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South African User Group has record attendance
Friday, August 26, 2011
The Preactor user group in South Africa took place at the Indaba Hotel, Johannesburg on the 18th August. Organised by Scheduling Solutions, Preactor’s partner there, this all day event was preceded by a two day training course for users and new partners. Chris Mollison, CEO of Scheduling Solutions, commented on the three days. “I was very encouraged to see the attendance at the conference of many non-users of Preactor, these included both prospects and consulting houses wanting to find out more about the Preactor scheduling solution.”

More than 60 people arrived to see presentations from Mike Novels, CEO of Preactor International as well as three cases studies describing how companies are using Preactor to provide them with real benefits.


First up was Lance Zikalala, of Scheduling Solutions, who gave a presentation on how Preactor GMPS and Preactor APS are used by South Ocean Electric Wire for the planning and scheduling of electric cables. Lance, a very experienced Preactor consultant, explained how Preactor was integrated with the legacy Pegasus Opera accounting system, how both long term planning and detailed scheduling were used and how the schedule was integrated with the TRS shop-floor data collection and tracking system, developed by Scheduling Solutions, which helped to complete the circle and update Preactor with operations that were completed.

usergroup02.jpgA very interesting case study was presented by Eddie Botes and Rajesperi Venketasen of Haggie Steel Wire Rope (download Case Study pdf). Haggie Steele Wire Rope has more than 1300 employees making speciality steel ropes used for example in the mining industry. These ropes are very complex assemblies that require multiple steel strands of the highest quality materials. Eddie described how they tried to implement Baan twice and then SAP, to provide a useful planning and scheduling solution but had been unsuccessful. Until recently they used a manual system which was both time consuming and could not react easily to changing requirements. “The amount of paperwork and control required was a nightmare” commented Eddie.

Key to the success of the project was the ability for Preactor to be customised to use a project structure routing for each order. Chris Mollison describes the need. “Using the ERP system each material at each level of the BOM required a different order to be produced. In fact as each order was unique and could not be split in any way we needed to make Preactor treat all materials, all operations as one single entity i.e. as a single works order. As we had done this before we could immediately see the way to overcome the limitations of the ERP system”.

Haggie Steel Wire rope also had a legacy application that dealt with the complex calculations required to obtain the length of wire required per order, the number of bobbins to hold the wire and also the machine specific run rates. The solution provided meant Haggie Steel Wire Rope could retain and refresh their ‘legacy’ system rather than throw away the many years of work that went into its design and development, and pass this data to Preactor. Preactor enabled what they had rather than require them to replace it.

Rajesperi explained how they planned the factory now, the reduced time needed and the other benefits that had been obtained using Preactor.

The third case study was presented by Gary Noeth of DCD-DORBYL (download Case Study pdf). This heavy engineering company makes huge fabricated metal assemblies such as grinding mills that may take months to complete. Their order intake had increased dramatically in recent years. “We used to wait for the orders to arrive then add labour because machine capacity wasn’t a problem for us. However labour was becoming harder to find and the size and mass of the mills that were being ordered meant we had real space and equipment constraints”. DCD were finding it hard to plan to get orders out on time and ‘fire fighting’ was no longer helping.


Gary again; “We needed a better way of scheduling and fast to ensure accurate and reliable deliveries”. Gary started to analyse the problem using concepts described in Eli Goldratt’s ‘The Goal’ and was able to make some improvements by focussing on the constraints of the system. He also started to use Microsoft Project to visualise the constraints. He found it very time consuming as resources needed to be selected manually; swapping resources could only be done manually by breaking and re-establishing links and any links between projects also needed manual intervention. Prioritisation of projects was also difficult. However Gary felt that MS Project still had a part to play.

Scheduling Solutions were able to integrate the Microsoft Project with Preactor so that resource selection is done automatically, links between projects are also created automatically and prioritisation is easily done. “Preactor will find better scheduling solutions than can be done manually over a large number of projects” said Gary.


There was always time for users and partners to network throughout the meeting. “It’s very important that our users, partners and prospects have time to talk to each other” says Chris Mollison, “and to see how Preactor is implemented in very different types of application.”

“I found the conference very interesting, especially the case studies” commented Sharron Dunn of Osborn Engineering. And from Wouter Combrink of SYSPRO, “Wow, it was my first Preactor training and conference and I have to say – well done!”


Mike Novels also gave a presentation on the latest development plans for future versions of Preactor. More music to the ears of the users who attended!!