Client Spotlight: Our Time with Epiphany

Epiphany Cafe is a steadily growing franchise of cafes headquartered in Te Rapa, Hamilton. With 8 locations (and more on the way) they are steadily acquiring a cult following with their Donuts, Muffins and Scones. They are moving into a brand new factory to keep up with demand, and as a part of this process they also made the conscious decision to implement back-office systems to serve as a platform for their future growth. Upon meeting with Epiphany for a consultation, it was decided that Unleashed would be a fantastic candidate for them to manage their production supply-chain. Unleashed is a powerful inventory and production management system that tightly integrates with Xero, it is our system of choice for food & beverage manufacturers (our other F&B clients such as Sal’s Pizza and North End Brewery also use Unleashed).

Implementing Unleashed for Epiphany was no small feat, with many moving parts in the wider solution. One problem Epiphany faced was that their pre-existing process for franchisee ordering was riddled with time consuming manual data entry, something that was not scalable. As a solution to this problem, we implemented the Unleashed B2B Portal to streamline this process. Franchisees can now log in and place their daily orders seamlessly, and thanks to the B2B Portal we eliminated the manual data entry aspect of the ordering process. Since all of the food items Epiphany produces are made to order, each order gets consolidated at the finished good level ready to go into the Unleashed production module. Since we loaded Unleashed up with the recipes for each item Epiphany makes, head office is then able to quickly determine whether they have enough raw ingredients to complete the day’s production run (and easily send out a purchase order to replenish inventory if needed). Another complex requirement of Epiphany’s was the need to track every batch of Donuts they send out, from the finished good right down to the milligrams of food colouring they used. If there was ever a problem with a batch of Donuts, they needed a full audit trail of each ingredient that went into the batch and whom the supplier of each ingredient was. Unleashed makes simple work of batch tracking for compliance, and offers Epiphany the peace of mind that they have full control over their batches.

Once we had taken care of the extensive data and configuration work to get the organisation ready for Unleashed, we began with running on-site training sessions to get the business ready for go-live. The purpose of the training is to ensure that every staff member knows how to leverage the system. We did training sessions split across two days, the first day for back-office processes and the second for the production module. Once training was complete, we were present for the scheduled go-live day in the new system. ALTSHIFT believes in mitigating go-live day risk by having consultants on-site in case of any hiccups.

Going live in a new system is extremely risky business, but with the execution of a specific sequence of events disaster can be averted. Careful project management is the key to a successful software implementation as well as ongoing support post go-live. ALTSHIFT is a specialist in managed systems implementation, we have delivered countless cloud-based solutions to business across many industries. If you are in the process of comparing different software solutions, get in touch with ALTSHIFT for a vendor neutral assessment of your specific business requirements.

Why should my business use a 3PL?

One of the most complex components to effectively scaling up a business is the management of an efficient supply chain. As a product-based business grows, so too does the throughput of product through an ever thinly stretched supply-chain. All of the moving pieces in your supply chain must continue to operate in perfect alignment to avoid bottlenecking in process, and unfortunately in the costs associated with deploying a new fulfilment/dispatch location can be quite high. Thankfully the option of utilising a third party logistics partner (3PL) exists.

3PLs are uniquely positioned in the fulfilment space in that they are equipped with the knowledge and resources for businesses looking to expand their reach (whether within their existing territories, or into new ones). One of the advantages of using a 3PL is the sharing and distribution of costs among partners. Simply put, instead of your business paying for an entire facility, your business is able to use the space in the facility that it requires. This way your business is only paying for what it uses. This aspect is particularly useful if your business has regularly fluctuating inventory levels (selling seasonal stock being the example). Other costs associated with warehousing such as labour are proportionately distributed among the 3PL’s clients. If your business cannot keep a warehouse full of product year round, this makes partnering up with a 3PL a very cost effective option.

Another reason to partner with a 3PL is the ability to leverage their international reach. As opposed to investing in a warehouse in a foreign territory and shouldering the burden of operating a warehouse in a country with different regulations and currency, you could partner with a 3PL that has locations globally and leverage their local know-how in the territory you want to expand in. To increase service levels and reduce costs, it is essential to have your product based close to where your customers are. Engaging with a 3PL is typically done so on a contractual basis, meaning visibility at a transactional level. This holds 3PLs to a much higher degree of accountability with tracking of key performance indicators.

