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Case study 2: R&L Enterprises

R & L Enterprises are one of the largest manufacturers and suppliers of laboratory equipment in the country, exporting their products world-wide from their factory near Leeds, West Yorkshire.

The company began computerising its day-to-day operations in the late ‘80s with the implementation of works order and production order processing modules, developed under SB+ to R & L’s specification. Quickly realising the potential of the computer to reduce administrative overhead, payroll was the next area to be tackled. Given the statutory obligations of payroll, they opted for a packaged solution, selecting TRIpay, from Beauchamp Computer Services (BCS), which was installed in 1991. Soon the system was up to 10 users, running on Advanced Pick, with serial links to terminals in stores, admin and on the shop floor.

By 1997, however, an overhaul was needed. R & L’s business was growing steadily, and more than ever needed the efficiency of a computer system, but there were a number of problems to be overcome. According to R & L director Ruth Roope, there were three main areas of concern:

- The order processing and stock control modules were not fully integrated, and other areas of the production side of the business were not catered for;
- The accounts department was not computerised at all;
- Development of new routines and support of existing software could no longer be handled in-house.

Being familiar with the products and services provided by BCS, R & L approached them for suggestions as to how the various disparate elements of their system could be brought together into an integrated whole, with a computerised accounts system at the core. BCS put together a proposal that involved supplying their TRIacc sales, purchase and nominal ledger modules, to which the existing TRIpay application would link seamlessly, and converting the existing SB+-based modules to run under the BCS TransSys environment. This offered a number of advantages:

- Seamless integration;
- Single-source support and development, from an established company;
- A consistent look-and-feel, including integrated security, system management utilities and shared resources;
- A secure, stable foundation for future developments as new business needs are identified.

Ruth Roope commented:

“BCS had proven over the years that not only were their systems reliable, user-friendly and accurate, but their support and bespoke developments gave us the confidence to expand our association with them into the future.”

The first phase of the project involved the installation of the TRIacc accounts suite. After transferring the balances from their existing ledgers, R & L began parallel running the accounts, with a view to consigning the old-fashioned manual books to the scrap-heap at the end of the financial year.

Meanwhile, phase two was already underway, converting the SB+ modules to run under TransSys. The operators saw little change here: they had the same options on similarly-structured menus, and quickly got a feel for the new environment. Naturally there were a few conversion glitches to iron out – and even the odd hoary old bug in the original code to fix! – but soon R & L were ready to produce orders in earnest. The actual process of going live on the ledgers and converted software was completed in one day. This included transfer from parallel run to live accounts, user set-up and initial operational testing on site. Once bedded in, further analysis of R & L’s operations was carried out with a view to introducing the third and final phase of the project: seamless integration of all existing business functions through the core TRIacc systems. This would include:

- maintenance of pricing including discount matrices
- automatic production of sales invoices
- automatic updates to sales and nominal ledgers

The structure of the price list for the company required a large degree of customer-specific overrides and discount matrices which involved a complex structure of data to reflect R & L’s existing business rules. In addition, the country-specific requirements for export customers were factored in so that the computer could be exploited to produce invoices laid out with the correct format, country-specific codes and shipping marks at the touch of a button. This alone alleviated many administrative headaches: no longer would a batch of export invoices have to wait until the one person who knew how they should be laid out was back from holiday!

Once integrated the system would provide an accurate, user-friendly solution that would permit the on-line generation and reprinting of sales invoices, automatic update links to the accounting ledgers and generate huge office time savings in day-to-day operations.

“The continued association between BCS and R & L permits us to run our business on a reliable system supported by a helpful and informed support team,” said Ruth Roope. “In addition it provides us with a partner we can be confident in as we look to the future. With BCS we will be able to progress our business into the new millennium and take advantage of new technologies.”

Tony Coutts, Software Manager for BCS, said:

“R & L are a long-standing and valued customer and we are delighted to have been able to help them realise their integration ambitions. We have provided them with a solution which offers the reliability of tried-and-tested packaged applications coupled with the flexibility of bespoke development tailored to mirror their existing business practices. Once again the MultiValue data model comes up trumps: managing real-world data under real-world business rules, which is what it does best.”

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