Software for Fresh Food Wholesalers - Case Study
Essex Meats are one of South East England's largest wholesalers of fresh and frozen meats, based in Basildon.
The company had been using computer systems for many operations for over 20 years, but the existing system was in need of updating, partly because of its age and lack of integration, but primarily because Essex Meats wished to extend the scope of computerisation.
The existing system was being used only for invoicing and accounts. The company had realised that there were considerable efficiency savings to be made if this use were extended to full sales order processing and stock control, and although there was some scope for doing so on the old system, it was felt that this would be the opportunity to move to a new Windows based system.
The company decided to implement the OneOffice 3000 suite of software. The software could meet all of their specialised needs as a meat wholesaler, but an attraction was that the specialised applications were part of a fully integrated suite of software.
The benefit of this being that there is a common user interface across all applications (sales order processing and invoicing, stock control, purchase order processing and accounts) and all operations can be undertaken in real time (if they wish) so that as an invoice is printed, it is immediately posted into the sales ledger and the nominal ledger, and stock is issued.
Other software on the market appeared to offer only part of the whole solution and involved 'cutting and pasting' from one application to another.
The suppliers of the system were also able to support all of their existing hardware and network components and installation, so offering a single source solution.
This meant that rather than having to contact different companies for support on different aspects of the system, Essex Meats had only one number to ring without having to worry about exactly where the problem may be. On the other hand, as the suppliers were one of a network of OneOffice software houses, Essex Meats also had the safeguard that if they were to 'fall out' with them, they could go to another of the software houses.
This offered more safety than with some other software companies who were the sole suppliers of their system, and therefore effectively locked their customers in to them.
The OneOffice 3000 system was installed on their existing Windows server based network. Their software house took a copy of their existing data and converted it so that they were able to conduct training on the new system, but on their own data, whilst they were still running live on the old system.
Wishing to move ahead at a moderate pace (evolution not revolution) the first step was to bring the new system into operation replacing initially just the tasks that the old one was running, the invoicing and accounts. Having decided on the new system in late 2007, training started in January 2008.
They did not rush at the training as they wanted to ensure that all staff who had contact with the system, those who put data into it and those who used the data from it, were comfortable with the new system and were fully trained in its use. They received training from their software house but also conducted their own onward internal training sessions.
When deciding on the system initially there were some areas where is was felt that they may require some tailoring to the software, and in the course of training these were reviewed, and those necessary put these into place. They went live on the new system in April 2008.
Whilst all knew that this could have been accomplished in a faster timescale, this suited all concerned and ensured that all staff were comfortable with the system and had had an opportunity to use it and offer feedback on it.
The training program was very successful, with staff able to use the system easily from day one of going live, although a member of staff from their software house was also on site on the morning of the first live run for complete assurance. Having spent some months ensuring everything was settled in, Essex Meats went live on the next stage of the process, full sales order processing, with stock being picked using picking lists produced from the system, later in 2008.
Essex Meats are pleased that the implementation of the new system, the first major change for some 20 years, has gone according to plan, and that they can see real benefits in efficiency and time savings as a result of it in the first 12 months after implementation. They consider it likely that the system will pay for itself in terms of time saved within 24 months. The staff has taken to the new system easily due to its modern Windows user interface.
One of the concerns over installing a new system is losing features from an old one. Careful planning (regular formal progress meetings were held with their suppliers) has ensured this was not the case with Essex Meats, and this and good training were at the heart of the successful implementation of the new system.
They have continued to gradually bring in and make use of the features and benefits that the software offers, also having the occasional inexpensive special requirement built in.