Progress Rail, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc, designs and manufactures track work components for the railroad, transit and industrial markets. The UK arm of the company turns over £65m and employs 600 people across seven sites.
At the time of implementation, Progress Rail was part of Balfour Beatty, a world-class engineering, construction, services and investment business that creates and cares for essential assets: hospitals, schools, road, rail, utility
systems and major structures.
Over recent years, Balfour Beatty has experienced strong growth. But success has not been without its growing pains, not least increasingly inefficient business structures that have struggled to communicate with one another effectively.
In addressing such mounting inefficiencies, Progress Rail sought a software system that would improve visibility across their railroad division and accelerate their ambitious growth strategy. Not least, they needed a streamlined manufacturing solution that would ease production planning and automate the purchasing process.
Since Progress Rail’s responsiveness was curtailed by low efficacy in handling the production process and less than clear channels of communication with customers, they chose to implement Microsoft Dynamics AX with global Microsoft ERP partner, Columbus: a globally proven manufacturing solution.
In choosing Dynamics AX with Columbus, Progress Rail realised immediate benefits in the reduction of unnecessary communication that was clogging up the system, as Keith Churm, managing director explains: “Since the implementation we haven’t needed to deal with each of our profit centres separately. Now a lot of transactions have disappeared.”
Big efficiency gains have been made across their 50 work centres by making use of the capacity planning functionality with the Dynamics AX solution, allowing Progress Rail to see where issues may arise before it becomes a problem.
“Microsoft Dynamics AX enables us to use the capacity planning facility not only to indicate free capacity on one site, but on a multi-site bases,” comments Mark Nash, manufacturing director, adding, “this helps project managers deal with shifts and the number of people he needs in areas where the risk of delivery failure is higher. The system gives the operator a sequence of operations that he is then charged to undertake according to the task schedule. Thanks to the implementation, the output level has increased by an enormous 300%, while the amount of people has stayed the same.”
"Purchase orders are now done in just 24 hours, earlier it used to take weeks."Keith Churm, Managing Director, Progress Rail
Purchasing – thanks to a degree of intelligent automation within the system - has also transformed Progress Rail’s fortunes, resulting in an impressive 20% reduction in stock. Churm explains: “Microsoft Dynamics AX enables us to
identify the purchase parts automatically – whether they need manufacturing or purchasing. Purchase orders are now done in just 24 hours, earlier it used to take weeks. We can just plug in the desired parameters or constraints and
the system does the rest of it.”
The solution has made a remarkable improvement to customer service. Customers can get information more readily and accurately. For example they can take a look into what materials they need to procure and what capacity they need to reserve in just a day. This increases customer confidence noticeably. Columbus’ solution allows Progress Rail access to live information and direct speeches with clients, which saves a lot of time since there are no intermediaries and allows to respond much faster.
The real-time reporting, VAT, bank reconciliations and financial compliance functionality with Microsoft Dynamics AX has also resulted in dramatic improvements, explains Keith Ravenscroft, finance director: “For example, a 22% reduction in accounting staff overhead is really something to boast about. With only 7 employees needed instead of the former 9, we have saved 2 man years of cost.”
An implementation with Columbus isn’t merely a technology project. It’s about a deep understanding of a business, its processes, its issues and its people. Working together, Columbus and Progress Rail followed Columbus’ proven project methodology to ensure a smooth transition into Microsoft Dynamics AX. Ravenscroft concludes: “They are professional and dedicated people, who are really easy to work with. They know the product really well in order to find the best possible solution. Columbus’ experts had just the experience we needed. And what’s more – they took
the time to listen us first.”
In choosing Columbus and Dynamics AX, Progress Rail has established a platform for future growth and developed the capacity to meet change head on.