Cras Woodgroup creates wood products to order, adjusting humidity, temperature and other factors in its plants to meet precise customer requirements. How could it boost efficiency while maintaining quality?
Working with IBM Business Partner CD Invest, Cras Woodgroup automated its manufacturing lines by creating a bespoke application that runs in an IBM i environment on highly available IBM Power Systems S924 servers.
66% reductionin lead times enable delivery within one week for most customer orders
Contributesto higher revenues by boosting production output and quality
Enablesexceptional service continuity with ultra-reliable IBM Power Systems servers
Business challenge story
Drilling into new opportunities
Fast order fulfillment can be the difference between winning a customer for life, or losing them to your competitors. Wood and construction expert Cras Woodgroup, which manufactures high-quality custom-built wood products such as tables, doors and garden furniture, saw an opportunity to enhance its offering to customers by making changes behind the scenes.
Ronny Callant, IT Manager at Collstrop (part of Cras Woodgroup), explains: “We specialize in creating small batches of high-quality wood products to precise specifications, so our manufacturing schedules and workflows are relatively complex. In the past, it could take us several weeks to fulfil an order.”
As part of the production process, employees at Cras Woodgroup’s manufacturing facility had to manually adjust machinery to meet the specifications of different orders—for example, changing the amount of glue to apply to the wood panels of a door. The temperature and humidity of the facility also needed to be closely controlled to optimize the finish of different products. As a result, the slightest error in the configuration of the plant machinery could waste materials and slow down production.
“To compete in an increasingly busy marketplace, we began looking for ways to reduce lead times,” says Callant. “We decided to create a manufacturing facility that was fit for the future, using automation to eliminate human error and increase our production capacity. We looked for help to achieve our goals without compromising on our reputation for delivering outstanding quality products.”
Transforming root and branch
To kickstart its manufacturing overhaul, Cras Woodgroup approached IBM Business Partner CD Invest, who proposed developing a bespoke production planning application running on the company’s IBM Power Systems and IBM i environment.
“For years, the IBM Power Systems and IBM i platform has delivered reliable performance for our operations,” comments Callant. “There’s a misconception that it’s an outdated platform, but we know from experience that it looks and feels modern. We enjoyed working with CD Invest because they transferred knowledge throughout the project, helping us towards our goal of self-sufficiency in support and development.”
CD Invest created the new application, which is designed to integrate with Cras Woodgroup’s ERP landscape. It takes sales orders and bills of materials from the ERP solution and coordinates with the company’s suppliers automatically. Once all the required components are available, the application triggers the collection of the materials from the warehouse. When they arrive at the manufacturing line, the solution configures the machinery settings to align with the product specifications, and controls the production and packaging of the final order.
Cras Woodgroup also needed to be able to make decisions on their manufacturing line based on database logic in IBM i. They used Node-RED to connect several machines to make them work together. Node-RED is an open source programming tool for wiring together hardware devices, APIs and online services. Their business logic can now decide what to do on the manufacturing line. For example, it can change the temperature, pressure, glue and more based on all parameters.
Callant adds: “We now have a manufacturing line that is automated from end to end. Everything from temperature to humidity to glue is managed and optimized by our new application.”
The underlying IBM Power Systems infrastructure is based on two IBM Power Systems S924 servers configured for high availability using IBM PowerHA. If a server is offline for maintenance or suffers an unexpected outage, the solution automatically fails over to the other machine, preventing interruptions to manufacturing processes.
Carving out efficiencies
Equipped with a fully automated manufacturing line that is available 24/7, Cras Woodgroup has been able to accelerate order fulfilment significantly. By delivering products to customers sooner, the company enhances client satisfaction and inspires loyalty.
“Deploying the new manufacturing application from CD Invest on IBM Power Systems slashed our lead times by up to 66 percent,” says Callant. “We can typically deliver orders to customers within a week, giving us an edge over many of our competitors.”
Cras Woodgroup has also eliminated the risk of human error from its production lines, enabling greater efficiency while maintaining exceptional quality. The company can now manufacture more products within the same timeframes and wastes fewer raw materials, contributing to higher revenues. Callant adds: “With comprehensive, round-the-clock insight into our manufacturing lines, we can also resolve issues much sooner. The result is that production processes run more smoothly, and our output is higher.”
Underpinning Cras Woodgroup’s transformation is the ultra-reliable IBM Power Systems environment, which continues to deliver exceptional availability.
Callant concludes: “The beauty of IBM i on the Power Systems platform is that it runs so well, you never have to worry about it. Instead, we can focus on delivering new innovations and finding new ways to delight our customers.”
With roots dating back to 1878, Cras Woodgroup is family business that operates in the timber sector. Based in Belgium, the company has its own import department, extensive production facilities and a distribution network of 16 branches. It transforms wood into innovative, high-quality products for construction, interior design and gardening.
Take the next step
To learn more about IBM i, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: www.ibm.com/it-infrastructure/power/os/ibm-i
To learn more about IBM Power Systems, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following websites: www.ibm.com/it-infrastructure/power
CD Invest delivers ICT and business consultancy services to help maximize its clients’ business potential. For more information, visit cdinvest.be