Case Study: Aercomp Precision Engineering Ltd
See how Method B Ltd are helping a subcontract aerospace manufacturer to improve their business and meet rigorous industry standards.
Aercomp Precision Engineering Ltd, established in 1997, is a supplier of precision machined components to the aerospace and general engineering sectors. In an industry that has been plagued by offshoring and year-on-year cost reductions, Aercomp's commitment to investment and continuous improvement has seen it continue to thrive despite these pressures. While working with almost all metals and alloys of commercial importance, as well as plastics, Aercomp specialises in high temperature superalloys such as Inconel, which are notoriously difficult to work with. Aercomp operates a quality management system that has been certified to meet the requirements of ISO 9001 and EN 9100 (AS 9100).
In 2014, Aercomp commissioned Method B Ltd to design a custom computer system to run the key administrative elements of their business. They were using an commercial off-the-shelf MRP system. While it provided the basic functions that they needed (and many that they did not), it was difficult to work with and it was in conflict with their workflow. It also required considerable manual data entry and duplication. Aercomp wanted to replace this with a system that was tailored to their own workflow and that would reduce the burden of compliance with EN 9100 requirements.
Aercomp's goals were to have a multi-user system, that could be used on a variety of devices. This system would be built around their workflow and the requirements of AS 9100. When relationships existed between different parts of the system, those relationships would be fully utilised to minimise manual data entry and duplication. The system would be extensible so it would be cost-effective to continue to build on it later on.
Method B Ltd proposed to develop a web application that would run on Aercomp's intranet. We would deliver the initial application in two phases. First we would deliver the essential functions for ordering, billing and tracking material and finished parts through the production process. Next we would deliver functions that would support their management of measurement equipment (gauges and calibration). Beyond that, it was agreed in principle that the system would continue to be extended in line with their business needs.
Both ourselves and Aercomp were keen for this new system to be as lean and simple as possible. In our initial design meeting, we discussed the minimum feature set that would be viable and useful for them. The intent of this was to reduce the project risk and allow us to develop the system according to agile principles - most importantly maximising the amount of feedback available to us between software versions.
We delivered the application (Aperture) to Aercomp at the agreed fixed price and they were able to phase it into use over around 8 weeks (it was available for use immediately, but it was more convenient to gradually run down the old system while bringing up the new one). Included in the package, we provided training for their staff. Throughout this phase in period, we were able to painlessly deploy a small number of minor enhancements and bugfixes to ensure full customer satisfaction.
Since the system has gone live, we have provided support for the software and associated IT systems. The system has had very high uptime, including periods surrounding major upgrades.
From the start, we were clear that Aercomp wanted a very comprehensive system, but they saw the benefits of incremental development through our agile process. Over time, in addition to enhancing their existing features, we have added a number of new features, including modules to:
Aercomp have also had the system extended from a management/administration tool to now include their production team on the shop floor.
While we continue to visit Aercomp's site periodically as part of our strong belief in face-to-face business dealings, the majority of our updates have been deployed remotely - this minimises disruption to the client, deployment costs and development cycle times.
We are very pleased with our decision to partner with Method B Ltd to have bespoke software developed for our business. Mike's in-depth knowledge of AS 9100 and background in operations and quality management has meant that we have an incredibly lean, yet effective software system to aid maintaining our compliance to AS 9100 and efficiently running our business at the same time.
Aperture has significantly reduced the burden of running our quality system and compliance activities and its tools for handling complexity have allowed us to look differently at more complex work packages.
Mike looks at what actually happens, not what everyone hopes will happen, and this shows in how he has designed the software for us. It's very easy in the system to deal with things like unexpectedly changing customer requirements and last minute rescheduling, without losing any of the vital traceability that we have to maintain or causing confusion. Aperture does the heavy lifting. This allows us to continue to be highly customer focused, considering their needs without compromising our own operational needs.
Aperture has been praised by our external aerospace auditors and I can see that it gives them confidence that our quality system is always rigidly adhered to and that as a business we are investing in business excellence.
Method B Ltd respond to our requests and questions quickly. New features and enhancements are timely - as quickly as same day or overnight when we have needed them particularly urgently.
If you would like to talk to a progressive aerospace machining company, please visit Aercomp Precision Engineering Ltd's website.