Case Study: Excaliber
Industry: Metal Fabrication
When Mark Weathers purchased Excaliber Precision Machining in July 2001, the 16-year-old business manufactured aerospace parts for the defense and commercial airline industries. Two months later, the company faced the biggest challenge in its history: the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which put a significant strain on the airline industry, as well as Excaliber.
Since those challenging early days, Excaliber has grown from less than $1 million in annual revenue to 3.5 million projected in 2007, and from 12 employees to 32. Excaliber expanded to these levels through a combination of strategic decision-making, hard work and the right technology. In light of the post-9/11 business climate, the company chose to focus more on building its base of defense industry clients and parts for applications such as Apache helicopters, fighter jets and weaponry. Excaliber invested in a number of technologies, including state-of-the-art manufacturing and design software, and equipment and tooling solutions to support product quality. In turn, the company increased machining capacity.
Automation from Quote to Invoice
In 2002, Excaliber wanted to transition from its largely paper-based back-office operations, which made it tough to grow the business. “Our goal in buying the company was to put in the infrastructure to scale it up, which we couldn’t do without systems in place,” Weathers said. “Having an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system was critical for things like scheduling and quality control.”
The company brought in one ERP software solution, but it lacked comprehensive capabilities and forced employees to still export information to other programs for better viewing. Excaliber then found M1 by B&G™, an ERP software system designed for small to medium manufacturers. With total integration and automation from quote to invoice, M1 offers the full functionality that Excaliber needs. During ramp-up, consultants from Bowen & Groves helped ensure a smooth implementation and migration of data from the previous ERP system.
Minimizing Data Entry, Errors
About five Excaliber employees use M1 across the Production Control, Quality, Engineering and Contract Administration departments. Without any formal training, employees begin using it in their daily workflow in just a couple of days.
M1’s main Production module provides management of contacts, orders, jobs, inventory, purchasing, shipping, labor, scheduling and quality/warranty. Excaliber uses additional M1 modules, including Estimating & Quoting, Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable, giving it that complete quote-to-invoice capability. End-to-end sales order management in M1 significantly reduces manual data entry. Once employees create a quote, those specifications and details move through the process – to proposals, sales orders, purchase orders and invoices. Minimizing manual entry likewise reduces the likelihood of costly errors.
“That complete sequence is extremely valuable because it automates these functions and saves a tremendous amount of time,” Weathers said.
With Excaliber’s previous ERP system, the master traveler was altered from job to job, not allowing the company to keep a clean master copy. Now, M1 stores a “pristine master” that only an administrator can change. For each job, the company can then create temporary copies with job-specific details.
“The master traveler is integral to our quality system because it gives us a lot more traceability,” Weathers said. With M1’s scheduling capabilities, Weathers and employees can easily see scheduling in the format they prefer, instead of having to export information to Excel as they did with the previous ERP system. From big-picture scheduling views, they can drill down to more details.
Employees also rely on M1 for rough-cut capacity planning, and easily see any scheduling problems. They have better control over the shop floor with the ability to back-schedule to start dates.
Excaliber also relies on regular built-in reporting in M1 to understand the current status of jobs or other aspects of the business. Most often, employees run reports showing the sales order backlog, customer deliveries and accounts receivables, helping the company plan and make decisions.
In the early days after Weathers purchased the business, M1 helped him manage back-office operations on his own. “At that time, I was doing a lot of functions,” he said. “The ability to have it automated was a huge impact. Quotes are converted to orders, which saves a lot of administrative time.” Since then, M1 has continued to help Excaliber operate efficiently as it grows. “Without M1, we would have had to hire more administrative help – at least one person, if not two.” Plus, M1 helps the company deliver on its promise to customers: “Right. On Time.” In addition, quick access to job details in the system allow employees to answer customer questions when they call.
In 2007, the company won the IMPACT Award for Response to Adversity from the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce for turning the company around after 9/11. Weathers credits M1 with assisting in that success. “Our growth wouldn’t have been possible without a good ERP system in place,” Weathers said. “It was one of the big, good decisions we made that was instrumental in being able to survive and get to this point. It was one of things we did right.”