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Preactor is the Engine of Change for Sotreq
June 2006

SotreqEstablished more than 65 years ago Sotreq is an exclusive reseller of Caterpillar equipment across 70% of the country of Brazil. It also provides after-sales service including maintenance and repair with the largest of these centers being based in Contagem/MG where its HQ employs some 300 people. 

Also at this location is the Component Rebuild Center (CRC) where it repairs engines, transmissions, final drives, differentials, torque converters, pumps and cylinders. CRC has 120 highly qualified professionals to carry out a wide range of services.

Sinval Colares, Service Manager of CRC, explains the problems he faces.

“We receive service calls from all over Brazil. Most of them are customers that need to repair their equipment as soon as possible because without it they are losing money”.

Sotreq had already invested a lot of time in designing the layout of its CRC facility to establish a good process flow to provide the best productivity.  The idea was to build a repair garage that would work like a factory.

“But this was not enough” added Colares, “Keeping all resources active and synchronised is very important for us. An engine repair job, for instance, involves several steps like external wash, strip down, hot wash for iron and aluminium components, metallurgical inspection, repair of fuel injection and cylinder heads, assembly and final test. Everything must be done in sequence, or sometimes in parallel.  The 180 resources must be used as efficiently as possible.”

SotreqThe Service Scheduler of Sotreq CRC, Tulio Santos, explains.  “When the volume of work was small, we could handle it all with a spreadsheet. However, as our demand increased we started to search for a more powerful scheduling tool that would allow us to schedule in detail further ahead, while maximizing resource utilisation and delivery performance.”

Additionally, the scheduling task at Sotreq CRC had an extra complication. For some services it only really knew what work was necessary after strip down and analysis. In order to estimate a delivery date it was necessary to overestimate the time required, unless a faster and more accurate scheduling tool could be found.

“For each type of service and component there existed a list of standard operations/activities that must be done in a specific sequence. However the exact number of operations varied from one case to another. A hydraulic cylinder, for example, involves around 10 operations. However, work on an engine of the 3500 family requires more than 100 operations” says Tulio Santos.

“So, considering that the schedule requirements changed every day depending on the mix of the services, the bottlenecks also changed, which meant that flexibility and faster answers were fundamental in being able to guarantee a high level of customer services at Sotreq CRC”, added Sinval Colares.

The Solution
Gerson Trugilho, IT consultant of Sotreq, was the first one to become aware of Preactor and he quickly realised that it could be used in several ways in the business. He described how the first project started. 

“It was a long path before we closed the first business with Tecmaran.  We considered many applications including our mining area but we decided to solve CRC problem first”.

SotreqA team of people from Sotreq and Tecmaran, the Master Reseller of Preactor in South America, decided that the Sotreq CRC application required a Preactor 400 APS linked to four Preactor Viewers.

The project started in September 2004 and involved several phases of training, configuration work, database preparation and extensive testing before the system went live. It was based on Tecmaran’s Implementation Methodology and was central to the success of the project.

Gerson Turgilho again.  “During the project we experienced a lot of difficulties, some were easy to solve but other were very complex. One of those was the fact that we realised that the process routes maintained in our database were excellent for quotations but not useful for fine scheduling proposes. This required us to change the project plan to meet our objectives. Tecmaran’s expertise was decisive in smoothing the way forward.”

Preactor was linked with Sotreq’s database (DBSi) allowing the user to download new service orders with minimum information:  customer, equipment, date of entry and type of service required.  It then uses this information to explode all the individual services orders and then link it based on the Bill of Process (BoP) maintained in Preactor. After this, an optimal due date is calculated before the user schedules all or part of the operations depending on requirements.

Tiago Lima, a Tecmaran consultant, was responsible for the technical requirements of the project.

“The most complex part of this project was to design and structure the standard service routes database in Preactor. At first glance we realised that PBX and SMC could not deliver the required results. It required a clever solution to handle individual services and combinations of these and a special routine for order explosion. So we have developed a specific BoP exploder.

For example, let’s say that the service is just to repair a cylinder. If it arrives at CRC already stripped down then the service will start from one point and follow a specific process,  but if it is not then it will need to start from another point and may follow a different process route. Both will have the same operations but combined in different ways”.

Operational since March 2005, Preactor has been used to schedule the operations of all production processes, starting from when the component arrives at CRC’s reception area.  Sinval explained how important it was to have visibility to know where each job had progressed as well as to be able to plan maintenance in advance without impacting day to day activities.

SotreqIt also provides a ‘what if’ tool to generate different operational scenarios as well as showing the impact of a new rush order on existing delivery promises.  Within just a few weeks after going live, Sotreq CRC measurable benefits were achieved. The lead time to assemble final drives for off-roads trucks (like 785, 789 and 793 models) was reduced from 4 to 3 days.

“This reduction was achieved without additional hours but just by better synchronisation of operations. Recently, however, we have used Preactor to decide on a shift change. With the same number of people we have started a second shift which has been able to reduce the lead time further to 2 days, a 50% reduction” Tulio Santos explained.

In addition Sotreq has heavily reduced overtime, down more than 40%.

“The combination of the second shift and knowing what our priorities are and how we can load each resource, has made our decisions on overtime more effective” says Sinval Colares.

Sotreq is now celebrating a new production record for its first year of using Preactor. The number of components handled has increased from 862 in the previous year to 951 in its first year with Preactor, a 10.3% increase in efficiency.

Understandably the Sotreq team is very proud.  “We completed 951 components in a year with just 53 mechanics which is a record for us. Our people are more productive and confident” commented Tulio Santos, “our annual service revenues have increased by 20%.  This is fantastic, we are very pleased with the progress we have made using Preactor”.

And the Future?  Sinval expects more benefits in coming years.  “Our next challenge is to simplify and review our corporate database, improve integration and perhaps extend the use of Preactor to other areas of Sotreq”.