Carrs Tool Steels Maintains Productivity and Profitability with ERP Implementation

With a heritage in the steel industry that spans over a century, Carrs Tool Steels offers a range of conventional, specialty high performance and extreme high performance tool steels, as well as aluminum and steel products. powder metallurgy.

The UK steel market has seen profound change, with the threat of global competition and the demands of sustainable business practices being met by new market opportunities and the strength of UK manufacturing innovation. The sector continues to directly employ over 33,000 people and contributes over £2 billion directly to the UK economy with a further £3 billion in the supply chain.

Against this backdrop, Carrs has developed a range of new product offerings and increased productivity and profitability through an innovative blend of modern technology, development and investment in people and the creation of next-generation business processes.

Evolve from Excel

Following a management buyout (MBO) that founded Carrs Tool Steels as an entity, a project began to assess the viability of replacing a largely customized proprietary software system. After a series of “false dawns” where Carrs faced a lack of industry-specific functionality or costly customizations, Carrs sought to deploy a manufacturing-based ERP that could then be easily configured to reflect its unique requirements. .

This system would replace the extensive use of spreadsheets that had forced a large amount of manual data entry, exposing Carrs not only to the risk of human error, but also to slow reporting and decision-making. Additionally, there were several instances of different records kept in different departments and the presence of departmental silos.

Reliance on paper-based processes and spreadsheets caused customer service issues and accurate delivery dates could not be predicted. Consequently, Carrs maintained significant stock levels in inventory.

This approach also caused problems for Carrs, as they could not track jobs that had left the site or specialist service providers.

Mark Mullaly, Systems Manager at Carrs Tool Steel, explains: “We were faced with two critical issues: business processes that were mostly in the head of our production manager and the inability to get an accurate picture of the business. at any time. This led us to realize that the company needed investment to grow.

Evaluation and implementation

After a thorough market review, Carrs turned to Priority Software and its UK implementation partner, Medatech. Priority ERP was chosen because of its ease of use, including the Carrs team’s ability to create quick and easy customizations that made the software fit the business.

Mullaly continues: “Compared to many competitors, I found Priority so much easier to use and I could figure it out faster. While Medatech did a great job teaching me parts of the system, I didn’t need to become an ERP or Priority Software expert to get the most out of our investment. This is important for two reasons; First, it meant that the software became more profitable. Second, I was able to implement the new software while maintaining ongoing operations. »


metalworking industry: metalworking steel internal surface finishing on lathe grinding machine with flying sparks.  Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


Evolve to better business

The ability to configure Priority ERP has paid huge dividends by allowing the software to meet Carrs’ specific needs. Carrs will frequently handle over 20,000 pieces of steel, each with a unique combination of size, quality and finish. When a customer specifies a given set of requirements, Priority compares those requests to a stock search and can then advise Carrs on which steel parts will be the best candidates. This can even be determined according to different criteria such as speed or minimum waste.

Carrs saw a range of other benefits and improvements made possible by Priority Software. As headcount shrunk, Carrs was able to maintain productivity and profitability through faster, more integrated processes. This allowed them to develop and maintain the delivery dates required by their customers.

One of the most profound impacts of Priority ERP has been to help Carrs transition to more accurate purchasing, reducing capital tied up in “buffer” or “just in case” component inventory. This means that inventory closely aligns with actual customer demands.

Priority ERP has also helped Carrs enter new markets and develop new revenues by becoming more agile. As customer demands have changed, Carrs is handling a higher volume of product queries, but those products are generally smaller in size. Rather than simply billing by weight, Carrs has now been able to bill more accurately based on the treatment required.

This led to the creation of a single production chain for the cutting and milling of each product at the quotation stage. Based on simple customization on top of ERP, this powers Priority to enable accurate, cost effective pricing and reliable delivery dates during customer order processing.

This enhanced information and services have been essential in helping Carrs deliver value-added services and products. By offering pre-engineered blocks, machined on all six faces to engineering tolerances, Carrs has opened up a lucrative and sharp competitive advantage, backed by the confidence offered by ERP Priority.

Carrs now produces a series of monthly KPI-based reports that track conversion of quotes to orders, delivery times, volume of steel shipped and transaction value. These have led to a series of monthly improvements, improving customer service and profitability.

This agility has also helped to significantly reduce scrap, as the Priority system can track all remaining steel pieces and match them to orders.

Mullaly continues: “The priority has produced a radical change in the profitability of the company. We continue to invest not only in our ERP, but also in broader technologies such as portable devices on the shop floor to reduce the time needed to enter into the system and further improve the productivity of our staff.

Enter COVID

As with so many manufacturers, the initial impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on Carrs was dramatic. As some customers closed (often at short notice), others increased the pressure to deliver a stock of material that would keep them going for an extended period.

Mullaly continues: “Essentially, on 3/23/2020, we had to think differently about how we do business. This ranged from working from home for the sales team to organizing zoom meetings and WhatsApp groups, while managing new shift patterns, holidays and even key worker statuses.

As the pandemic developed, Carrs was able to reduce inventory, but then ran into the problem that historical data was no longer useful. As Carrs entered 2021, it was essential to know if business would return.

This was followed by the challenges of increasing demand, inventory availability and cash flow. In the wake of not just COVID but also Brexit, Carrs has managed to navigate a difficult supply chain with disjointed movement of goods, the introduction of tariffs as well as quotas and certificates of origin.

As part of this, Carrs used the Priority ERP system to help make the decisions and changes needed to survive. Mullaly continues: “At the beginning of March 2020, no one in the company, apart from me, had remote access to Priority. No one had ever needed it. Overnight, we needed different onsite access for production staff still on site and remote access for office staff working from home.

“Technically, it was painless. Along with existing hardware, we’ve even found we can successfully deploy Priority to Chromebooks. This reduced the risk and cost of enabling remote access to the system.

“Many staff members have had to cover functions for which they had little or no experience before. However, it is quite simple to adjust and streamline the workflows in Priority, so that we can easily adapt the system to the new situation. Additionally, before COVID, we used Priority’s simple customization tools to ensure all screens were “decluttered” so users only saw what was relevant. This simplifies the process when a user needs to perform a new or unfamiliar task.

Carrs Tool Steels’ investment in ERP has generated a range of benefits that have helped it stay competitive, building on a history of innovation to create, optimize and automate world-class business processes. From sustainability and customer service improvements to investing in mobility and other productivity enhancements, Carrs showed how ERP can be the backbone of modern manufacturing success that continues to evolve. .

This was demonstrated by the fact that Carrs has not only remained profitable, but is now achieving 80% of pre-COVID sales figures, albeit with around two-thirds of its staff.

Mullaly concludes: “Since the day of our commissioning, we have had almost 100% operational success for 14 years. Our continued growth is built on this consistency, which has provided a platform to evolve. »

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