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Sevcon

Multi-location manufacturer ERP case study
Accuracy and compliance

Replace an ageing and disparate IT systems running at its five international sites.

Global manufacturer Sevcon needed to replace ageing and disparate IT systems running at its five international sites. A lack of integration meant that business managers were unable to get an accurate, up-to-date view of the company. Sevcon worked with Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner Columbus to deploy Microsoft Dynamics AX business management software, supported by the Microsoft server infrastructure. The new solution is easily customized to meet manufacturing needs, can grow with the business, and offers flexibility at Sevcon sites in different countries. Employees can connect to the network and use one single source of business information no matter their location. Customers and shareholders are getting greater value from a system that both supports and adapts to business needs.

Situation

Sevcon designs, manufactures, and markets electric motor control systems. Since its inception in 1961 in the United Kingdom (U.K.), Sevcon has been at the forefront of electric vehicle technology. The company’s success has resulted in expansion to France, the United States (U.S.), Japan, and Korea where it has manufacturing and sales facilities. But despite its success, the organization’s staggered expansion created new challenges. Each Sevcon location used different IT solutions, from Novell and UNIX, to the Microsoft® Windows NT® operating system. The incompatibility of these systems meant that information had to be transferred from one system to another manually. Simple data sharing among employees across different sites was time consuming and error prone and, as a result, critical business information was slow to be relayed across the enterprise. Darren Errington, Management and Information Systems Manager, Sevcon, says: “Separate systems often resulted in duplication of data and identical information being presented differently at each site, causing confusion among employees. Even when discussing the same project or item, what they could see on screen could differ significantly.” A lack of visibility of data meant that senior managers had to manually calculate accounts information, sales figures, and inventory and stock levels. Financial reporting across the business was slow, and the inconsistent nature of charts of accounts forced the company’s technical team to develop a complex financial reporting solution.

But the business systems Sevcon used were not flexible enough to adapt to market changes, effectively ruling out major upgrades. To improve its business processes and maximize efficiency, the group required a business management solution with strong reporting features, so users could extract information easily. Not only would this improve the day-to-day operations of employees, but it would also support efficient inter-company trading to create a leaner stock control process and improve customer service. Errington says: “We saw that our systems were preventing us from improving, developing, and increasing the size of our organization. Sevcon continually explores new technologies to benefit customers. Now we needed a new technology solution for clearer, global visibility of information for employees.”

Solution

Alleviating stockholder concerns was a priority for Sevcon. It is a public company that trades on the American Stock Exchange, and needs to assure investors that the correct processes are adhered to and are supported by reliable systems. To allay any concerns, the company independently researched 40 management systems, including Sage, Scala, and Microsoft Dynamics™ technology. Sevcon employed a team of consultants who interviewed users to understand their needs and developed a shortlist, paying particular attention to functionality, scalability, and cost. Microsoft Dynamics AX was chosen as the most suitable solution. Errington says: “Microsoft Dynamics AX was the only solution that gave us a single view of all data, held on a single database. It helps to connect our employees, processes and business information no matter where they are located around the globe.” Sevcon chose to work with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Columbus because of its experience in Microsoft Dynamics AX “Microsoft Dynamics AX was the only solution that gave us a single view of all data, held on a single database.” Darren Errington, Management and Information Systems Manager, Sevcon solutions and strong presence in the U.K., U.S., and France. Errington says: “Columbus added a lot of value to this solution and worked closely with us throughout the process, delivering training, resources, and consultancy advice.” Microsoft Dynamics AX provides Sevcon with a centralized solution that automates accounting, manufacturing, sales, and stock management processes, and provides clear, up-to-date information at any time to any user across the enterprise. Keen to get the most from its new software investment, the technical team at Sevcon invested in the Microsoft stack of integrated technologies. This involved replacing the entire communications and hardware infrastructure, and consolidating those servers onto Microsoft Windows Server® 2003 Enterprise Edition operating system. Sevcon also rolled out Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 communication and collaboration server, and Microsoft SQL Server 2000 was installed for the centralized database. The Microsoft Office System suite of applications provides familiar, easy to use tools for employees, while Microsoft operations Manager 2000 offers the IT team an efficient server management platform. The first rollout of Microsoft Dynamics AX was at Sevcon’s U.S. holding company. Deployment has since taken place in France, the U.K., the remaining operations in the U.S., and, most recently, Japan. Korea will go live with Microsoft Dynamics AX in early 2007. Errington says: “We now have one database located at our headquarters in the U.K., and have centralized our system and infrastructure. All five sites run Microsoft Dynamics AX and, as a result, we can operate efficiently as one organization regardless of the distance between our offices.”

