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A key supplier of Formula 1 exhaust systems has reduced stocks of high value raw materials by 30% and boosted production efficiency using K3 Business Technology's JobBOSS computerised production control system.

Primary Designs both designs and manufactures high quality exhaust systems for competition cars. It is a leading supplier of make-to-order, low volume exhaust systems to many Formula 1 motor racing teams, Le Mans, BTCC touring car teams and historic Formula 1 teams. The Thame-based company employs just 10 people and has a turnover of £1 million, but despite its size is passionate about being World-Class through customer service and technical excellence.

The company operates in a niche market and such is its expertise and skill that the tightness of exhaust tube bend radii frequently exceeds the minimum considered possible by the tube Industry. The use of Inconel for Formula 1 exhausts, a notoriously tricky and expensive raw material, is what makes the job such a specialist operation. In 0.5mm wall thickness tube, for example, a bend radius of 1x diameter is achievable. This enables neater installations with less welding and a superior result from gas flow and ultimate engine power. Along with the F1 teams, Primary Designs is continuously moving forward the 'boundaries of the possible' with the drive towards better exhaust efficiency and less weight.

Managing Director Pat Barrett says: "Our previous planning and control system was basically manual, relying heavily on paper systems, spreadsheets and our knowledge of the jobs going through the factory. With regards to stock control we were small enough to know what we had in stock and what was needed - or so we thought. Our biggest nightmare was in planning the work because lead times were very short and the only thing predictable about our customers was that they were unpredictable!"

An advisor from a local Business Link suggested that the firm consider a computerised production control system, and helped it draw up a requirements list which included:

  • Minimum time spent entering job data at different stages of order processing
  • Fast and accurate job costing and useage information on materials, labour and machines.
  • Improved workshop utilisation through effective scheduling
  • Improved material and delivery scheduling
  • Immediate and accurate information on Job Status

"In late 2001 we shortlisted a number of software products. We subsequently tried a demonstration disc of JobBOSS from K3 Business Technology Group and chose the package for a number of reasons," says Pat Barrett. " It was designed for small firms like us and has been tried and tested in a job-shop environment. It is also a Windows-based user friendly system and all the features we needed are in one place. I am a great believer in shared information and JobBOSS helps achieve this because total integration within the modules means that you only need to enter data once and it is shared with the entire system. We can also easily export information to familiar Microsoft packages like Word and Excel, and design our own management reports with Crystal Reports.

"Our main objective has been to improve our workshop utilisation through better scheduling. Job costing is also very important because much of our Formula 1 work is repeat business so it is easy to check back via labour reporting. Most of the core modules of JobBOSS have been fully implemented since July, 2002, and the system has greatly improved our efficiency and helped us identify areas for improvement. It meets all of our specified requirements and some bonuses that we didn't expect.

"For example, JobBOSS identified a potentially disastrous situation with a particular component that was overstocked because a customer changed the specification - a regular occurrence. Our tube bending department made too many parts, which could have been disastrous with a resultant cost of £25,000 - which is a lot for a small company. Fortunately, we realised this in time to be able to use this stock as it is all fairly fast moving. But it wasn?t a comfortable experience. If we had the system earlier it wouldn?t have happened. Computerised stock control has been the really big eye-opener to us. All the way through from order processing to purchasing we know exactly what materials are in stock and can get on with the jobs without hold-ups. Overall, we have reduced stocks of raw materials - the majority of which are high value Inconel - by 30%.

"Formula 1 relies on sponsorship and is suffering due to the economy and low viewing figures, and all the teams are looking for cost cuts more aggressively. JobBOSS has helped us considerably in the areas of quotations enabling us to be more competitive and win new business. With good cost control we can accurately see where we can lower prices and still make a profit, and also increase prices on marginally profitable jobs. Additionally, with more accurate planning and scheduling and 'what if' capabilities we can make more informed judgements about the consequences of taking on 'rush jobs'."

The system also enables production operations and costs to be controlled by identifying problems while a job is still in progress. So if a delivery date is changed, for example, the system's auto-linking features automatically changes the schedule, purchasing, routing, sub-assemblies and components, allowing decisions to be based on current data.

"JobBOSS is extremely comprehensive," adds Pat Barrett. "It covers everything from quote processing, materials availability, job cards and office administration, and parts tracking all the way through to shipping and despatch."

For the future, Primary Designs plans to increase the system's potential by implementing shop floor data collection in the form of bar codes and time and attendance for labour reporting. There are also possibilities for integration or exchanging data with the company's SolidEdge 3D design system.


About JobBOSS Software

JobBOSS is a fully integrated shop management system, which helps control every aspect of the manufacturing operation. Core modules include Quote Processing, Order Processing, Shop Floor Control, Material Control, Labour Reporting, Cost Analysis, System Administration, Data Collection and links to Sage/Pegasus.


K3 Business Technology Group plc is a public company listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange. Formerly known as Kewill ERP, the company is one of the UK's leading authors and suppliers of Supply Chain Management and ERP software for the SME Sector. Products include IBS, SmartVision (ERP solutions), Omicron (financial software) and JobBOSS for small jobshops.

K3's clients in the UK include Rolls Royce, Thomson CSF, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Thales. With over 1650 current UK customers, the company is the UK's market leading supplier of UK-developed Supply Chain Management software to the SME sector.


Richard Thomas                    

K3 Business Technology Group plc            

Electra House                        

Electra Way                        


Tel: 01270 211211                    


K3 can also be reached on its websites: and

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David Potts
David Potts Associates
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