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Mouldings Company gets into Shape with Preactor
mai 2002

Solent Mould ToolingFounded in 1986, Solent Mould is at the cutting edge of the blow moulding industry, employing 45 trained personnel from various sectors of engineering and turning over £3.3 million a year. At its modern 17,000sq.ft manufacturing facility in Waterlooville, Hampshire, the company produces stainless, aluminium, tool steel and rubber moulds for some of the largest plastic bottle producers in Europe and America.  It also makes moulded parts for the Formula One motor racing industry.

Solent Mould was originally part of the Metalbox Company, based in Portsmouth. When Metalbox shut down, its tool/mould makers formed Solent Mould Tools, inheriting 30 years of experience from the previous firm. With such an impressive pedigree, the company was keen to complement this with an equally sound reputation for speed of delivery. This is where Solent Mould’s relationship with Preactor International began.

Although a thriving business with state-of-the-art machinery including three 5 axis and 2 high-speed CNC machines plus CAD/CAM design technology, the one enduring problem over the years was a level of late deliveries that the management felt unacceptable. 

“With the old method of planning using a board and cards the lead times could be as much as a couple of weeks,” said Stuart Bateman, Solent Mould’s project planner.

“We soon realised that we would do well to obtain a computerised scheduling system in order to improve the chance of achieving due dates. And with the current expansion of the company and the increasing workload, we needed the ability to plan ahead and to have visible data that could aid decision-making. We also needed a system that was able to incorporate future needs, and also highlight the late deliveries and bottlenecks.”

Solent Mould ToolingAfter extensive searching for a suitable system, the company chose the P300 FCS scheduler from Preactor International. “The decision was made based on the system’s varied scheduling abilities including its ability to plan forward in a graphical way. This allows us to plan future work with an improved degree of accuracy. In addition, it allows us to visually see where there may be further capacity and on which machine resources. The system also permits our work managers to see what shop floor alterations can be made and what implications they would have.

All this functionality helps us reduce late deliveries, schedule more efficiently and improve quotations. It could even lead to improved sales. Probably the most fundamental advantage, though, is its ability to help us reduce due dates from around two weeks to days, even hours in some cases.”

Implementation of Preactor took a few months due to the complexities of Solent Mould’s products and the ways it manufactures them.  However, with the help of SFJ Systems, a Preactor Solution Provider and software developer, the P300 now covers 95% of the workload going through the factory.

“The service we have received from SFJ Systems has been very good indeed,” said Bateman. “SFJ has been quick and helpful to act upon any queries or requests we might have, and its personnel have enabled us to customize our Preactor P300 system to suit our specific company needs.”

Solent Mould uses four Preactor viewers along with a P300 FCS Master Scheduling System. SFJ helped with the integration of the complete package on site, aided by Solent Mould’s in-house IT personnel.

Solent Mould ToolingThere is no ERP or MRP system at the moment. Instead, the company relies on a Tricorn sales process system that went live about a year and a half ago. “Currently there is no integration between P300 and Tricorn but we are again using SFJ to close that loop and add to the current system to offer MRP functionality. There are a lot of improvement measures in the pipeline and the P300 and Preactor viewers will continue to play a big part in these developments.”

Bateman joined Solent Mould last year as a student IT engineer in his gap year from University. With one year to go before completing his Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering, he has been largely instrumental in ensuring the company gains the maximum benefit from the Preactor solutions.

“The P300 system allows us to provide a due date almost as soon as we receive an order enquiry,” he said. If later on a job looks like being late things can easily be shuffled around.. “The P300 is great for pointing out spare time availability for each machine,” said Bateman.

“One of the great advantages of the scheduler is that all concerned can see the production dates, see the due dates to aim for, and adjust things as and when various imponderables crop up. And along with the visible planning capability of the system, the early warning facility makes improved delivery times even more achievable.”

Graham Hackwell of Preactor commented, “This sector is a prime market for Preactor with almost 14% of installations being made here to SMEs like Solent Mould Tooling.  They are already reaping the benefits of finite scheduling and they will be able to build on this when they have completed the integration between back-office and shop floor activities”.