Birmingham-based JH Richards, one of the UK’s leading specialists in the manufacture and refurbishment of precision white metal bearings for power station applications, says it has transformed its production procedures over the past decade aided by the adoption of M1 ERP from ECi Software Solutions. JH Richards describes the M1® manufacturing ERP software's ease-of-customisation as its biggest unique selling point, a feature that allows this innovative software to match exact end-user requirements.
JH Richards has come a long way since it started in 1880 as a manufacturer of white metal alloys for the railway and rotating machinery industries. Today, the company is an advanced leader in its field, offering the capability to manufacture a range of white metal bearings from 10 to 1700 mm in diameter, using bronze, steel or cast iron as a backing material.
Working from either customer drawings or using reverse engineering techniques, the latest CADCAM software is used at JH Richards to facilitate one of the most modern manufacturing services available. Furthermore, completed bearings are measured on the company’s co-ordinate measuring machines and full inspection and material reports are supplied as part of the package.
Things weren’t always this organised, however, as Paul Salloway, the company’s Business Development & Systems Manager admits: “When I joined the company in 1983, workshop documentation was either hand-written or produced on a typewriter.” “In the early 1990s we introduced some basic software to help with this task before moving on to an integrated manufacturing and accounting solution provided by a global ERP software company.”
As the business evolved, JH Richards decided to seek a more flexible ERP solution that would match the company’s production mix – all products are bespoke and manufactured in small batches.
“We looked at a few different software suites,” explains Mr Salloway. “However, M1 was by far the most customisable and flexible, while ECi came with a much better service offer than our existing software vendor.”
With M1 installed around 10 years ago, this 35-employee, £2 million turnover business is still using 95% of the functionality with which it started. The company has, however, added some additional functionality, such as M1 Document Management. Document Management provides a cost effective method of controlling all documents relating to quotes, parts, jobs and purchase orders. An unlimited number of documents can be linked to the end user’s records. It is even possible to link drawings, video clips, graphics, spreadsheets, word processor documents and many more formats from within various screens.
Bespoke Made Easy
“The number one USP of M1 is without doubt its ease of customisation,” says Mr Salloway. “Over the years we’ve undertaken lots of customisation, much of which we have completed ourselves.”
Among recent customisation delivered by ECi is the ability for JH Richards to search for jobs by different criteria. For instance, the company can now search for “what jobs are still in the factory?” With so many bespoke parts passing through the shop, keeping tabs on work is vital for successful day-to-day business operations.
“The main business function for which we use M1 is for work instructions [WI], as each product and customer has a very specific WI set,” explains Mr Salloway. “As a result of our efforts in this area, we’ve had several customer audits suggest that the work documentation we issue to our shop floor is best-in-class. We also use M1 for quoting and job costing.”
The job costing function within M1 features actual costs compared with estimated job costing for materials, sub-contracting, operations (labour/ overhead), as well as comparisons with projected and actual billings for profitability analysis.
High Quality Output
Among the many types of high precision, high quality bearings manufactured by JH Richards are split pair journal bearings, bushes, thrust pads and tilting pad assemblies. The company’s customers also expect refurbished bearings to meet the same exacting standards of a new bearing. Indeed, the same rigorous techniques and controls are employed on repair work as are used in JH Richards’ manufacturing processes.
Full inspection on receipt and contract review is carried out on every job, to ensure that all customer requests and specifications are met. Each job is identified with a unique job number and comprehensive job traveller, signed for by each person as the job goes through the factory. White metal is manufactured on the company’s own premises, with each batch given a unique number, analysed for conformity in a laboratory and recorded on inspection sheets.
From a job management perspective, M1 offers comprehensive manufacturing management control for the routing, scheduling, costing and tracking of parts manufactured on the shop floor. The system is highly effective regardless of whether these are custom parts or repetitive parts which may eventually be sold out of finished goods inventory.
“Although it’s difficult to quantify the exact savings accrued by adopting M1, I believe it has easily paid for itself,” concludes Mr Salloway. “Ultimately, the cost of this kind of software is the cost of doing business with our kind of clients – our customers want to know we’re in control. M1 helps facilitate this and has become a core part of our business support mechanism.”