Integration is key to MG savings

Last week MG Rover told Computer Weekly it believes it can cut £14m a year from its 2000 IT budget of about £30m, without...

Last week MG Rover told Computer Weekly it believes it can cut £14m a year from its 2000 IT budget of about £30m, without reducing service to the business.

The major cost savings will come from integrating numerous legacy systems into a Compaq, Windows 2000, Oracle and IFS ERP environment.

The key goals of the changes being made to MG Rover's IT are to smooth the flows of information between the company and its supply chain partners and to integrate information in the production process for the 200,000 cars it makes every year.

The central challenge is to sequence thousands of parts - from entire body panels down to individual trim parts - to arrive at the right place at the right time on the company's production lines at its Longbridge plant in Birmingham.

This has been made much easier by the ongoing integration of MG Rover's legacy IT into a unified environment. A myriad of inherited systems, including IBM mainframes, Dec Vax, HP3000, HP9000 and Compaq/NT, are being migrated to IFS-based ERP software and new hardware. Software and networking equipment and support is also being rationalised.

This will enable MG Rover to plan its supply chain more effectively and streamline web and EDI links to 650 suppliers.

Peter Vetch, MG Rover's IS and e-business director, said, "When we know what we have to make, we run a planning schedule from which we derive forecast requirements and day-by-day call offs for suppliers."

At the same time, information guiding the production of individual vehicles is fed to the production line and the data needed to trace parts is fed back into the IFS ERP system.

This benefits the business through greater efficiency and quality management, according to business systems manager Steve Walton. "The way we schedule parts from production suppliers to track side reduces the space we need for warehousing, and internal logistics become more manageable," he said.

Computer terminals along the production line optimise the manufacturing process and give production staff details of the work they are required to do on a car at any given stage in its manufacture.

Paint colour, engine variations and trim options can vary from one vehicle to another and the car must be matched up to its records in ERP modules as it makes its way through the production process. A wireless transceiver temporarily attached to the car allows the ERP system to track its progress and relay customisation options to the control units.

Walton said, "The control units we use at track side improve efficiency no end and enable us to build a much more varied number of derivatives and models on our production lines at any one time."

Staff can alert the system if there are any problems with the car's quality via the terminals. This information is fed back into the ERP system, which prevents the car being sold until the issue has been resolved.

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