RubberTree ERP Case Study
Boosted by effective ERP, Kiwi SMB aces growth spurt
Experiencing rapid growth, a New Zealand importer and distributor of motor vehicle accessories was faced with a difficult choice as its accounting system failed to keep pace: either put up with an inefficient system, or pay an exorbitant amount for an ERP solution which wouldn’t quite fit requirements. However, when RubberTree discovered n2 ERP from First Software, it found a software package which met every need, at a competitive price point, all backed by local service and support. And because of its implementation of n2 ERP, the company managed to grow substantially into Australia without missing a beat.
RubberTree was founded in New Zealand in 2009, importing and distributing car mats and other motor accessories. Since then, it has expanded into Wholesale and Retail Channels in both New Zealand and Australia supplying product for more than 1,700 models of vehicle.
RubberTree director Brock Mustard says that like many small companies, it started out with an off-the-shelf accounting package. “As we expanded, we quickly outgrew that system and that meant a lot of our business processes were manual, relying on spreadsheets and other point solutions. The limits of this approach were clear, as we were making plenty of mistakes; those glitches ultimately impacted on our ability to accurately meet customer demand for our products,” he explains.
There is no shortage of ‘ERP-style’ solutions available for the small to mid-market, says Mustard, but what held RubberTree back was the outrageously high prices of most of the solutions which might meet its needs. “We got some eye-watering numbers from the IT providers; we were looking at close to a hundred thousand dollars to transition from a system which was costing a hundred bucks a month.”
That, he confirms, is a ‘quite scary’ prospect for any small business as it consumes capital which could be used more productively elsewhere. There was also the niggling doubt that came with these systems: “A lot of the questions we posed around functionality would be met with ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’. When you’re looking at investing that much money, this isn’t really what you like to hear.”
“We have taken on some major customers in Australia – car dealerships - and without First Software, this just wouldn’t have been possible”
Because of this experience, RubberTree kept looking for something which would not only meet its budget, but more importantly, meet its requirements for import, distribution and retail. “An acquaintance suggested First Software, so I gave them a call. I’m glad I did, because they immediately blew me away,” Mustard enthuses.
That’s because First Software had no hesitation in answering all RubberTree’s ‘want list’ with a resounding ‘yes, we can do that’. “We’d done a lot of research into what we needed, so our requirements specifications were quite clear. First Software had no difficulty in understanding our business model and their people demonstrated that they knew exactly what we were after.”
And Mustard says being able to speak directly with the developers is of immeasurable value. “You can quite literally sit and have a coffee with them, have a chat and they show a willingness to learn the details of your business and what will work for you. The big boys and offshore companies just can’t deliver this level of engagement or understanding of a small but ambitious local business.”
What stood out further in the initial engagement, adds Mustard, was First Software’s effort to understand business processes and recommend improvements to workflows. “Most of the suggestions for features we wanted, we discovered they had already done within their existing client base. That meant there was nothing we wanted that n2 ERP couldn’t do.”
Mustard points out that, even though a relatively small business, RubberTree’s diverse operations means it has complex requirements. “Implementing enterprise software isn’t easy and there will be issues; that is inevitable. However, these were mostly related to change and we had recognised that our system was not coping, so change was essential.”
It was a case of ‘rip the band-aid off and get the surgery done’; “If we stayed with what we had, it was not going to get better.”
It is coming up for a year since that exercise and while Mustard says the first two months were challenging as issues were identified and ironed out, the business has experienced a transformation which has allowed it to expand into the Australian market. “It’s amazing, really. Where we had a lot of manual processes and multiple databases to track of our SKUs [Stock Keeping Units], everything is now brought into a single solution. Every item can be tracked with ease from point of origin to our customers.”
Orders are streamlined, with thousands of emails now consolidated into a workflow which has one entry into the system which automatically drives the process through dispatch, printing a packing slip with a barcode and integrated directly with the courier’s systems. “There is no more manual data entry, so errors are practically eliminated. When the products arrive at our customers, the barcode is scanned and an invoice automatically sent. Within one system, invoicing, dispatch and tracking is easily handled.”
The system has ‘changed our lives’, says Mustard. “It has reduced mistakes by a massive level; since implementing the software, we have taken on some major customers in Australia – car dealerships - and without First Software, this just wouldn’t have been possible. I don’t know how we would have fulfilled our supply agreements with those customers without a rigorous business system.”
N2 ERP, has therefore, enabled RubberTree to scale its business up. “We’re pretty fortunate that we found the right system at the right time and invested in it before we hit a steep growth curve. The software has enabled us to scale at a faster rate and with the same number of staff members,” Mustard says. “And because n2 ERP is used by some pretty large organisations – like Forman Building Systems – we’re confident that it will meet our needs no matter how far RubberTree continues to expand.”