CBE+ capabilities beyond engineering
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There is no escaping it, our world is becoming more digital by the day. Both at home and in the office, new technologies are constantly being introduced, replacing traditional processes and communication channels.

The advances of the 21st century have been revolutionary, but as it grows, so does the risk associated with it.

Our Marketing Executive Katie Andrews sat down this week with IT & Systems Manager David Lee, to reflect on how we are mitigating risk and improving our systems, processes and information management at CBE+.

Katie: How do we manage information at CBE+?

David: The ability to be able to share information is vital to any business. We still have some progress to make, but we currently use various means with which to share information freely within the company.

We have a networked drive that contains useful information like our Quality System, SOPs and customer drawings, all available to those that need it. More confidential information is locked behind access control, which is managed by our IT support company, with access requiring authorisation from Marie, our CEO.

As you know, we have a Marketing team that puts out a monthly newsletter and utilises platforms such as LinkedIn and HubSpot to share information both externally and internally. We also use Microsoft Teams and the company email system to communicate internally.

We are developing visual KPIs in Power BI that can be displayed in various parts of the business. These will include, but not be restricted to information such as input/output against targets, OTIF & quote to order conversion, a game changer for the management team.

Another longer-term aim is to get documentation out of the network drive and attached to the correct module in our ERP system so the information is relevant to the record it is attached to and be access controlled through the system.

Katie: I remember in June 2020, during the first lockdown, we implemented the EFACS business system, how has this progressed since then?

David: As with any good system it can only give out as good as it gets in and it’s important to retain a degree of control over what is entered into it. For example, to enable accurate reporting, part numbers need to be uniform and follow a protocol to ensure that they’re easily findable. I worked somewhere that had thirty-seven different part numbers on the system for the same M8 Nut! Reporting how many M8 nuts were used in a period was a nightmare!

EFACS is a veritable playground in terms of what can be achieved with it. The opportunities for development within the system are endless and it’s hard not to get carried away with it. Bespoke tables and fields can be utilised to suit business practices and company idiosyncrasies and I’ve not even scratched the surface with what can be achieved using automated workflows.

Ultimately, we want the system to work for us. Amongst other things, we want it to do the following:

  • Make purchasing recommendations based on stock levels and reorder levels/minimum order quantities, intelligently scoped using intelligent standard deviation calculations.
  • Create work to lists on the shop floor based on the operation’s latest start dates and capacity restraints.
  • Use OCR scanning software (more on this later) and use automated workflows to route paperwork to the correct location and attach it to relevant records in the module.

All of this is possible and believe me, it will keep me very busy!

Katie: Cyber Security is a hot topic at the moment, tell me more about the KnowBe4 training you have put in place.

David: At CBE+, like any other business, we often receive malicious phishing scams into our inboxes.  Despite my efforts to block these, sometimes they filter through. We have recently worked with our IT support provider Highlander, to partner with KnowBe4, a global platform that will provide cyber awareness training to all our staff that have access to emails.

The short training videos, sent out once per month, are accompanied by a quiz to ensure that the messages are received and understood. They are a little cheesy in places but overall they’re good fun and are short enough to be engaging throughout.

My favourite part of the program is the phishing attempts that it sends out periodically. These are of varying levels of complexity, from pretending to be a Nigerian prince offering riches, to free sausage rolls from a famous high street bakery to Microsoft engineers trying to get control of your pc. If a user reports a suspicious email using the Phish Alert Outlook add-on, they get a nice congratulatory message informing them it was a phishing attempt instigated by us/me.

I get a report on those that have identified as ‘Clickers’ and on what they have clicked. It does make for a bit of light-hearted office banter, and I just hope that I never fall for one myself as I would never live it down! Fortunately, nobody has given anyone any credit card details yet! It all just helps to reinforce the message and will no doubt make everyone more aware, both within the business and outside.

Katie: So what does the future hold at CBE+ in terms of IT?

David: There are obviously the ERP developments that I mentioned earlier. I am also aware that we have varying quality levels of PC infrastructure throughout the business. We will soon begin to move toward a Modern Workplace solution whereby all PCs are of a certain standard, running the latest OS version and are fully cloud integrated.

Something else we’ll need to consider as a business, is the modernisation of the company’s telephone system from a legacy system to a digital VoIP based one. Again, the intention is to price this up in the coming months and ensure that we are ready for when legacy systems become obsolete at the end of 2025.

Finally, I’m exploring various document management software solutions that will undoubtedly save us so much time with manual processing of paperwork. We receive paperwork through various channels and in different forms. We need to be able to handle them all in an efficient way. I’d like us to use optical character recognition (OCR) technology to rename and save documents in specific locations, based on data extracted from the paperwork, then re-route accordingly so that it can be validated and viewed through our ERP system.”