Founded in 1971, BiS is an internationally recognised engineering company with 40 years experience in the design and manufacture of stainless steel pressure and flow control valves for high pressure liquid and gas. With more than 50 employees, the Wimborne-based manufacturer also offers bespoke solutions in a variety of materials from super duplex to titanium. BiS has a broad, worldwide customer base with the majority of it clients working in the oil and gas sector. In addition, it also has an established presence in the petro-chemical, pharmaceutical, power generation, water hydraulics and fuel systems markets.
...by choosing to go with FileMaker, we have been able to build our own systems that do exactly what we need them to do David Kelly, Managing Director, BiS Valves
For companies such as BiS, which is involved in precision engineering manufacturing processes, the ability to track each project is vital. To successfully run the business, staff need software that will automatically tell them what parts are required for each job, whether they are in stock or not and to run an order for new parts and materials where required.
Furthermore, the firm also requires systems to enable it to carry out capacity planning for each job, as well as the standard practices of generating invoices and indexing the drawings and designs for each project.
While there are many off-the-shelf software packages available on the market, designed to help engineering businesses in this area, they can be limited. BiS wanted something that would give them as much flexibility as possible.
“We want a system that fits around the way we work, not vice versa,” says managing director David Kelly.
The FileMaker solution:
BiS’ involvement with FileMaker harks back to the formative years of the database product, at the beginning of the 1990s, when the majority of the staff at the engineering company were using Apple Mac computers.
“These were the early days of personal computing and at the time we couldn’t find a finance or accounts package to run on Macs,” says David. “But we found some invoicing functionality on FileMaker, which also has the ability to run on Macs, and that’s how we first started using FileMaker.”
This fortuitous union, however, has enabled BiS over time to develop a series of flexible software systems designed with their own needs in mind, rather than adopting a specialist off-the-shelf product, which might limit what they are able to do.
An evergreen solution
At the time BiS first started using FileMaker very little scripting was available to allow users to customise their database but as each new release of FileMaker was brought out, BiS took full advantage of the accompanying innovative functionality.
“We first used FileMaker for invoicing, creating a bill of materials and for assigning numbers to any engineering drawings we’d made,” says David. “But by release three or four, as the ability to use scripting improved, we started to do a heck of a lot with FileMaker. For example, all our stock, which had previously been recorded manually, was moved onto FileMaker.
“We were then able to link the system with our ordering system so, for example, a bill of materials will allocate materials to a certain job and run a report of where we have a shortage of parts, so we can order them in.”
More recently, BiS’ use of FileMaker has become more sophisticated, as the company has customised it to provide capacity planning for particular projects. Details about a certain job, such as the parts required, are loaded into the system, which will work out the time needed in the workshop and the total time the job will take. Information about staff holidays and absences from another staff management system based on FileMaker are also factored in to ensure the company has enough capacity to cover jobs coming up.
Interlinked and intelligent
David says: “We have linked a number of FileMaker systems in this way so, for example, sales can see what manufacturing are doing and vice versa. Our aim is to use FileMaker to save on paper and reduce the number of questions we have to ask each other. FileMaker is core to the company and allows us to run the business.”
According to David, the decision to go with FileMaker was unusual for an engineering company. But it is a decision that has brought huge benefits.
He adds: “Most engineering companies use proprietary software - there are a host of MRP (material requirements planning) packages on the market. But by choosing to go with FileMaker, we have been able to build our own systems that do exactly what we need them to do.”
Plays well with others – FileMaker has been designed to be incredibly open and is able to run on both PCs and Macs, as well as integrate with a host of other databases, servers and systems
Flexibility – by choosing FileMaker, as opposed to a proprietary system, BiS has developed a system customised to its own particular business needs
Capacity planning – using FileMaker, clever functionality gives BiS the ability to automatically know what resources are required for any individual job and to plan ahead