Production control software underpins success

Tamworth manufacturer says PSL Datatrack software is the ‘heart beat’ of the company

Posted on 22 Apr 2019 and read 680 times
Production control software underpins successTamworth-based Brown & Holmes, a specialist in the design and manufacture of complex bespoke work-holding fixtures and tools, has been very successful over recent years, and this has resulted in the acquisition of additional premises and investment in new machinery and staff.

The company has also created its own apprentice school to help address the skills shortage in the industry as a whole — and to ensure that its future is in the hands of qualified engineers who understand the business, production processes and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

The company has expanded its business to cover new areas, including robotics and more recently 3-D printing. In 2002, Brown & Holmes became the first precision work-holding specialist to use PSL Datatrack (

Since then, this production control software package has underpinned the production and administration processes behind all the business elements that demand close control for the company to be profitable and fulfil its KPIs.

This control has been achieved through continued investment in both standard PSL Datatrack modules and features customised specifically to support the evolving business.

General Manager Steve Smith said: “Proper production control is the key to our successful operation, and the adaptability of the PSL Datatrack software — customised to meet our evolving production needs — has been vital over the years.”

Brown & Holmes recently updated its processes regarding the KPIs it reviews and, after a site visit from PSL Datatrack to discuss different reporting requirements, a new bespoke report that automatically details the activities of the business on a daily basis was formulated.

This includes the value of orders received, invoicing value, purchase invoicing and the value of orders currently on the system.

Mr Smith said: “The daily availability of these KPIs allows us to have better foresight and planning of the sales, production and accounting functions within our business.”

The company’s specialist work-holding fixture design and manufacture, where almost every job is different, still makes up around 60% of its business.

Specially machined and assembled parts, standard components and ‘bought out’ items are usually required, and these variables are managed from quotation to invoice by PSL Datatrack.

When quoting, Brown & Holmes establishes the details required, including workpiece locations, orientation and clamping systems.

The quotation is then generated using PSL Datatrack, and the proposal is sent to the customer on customised letterheads. Customer information is kept in a separate PSL Datatrack archive system, enabling any historic customer quotation and sales data to be recalled.

Once an order has been secured, a detailed CAD drawing is produced, and works orders for parts to be manufactured are raised in PSL Datatrack from the quotation.

Process layouts are generated for use on the shopfloor, and all manufacturing times are recorded, allowing critical comparison between calculated and actual times taken.

Brown & Holmes now uses a wide range of PSL Datatrack modules, including quotations, works orders, purchase orders, scheduling, shopfloor data collection (SFDC), CRM/Tasks, deliveries and invoicing, as well as benefitting from customised management reporting.

All production data — including inspection and finishing — is entered on a daily basis, and PSL Datatrack provides accurate end-of-job costing.

Production control software underpins successTogether with the cost of purchased items such as material and sub-contract operations, this ensures that Brown & Holmes is constantly monitoring its production efficiency and estimating procedures.

With all of these different elements to consider, two particular advantages of using PSL Datatrack are apparent — traceability and flexibility.

Full traceability is provided, as every job is tied back to a specific works order number, encompassing purchasing, production, assembly, inspection, invoice/credits, delivery notes and conformance certificates.

In terms of flexibility, PSL Datatrack has been adapted over many years; for Brown & Holmes, it is now almost a bespoke piece of software due to the number of options that have been configured to address the company’s daily requirements.

Mr Smith added: “The standard reporting available is comprehensive, but the team at PSL have also created a number of completely bespoke reports that allow us to drill down into each area of the business and analyse them.”

Comprehensive reporting

The software also provides invaluable assistance across the company’s robotic, precision engineering and new sub-contract engineering business areas.

The reports available within the PSL Datatrack system allows the company to separate out the different revenue streams within the business and evaluate the activities within each of them.

This allows for the assessment of different elements in detail, to find and address the areas that impact on profitability, as well as to promote the actions that have a positive effect.

For Brown & Holmes, the versatility of the company’s shopfloor staff — many of whom have come through the company’s apprentice training scheme — means that they can comfortably switch disciplines and have the knowledge to use PSL Datatrack at every stage of production.

The company is currently in the process of reviewing and improving its SFDC procedures, with a view to realising more-accurate reporting of real-time actions on the shopfloor.

At the same time, plans are in hand to introduce visual reporting in the form of PSL Datatrack’s shopfloor Status Board display system, which will help to highlight any production problems encountered, enabling them to be addressed at source.

Mr Smith concluded: “The support offered by PSL Datatrack is second to none. There is always an advisor available on the telephone to deal with any problem or query we encounter, and it is very rare that these cannot be worked through, either over the telephone or through a remote desk-top session.

“On the odd occasion where a more detailed need arises, such as introducing a new process to the business, on-site support is readily available. PSL Datatrack has developed its system in line with the way we have developed our business.

“The system is easy to understand, versatile and — with the help of the team at PSL — can be moulded to suit whatever business need arises.”

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