Connecting to the future

As Customade Group steers towards becoming a £200 million business, it will be investing in additional IT and factory processes to optimise efficiency and deliver greater benefits for customers. Glass Times talks to IT director Julian Starling and chief operating officer Mark Scaife about how the group will marry lean manufacturing principles with the latest software solutions to unite all nine manufacturing sites into a series of ‘connected’ factories.

In the last year, Customade Group invested £2.5 million across nine multiple manufacturing sites to increase its capabilities and double production output. Now, it’s on course to become a fully data-driven business with modern manufacturing systems, state-of-the-art software, and a team of specialists to deliver its ambitions.

“It’s been an intensive 12 months for the group since we began integrating these sites to bring their business processes in line, Julian Starling, IT director at Customade Group, said. “All the sites use predominantly the same software, but not in the same way, and we needed to optimise and link them all so they perform seamlessly together. It’s a vital first stage and will help us deliver on the future vision of the group.”

Consolidating data across all sites is fundamental to becoming a full e-business and the group is currently integrating systems, from purchasing to logistics and supply chain systems, to help all factories to reduce lead times, forecast better, manage stock and control costs.

The group uses the Netsuite ERP solution for financials and CRM, but intends to exploit its full range of capabilities to integrate activities across all sites to support the modern processes the group and its stakeholders require.

Mark Scaife, chief operating officer, said: “Part of our transition to an e-business is to consolidate customer orders across multiple brands to bring everything conveniently into one place. To become a true supplier of choice, you have to excite the customer and much of that comes from work behind the scenes to introduce greater efficiencies, create the best value, standardise all systems and reduce risk.

“We’re building a world class manufacturer so systems to control all manufacturing processes and enhance our capabilities for the future are absolutely essential. As a data-driven business, it’s about becoming leaner, faster and even more customer-focused to allow us to deliver an unmatchable level of service.”

As well as increasing the pace of manufacturing, Customade Group will be implementing additional software to improve lead times and achieve full traceability of customer orders from the point of order right through to delivery.

“As the largest fabricator in the industry, we’re setting the benchmark for modern, lean manufacturing and IT is integral to this,” Julian said. “So, no matter which Customade Group site in the UK fabricates their products, our customers will complete just one order and will receive one complete delivery with one invoice. It’s about merging our manufacturing and management processes to become the easiest fabricator in the UK to work with.”

Instrumental, even at the early stages of this transformation, are modern technologies like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR). These will enable the group to improve processes and data quality, while achieving costs reductions.

“We’re building greater functionality into the business to improve communications and drive real sustainable business improvements across all disciplines and functions,” Mark said. “We’re agile, responsive and technically advanced and, as an industry leader, you can expect to see more exciting manufacturing developments coming from us in the next 12 months.”