AT A GLANCE
- Needed to measure key data to improve efficiency
- Required improved visibility into reporting and customer quoting procedures
- Epicor ERP
- Improved visibility over operations including customer quoting procedures
- Better insight into data to support research and development and decision-making process
- Robust ERP system provides platform for growth
- Improved customer service with increased flexibility and responsiveness to clients
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Hufcor is a US-owned company that has become the world’s largest manufacturer of operable partitions, accordion folding doors, glass-wall partitions and portable walls used in hotel meeting rooms, ballrooms, schools, religious buildings, convention centres and corporate facilities the world over. Hufcor designs, manufactures, maintains and installs its products through branches and distributors the world over.
Lack of data worries management
Hufcor’s decision to implement an ERP suite was driven by managing director Daryl Fisher’s concern that the company could not measure key data, which would allow more efficient management and growth.
“Everyone was doing their own thing,” Fisher recalls, and all were hard to track. “Accounting, stock and inventory control, sales margins – we had difficulty measuring them,” he says. “The sales office would put down a number they thought we wanted to see.”
When one team made a decision, management could not easily review their progress.
“We only had manual reports, with no visibility of day to day changes,” Fisher recalls. “John Walter, our national information systems manager was our only resource to extract data,” an unacceptable bottleneck that led to a decision to invest in ERP.
“I decided we had to have basic management tools,” Fisher says. “We needed to change the culture of the business. What we wanted to achieve was to have people accept responsibility and create one Hufcor, instead of State offices operating autonomously.”
But while the company needed the tools, investment in expensive products was not possible. Nor could the company contemplate third-party installers, so they turned to Epicor.
Tools of change
Hufcor now says several improvements to its operations are directly attributable to its Epicor implementation, with productivity the most visible change.
“Since implementing Epicor we have increased our manufacturing turnover while holding our people numbers,” Fisher says, adding that the software has proved an ideal growth platform for the company.
“We couldn’t consider growth before Epicor,” he says. “It has given us a very stable platform to grow from. We used to work off largely guesswork. Now we work from facts.”
Better informed quoting means more profit
Quoting is another process that has markedly improved thanks to Epicor ERP.
In manufacturing prices for inputs, like aluminium, change constantly and are market-driven yet Hufcor was not able to update prices because it lacked the systems to do so. This resulted in quotes that did not reflect the true cost of materials reaching customers. Now, Epicor ERP has made it possible to ensure quotes include accurate materials prices.
“Our quoting is more accurate because when costs change we can update them immediately,” Fisher says.
“Previously it was a huge task and we were unable to do it often enough in order to achieve a true pricing position.”
Improved research and development due to better information
Another benefit is a newfound ability to create more profitable products.
“In the late 1990s we couldn’t tell which product or which jobs were profitable,” Fisher says. “Now we have the data we need to empower better decision-making in operations and in our research and development phase.”
“For example, now we can find new materials and methods if a product is proving expensive to make.”
This benefit, derived directly from Epicor ERP, has affected the company’s products.
Hufcor even stopped selling one product after Epicor-driven analysis showed it was not profitable, Fisher explains.
“We have since redesigned it as more of an assembly job,” (which gives the company the ability to remain in this market without sacrificing profitability) says Fisher.
Better service to customers
The new software has also made Hufcor easier to work with for customers such as builders.
“Now we can present a consolidated package to a builder, even though we still operate three separate manufacturing teams,” Fisher explains.
“The sales offices quote on operable walls and then cross-sell glass walls and toilet cubicles and arrive at a discount based on the mix. One product discount may subsidise another. The manager for the deal can now work with all of these elements to achieve the desired margin across all of our products.”
Epicor ERP has also changed the way Hufcor works with its partners.
“We want to use distributors for parts of Australia not covered by our branches,” Fisher explains, with the aim that customers will get the same experience if they deal direct, or with a partner.
Epicor ERP has made that possible by exposing distributors to Hufcor’s processes, a facility that ensures quality service, while also reducing the administration required to work with partners.
“Distributors can use their own computers and systems and still tap in to Epicor online,” says John Walter. “They basically have the same access to information as a branch office.”