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Williams Advanced Engineering
Williams Advanced Engineering is home to the advanced technology and engineering services capabilities of automotive business Williams Group—well-known for its Formula One team. As such, it provides highly-specialised engineering, testing, and manufacturing services to customers in the automotive, civil aerospace, defence, and motorsport sectors.
Formed in 2010, the company is growing rapidly, reports managing director Craig Wilson. From having just a handful of customers and projects in 2013, just three years later the company had reached 25 customers and over 40 ongoing projects—some of them involving low-volume manufacturing, rather than simply technology development, testing, and prototyping.
The problem, he explains, is that the business’s customer base and project portfolio had grown faster than its underlying business systems, which were heavily reliant on spreadsheets and ad-hoc databases.
“We didn’t have adequate control and visibility into our operations and the supply chain,” he explains. “We might be ordering materials that were actually in stock, and simultaneously not ordering materials that weren’t in stock, and which we needed. Similarly, we were in danger of overcommitting our resources, and missing customer due dates. We recognised that we were very vulnerable to things falling between the cracks, and causing problems.”
The Williams Advanced Engineering management team was already aware that Microsoft Dynamics AX was a good fit for their business, as a long-term project had previously looked at implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX right across Williams Group.
What was needed, the team realised, was a way of implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX quickly, just within Williams Advanced Engineering, and doing so using ‘out of the box’ Microsoft Dynamics AX capabilities.
“There was a window of opportunity before some high-value, significant projects got underway,” sums up Wilson. “We knew we had to move quickly.”
As it happened, the Williams team already knew eBECS, having worked with eBECS’ specialists as part of the broader Group-wide feasibility study and requirements definition.
“The cultural fit with eBECS was excellent, and we liked the eBECS ‘can do’ attitude,” says Williams Advanced Engineering operations director Simon Wells. “The eBECS people really got under the skin of our business, understanding our culture, and appreciating the rapid rate of change required when working with Formula One motorsport.”
Moreover, he adds, eBECS had a proven rapid implementation methodology, and could implement Microsoft Dynamics AX within the challenging timescales that the Williams Advanced Engineering management team had in mind.
“It was pretty unanimous really,” concludes Wells. “So in December 2015, we made the decision to go with Microsoft Dynamics AX and eBECS.”
Work began almost immediately, in the early days of January 2016. The objective: user acceptance and training commencing in July 2016, and a ‘go live’ date of October 1st.
“One hears a lot of horror stories about ERP implementations, but our experience couldn’t have been better,” enthuses Wells. “eBECS defined a very clear project plan, and provided us with talented specialists who worked really well with the Williams people with whom they were interacting.”
For its part, he adds, Williams set up a steering group that was authorised to remove any roadblocks, and which set out clear organisation-wide expectations about the priority attached to the Microsoft Dynamics AX project, and the importance of making time available to work on it.
Critically, too, Wells and the steering group clamped down firmly on ‘scope creep’, emphasising the importance of using ‘out of the box’ Microsoft Dynamics AX capabilities.
It’s fair to say that the project has been a resounding success, sums up Wells.
“We’re now much more in control, with far more insight into the business,” he explains. “We have in-built ‘as standard’ component traceability for customers in defence and motorsport, and are benefitting enormously from having one stable platform across the business—a platform that positions us well for the growth we are expecting.”
And in terms of return on investment, clear benefits have been seen in terms of process efficiencies and productivity.
“With better processes, we’re making the right decisions, at the right time,” he emphasises. “People are spending less time on administration, and more time on being productive—and with better planning, we’re achieving better due-date performance, and so are spending less money of expedited freight charges in order to get components to customers and race tracks on time.”
Usefully, too, the insistence on an ‘out of the box’ implementation has paid dividends in terms of the broader Williams business.
“We have a clear understanding of how Microsoft Dynamics AX will work elsewhere in the business, and work is already underway to apply those lessons—effectively mimicking what we did here at Williams Advanced Engineering,” concludes Wells.