Follow that London cab

Using a central data base, London Taxi International has made its manufacturing operation future proof.

London Taxis International (LTI) manufacturers the ubiquitous London black taxicab, building some 3,000 every year. As the direct result of government legislation regarding wheelchair access, LTI expects its market to expand in the near future. It therefore needs to be working efficiently and in good competitive shape so it is flexible to new demands, and capable of supplying an enlarged market against greater competition.

Traditionally, the operation had used a highly tailored MRP system, which was not particularly flexible to the needs of the business. This led to a proliferation of Access databases and Excel spreadsheets based on data extracts, all being used for business critical functions but none of them closely integrated with the central system. There was no easy mechanism for engineering change control or the transfer of design updates from engineering to manufacturing, and individual taxi ordering was inflexible with no mechanism for ensuring the availability of necessary components.

LTI wanted a solution that would have a central data source which could be accessed by a wide variety of different systems using reliable, up-to-date technology, so that Access and Excel developments would be operating from the latest, live data. It had to be future-proof, and offer the capacity to cope with a possible increase in business, expected because of changes in legislation.

Moreover, it had to improve the way engineering and manufacturing work together and include a rules-based product configurator that would make ordering more reliable and accurate. The solution that best fulfilled these requirements was the component-based IFS Applications.

Implementation was carried out in stages, starting with two days a week generic training for the core LTI Project Team spread over eight weeks, after which LTI mapped all its processes, agreeing and documenting them so that they were prepared to move forward with IFS.

Next, consultants came in to the various areas, and went through these agreed processes using the IFS Business Modeler. Using this interactive process mapping utility, LTI compared what had been documented with the alternatives offered as standard and as far as possible standard processes were adopted without alteration. Only a few changes were required because of the special nature of the taxi business so the system has been implemented almost completely as delivered, which greatly reduces cost and guarantees flexibility.

‘This project was always owned by the business and they became really involved,’ said Gary Hancock, IT Manager at LTI. ‘People from the departments know how the factory runs, and they decided how they wanted the system to work.’

LTI now has a component-based integrated manufacturing system that is flexible and able to maintain up-to-date information for a whole range of business critical activities. The engineering bill of materials and manufacturing bill of materials, which were on separate, unconnected systems, are now integrated. Engineering needs to be able to make queries on parts usage and examine the effect of changes completely independently of manufacturing. Using the latest parts information, and with access to stock levels, engineering can now adapt their bill of materials to optimise changes before doing an information transfer.

‘The engineering bill of materials was one of the most important things,’ said Hancock. ‘For an automotive manufacturer, bills of materials are at the centre of the business, and if they are not right, everything starts to fall apart.’

A new rules-based configurator has been implemented to make ordering and pricing a taxi more reliable.