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Cash Bases Rings up Impressive Cash Benefits using Preactor
May 2005

Cash BasesCash Bases is the leading supplier of cash handling solutions in the form of custom designed cash drawers to the majority of the largest global names in retailing. Sectors range from Food Process through to Hospitality, Leisure and Speciality Retail.

The company sells to distributors for tier three retailers but principally through all the global POS integrators Wincor Nixdorf, NCR and IBM.

Working closely with the retailer, Cash Bases designs drawers to meet the customer’s individual cash handling requirements and specifications. Cash Bases produces a range of high-quality cash drawers that are durable, ergonomic, space saving and available in a range of colours, while at the same time able to hold high volumes of cash. These designs offer retailers the opportunity to improve their POS efficiency.

The company manufactures all parts, although fixtures such as locks, hinges and plastics parts are bought in. In 2003 an unprecedented three-fold increase in orders meant that the current production volumes and control systems were inadequate to deal with the influx. This caused lead times to customer to go very rapidly from 4 to 16 weeks. With the objective of returning to a 4-week lead time at the new volumes, Cash Bases began to reappraise its planning and scheduling requirements. It then formed its highly beneficial partnership with Preactor and SFJ Systems.

Cash BasesPaul Lambert, Cash Bases’s Improvements Manager, outlined some of the historic problems: “The main setback was the level of production backlogs. This resulted in a number of late deliveries, with resultant customer dissatisfaction and far too much WIP on the shop floor. Planning used to be done on an Excel spreadsheet, with Bills of Materials information being extracted direct from a legacy EFACS ERP system. There was no real account taken of capacity to speak of, when planning or scheduling activity. Naturally, the management realised that it needed to look for a method of planning production in a more efficient way.”

Because of the production backlog, the primary driver was to ensure Preactor could inform management and supervision the production activities, timings and sequence to ensure that customers’ requested delivery (CRD) dates would be maintained, whilst reducing WIP. Prior to Preactor there was no visibility of how to achieve CRD. As a consequence there was a random approach by which orders were prioritised on the shop floor, mainly driven from who shouted loudest or what job staff preferred to work on first, planning & WIP was out of control. Management of the shop floor required a tool that would give focus to customer service and maintaining CRDs.

Lambert recommended SFJ as the supplier based on his dealings with the reseller at his previous company. It was decided to place an order for Preactor APS with SFJ Systems in January 2004.

Preactor APS took about six months to implement, largely due to the level of customisation involved. “One of the things that took up much of the time was the bespoke database, which was specially written and configured by SFJ,” explained Lambert. “However the benefits we are now gaining through having the database at the heart of our infrastructure far outweigh any time delays in getting the system up and running.”

SFJ also spent a large amount of the implementation period refining the loading algorithms which indicate under and over capacity and when it is necessary or advisable to sub-contract. “Ironically, because Preactor’s scheduling functionality proved so effective in ensuring we kept on top of orders, within a couple of months of gong live the algorithms weren’t really required to any great extent,” said Lambert. “They certainly helped in the early stages however,” he added.

Cash BasesSFJ came on site to conduct five day-long training sessions over a two-month period while Preactor APS was being installed. This was mainly for the production planner and the sales office manager. Cash Bases then took over training responsibilities for the production planning back-up personnel and other relevant members of staff. “As we changed the specifications of Preactor during implementation we had to schedule some additional training. SFJ came back on site for this purpose,” said Lambert. “Also, our team visited SFJ’s premises both in order to wrap up all our training requirements and to finalise certain points regarding Preactor re-specifications.”

Going Live
The new system went live in early July 2004, slightly over time but on budget. In terms of procedure, once the Bills of Materials data is ready in EFACS this is transferred to the bespoke database, which generates the structure of how a particular product is manufactured, and puts the data into a useable format to be transferred to Preactor APS. The information from the database is then transferred to Preactor for scheduling on the shop floor in accordance with customers’ due dates.

