Silverline chooses In2grate to achieve transformation

Silverline Office Equipment Ltd has been manufacturing steel office furniture in the UK for over 30 years.

Silverline_logo.pngWith a factory based in Mildenhall, Suffolk and a London showroom, the company now employs 110 people and turns over more than £10 million per year. Its customisable product ranges have earned a reputation in the industry for high functionality, style and eye-catching use of colour. As a result, few customer orders are the same.

Since 2002, the company has used specially commissioned bespoke manufacturing software. However, in 2008 Government led austerity measures began to impact its predominantly public sector customer base. In successive years it became increasingly clear that the bespoke software was not capable of supporting the company’s operations either in meeting increasingly harsh market conditions or accelerated diversification into private sector work.

In 2013, Silverline’s management team made the decision that a new platform and the associated financial investment were critical to the company’s market position and future success. They embarked on a year-long research and selection process for new “best fit” manufacturing software that would enable the company to achieve vital stepchange transformations in its business operations.

“We wanted to work with an ERP systems integrator - ideally with specialist capabilities in manufacturing and the furniture industry - rather than a global ERP provider” Peter Murray, Systems and Manufacturing Development Manager

A challenging situation

Having used bespoke software, Silverline’s business was facing significant challenges, including:

  • Decades of manufacturing customisable products resulting in the existence of many thousands of Bills of Materials (BOMs).
  • The high volume of BOMs caused various difficulties in specifying new products and variations and made reflecting the manufacturing processes increasingly difficult and timeconsuming.
  • Reporting from the bespoke software had been augmented by numerous spreadsheets of varying complexity. There was no single ‘real time’ view of fundamental information such as inventory levels, order status or delivery timescales. Resolving the discrepancies caused additional work, extended production lead times and still resulted in errors.

Peter Murray, Systems and Manufacturing Development Manager at Silverline, explains: “The company had reached a stage where it had to think about manufacturing in a different context; as being a single process from quotation to invoice, not just about producing quality products to cost and delivering them on time.

“It was crucial that we looked at new ways of working, getting orders swiftly and ‘right first time’ into our business software and then relay workflow information across departments very quickly. This would take us forward considerably,” Peter says.

Rigorous selection

Silverline_360.jpgRealising that software functionality was its key requirement; Silverline adopted a software-led selection process.

“We wanted a manufacturing focused product that would be continuously developed by the supplier, not us. We also knew that we wanted to work with an ERP systems integrator - ideally with specialist capabilities in manufacturing and the furniture industry - rather than a global ERP provider. Given that the existing bespoke system had proved unfit for purpose over the years, our working relationship with the vendor was going to be crucial to the success of the new system. This resulted in a shortlist of 10,” Peter Murray explains.

“We also wanted to work with a UK based company who shared our vision to deliver successful business operational transformations, not just to implement software. In this respect, the selection of the vendor was as important as the product selection.”

Competitive tenders from 3 vendors resulted in the selection of In2grate Business Solutions based on Microsoft Dynamics NAV and TRIMIT, a Microsoft Dynamics NAV partner with TRIMIT, a manufacturing solution tailored to the furniture industry.

Product configuration breakthrough

The functional specification prepared by In2grate has identified several breakthroughs for Silverline’s business and operations, notably the reduction in BOMs from many thousands to less than 50 ‘master BOMs’ which will fulfil Silverline’s existing product portfolio.

The dramatic cutback is made possible using the capabilities of the configurator within TRIMIT. Products can be defined as ‘masters’ with pre-defined optional parameters known as ‘Vardims’ – variants or dimensions. Each Vardim can be used to define the item number, e.g. the number of drawers in the cabinet, or to define a property of the product, e.g. the position of the badge.

Using the Configurator, Silverline will be able to extend and expand its product range simply, effectively and accurately. The Configurator will also drive dynamic cost calculations alongside the BOMs so that customer quotations can be created in real-time rather than taking 2 days or more to turn around manually within a typical 2 week production process. Together, the time savings are significant and customer service levels will be improved.

Further transformations

The intrinsic reporting capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics NAV combined with its familiar Microsoft Office interface is another breakthrough for Silverline. Many of the spreadsheets supporting the existing system will be replaced immediately with standard and customisable real time reports based on the same fundamental data, eliminating discrepancies and errors.

Previously, order documentation and labels were raised in advance and would have to be reproduced if the order changed during production. Now, documentation will be created at the time of requirement and routed to the appropriate physical location for use.

Electrostatic paint booths within the manufacturing process have to be scheduled to apply colour from light to dark shades so that each colour is true and uncontaminated by its predecessor. This previously spreadsheet-based process will be automated within the new system, improving both efficiency and turnaround times and will integrate with Silverline’s Lean MRP Continuous Improvement programmes.

Despatch operations are another area where the new Microsoft Dynamics NAV and TRIMIT platform will replace supporting spreadsheets. Silverline will introduce ‘pick, pack and ship’ operations so that items for delivery are queued in the correct order at the loading bays and scanned onto the correct vehicle for delivery, improving despatch times and reducing errors.

Step change transformation

Enabled by a 98% reduction in BOMs, the availability of real time data and tangible time savings, the results of the new Microsoft Dynamics NAV and TRIMIT platform solution are transformational for Silverline’s business and its future.

One of the company’s initial expectations is to achieve a 50% reduction in order process times for customer specific orders. Configurator functionality within TRIMIT is capable of supporting the business and an expanding product portfolio for many years to come.

Why choose In2grate Business Solutions

Although the product choice was compelling, Peter Murray at Silverline is quick to point out that In2grate’s capabilities and attitude played just as much of a part in Silverline’s decision.

“In2grate made it clear to us in a variety of ways that our business was very important to them. Their obvious close relationship with TRIMIT (hence Microsoft) and the fact that TRIMIT visited from Denmark at In2grate’s request gave us great confidence in their commitment to a successful implementation and quality of the on-going support.

“During the selection process, In2grate were always eager, but never over-bearing and this is testament to the importance they put on working relationships. It’s clear to Silverline that In2grate recognises the culture and subcultures within organisations, and they are able to adapt to each one to gain maximum buy-in from everyone involved. This is a vital element in any successful business transformation.

“Silverline is delighted to be working with In2grate and we are looking forward to starting a new chapter in our business,” Peter Murray concludes.

Benefits at a glance

  • Reduction in the number of Bills of Materials (BOMs) from thousands to less than 50 ‘master’ products.
  • Dynamic cost calculations running alongside the BOMs, enabling automated, real time accurate customer quotations.
  • New product ranges, product range extensions and variations can be defined and costed within hours.
  • Reporting is in real time using a ‘single view’ of all data, eliminating the need for numerous complex supporting spreadsheets.
  • Scheduling of the paint booths from light to dark colours is automated, facilitating Lean WIP flow rather than stock.
  • Automated ‘pick, pack and ship’ means reduced despatch and delivery times with fewer errors using assured on-board scanning methodology.
  • Customer specific product order processing timescales are expected to reduce by 50%.

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