Crest Electronics supply over 4,000 retailers with a wide range of home and professional equipment from manufacturers including Philips and Sony.
Problem: Disparate systems, Old technology
For many years, Crest Electronics’ business systems were comprised of three completely separate, unintegrated pieces of software.
The first two – a warehouse management system and a product management and reporting system – had been developed by in-house staff.
The third piece of software was the System 77 financial software package.
According to Chief Financial Officer, Matt Birtwistle, it all worked well but the lack of integration meant that the same piece of information could require up to three separate data entry exercises.
It was a cumbersome set-up that Crest Electronics could not afford to continue with if they wanted to capitalise on the growth opportunities being presented. In addition, the reliance on home-grown software meant that key system knowledge resided with only one or two individuals.
In 2005, Crest Electronics began their first attempt to resolve the problems. At the time Crest Electronics' reach extended internationally and their overseas offices opted to implement the SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.
Despite an expensive and (extensive) implementation process the project failed and the plan was abandoned. Two years later, the need for an integrated system became more urgent.
Solution: Familiarity and development savings
Matt Birtwistle explained that the first product they thought of was SAP. Crest Electronics had invested quite a lot of time and energy in it in their earlier attempt and they still had the software loaded on their server. Crest Electronics could have purchased licences and begun again but eventually decided that it was going to take too much money.
As a self-described Microsoft shop, Matt Birtwistle’s next thought was for Microsoft Dynamics. He says that apart from a few small open systems applications, all of Crest Electronics’ technology is Microsoft and their people know how to use the software, so it was the obvious choice.
Matt Birtwistle approached Professional Advantage , Crest Electronics' long-time IT partner and explained what he was looking for.
After evaluating Microsoft Dynamics AX and following the advice from Professional Advantage, Matt Birtwistle decided that the Microsoft solution offered Crest Electronics the suitable fit as it met their business needs and the technology proved to be easy for their own developers to work with, which meant the chance of achieving significant savings.
Implementation: Ask first, implement later
Determined to avoid the problems that had beset the SAP attempt, Matt Birtwistle adopted a policy of ask first, implement later. He commissioned Professional Advantage to conduct a comprehensive scoping study, an activity that ensured Crest Electronics had a complete solution design document before making any final commitment to the software.
Implementation of the solution began in August 2007 and went live on 1 March 2008. It was a project that Birtwistle believes went extremely smoothly.
“One of the reasons it worked so well was that we made sure we appointed system champions early on. We also took ownership of the system very quickly by choosing to handle much of the configuration ourselves. We’d talk to Professional Advantage and say ‘Here’s how we’d like to proceed’ and they would guide and advise us on how to go about it. It was a very flexible approach.”
Roger Gibson, Professional Advantage's Project Manager for Crest adds, "To make sure it worked we provided training to selected Crest personnel early in the project. That allowed Crest to take on more responsibility and joint project management, which led to faster decision-making and a more successful project. It also allowed us to step back and act as a mentor in the development and testing phase.”
The project was finished on time, on budget and without any impact on orders going out the door. The final Microsoft Dynamics AX set-up includes the complete financial management module, inventory management and work orders functionality.
It has replaced the previous financial and product management software with a single system that offers complete integration with Crest Electronics' ‘pick to light’ Warehouse Management System.
Three months after going live duplication of data entry has become a problem of the past and streamlined processes are helping Crest Electronics to realise significant time savings in the critical areas of invoicing and payments.
Visibility of data across the company and faster, easier access to information are also helping to enhance customer service. Enquiry time is down while service staff responsiveness has improved. It is an important result given greater customer focus is one of Crest Electronics' two main strategies for achieving its planned revenue growth.