Erlson is a specialist manufacturer of highly engineered components and assemblies for automotive and specialist engineering applications, including turbochargers, fuel delivery and fluid power systems.

The company began working with Wednesbury-based MSC Industrial Supply (0800 66 33 55) to support its 75,000 ft2 manufacturing operation in Skelmersdale during 2006. MSC is a leading distributor of metalworking and MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) products, as well as supply chain solutions, carrying product inventory of more than 90,000 items to help support a diverse range of businesses. The US-headquartered operation boasts a turnover of $2.8 billion.

When business began to accelerate for Erlson in 2014, so did the company’s need for a trusted supply partner. Its technical director, Mark Corns, recognised that he needed to concentrate his production team’s efforts on manufacturing and core functions, and away from product sourcing, suppliers and inventory management. To make this happen, optimisation of Erlson’s purchasing process would be required.

MSC reviewed the company’s supply chain and identified the relationships that were critical to improving efficiency. Two main challenges were faced by Erlson.

The first was the limited amount of time and manpower available to monitor tool usage and on-hand inventory, while the second was ensuring that the company had appropriate technical support available to develop its business.

CONTROLLED SUPPLY

MSC’s ControlPoint vending solution that allows easy access to tooling when required whilst also providing integrated stock control mechanisms and monitoring of tool usage was seen as a solution to the former and was introduced across multiple Erlson factories in February 2015. An onsite MSC stores person manages the stores for the company three days a week, too.

As a result of the system’s installation, Erlson has already started to see tooling cost reductions. This is being achieved through precise stock management and reporting capabilities, with tooling readily available around the clock and with MSC replenishing the system to avoid any stock-outs and resulting machine downtime.

Via ControlPoint’s secure booking out function, Erlson can retrieve regular reports showing what tools are being used by each machine operator and for what, highlighting tooling cost per job. This feature is supporting the company’s drive for higher productivity by highlighting processes that may not be as efficient as they could be.

To address Erlson’s second main issue, MSC’s team of experienced technical engineers applied its three-step application optimisation process. As a first step, current operations were surveyed, with MSC collecting data on each machining operation. The second step saw Erlson’s and MSC’s technical teams collaborating with each other and suppliers to establish the best cutting data and approach. The final stage sees cost savings documented by MSC.

The process is a continuous one, with MSC project engineers working alongside Erlson, attending weekly engineering meetings at Erlson’s site. This not only develops and maintains a closer partnership but also allows discussion related to the ongoing cost-savings plan – 33 projects are currently in progress.

Concludes Corns: “It was imperative that Erlson concentrated its efforts on the manufacturing process. Our selection process led us to the conclusion that MSC was our best choice to deliver an exceptional supply chain solution. MSC’s engineering capabilities as a tooling buyer are also unique for us and the benefits they are delivering are clear for all to see at Erlson.”