Signum Customer, PIP Chemicals have recently been successful in securing funding for a new WMS solution. We caught up with Adam Hunniford, Managing Director, to talk about the challenges, the process and what advice he is able to offer other companies who may be considering the funding option.
PIP Chemicals is a chemical manufacturing company based in Newtownards, supplying cleaning, care and protection products, to the auto and sanitising industries.
As PIP Chemical has grown, requiring the need for additional staffing and resources, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain quality standards. In earlier times, the individual doing the manufacturing would likely have been deeply involved with the product development as well as material sourcing.
As a result, operator errors could be easily minimized because the operator knew what he was expecting. As staffing levels increased, this connection is impossible to maintain. Errors in production were becoming more common and were only picked up at quality control stages. This then led to time and money wasted reprocessing and remanufacturing products. Additionally, increased physical size of the operation has meant that goods are much more widely spread.
Consequently, there is the further time wastage trying to locate materials within the warehouse and a need for operatives to keep a mental note to try to expedite their processes.
In order to move the operation forward, it was decided that these uncertainties needed removed. It was no longer acceptable that a manufacturing operative could be expected to reliably differentiate between chemicals of similar name. The chemicals would need to be able to be identified by the SAP system and be checked prior to use. It was no longer acceptable to rely that quantities used were accurately transcribed to manufacturing sheets. The quantities should be captured from weighing equipment and actual quantities recorded rather than fixed back flushing. It was no longer acceptable for operatives to have to remember where materials are stored and spend valuable time locating. The locations should be recorded and the system should be able to prompt the operative where to go to find them.
With these various elements addressed, the business will be able to move forward, operating more accurately, more efficiently and in a position where further growth requires much less reliance on operative knowledge.
Funding companies approached and reasoning why those specifically
There really only was InvestNI for a project of this kind. We have a long running partnership with them where they have assisted in several technological solutions as well as increasing employment.
Funding company involvement
As a long term partner, we were well aware of what was required. InvestNI are fantastic and worked with us right through the process, guiding not only how they would potentially help financially, but also assisting in ensuring that the solution was suitable for the task we had in mind.
The application process
As long term partners, it was very easy. All of our company records and financial reports are provided each year such that there was no requirement to duplicate. Once the general remit and costs were agreed with our client executive and IT specialist, the application process took a matter of 1-2 hours to submit in the electronic system. There was some further communication to get details sorted – something that took some weeks as it required input from ourselves and Signum – but it was straight forward and could have been done within a couple of days, had schedules allowed. There was no pressure on timescales as InvestNI are very understanding that projects like these, with multiple parties, do take time to get right. Once all was submitted, we had a positive answer within 2 week.
The funding allows PIP Chemicals to implement a class leading system which places us firmly at the top of our sector. Whilst the company remains moderately sized, we will have processes and capabilities exceeding many of those which are more than 10x the size. We will be in a position to scale up easily without expensive and painful exercises changing the core business systems.
Advice to companies looking to apply for/raise funding
Talk! Talk to your funding partners. They are there to help! They are not trying to block you from getting funding, they actively want to give it to you if you can prove the value of that input and that it will meet with their strategic goals. Additionally, don’t expect something for nothing – if you aren’t willing to invest your own money, why would a funder be willing to do it?