TK Fabrications of Harlow is a family-run engineering company specialising in the machining and fabrication of low to medium volume batch work, as well as one-off plastic and composite products. The company is now reaping the benefits of its investment in PSL Datatrack production control software, which has given the business close control over its production capabilities.
Since 1979, TK has provided its services to various industries including aerospace, medical and transportation. Continual investment in machining facilities over the years has been key to TK's growth and success. With its full complement of CNC, semi-automatic and manual machines, TK prides itself on products manufactured consistently on time, within budget and with zero defects.
By 2018, its growing order book and wide customer base meant that the company needed to closely address the administration of its business. Its existing Excel-based system for quotations was not integrated into the rest of its order processing system and the manual inputting of customer data was also too time consuming for a company administered by production staff.
TK investigated potential production control systems. They required a solution that would make their business run as smoothly as possible and contribute to the development of close working relationships with its supply chain, whilst being tailored to their specific requirements. Initially they found systems primarily aimed at larger businesses that were too involved with many unnecessary features. They needed a system suited to the needs of a small subcontract engineering company.
Having identified PSL Datatrack as a potential solution, TK's research led them to a similar company already benefitting from the software. "We talked to them as their business was set up in almost the same way as ours,” says Director Mark Howlett. “We then contacted PSL Datatrack for a demonstration and it was astonishing that each part of the system matched what we were already doing – but carried out in a way that cut time and integrated the whole manufacturing process, right through from the initial quotation to delivery and invoicing."
The modularity of PSL Datatrack meant that TK only needed to invest in the modules required at the outset. As and when new requirements were identified, they would be able to extend their system. Core to the solution is the Quotations module providing fully detailed estimates complimented by the Sales and Purchase Order processing modules, shop floor documentation, planning and invoicing modules.
As a family business, all staff are involved and have specific roles. Their investment in PSL Datatrack was tailored for the specific number of users, modules and features required whilst keeping the investment in line with the company's budget. Each user can quickly call up reports that are relevant to their own production responsibilities. Historic customer quotations can also be retrieved quickly and re-quotes put together without re-entering any details. “We also no longer have to spend time physically trying to track each other down on the factory floor or around the company to discuss orders and production,” comments Mark.
Invoices and credit notes are transferred from PSL Datatrack into their accounts system. “The accounting system was not available for all users and could not have met our needs for traceability and documentation with so many customers, products, special orders and varying batch sizes,” says Mark.
TK found the installation of PSL Datatrack easy and learning how to use it was straightforward. It was initially run alongside the company's old system until a date was set for the complete transfer. This approach meant users could learn from any mistakes early on, in a practice phase, until the company was ready. PSL Datatrack then removed the data that the company wanted to delete and the system went live.
Over the last two years or so, the benefits that TK have identified by switching to PSL Datatrack are numerous. These include significant time savings, easy access to key business information, being able to answer customer queries and responding to new business enquiries quickly and efficiently. Some elements of the system's functionality are still being discovered and helping to further refine their business processes.
“We can also see the order book in real time and can anticipate any potential bottlenecks, so we can continue to get products out of the door on time," concludes Mark. PSL Datatrack is clearly demonstrating its suitability for use within TK's busy, complex manufacturing environment – so typical of the subcontract engineering sector where family-owned private businesses are very common.