Iconic British sports car manufacturer Morgan Motor Company has become one of the first customers to go live on the latest version of IFS Cloud, rolling out the enterprise business platform over a single weekend recently to 160 users across sales, manufacturing, projects, purchasing, inventory and finance. The new version, which replaces an existing IFS implementation dating back almost ten years, will make it much easier for users to see key information through a dashboard function known as IFS Lobby. Graham Chapman, Chief Operations Officer at Morgan, says these KPIs were previously much harder to surface:
As part of the upgrade I really wanted to push the Lobby side of things, which makes all that data visible to everybody in the business. The guy on the shop floor, why shouldn't he know how healthy we are, what's going on? And then we can use that to share the quality of the products, the time to do the product in, so they can see it all up there ...
It's getting that data out into the wider audience, because actually, they can make a difference. That's going to be really important for us.
End-to-end feedback loop
The end-to-end flow of information is a big theme of the upgrade for Chapman, who spoke to diginomica during the IFS Connect conference in Birmingham in May, shortly after the system went live. He compares the challenges of integration within IT to the much more integrated connections within a motor vehicle:
Why can't we get these systems to talk? We can do it with cars. There's so many systems in the car and you have gateways in there, which take a controller from that manufacturer, and that manufacturer, make it all work together, and just transfer all that data back-and-forth seamlessly, without you realizing. So why can't we do that with the applications?
Getting a complete end-to-end feedback loop is important to ensure that designers, engineers and production teams are all working in sync to ensure the car that's delivered to the customer meets their expectations. He goes on:
Quite often, as you're trying to get that data out, it gets stuck in that one application. But actually, we design cars, build cars, and deliver them to the customer. So I need to get that information to travel all the way through from start to finish and back again, because that really helps every department in the business to understand, if they design a car in a certain way, and we change in production, we need to feed that back. If the customer is having problems with the way we're assembling the car, and they can't use it correctly, we need to feed that back all the way through.
He gives the example of a customer who had just taken their new Morgan out for a drive and called up the company to complain that they were trying to do a parking manoeuvre and it wouldn't go into drive. It turned out the issue was due to a safety feature which means the car won't engage drive if the door is open. But the customer was upset because they hadn't realized that was the case. Chapman goes on:
That tells me then to bring that data through to look at the service side of things and the presentation. Is that because it's not highlighted well enough in an operator's manual? Or does that need to be part of the sales talk, et cetera?
With the digital age, it's that flow, the rapid flow of data so you can analyze it, look at it, what's the impact? — understanding if you're impacted in a negative or a positive way, quicker. Obviously you want to keep the positives and get rid of the negatives.
The key to a smooth upgrade
Before making the initial switch to IFS around a decade ago, the company had had many different applications that didn't talk to each other. Chapman recalls:
I think I counted up to 10 different databases doing something at work, where data wasn't talking to each other ...
We spent more time looking after data, trying to figure out what's going on, than actually building cars. And that's where our passion is — I'm not interested in the application as such.
When the time came to upgrade, the decision was taken to move to IFS Cloud and not stay on-premise. He explains the rationale:
I've always been an on-premise guy — being awkward and not trusting! But actually, when you think about COVID, and the way everyone's been working, with Office 365 and homeworking away from the office, I thought at the time, the whole industry's changed. So let's bite the bullet, let's go cloud.
And actually, I wanted to get rid of a whole piece of infrastructure from the company. Again, it's going back [to], I want to build cars, not look after an application. So it's it made a lot of sense to make that jump. It just felt right.
The company had avoided making any custom coding or modifications when putting in the original IFS system, and that philosophy was carried through to the upgrade project, which was one of the reasons why it was able to be completed so smoothly in just a single weekend. He says:
We were prepared to change the business to suit the application to a certain extent. Again, the way I looked at it, we make cars, we're really good at that. We don't build applications. Thousands of people can't be wrong, so why should I change it?
With the upgrade, that made it really easy, because we were just moving from a fairly virgin install to another virgin install. It happened over the weekend. Business didn't stop ... There was no loss of effort, no loss of production. It just happened, almost where people [felt] no difference, apart from the different screen.
Of course, that took a look of preparation — six months of testing beforehand, advance training and practice for key users, and support from IFS throughout. Then it was simply a matter of taking a data snapshot, verifying it over the weekend and loading it in ready to go live on the Monday.
As well as streamlining processes and improving efficiency, the new system will also play an important role in tracking ESG data and performance through improved visibility into operations.
In terms of lessons learned, Chapman says that it's important to have a core team that's dedicated to the implementation. He comments:
We made this mistake, which was to try and share the roles when you try to implement. Forget that, it doesn't work. Pick the right people. Create an IFS team. It's going to be a little bit large at first. Get the job in, and then maybe shrink that team down a little bit and keep that IFS core team, because they really get to know, learn and understand the system, and that helps the rest of the business.
Another advantage of moving to the IFS Cloud platform is that it allows for 'evergreen' updates, so that new capabilities can be added without the disruption of a re-implementation. That's a good match for Morgan as a company, which although its cars have retained a similar look and feel on the outside, continues to evolve and update them under the covers, such as the Morgan Super 3, the latest iteration of its trademark 3-wheeled roadster. Adaptability and openness to change is what makes Morgan strong, says Chapman.