMan ERP system and not only handles simple features and options, but also complex engineering rules across a range of industries. For example, if a product exceeds a certain length it may need to be made from a different material and have extra support factored in. Intelligent engineering parameters and constraints can be easily incorporated.

Are you worried about making the wrong ERP decision?

With pressure on businesses to increase efficiency and streamline processes, procuring the correct ERP system is a decision you cannot afford to get wrong.

Connect ERP blends together a unique combination of case studies, peer-to-peer networking and pre-briefed and scheduled vendor meetings.

Connect ERP will maximise your opportunity to fine tune your short listing process with unrestricted exposure to both peers and the vendor community.

The must attend event if you are looking to install or upgrade your ERP system in the next 12-18 months.

Meadowmead’s Bob Ashcroft explains: “We have 500 different fabrics, 15 different leg colours and lots of other options – we have millions of combinations. So it is obviously important to get that out into the manufacturing arena correctly.

“The Product Configurator is the tool we use to create the order for each specific one-off item. It generates the order and creates a schedule of the work involved – including labour time for each process – and generates a bill of materials.”

Ashcroft says that to enter a sales order, you launch the Configurator, choose the model and then select the different options – body fabric, cushions, legs, etc. For each option, the Configurator opens a selection box offering all the possible choices. The Configurator knows what styles and fabrics are allowed for each brand and only offers those choices. The Configurator also provides pricing information for each option.

“As you select all the different options, you are building up the works order bill of materials as you go along,” says Bob. “When you have finished, the Configurator creates a back-to-back manufacturing order and sales order. When you confirm the sales order it will launch the manufacturing order.”

Production planning starts with the manufacturing orders created by the Configurator, which are allocated to specific teams/cells and grouped together into daily production plans.

Ashcroft says: “We have to decide up-front which orders we are planning into which team and create a daily ‘work to’ list which we call a production plan. We group together a number of orders per day, per cell.

Meadowmead Upholstery Cell
Production planning starts with the manufacturing orders created by the Configurator, which are allocated to specific cells.

“WinMan enables us to rank the sequence we are putting the works order in. When we print the production plans they are in ‘work to’ order. We then start at the top and work our way down.”

These production plans have been created in parallel with WinMan’s transport allocation facility enabling the customer to get their delivery with their lead time. This produces van loading sheets for the despatch area showing exactly what is supposed to be going out on each van.

These are similar to the production plans and list all the sales orders line by line for each delivery with details of the customer – including contact details, a description of the product and the amount of space it will take up on the van.

WinMan also has an important role to play in providing traceability from raw materials to the finished product – an important consideration for fire retardancy certificates. The wood is all traceable too, and this will become increasingly important as the company moves towards FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification for the use of sustainable timber.

The underlying advantage of WinMan for Meadowmead was its flexibility and the ease with which it could be tailored to suit the company’s specific needs, says Bob Ashcroft. “The WinMan software is extremely configurable. It is very easy to tweak the system to our exact requirements.”

Turning legs station at Meadowmead.
Turning legs station at Meadowmead.

He says the whole administration process has become streamlined: WinMan is geared towards supporting lean principles of reducing waste effort by supporting an organisation’s optimum business processes.

“We had three or four different databases and spreadsheets all over the place – so we were always plagued with multiple entries and transcription errors. Now it is all in WinMan – there are benefits all round.

“It is easier to track production, it is a lot easier to maintain schedules and the analysis and dashboards are 100 times better than we had before.”