Since going live with Preactor APS, Cash Bases has reduced its Work in Progress from 30 to 10 days, and this figure is continuing to drop. Indeed, the company has reduced its Work in Progress costs by around £150,000 to £200,000 since using Preactor APS. “In implementing Preactor, our main aim was to improve our on-time-deliveries, as defined by the customer-required dates,” said Lambert. “And Preactor has certainly delivered in this respect. On-time delivery has increased from 34% (which gave a backlog of orders of 19 days production) to 94% (giving a backlog of less than 1 days production). We now enjoy better overall control and synchronisation over departments.

Cash BasesPreactor has also improved visibility of the order book. In addition, we can utilise our existing production capacity more effectively, and can now conduct all our capacity planning in Preactor. In fact we have just completed all our capacity planning for 2005 on the system. Another major advantage of Preactor is that we have seen an improvement in productivity of around 15-20%, in terms of build-hours per cash drawer. This finite capacity planning has enabled supervisors to understand their role and activities better. It has also negated the need to employ around 14 temporary members of staff.”   Because of the huge backlog and the amount of new orders coming in all the time, one of the first requirements of Preactor APS needed to be guidance as to what needed to be subcontracted to alleviate some of the capacity constraints.

“Interestingly, since Preactor came on stream we have become so much more efficient at scheduling production that we have been able to move a lot of our outsourced operations back in house,” enthused Lambert. “Also, most of our materials and fixtures stock has been moved from purchased stock to Kanban. All these benefits have, of course, proved to be enormous cost savers and have resulted in a very fast ROI on the software investment.”

In terms of user friendliness, Lambert has been a convert since using the system at his previous company. “I find that through the use of Preactor just about everyone involved in production enjoys a raft of benefits, from easy access of information, to effective planning and scheduling and the peace of mind of knowing customer due dates are more likely to be met. I know that Shaun Kelly our assembly manager is a total convert to the system. Also, just prior to Preactor going live we created a kit marshaller for the machine shop. He also finds Preactor extremely useful. In fact he uses the database screen more than anything else. Both he and the assembly manager can now find all required data regarding Bill of Materials and work in progress on the database screen without needing to access EFACS direct.”

When the new system first went live Cash Bases had a short period where it would take anything up to a full day to interrogate the Bills of Materials in EFACS, run through the database, import into and run Preactor APS then transfer back to the database. “This whole process has now been massively refined,” said Lambert. “In fact the whole process now only takes less than 20 minutes from interrogating EFACS to generating work-to lists for the shop floor. This is getting close to the real time system we require.”

Holistically, Preactor APS is of major benefit for most of Cash Bases’s production operations, from the shaping, pressing and bending areas to spinning (studding), spot welding, Kit marshalling and finishing at assembly, sub-assembly, testing and packing. “The only area where we don’t employ Preactor is raw materials,” said Lambert.

Ongoing Projects
In terms of ongoing projects, we are currently moving the design department to Preactor scheduling. When this is completed we will be able to create work-to lists for the design engineers and track project progress. Despatch will also go over to Preactor soon. This is so that we will be able to collate despatch by customer and delivery area code, so we can make best use of transport. The repairs area is also soon to move to Preactor. We used to sub-contract most of our repairs operations. However, because of the scope of functionality within Preactor we will now be able to move most of our repairs back in house, and provide a fast turn-round for our customers, mostly within 5 days.

Lambert summed up the success of the project: “Throughout the implementation period, during training, and in terms of ongoing support, SFJ have always been highly professional and extremely helpful. Since using the system Cash Bases has gained so many benefits, both financially and in terms of overall efficiency. And those benefits will continue to develop as more departments within the company move to Preactor.”

Mike Novels, Managing Director of Preactor International, commented on the application: “It’s interesting to see how this company is gradually extending the use of Preactor both upstream of the machining and assembly shop, to design, as well as downstream to dispatch. The use of Kanbans and Lean principles also shows how effective IT combined with these techniques can provide very impressive benefits for
the company’s bottom line.”

Stan Jonik of SFJ found that the production and technical staff at Cash Bases were on board right from the start. “This was an enormous benefit in designing and implementing the system as we had positive feedback immediately any work was done. We put a lot of effort in Pre-Processing the data from EFACS, as the raw data was not in the format Cash Bases required for use within Preactor. We used an Access Database to hold and manipulate the information; this proved an added benefit when we exported to Preactor as we were guaranteed a successful schedule.”