The client

Our client operates a ‘make to order’ service on a large scale, producing bespoke and customised items based on artwork and designs submitted by their customers.

The context

Make to Order businesses have unique business management needs.

  • As the manufacturing process only begins once an order is placed, the production schedule constantly needs to be re-planned.
  • Within the production schedule itself, each stage has dependencies, such as delivery from suppliers, artwork proofs being approved, QC checks, etc.
  • Orders contain a lot of metadata — design specifications, uploaded artwork files, and other attributes — data which needs to be stored and may also affect the scheduling requirements.

The result is that both planning and executing the production schedule is a very complex operation, with inter-related data and production steps that all need to be managed. Moving from a manual to a systemised process therefore has the potential to achieve significant productivity gains.

This is the same for any company that operates a made to order process.

The problem

To operate the business, our client was using vast numbers of spreadsheets. Sales, accounts, production, marketing — teams all used spreadsheets to understand the current orders, stock availability, production schedule, accounts, etc.

Staff had to share documents or talk to each other to ensure they knew where they were in the production process for their various customers. Often, teams had various versions of the same spreadsheet and there was considerable duplication of effort across the business.

In essence, there was no central integrated system for a sales and manufacturing process that was quite complicated — as the image below shows.

To scale-up this process and increase productivity, the client was looking for an off-the-shelf ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution that would integrate all the core management and operational processes.

Following an in-depth market analysis, they were unable to find a solution that could do the stock control, scheduling and accounting they needed. All of the "off the shelf" systems were compromised in some way; either missing essential features, or requiring the business to change too many processes to fit in with the software.

The delivery

When they discovered OpusVL and our Odoo ERP solution, the client realised they could have a solution that did exactly what they wanted. Odoo provided an ideal base product that could then be tailored to meet their very exact requirements.

Following a detailed analysis of the client's needs, OpusVL configured the Odoo ERP system with a rich set of features to automate their Make to Order production process.

A master production schedule can be automatically generated by the ERP, which factors in many aspects such as resource availability (people, machines, materials), capacity, enforcing when work can and cannot be done at given times, as well as scheduling based on promised dispatches and priorities entered into the system.

The system will alert staff and customers should there be a forecasted issue, such as an order that would not meet its promised timeline. To handle these types of exception, the schedule can be manually re-ordered by the Production Manager using a drag & drop interface.

Factory operators have an individual view of their own required tasks, which also supports further elements such as splitting orders at any point during the process.

The ERP's built-in accounting system was designed to use an invoicing policy based on dispatched goods, though if any of the orders were split, these would also be reflected in a split invoice. It also supports both pre-pay and account-based payments to cater for the differing needs of B2C and B2B customers.

Supplier orders for raw materials can be placed automatically through direct integrations using either email, APIs or file transfer (FTP).

Given that mistakes can happen at any time, the ERP also has a built-in quality control and scrappage process. This deals with returning products to suppliers (if they accept them), highlighting expected refunds and automatically reflecting operational losses into accounting should items be scrapped or destroyed. It also automatically raises draft purchase orders for re-purchase of scrapped items, though this requires human approval.

Similarly, exception handling features enable a clear view of raw materials and the ability to keep an eye on received goods, meaning should there be any issues with missing deliveries, for example, these can be spotted in the system immediately.

In terms of further customisation, we worked closely with our client to ensure their full purchasing process was streamlined and integrated with suppliers, production, accounts and marketing as part of the ERP solution.

All aspects of the purchase and manufacturing operation were configured into a single process that would be centrally managed. At each stage, the appropriate accounting transactions are made automatically, so financial data is accurate and available in real-time.

The implementation

Implementation is a crucial project stage covering the set of activities between completion of development and go-live within the business. For the client, implementation is a business change activity covering training, data migration, workflow and process improvements.

As the client was looking for a quick, seamless go-live that would cause minimal disruption to services and create immediate benefits for their business, the OpusVL team established a meticulously-planned timeline to implement the ERP solution in just two months.

This plan provided a a clear breakdown of which development and integration aspects would be covered by individual members of OpusVL's team and the client's team with a week-by-week schedule for delivery.

Following this plan the OpusVL team, working closely with the client, were able to successfully achieve the agreed go-live date.

The benefits

For our client, an immediate benefit of this solution was that the multiple systems used for accounting, sales, purchasing, manufacturing were all incorporated into a single system. This has helped boost the performance of the organisation by improving efficiency, reducing labour cost, and increasing sales and profitability.

Narender Govindgari, Project Manager at OpusVL, explains that:

"They used to have four to five different systems and they now have one specifically designed for their business, one they cannot get outside of their organisation. Importantly, it is also customisable. It can be extended for their growing demand or business."

Using one single system vastly reduces the duplication of effort and paperwork that had been present. Previously there were lots of spreadsheets and now all the data is in a central data file — there is one truth and no room for discrepancy. The management team are able to see under one system the performance of the whole business.

Narender details three distinct areas that are benefitted by OpusVL’s customisation of Odoo:

"The first is individual benefits. People can do their job more effectively, the sales team can track ordering, manufacturing staff know what they need to be doing at any given time and to what specification. Second, different departments see benefits. The manufacturing team can plan well in advance and the production manager knows exactly what is being produced where, when, and on which machine, both currently and what’s planned for the future."

The third one, as Narender describes is:

"Organisational benefits, the owner can see how his company is performing. How many sales in a day? In a month? What product categories are doing better than others? Which was the biggest selling product? Which website is performing well? There is an overview of the whole business in just one place."

Finally, the new system is integrated with the accounting systems bringing efficiency and validation benefits to the finance teams. As Narender explains:

"As everything is integrated, the accounts team do not need to manually create invoices. Similarly, as soon as they receive goods from suppliers for the purchase order products an automatic purchase invoice is created to verify that an item has been received. If the system doesn't generate it the goods haven't been received — it provides validation."

The outcome

Our client wanted to improve productivity and increase profitability — customising Odoo has allowed them to achieve this and more in a very short time frame. As the company progresses, they can continue to build on their success and adapt the solution further to meet their evolving needs.