The company is one of the few remaining knitting manufacturers left in the UK and has a dedicated North American subsidiary, Pantherella Inc., located near New York to manage sales and distribution for the US market.
The success of its brand and consistent growth led the Pantherella management team to explore the opportunity for replacing its existing bespoke UNIX-based computer system as it could not keep up with the company’s needs. The team recognised that Pantherella needed a solution that would support its growth well into the future and it needed to be a system that would maximise return on investment; and whatever software it chose would eventually need to meet the requirements of all companies within the HJ Sock Group.
The company proceeded on a thorough investigation of the manufacturing ERP software market, honing down the choice of systems to two. One of these being the perceived de facto system used by a large number of UK fashion manufacturing businesses, the other an integration between Microsoft® Dynamics NAV and a unique fully integrated vertical add-on called TRIMIT Fashion supplied by In2grate Business Solutions.
“The system will bring visibility and clarity to our production process enabling us to optimise our planning”
Richard Gray Group IT Manager
TRIMIT Fashion sits within Microsoft’s powerful enterprise resource planning (ERP) system giving it advanced functionality for fashion manufacturing. It does this by streamlining the creation and management of the bill of material (BOM) when producing customisable products, such as socks that come in different sizes, colours, styles and using different materials. It ensures accuracy of detail and therefore prevents production errors and wastage.
TRIMIT Fashion is new in the UK and has a lot of success with leading fashion manufacturers in Denmark, Sweden and Germany where it dominates as the system of choice.
Eventually, Pantherella settled on the Dynamics NAV with TRIMIT Fashion solution, recognising that this would be the best solution for the company and would support its growth over the next 20 years. It would remove the worry of whether the software would keep up with technological developments and changes in the industry.
“In2grate Business Solutions invested a lot of time getting to know our business and we recognised that Dynamics NAV with TRIMIT Fashion would be the best fit for our requirements. With Microsoft investing heavily in its software, we have confidence that we are getting a solution that feasibly could be the last ERP system we would ever need to buy, because Microsoft is dedicated to ongoing development. Also, we became aware that TRIMIT has a very close relationship with Microsoft being a member of the elite Technology Adoption Program and you don’t get to join it unless Microsoft values what you do,” says Richard Gray, Group IT Manager.
Dynamics NAV is a well-proven ERP system used worldwide by more than 80,000 businesses across 40 countries and is subject to continual investment and development. With TRIMIT Fashion, it becomes the perfect solution for today’s fashion manufacturing companies who are looking for an IT solution with longevity and flexibility. Other advantages include the seamless integration with Microsoft Office and its ease of use provided by the role tailored client, which provides a familiar looking interface for every level of user, presenting them with precisely the information they need to help them work efficiently. It also has powerful reporting functionality, enabling key data to be extracted easily from the system and presented in useful formats, which was something that was sadly lacking in the company’s existing system.
TRIMIT also includes a powerful product configuration tool and provides product data management to help designers to create new products and manage workflow through to sample or finished products.
“We are expecting TRIMIT’s product configuration to make a huge difference to how we operate. It fits our approach perfectly whereas other product configurators we looked at required us to change the way we do things in a negative way,” says Richard Gray.
“The system will bring visibility and clarity to our production process enabling us to optimise our planning. We currently plan daily but we hope to extend this to weekly planning - and possibly monthly planning - for certain production runs. We’ll be able to set up everything we need to produce any specification of sock within the system, this includes yarns, machines, piece rates for the workforce for that particular sock order, packaging, and factory space. In fact it is probably easier to say that TRIMIT will take the whole specification for every sock we produce,” he adds.
The system will also store template designs. This will allow Pantherella to customise specific designs for customers and produce the BOMs on the fly, which will improve efficiency. It will be an easy matter to introduce the specific requirements, whether the sock needs branding to a particular customer’s label and packaging, or if it simply requires a generic price tag and retain the Pantherella branding.
Because In2grate Business Solutions has a special relationship with TRIMIT’s author, it is developing the system further with specific enhancements for “yarn control” and “machine groups”. These special functions optimise efficiencies throughout the company’s manufacturing operations, eliminating raw material wastage and ensuring optimum use of each knitting machine.
Yarn control is particularly important as it is in the company’s interest to minimise wastage and control production costs. By minimising wastage, the company also optimises its purchasing, enabling it to gain better control over its yarn inventory and stock costs.
“The system will give us visibility of all the yarn cones we have in the factory. It will tell us how much yarn has been used for a particular production run and show us how much excess we have that can be allocated to other runs. It will also enable us to keep tighter control of our inventory so that we maintain optimum stock level,” says Richard Gray.
The machine group functionality makes it easy to manage all the knitting machines and their functions to improve workflow and production planning. For example, some machines will be knitting the toe of the sock, while others will produce heels and others will be turning the various components into finished product. As each process varies in how long it takes to complete, Pantherella can simply interrogate the system to gain a complete view of the shopfloor’s manufacturing capacity. Pantherella will also be able to plan production by machine groups whenever appropriate to maximise the use of the equipment.
TRIMIT will also provide Pantherella’s US division in New York with the ability to visualise its own warehouse stock and stocks held in the UK, which will help it with managing new orders and improve customer service too. The system will also allow Pantherella Inc to see the UK production plan and have full visibility of what is being manufactured. This ability to see work in process in the UK manufacturing site without having to call the UK for information will make a big difference to the US business reports Richard Gray.
With the deal now completed, In2grate Business Solutions is working with Pantherella helping it prepare for a go live date in 2013. Once the system is established, it is likely that the other HJ Sock Group company, HJ Hall, will follow suit by implementing the system too.
Benefits at a glance