Guerin Systems: Attaining Visibility to Plan Workloads
Interview with Mrs. Le Neve, Guerin Systems’ Planning and Quality Manager
About Guerin Systems
Guerin Systems, an organization specializing in powder handling, has become a French leader in the automated equipment sector for the agri-foodstuffs and plastic industries. The company provides its clients with turnkey solutions ranging from design to installation through to end-user training.
Why did you need a project management solution?
We offer our clients turnkey solutions in order to respond to their needs. Most of these solutions are stainless steel based to ensure the transport, dosage, and mix of solutions generally made up of agri-foodstuff powders.
We design all of the equipment by manufacturing one part and buying the other. One part of our production is thus pre-assembled at our workshops, then installed on the client’s site and finally tested and integrated with real products. In terms of size, we work on large projects, both in terms of length of time (one to two years) and budget (200,000 euros to 5 or 6 million euros). Our human resources consist of three different branches: mechanical, electrical, and automation.
It was therefore very important for us to have a project management solution.
Before opting for this solution, how did you manage your activity?
We managed no less than 12 main plans: resource plans, representing for example equipment assembly times, and project-based plans managed by our business managers. Such plans weren't really used to manage percent complete but to communicate information to our clients. We used MS Project for major projects and Excel for tracking other projects. We concurrently managed very tight manufacturing schedules in terms of hours, which enabled us to track our workshop workloads.
However, these plans were not linked with each other: so, we sometimes faced serious difficulties in terms of organization and communication!
Moreover, we were looking for a solution that would enable us to improve our corporate planning in general, especially in order to comprehensively consolidate a service workload. Bearing in mind the number of projects undertaken at the same time, it was almost impossible to maintain such a document. The result was that we just didn’t have one.
All of a sudden, this lack of visibility prevented us from planning workloads and our current requirements for collecting information was becoming more and more time-consuming.
How did you come to choose the Sciforma solution?
In 2005, we analyzed our improvement needs in terms of organizing our fundamental techniques. We put together a folder of costs including a list of applications. Based on this, we looked at different solutions, finally opting for Sciforma. Initially, we only used it to manage one pilot project and therefore used a limited number of licenses.
Do you think that a project management solution was a key element to your development?
With a considerable increase in turnover, it had become obvious that we could no longer work from memory. Furthermore, we were experiencing difficulties both internally and externally making sure that client deadlines were being met. We had no way of knowing our capacity to handle new projects and, above all, hardly any visibility in terms of foreseeing delivery delays.
In order to manage our growth and our development, we had to have the correct information. It was therefore necessary to equip ourselves with a benchmark tool.
Firstly, we created a new position for a planning manager – my role. Initially, I was responsible for quality but also had to work on planning. This appointment also involved releasing the IT budget so as to purchase a project management solution.
We also intended to optimize resources, in other words, manage absences against workloads. Our human resource management tool managed absences but didn't link them to pending work, not to mention establishing upcoming workloads. It was, therefore, difficult to plan the resources needed to fulfill our deadlines.
Following the assessment that I presented to my management committee, the decision was made to implement planning management at the industrial management level from the time that an order was placed to when its delivery was confirmed.
At the start, sales, administrative and financial activities were not built into the project management tool.
To be precise, this type of project organization was based on delegating to project managers; who were in charge of accounts, organization, and leading management committee meetings with business managers.
How many projects do you currently manage in your company?
About 30. Well, between 30 and 50 if we also include client services. This part covers small projects amounting to less than 70,000 euros, such as spare parts or our maintenance solutions during maintenance contracts, for example, which are not tracked using Sciforma. Strictly speaking, we enter a generic project into Sciforma called “Interventions project” and we create one line per intervention, to which we allocate the staff in order to manage the resource side.
To conclude, how did you implement Sciforma and provide training to your staff?
In October 2005, we were still piloting the project when we started our training program for two business managers. The idea was to involve them beforehand and help them to enter their upcoming projects without taking previous projects into consideration.
In February 2006, at the end of the piloting stage, we provided a 3-day administrative training course, the aim being to perfectly master the solution and its functions and features. We thus managed to write an internal procedures guide and document the user interfaces in detail.
We then expanded this training to include other types of users. Within Sciforma, a training request was initiated to which we had specifically assigned a number of licenses. Finally, we were able to train our teams by importing our own projects and thus managed to create the ideal training conditions for us.