Sage 200 helps Portway Domestic Appliances

to create an integrated business

 “Whereas our old bespoke system produced questionable data, we now rely implicitly on what Sage 200 tells us as the data reflects reality.” Neil Bradford, Sales Director, Portway Domestic Appliances Limited.

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Customer profile

Portway Domestic Appliances Limited is a national distributor of top quality electric and gas, freestanding and built-in domestic appliances. The business has been serving the independent electrical trade for nearly twenty years. It has a healthy turnover of £15 million and employs around thirty people.

At its 70,000 sqft warehouse in Andover, Hampshire, Portway stocks over twenty major brands. As well as a trade counter, it also has a retail shop, selling directly to consumers.

The challenge

 For nearly a decade, Portway used Sage 50 for financial accounting, with a separate, bespoke system for sales order processing and stock control. Without ready access to the customer data held on the Sage 50 system, credit control at the point of order entry was impossible. Furthermore, there were concerns about continuing development and support for the bespoke system. 

Portway also had Sage Point of Sale (POS) to support its retail operation. However, integration with Sage 50 was limited; only financial data flowed through to Sage 50, not information on stock held at the shop.

As an expanding, forward-looking business, Portway recognised the need for a more integrated alternative to its existing infrastructure. Portway Sales Director Neil Bradford explains, “Having experienced all the problems of two systems not talking to one another, we were ready for a single system which would do everything for us.”

The solution

 Portway purchased a Sage 200 solution. Neil notes, “We’d found Sage 50 very reliable, so moving up to a more powerful system in Sage 200 was a natural choice for us.” However, it wasn’t until Portway involved Sage Business Partner Uniq Systems that managers gained the confidence to go ahead with the implementation of Sage 200. Uniq was able to demonstrate wide experience in supporting other Sage users and clear understanding of Portway’s requirements. The work began to install Sage 200 in a way which would support all the different elements of the business: trade, retail and online.  

Uniq undertook the task of transferring and restructuring the stock ledger from the bespoke system and extracting it into Microsoft Excel; as well as migrating financial data from Sage 50. This gave Portway the chance to cleanse the data by restructuring some of the stock codes and removing obsolete items before Uniq imported the stock into Sage 200. The company had been holding around 17,000 stock codes, and this number was reduced down to 6,000.

Enhancing the online arm of the business would improve accessibility and service to 1,100-plus customers. Uniq proposed a new web shop, and built this with Aspidistra, using its ShopFront ecommerce solution. This synchronises live data between Sage 200 and the web shop.

The business solution also incorporated Spindle Professional Document Manager to efficiently handle all the electronic documents created around sales.  With over 100 sales orders a day and 17 users, it was critical that there was no interruption in service when the new system went live. Uniq set up a test system on which to carry out extensive testing and to train principal users. There was understandable trepidation at Portway about the migration, as Neil recalls, “We’d been using our old set-up for something like nine years and even though there were problems, everyone in the company was familiar with it. We chose our quietest period – New Year – to move to the new system, but it still felt like taking a leap in the dark. In particular, with increasing online traffic, we absolutely had to have a live website, so we held our breath when switching over. Fortunately, we had Uniq to support us throughout.” In the event, the implementation went smoothly: “Sage 200 worked from day one, without any break in business operation or service to our customers.” Neil goes on to describe the early days of using the new integrated solution, “There’s bound to be a few issues with a migration on this scale; it’s the nature of the beast. But with Uniq’s support, we were able to focus on running our business. They also helped by making a number of modifications to customise Sage 200 to our exact business requirements.” 

  
The benefits 

Sage 200 has been in place for some months now, and Portway is reaping the benefits of having a fully integrated business solution used by staff across the business, including telesales, the trade counter, and the warehouse.

To give one simple but powerful example of the advantages which integration has brought, customers’ credit limits are now fully integrated. If they try to place an order by any method, including over the web, which would exceed their credit limit or conflict with their payment terms, the system automatically places the order on hold.

 

The system saves time and effort, too, with a single system integrating sales order processing and stock control with finance. Standard Sage 200 functionality makes routine but important tasks easier and quicker. Examples here include importing new price lists from suppliers and updating selling prices from Microsoft Excel. Stock-taking is a huge task for a business which now has over 6,000 product lines. Neil describes how Sage 200 has made life simpler, “We’ve just done our first stock-take on Sage 200 and found it a big improvement. We used to have to cease trading and manually handle any orders that came in on the day on paper, which is always risky. Now business continues as normal and it’s all much easier to do.” With integration of the retail shop, users can now view stock held there from within Sage, too: “We’re now able to have multiple warehouses, for the retail shop, for faulty or damaged products and one for everything else. That’s also a big plus, as we can see what’s happening in the different areas of the business.” A higher percentage of orders are now placed through the web shop, and this provides greater order-taking capacity without increasing staff costs. The robust infrastructure now in place is able to handle this heavier web traffic. Complete, live integration between the web shop and Sage 200 means that customers are able to view current stock levels, prices, their order history, and so on.  Management accounts, essential to any business, used to take a very long time to produce. Now the system gives ready access to key data, such as the current value of stock and what’s selling. For a business with high volumes of stock, this information is essential to profitability. Neil points out a vital difference, “Whereas our old bespoke system produced questionable data, we now rely implicitly on what Sage 200 tells us as the data reflects reality.” 

  
The future

 With a solid, integrated IT platform in place, Portway is now looking to extend the benefits of the system. A planned move to the latest version of Sage 200 will introduce ‘workspaces’. These will give a graphical representation of the business, so that important information such as orders outstanding becomes instantly visible.     Insuring debt is an overhead on the business, particularly in the current economic climate. The inclusion of Sage Pay within the new version of Sage 200 will tackle this issue. It will carry out online credit card checking so that telesales staff can take orders from non-account customers, while eliminating a time-consuming manual process.  The relationship between Portway and Uniq continues. Neil comments, “We’ve been very impressed with their service throughout. Thanks to their careful planning and preparation, we haven’t had any major problems with our new solution, but it’s reassuring to know they’re always there if we need them.” 

  
Solution overview
  • A system that integrates sales order processing, stock control and finance
  • Support for both aspects of the business: trade and retail sales
  • Improved visibility of the company’s extensive stock holding
  • Increased efficiency, with reduced data entry and faster import of price lists
  • Support from an experienced Sage Business Partner in Uniq Systems