IT WAS around ten years ago when management at Reln, one of Australia's manufacturing success stories, decided to invest in a new ERP system, the Sage ERP Accpac suite of business software modules.
The software was deployed to help track and manage orders from the time they are received at Reln's customer centre through to despatch, delivery and invoicing.
Sydney-based Reln employs 100 people and is renowned for the design and manufacture of water management products.
Reln's finance manager, David McDonald, says the company uses most of the ERP capabilities including general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, foreign currency, order entry, returned materials authorisation.
"Plus we have an electronic funds transfer add-on module developed for us by our reseller," McDonald said.
"All of our larger customers such as the major hardware stores place their orders electronically using EDI. Others generally send their orders by fax or phone. As the orders come through they are scanned and attached to the sales order documentation as an image file."
Sales information then flows through the system to the appropriate warehouse where the goods are picked and prepared for despatch.
The system produces delivery dockets and invoices, and the goods are shipped. For customers who don't use EDI, invoices are sent via email, fax or mail.
To complete the process, all delivery dockets are scanned and attached to the original sales order, ensuring that all documentation regarding the transaction is maintained in one place.
The integrated nature of the software has allowed Reln to create an extensive array of reports to provide intelligence about the company's business.
Many of the reports have been developed in Crystal Reports, while others simply require Microsoft Access.
In the 12 years since Accpac was deployed, Reln's business has doubled in size.
The system has evolved alongside all these changes, providing Reln with multi-company functionality during acquisitions and delivering multi-currency capabilities to support its growing business.
"The software offers plenty of room for growth and it's quite easy to add a new company to the system. We've developed our own tailored user manual with screen shots, screen dumps, and work flow diagrams to assist new companies as they come to grips with a change of system," McDonald said.
At present the company is introducing an Accellos warehouse management system (WMS) which is allowing Reln to introduce scanning technology and hand-held data capture devices into the warehouses.
McDonald is confident this will reduce the potential for errors in the warehouse, speed warehouse responsiveness and improve record keeping as all information will be fed directly from the devices into the Sage system. Customer relationship management (CRM) is another technology that McDonald has plans to introduce with the WMS.
"We will be rolling out Sage CRM in the future. The probable users will be our mobile sales force, customer service staff and accounts," he said.
"The real opportunities for us are in providing more information to sales before they make their calls and in capturing feedback after the calls."
McDonald also hopes to introduce a new customer service management solution. Interfaced to the CRM, it will enable reporting and measure activity against key performance indicators.