Naturally, switching to a 3PL blazes a path for the automation of the fulfilment and dispatch functions of your business. This extensive automation frees up staff to perform higher value tasks. In order to achieve this, it is key to have the right technology and business processes in place to facilitate this. ALTSHIFT has consulted upon and executed numerous extensive cloud ERP implementations, which have included platform integrations to 3PL partners. The scope of these integrations include automatic fulfilment of e-Commerce orders, fulfilment of wholesale orders and more. Have a question about your systems and scope for 3PL integration? Have a chat with the experts.

What is EDI?

EDI, standing for Electronic Data Interchange, is the electronic transaction of business data between business partners that follows a standardised format. EDI facilitates the ability for one business to send information to another. Many business documents are transacted through EDI, however the two most common are purchase orders and invoices. The expenses incurred with traditional business communication (mail handling, paper, reproduction, filing, storage and retrieval) are effectively eliminated, and EDI has been found to reduce associated administration costs by at least 35%.

Why should my business use EDI?

Another benefit of using EDI over traditional transaction methods is the elimination of data entry errors. This further reduces your cost of doing business, and frees up your staff to perform higher value tasks. The real-time nature of EDI also allows increased visibility which allows for more strategic business decisions. Consequently the reduced order processing and delivery times allow for reduced inventory levels. With less inventory on hand, there is less precious capital tied up in product and more cash-flow.

As a business grows and begins trading with bigger customers, they may quickly find that their trading partners require them to transact with EDI. In order to be compliant with these types of customers, small businesses may be provided with an EDI web portal to make or receive orders. When starting out your business may be able to shoulder this administrative burden, but it does not make for a scalable process. Thankfully with the right technology EDI can be implemented into your business processes, and you too could reap the benefits.

ALTSHIFT is a consultancy firm that implements cloud business solutions, and consequently we have also done a wide array of EDI connections as part of bigger cloud ERP projects. If you are thinking about scaling up your business but not sure whether your systems stack is up to the task, get in touch with one of our experts for a consultation.

How to scale your small business

A common misconception in the business community is that the “start-up” phase is typically the riskiest stage, when in actuality small businesses are at most risk of failing in their growth phase. With growth comes an increase in critical mass, significant capital investment and an increase in overhead costs. A business operating with more staff, more locations and more revenue shows growth on paper. However the truth lies in the Profit & Loss, this same example could well be making the same or less profit as before they grew with increased administrative burden. The most important thing to know when growing a business is the difference between growth and scaling; growth is an overall increase in critical mass, however scaling is an increase in sales while decreasing costs.

As a business owner, your job is to make calculated decisions while mitigating risk. The difficult reality for business owners is that even the most meticulously managed scaling costs money and capacity. When planning to scale up a business, the key is to assess the cost versus benefit of every decision to ensure that the returns on successful scaling are higher than the potential risks.

When scaling a product based business, close attention must be paid to cash-flow and the cash burn rate. Not every small business can afford a clever CFO to manage this perpetual machine, however negotiating better payment terms with your suppliers will help you increase your stock-turnover rate. If you can effectively forecast that you are going to sell around 25 widgets next month, and you negotiate for 30 day payment terms instead of prepaid, you will tie up no capital in that stock but still collect all of the profits.

Another tip for scaling a product based business is to introduce a wholesale channel to your operation. There are an array of risks involved with establishing a wholesale channel, thankfully with the right processes and technology you can get this up and running with minimal cost or disruption. Businesses who implement wholesale the right way will quickly see turnover and profits soar, and small businesses will commonly seek wholesale as a viable method of scaling. On the flip side, the implementation of an e-Commerce sales channel can also broaden your number of potential customers.

The common theme when discussing options for scaling with minimal risk is technology. The implementation of a cloud solution is the natural progression from manual record keeping like spreadsheets, and when configured correctly will provide you with the insights to scale your business; without the cost of installing an incumbent ERP system. ALTSHIFT has provided a platform for many small businesses to scale upon, and our expertise across many different industries and verticals will ensure we see you through your growth phase. Need a hand? Talk to the experts.