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Case Study: Benson Box/Epicor

KEY FACTS

At a glance: Benson Box.

Industry: Manufacturing.

Headquarters: Bardon, Leicestershire, UK.

Employees: 700.

Solution: Epicor Manufacturing.

Business challenge

To improve manufacturing and scheduling processes to meet increased demand and tighter deadlines within the folding carton industry.

Solution

Added the advanced planning and scheduling module to its existing Epicor Manufacturing business performance platform, further streamlining manufacturing and logistics processes.

Business benefits

  • Enabled manufacturing to fulfil customer requirements at extremely short notice.
  • Instrumental in revenue growth from a single-site £10 million in 2001 to approaching £85 million a year in 2007.
  • Substantial reduction in downtime between jobs and improved utilisation.
  • Helped manage increased productivity without significant rise in administrative staffing levels.


When in 1920, Benson Box founder William Benson opened his first factory in Leicester, few would have imagined that 89 years later his company would have become one of the largest manufacturers of cartons in the UK. Originally serving the flourishing local shoe and hosiery industries, Benson Box has grown to become an £85 million a year business through a combination of hard work, innovation, astute use of new technology and strategic acquisitions.

Today, Benson operates four facilities in Leicester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Crewe and Gateshead that employ over 700 people serving mainly the food and pharmaceutical industries.

Over the last five years, senior management has driven significant changes to the company’s business processes through the use of innovation and modern manufacturing techniques to keep ahead of the competition. With its 2005 upgrade to Epicor Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS), Benson Box has further streamlined its manufacturing process to allow increased flexibility and reduced lead times, enabling it to retain and win additional contracts with major food manufacturers across the country.

Expansion prompts need for further streamlining

A major expansion to the original Leicester-based business took place in 2000 when Benson Box moved into its current purpose-built multi-million pound facility at the Interlink Business Park, just off junction 22 of the M1. The move also prompted the deployment of a manufacturing enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution from Epicor to replace an ageing PECAS system, specially designed for the print industry.

As Phil Towersey, IT manager for Benson Box, explained: “Our old system was with us a few years and was pretty well set-up to deal with print job estimation; but our business has so many other areas and it was getting increasingly difficult to ‘bolt on’ additional functionality to a system not really designed to handle it.”

Following a competitive tender and evaluation process, Epicor was selected as a replacement for several reasons, as Towersey explained: “Initially we had looked at another product, tailor-made for the print industry, which although it was strong in areas like job estimation and general accounting, still had a very dated user interface and lacked the ability to cope with other areas of our business such as logistics, warehousing and multi-company financial reporting – areas where the Epicor solution proved to be much more effective.”

He added: “We were also conscious of the vendor; Epicor is a big and reputable supplier and we could effectively guarantee that we would have an upgrade and migration path as well as continual development of the application, which is important for us.”

As an established application, the implementation of Epicor was relatively straightforward but there were some kinks. “The manufacture of cartons is a bit of an unusual process, which mixes high make-ready times, made-to-order and consignment warehousing processes."

The Epicor implementation, which took just over 12 months, concentrated on customising the software to meet the needs of Benson Box and migrating over processes from its old PECAS system.

Certain features had to be modified to cope with new requirements such as manufacturing to order, along with holding stock until called-off by clients, unique pricing per order and stock control by exclusive bins. “It was relatively straightforward once we got everybody to understand our methods and we went live in June 2001,” Towersey said.

Over the next few years, Benson Box made significant changes to the Epicor system to help it cope with increased demand and innovative new requirements such as third-party consignment warehousing and the splitting of pallets for despatch. With growth still surging, in 2004 senior management started evaluating ways to improve productivity and the logical step was to incorporate the APS module into its Epicor solution.

Benson Box operates on a four-process methodology for the creation of cartons. Starting from a large sheet of cardboard, the process involves print, cut and crease, window patching and finishing with glue to one edge.

Under the old PECAS system, managers would use a central planning board which saw a constant number of visits from all areas of the business many times throughout the day. With multiple designs occupying a single cardboard sheet, limitation imposed by certain process steps and changes requested by clients, the planning of each day’s workload was extremely complex with even small issues causing significant delays and potentially increasing costs.

“APS has dramatically improved efficiency compared to the old systems,” said Towersey. “We are now able to deal with changes effectively and plans are communicated to the shopfloor accurately in a timely manner, allowing operators to prepare for the tasks ahead – it is a much better system.”

He added: “We have had situations where we have received a change request from a client say at 3.00pm on a Tuesday afternoon and with APS we have managed to reschedule our processes to meet a deadline for the next day – this was almost impossible under the old system.”

Since the implementation of Epicor Manufacturing and APS, Benson Box has continued its growth, with turnover up from £10 million in 2001, approaching £85 million a year in 2007. However, Towersey added: “We have invested heavily across the board in manufacturing equipment and improved business processes, and systems like APS are part of a wider business goal to innovate and improve for the future.”

With the success of both system implementations under its belt, Benson Box is now considering an upgrade to Epicor’s next-generation manufacturing solution, which delivers even greater business agility through a flexible service orientated architecture (SOA).

“This would be the logical next step as it allows us to switch to real-time view of the business, which could potentially provide further benefits in production capability and flexibility to meet requests from customers at shorter notice periods,” Towersey concluded.

About Epicor

Epicor is a global leader dedicated to providing integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) , supply chain management (SCM) and professional services automation (PSA) software solutions to mid-market companies and divisions of the Global 1000. Founded in 1984, Epicor serves over 20,000 customers in more than 140 countries, providing solutions in more than 35 languages. For more details, visit www.epicor.com.

“We are now able to deal with changes effectively and plans are communicated to the shopfloor accurately in a timely manner, allowing operators to prepare for the tasks ahead – it is a much better system.”
Phil Towersey, IT manager, Benson Box.
 

 

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