Fixfast design, manufacture and supply specialist building components. They’re well respected in the market as a result of offering reliable products without the fuss.
Being able to make products to the right specification in an efficient way and then supply that to the customer in a timely fashion has been a central force to their continued success.
As the business grew, they reached a point a few years ago where their old IT system no longer matched their business requirements.
Ken Lynes, Managing Director at Fixfast explains: “Our old system was becoming increasingly frustrating to use. It couldn’t give us adequate reports for forecasting and trends, and often gave us unreliable data. More importantly, the system couldn’t interact with other software, which was preventing the business moving forward on a whole host of different business areas.
“Procurement were really struggling. It’s critical they have access to real business intelligence to enable us to get the right product in at the right time to provide excellent customer service. This wasn’t the case and we knew something had to change.”
Choosing the right system
Fixfast formally started their ERP project by putting a project team together, with representatives from each department to make sure that their statement of requirements fairly reflected all departments that needed to use the new system.
Having identified the need, Fixfast kicked off a research exercise to assess the full market of ERP vendors. No stone was left unturned and an initial long-list of 8 vendors were selected during a first stage assessment of suitability against the statement of requirements.
8 became 2 during the shortlisting exercise and Epicor ERP was put into a faceoff with Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
Ken comments: “We found there wasn’t too much to choose between the tech vendors. The top systems are the top systems for a reason. They all offer similar functionality, and have their respective strengths and weakness that all kind of balance out.
“It was a tough decision, and at one point our team was pretty split, but Epicor 10 came out on top in the end. For us, the deciding factor was flexibility. We could see Epicor providing a solid foundation to support our business and get us to where we wanted to be.”
Getting the deployment right
Having opted for a full module deployment of Epicor 10, Fixfast knew the direction they were heading in. Now, they just needed to get there.
The ERP team that got them through the vendor selection process stayed in place to help be the guiding light during the critical implementation part of the project.
Initially owning the implementation directly themselves, Fixfast designated an internal project manager and set about working on implementing their newly purchased system.
Ken says: “We battled initially with bad advice from a third party. We thought we would be able to do all these amazing things straight out of the box, with no configuration or customisation, and we couldn’t. We were lead to believe we could bring in a generalist project manager to deploy it out and we wouldn’t need technical expertise to get it working in the way we wanted. We couldn’t: it was all nonsense.”
After sharing his frustrations with a counterpart at another manufacturing business, who’d been fortunate enough to work with Clear Business Outcome on the deployment of their ERP system, Fixfast picked up the phone to us to seek assistance.
Ross Bromwell, one of Clear Business Outcome’s proven project managers, joined the Fixfast ERP team. Working from Fixfast’s HQ for 2 or 3 days a week, Ross provided the team with the benefit of his years of experience seeing Epicor ERP projects through to a successful conclusion.
Ken comments: “Ross was our knight in shining armour. He took responsibility for all the pain we had at that point, readjusted our position and then worked tirelessly to keep us on track the whole way through with an agile approach to project management based on the Scrum methodology.
“He just became part of our team and slotted in perfectly. I think without the involvement of Ross and the Clear Business Outcome team, I’m not sure we would have ever got where we needed to be”
After many long nights and a more than a few scars doing battle with the standard trials and tribulations of deploying a new company-wide IT system, Fixfast went live with Epicor 10.
Go-live was just the beginning
With some newly optimised business processes, Fixfast certainly knew that there was plenty of hard work still to be done to make sure the system was properly embedded and could go on to deliver the value it promised at the outset.
With a full training and adoption plan in hand, the ERP team set about working within their individual departments to get everyone up to speed on how to use the the new software in the way that would best suit both the individual and the business.
Ken expands: “Where we had a good grasp of the system, the adoption part was followed through quite neatly. I think it’s important to make sure you have the right people on your ERP team. They have to be systems thinkers who can not only consider the needs of themselves and their team, but how that relates to the rest of the business. There’s arguably more we could have done there, and we have got there in the end, but I would probably do it differently next time.
“We have since redirected two prominent members of our ERP project team to look after our system full time. If we could have got those individuals in position earlier that might have helped reduce the amount of tidying up we’ve had to do since then. That’s something I will take forward into the future as a key learning from our recent ERP experience.”
Those two new hires are important. FixFast now have a way of delivering the necessary patching, testing and upgrades that form part of an premium ERP system like Epicor both today and into the future.
Realising the value from the investment
With the new system in place, the business is motoring. It’s provided a firm foundation to move forward on a whole host of strategic IT projects all linked neatly under the umbrella of improving the customer experience and making better business decisions.
FastClose has been deployed to provide a financial intelligence dashboard that gives Fixfast a granular reporting capability they could only dream of before their technology transformation. Neatly integrating with their new ERP system, FastClose enables Fixfast to drill down into multi-level reports and provide intricate information on products, customers and markets.
Ken explains: “The power of FastClose integrated with Epicor Financial Management has made a huge difference. We’re now able to analyse our financials in a much clearer way. We can identify variations and drill down into gross profit, which products are performing, which product sectors are moving forward, and now we can get that in an easy-to-follow dashboard.
“Before overhauling our systems, it would be a manual process for accounts to try and put together the information and despite their best efforts we were let down way too often by a system that couldn’t give us what we needed.”
The future looks bright. Fixfast are looking to add more meat to their marketing efforts with the deployment of a new marketing automation system and Salesforce CRM. Combined with a 360-degree customer project that will bring together sales, marketing and service information into a single dashboard, the business continues to make great strides in its efforts to provide customer excellence.
Why Clear Business Outcome
When it comes to the value that Clear Business Outcome has brought to Fixfast, Ken is clear: “With Clear Business Outcome, it was never about selling, it was about delivering. They operated at all times as one of us and had the sole interest of the project’s success as their driver through what was at times a tough deployment.
“We now have a single database providing the right data when it’s needed, a rock-solid technology infrastructure that’s scalable and supports our future growth trajectory. The combination of Epicor Technology and Clear Business Outcome’s people has proved to be transformational for Fixfast and I’m genuinely excited to see where the next phase of this journey takes us.”