Benefits

Since implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX, Sevcon has gained clearer visibility across its business worldwide. The solution improves inter-company trade and stock control and, as a direct result of improved business efficiencies, customers benefit from a faster, more responsive service. Employees Gain Greater Business Visibility Across Multiple Sites Sevcon now hosts all business information on one, accessible system. The modern, graphical user interface makes viewing detailed information far easier. Andy Turnbull, Production Supervisor, Sevcon, says: “Navigation is simple. Compared to our previous system where you could only have one screen open at a time, this solution offers a vast improvement. I can drill into the information and compare data side by side without having to leave my main area of focus.” Senior managers and decision makers gain complete visibility of the business across departments, teams, and international locations. Matt Boyle, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sevcon, says: “I now have a consistent overview of our global business on one screen. With a click of the mouse, I can switch between subsidiaries and compare real-time data in seconds. This is a huge improvement that adds significant value to the strategic decision making process.”

Easy Customization Delivers a Low Total Cost of Ownership

Seamless integration with in-house systems and Microsoft technologies, such as SQL Server 2000 and Exchange Server 2003, has simplified customization for IT professionals at Sevcon. With development and system maintenance time significantly reduced, the organization has already benefited from low total cost of ownership. “All five sites run Microsoft Dynamics AX and, as a result, we can operate efficiently as one organization regardless of the distance between our offices.” Darren Errington, Management and Information Systems Manager, Sevcon “With Microsoft Dynamics AX, we have the development framework we need to extend the technology’s functionality and customize it to meet specific manufacturing needs without disrupting day-to-day activities,” says Errington. “The powerful development environment has let us rapidly build our own Service Returns, Engineering Control, and Maintenance modules. Microsoft Dynamics AX is also so adaptable and scalable that it is already helping us to support our commitment of leading the field, and improve customer service, product quality, and shareholder value.”

One Complete View of International Operations

The distributed nature of the business means that Sevcon has a real need for countryspecific features. Multi-language and multicurrency functionality help ensure information complies with local legal and accounting standards. Similarly, costs and prices can be converted to local currency values at the click of a mouse. “Our users in France can access the central system and see the information presented on their screens in French. Our users in the U.S. and the U.K. see the same information, but presented in a way that suits them,” says Errington. “Microsoft Dynamics AX was the only solution that was designed using a modern, elegant architecture that fully supports the needs of our worldwide locations.”

Accurate Financial Reporting Complies with Regulations and Cuts Audit Costs

Regulatory and compliance legislation, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, creates additional requirements for transparency and control across businesses. Sarbanes-Oxley enforces internal accounting controls, stating that all business records, including electronic records and electronic messages, must be saved for five years. Errington says: “For a company of our size, this could have turned into a massive expense. With so many different business systems, the audit fees to make us compliant would have been huge.” Creating and maintaining corporate records cost-effectively is easy with Microsoft Dynamics AX. The standardized processes and reporting features mean that Sevcon can introduce consistency of financial reports and automate record keeping across the entire group, reducing further expense. Steve Cammock, Production Manager, Sevcon, says: “This makes reviewing exceptions so much easier because we have access to a full audit of everything we do. The standard reports give me an excellent analysis of our daily operations so I can monitor and improve production performance.”

Greater Control Results in Leaner Stock Line Sales employees can clearly see the status of products in the supply chain and new orders placed by contractors in real time, making it easier to assess stock levels or predict market trends. Errington says: “A user’s screen can be switched to an operations company in another country so the user can see what purchases have been made to satisfy customer demand. This is another step forward for us. We have been able to significantly reduce the amount of stock we hold, and can now distribute the stock much more efficiently.”  “Previously, our manufacturing resource planning/material requirements planning process would take six hours. Now, it only takes 20 minutes due to easier user interfaces, navigation, and data entry.” “Microsoft Dynamics AX was the only solution that was designed using a modern, elegant architecture that fully supports the needs of our worldwide locations.” Darren Errington, Management and Information Systems Manager, Sevcon

Solution Scales for Future Growth

Sevcon is preparing to double its business growth as it plans to deploy Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0. “We hope to integrate more tightly with our subcontractors, and some of our larger customers as well to get electronic communication supporting our supply chain,” explains Errington. The company already uses Microsoft Windows SharePoint® Services to support its intranet, and will shortly implement Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 so that suppliers have easy access to its business systems. “Ultimately, this will reduce costs because collaborating more closely with suppliers will improve supply chain management and drive efficiencies across the business,” says Errington. “There is a massive feel of assurance in dealing with Microsoft. You know that the company isn’t going to disappear tomorrow, and the technology is only going to improve. That gives us a great deal of confidence.” Microsoft Dynamics Microsoft Dynamics is a line of integrated, adaptable business management solutions that enables you and your people to make business decisions with greater confidence. Microsoft Dynamics works like familiar Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office, which means less of a learning curve for your people, so they can get up and running quickly and focus on what’s most important. And because it is from Microsoft, it easily works with the systems that your company already has implemented. By automating and streamlining financial, customer relationship, and supply chain processes, Microsoft Dynamics brings together people, processes, and technologies, increasing the productivity and effectiveness of your business, and helping you drive business success.

Categories: Manufacturing, Microsoft Dynamics AX

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