Customer Story: Stainless UK
Stainless UK is a stainless steel producer from Sheffield. Tony Rice, General Manager of the company, shared with us some industry insights related to the future of manufacturing in Yorkshire and why it makes sense for manufacturers to invest in software innovation now rather than wait till it’s too late. Stainless UK delegated a significant part of their internal processes to a bespoke stock control system. This way Tony and his team saved time and money, because they did not need to invest in training staff to fit the software as the software fits their existing systems and processes. More about their success story in the interview below.
Decode Studios: Tony, can you please tell me more about Stainless UK?
Tony: Stainless UK are manufacturers of stainless steel products for the civil engineering and the geotechnical industry. Everything is manufactured to customers’ orders, we supply a wide range of companies from the very big household names all the way down to small independent companies. The company was founded about 25 years ago and it has grown over that time to where it is right now. We employ about 30 people. We are based in Sheffield, home of stainless steel.
DS: What are your personal responsibilities in Stainless UK?
Tony: I am General Manager and I am responsible for a wide range of tasks including quality, health and safety, compliance, etc.
DS: Stainless UK is obviously a manufacturing company. The business world has been changing a lot during the last few decades. The manufacturing industry is not an exception. Which ones are the most important changes in this industry according to you?
Tony: Things are changing indeed. In order to stay competitive you have to become more professional. Companies that are taking on board their customers’ requirements for quality and service are developing and going ahead, those who prefer not to invest in the modernisation of their services are being left behind. There are bigger demands on businesses from their customers in terms of what they expect from you as a manufacturer.
DS: Do you expect any specific changes to happen in the manufacturing industry soon?
Tony: I think that certain things will continue as they are. I think that businesses will have to start investing or continue investing in machinery and in systems to make themselves more efficient and more professional.
DS: When you mentioned investing in machinery, what came to my mind was the fact that you recently invested in a software product, can you tell me more about it and your experience with IT innovation in general?
Tony: Yes, we started using a new stock system recently. Like most of the companies out there we were running our manual stock control system. It was adequate when it was first put in about 10 years ago, but since then the company has developed a lot, we have a lot more stock, there are a lot more ins and outs for stock. The basic principles behind the old system were still relevant, however, the actual system wasn’t capable of handling the number of transactions it was required to do on a daily basis. That was why we looked at bringing a new system. We did our research and found out that many companies were offering off-the-shelf standard stock control systems. This means you have to adapt your stock control requirements to their systems. What we wanted was a system that could be adapted to our stock control needs. And that is why we ended up going with Decode Studios. They were able to offer a system that could be tailored around our requirements rather than us having to tailor around their system’s requirements.
DS: What is your experience with the stock system itself so far?
Tony: The system has been up and running several months now. There are certain tweaks we are still getting used to. As we go along we are learning how to take the most advantage out of it. Decode is with us all the time helping understand how things work and optimising the bits that could be made more efficient. It’s going well so far. We are already there at 99% in terms of what we want. People are using it on a daily basis, they now see the new stock system as a part of their work. The feedback so far has been quite positive actually.
DS: What business benefits are you enjoying now that you would not get from the old system?
Tony: The stock system we are now using is a live system because it’s updated daily. It gives an accurate picture to the sales people for what materials we have in stock and it’s easier for people on the purchasing side to look at what materials are in stock to figure out what we may need to buy or what they might not need to buy. In general, it’s a more efficient way of actually working and running the business.
DS: There are many software companies in the UK now. What made you choose Decode Studios compared to choosing another software company?
Tony: Decode were one of the few companies who were actually prepared to work with us with what we wanted as opposed to us having to do what they wanted to do and change our system. Decode’s developers do listen and they do take on board how the customer wants the software to operate. They use the modules and the technology they have to adapt to our needs. The way the stock system was adapted to our requirements is a real plus to us.
We knew the system that we had worked, it also provided the information but it was getting it in a more efficient system that we needed, a 2018 system rather than a 2008 system. That is why we contacted Decode Studios and decided to work with them.
DS: Let’s imagine for a second that you had not integrated your business with a new software system, what would your daily tasks look like now?
Tony: It would be the same, we could still be operating as a company. The new stock system was a step forward to what we need to do, however. We wanted to start using technology more and that is why we started looking for a new software solution. As a company we have invested heavily in new machinery over the recent years. This strategy was giving good results. We knew we also had to invest in systems optimising the way the company operates. We started thinking of making the most out of the technology and the systems that are out there. The stock system is really a part of what we are trying to achieve which is related to improving the operational performance of the company, improving our productivity though working smarter and more efficiently.
DS: What would you say to the businesses that are still sceptical towards software, mainly to the ones from the manufacturing industry?
Tony: Liking software or loathing it, it needs to be done. The world is moving in towards software automation and businesses have to keeping moving forward and constantly innovating too. Otherwise you will fall behind.
DS: Are you planning to expand the software products that you are using?
Tony: We are currently using a programming system for cutting machines, a laser plasma cutting machines. Right now we are thinking of new innovation related to improving the production planning with new technology as well as the operational side of the business. There is a system that we are looking at which would suit our needs. This idea has been discussed with Decode as we would like to integrate the stock system with it. It is doable which is good.
DS: Considering your experience with Decode, would you recommend to the rest of the manufacturing companies to start using the bespoke software solutions that Decode builds?
Tony: Oh, yes! Absolutely! More than happy to advise people to do what we did.