Clark Products: Tackling a strong growth strategy with the right software

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Without the right tools to help you make data-driven decisions for your business, you can run into problems pretty quickly. Here’s Dale Young, the General Manager of Clark Products on how moving to a cloud-based solution gave them the confidence to plan for the future and helped their iconic Hawkes Bay business thrive.

clark products ltd

Clark Products Limited (CPL) is a chemical importer, blender and wholesaler based in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. The company was started over 60 years ago on the back of a very successful mechanic’s hand cleaner which we still supply today. Over the years, we’ve branched out into a wide range of janitorial, industrial and Food & Beverage Plant cleaning chemicals that are either imported or manufactured at our ISO9001 Certified Manufacturing Plant in Napier. We supply our products across the country to various industries, including food and beverage manufacturers, dairy farmers, cleaning chemical distributors, automotive and transport distributors and more.

In 2016, new owners, Scott Chemicals Limited (SCL), took over the business. Since then, we have embarked on an aggressive growth strategy. As a wholly NZ owned and operated firm, we are big enough to tackle large industrial and cleaning chemical supply projects while still being of a size where we can custom make products for customers.

“Over the last 2 years, our turnover has increased by 32% and the number of transaction lines has increased by 33.2%.”

CPL are an iconic Hawkes Bay business, well known throughout the region, our next challenge is to convert the company into being a national provider, extending our reach throughout the country via multiple warehouse sites.

Moving from ERP to cloud-based software

Under our previous owners, the company tagged on to its ERP, Infor LN, as a separate entity. While the system was very good, it didn’t come with a reporting package, making it very difficult to extract information critical to helping us to make effective business decisions.

During 2016, the owners of CPL decided to sell the business out of their group of companies, which meant that we would need to find and implement our own operating system – quickly!

When it was decided to split CPL out of the ERP in preparation for the sale of the business, we considered several options. However in that our experiences with Unleashed had been positive and we found the pricing for the user licenses attractive. It was an easy decision for us to run with Unleashed and Xero.

Teaming up with Unleashed Partners Link Solutions

Once the decision was made, we appointed Will McTavish and his team at Link Solutions to help us to transfer our data into Unleashed. This included setting up all our stock with suitable Units of Measure, creating 400 Bills of Materials for assembling our manufactured products, creating packing slips and invoice templates and loading all of our customer’s data. Once the information was loaded into a test environment, several of our team trialled the system for a couple of weeks before pushing the button to “go live” for the whole company in July 2016.

We didn’t have the luxury of an IT team, so we definitely needed some help. Working with Link Solutions as an implementation partner made the changeover much easier for us. Our previous owner’s IT team were able to extract the data that LS needed, which was quickly reformatted and loaded onto the Unleashed Test Environment for us. We certainly don’t have the manpower or expertise that we would need for such a project, so working with Link Solutions was the smart way for us to proceed.

Eliminating integration hiccups

With Infor LN, we always had issues with migrating data from Unleashed to the ERP, with occasional “lost” transactions and resultant stock discrepancies. This would take quite a lot of time to track down and resolve, building frustration.

Integration between Xero and Unleashed has been much less problematic and we have had few problems since switching integrating. On the rare occasion that we have had any issues, the problem has been pretty easy to locate and the Unleashed team have been awesome at helping us to resolve.

When we first started using Unleashed, one of our key frustrations centred on the lack of pricing flexibility. We requested an upgrade through the “Submit a Request” tab and received regular updates from Unleashed through the pricing modules upgrade. We are very pleased now that Unleashed can accommodate our Quantity Break Pricing and also has the flexibility to enable “Special” pricing for fixed terms by product and by customer. An added feature is that the margin on each transaction is shown at the order entry stage, allowing our Customer Services Team to red flag any low margin order lines.

Another much-appreciated add-on developed by Unleashed was the addition of pop-up information boxes that remind customer-specific instructions when entering orders. This results in a better understanding of client needs or requests, which gives us greater connectivity to our clients which is hugely important.

An end-to-end business solution

We now use Unleashed to completely manage our business, from sourcing and procurement of raw materials locally and from overseas using multiple currencies, to creating assemblies, managing stock, creating orders for customers and to emailing invoices for completed transactions.

We now have confidence that our stock levels have better accuracy than they were previously. Our Procurement and Logistics Team run reorder reports every week, which helps us to plan for our purchasing and manufacturing scheduling.

Unleashed are regularly conducting upgrades several of which have been useful for us, especially the ability to track stock with expiry dates via batch numbers. This helps to ensure that we are using our oldest stock first, for products that have a “Use By” date. While we used to conduct stocktake on a six-monthly basis, we now count stock annually, with product spot checks throughout the year. This regime is much easier to manage and less disruptive for our customers.

“With confidence in the reported data integrity, we can take on whole new brands easily.”

The future: Growing with confidence

CPL is now looking to expand our business through potential acquisitions, which will easily be managed by adding new product groups in Unleashed.

We have grown our business with the help and support of Unleashed Software and have really enjoyed working with the Unleashed team. We look forward to continuing with our growth plans and working with Unleashed into the future.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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