MACSimum progress

MACS Software provides standard and bespoke software solutions. Ranked several times as one of the fastest growing technology businesses in the Midlands, MACS is committed to providing its customers with practical solutions to realise supply chain efficiency quickly and cost effectively, with the flexibility to stay one step ahead. The company is experiencing a lot of activity having taken on new customers and expanding its team; Tony Liddar, MD, talks about why the company and it customers are sharing success.

Q: MACS Software is claiming new customers in the 3PL, manufacturing and print sectors, can you explain why they have turned to you for support?

A: I believe that a large portion of any major investment decision is based on the people involved. Of course, cost is always a major driver but the composition of our team is also key. The directors of MACS Software have significant experience gained in warehouse and logistics environments at an operational and systems level. This gives us real foresight when dealing with customers.

In addition, virtually all of our staff have worked in the past in a warehouse, so they too are familiar with the processes involved.

I believe that it is our practical insight in to how to improve efficiency in the warehouse that sets us apart. I'm sure that this comes across to all new customers. We also provide unbiased advice on customer's hardware requirements. With some of our clients being relatively naive from an IT point of view, this impartial advice is highly valued.

From a system point of view, the fact that we can provide a highly functional piece of multi-lingual softwarerequiring (in most cases) no additional (expensive) hardware to run itis very attractive but sometimes also a given.

Our key strengths, however, are:
ongoing development to encapsulate the latest and most efficient processes;
multi-product experience in retail, distribution and manufacturing sectors
scaleability; and
a modular approach.

The one integrated software solution approach gives great comfort to new customers. Whether they have a single user or 100 users, the small business system or the standard package, they know that they have the benefit of our experience in a single, robust, tried and tested solution.

Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly rare now for the WMS to manage a warehouse in isolation. Again, this is where our flexibility comes into play. We have significant experience in interfacing MACS with ERP, financial and transport systems such as, for example, SAP, Oracle, Sage, Opera, Navision, Optrak, TNT, and Lynx.

Q: Youre also saying that youre expanding your support and training team; is this inline with the growth in your business or is it because customers in general need more help? What kinds of activities are the team engaged in?

A: Our expansion of both programming and training/implementation/support resource is a reflection of:
significant growth (we now have approximately 30 separate systems installed across the globe); and
our desire to improve continually the support that we provide our customers before and after we go live with a system.

Overall, in the last three years our team has tripled in size.

One of the support and training teams key objectives is to ensure that the ongoing development of the software is fully tested before customers are upgraded. Given that software upgrades are provided free of charge on a regular basis to keep all customers right up-to-date, we need to ensure that our software remains absolutely robust.

In addition, while we really do try and ensure that all necessary training is provided at the outset of an implementation, in many instances we will not leave site until we are confident that employees know what to do. This is mostly at our own expense, because we recognise that our commitment at an early stage can help to reduce helpdesk calls in the future.

This, coupled with the increase in our customer base (which needs ongoing additional training to cope with, for example, new modules or staff turnover) all impact on the resource required.

Q: Why is i-MACS proving popular?

A: The supply chain is getting increasingly sophisticated. Processes themselves are no longer sufficient. Visibility of what is happening where and when is now being demanded by everyone. Information, derived as a by-product of supply chain processes, is invaluable to managers to help them manage.

Thus, the i-MACS module is becoming an essential tool rather than a nice-to-have. Those authorised can gain visibility of their stock in real time, whether it relates to quantity, status or position in the supply chain. The ability to view what is going on, access information and manipulate the data in MS Excel is extremely attractive to owners of stock and their customers.

However, the real win-win is the fact that, while our customers are providing their customers with better visibility and service, they are also relieving themselves of a major administrative burden (of ongoing enquiries and the duplication of order entry with obvious associated errors).

Q: Two of your customers are moving over to RF-based MACS systems; what will they benefit from; and, arent these types of systems commonplace by now? Whats holding others back from adopting wireless?

A: We work with some really large companies, whose warehousing operations are still managed by a consortium of spreadsheets!

I personally implemented MACS three years ago in a 3PL provider servicing some major retail names, whose stock control had not advanced from paper to MS Excel!

And bear in mind also that in the UK, for example, a significant amount of employment and trade is undertaken not by multi-nationals but by small and medium-size enterprises.

Thus, while RF is commonplace in certain arenas, companies operating in the supply chain vary enormously in the level of technology and sophistication that they employ. For many, it is a huge step to move to a WMS due to the costs involved, despite the obvious benefits and pressure from customers.

However, once the benefits of implementing MACS become clear, the use of bar code technology and RF is very attractive.

The obvious benefits from MACS RF systems are:
real time control and information
increased productivity and accuracy
perpetual inventory becomes a lot easier
reduced clerical effort and less paper
labour productivity analysis in graphical format.

While the benefits are great, costs can still remain prohibitive. Although there are cheaper alternatives to RF for bar code utilisation and also cheap RF equipment, the cost of quality, robust RF hardware can still be a deterrent. Voice picking is also of interest to many of our RF customers but even for them the even greater costs just cannot be justified at this moment in time.

This brings me back to one our softwares greatest strengthsmodularity. In many cases, significant benefits are obtained by implementing a paper-based system. Once installed, managers can look more closely at the improvements that they could make by introducing RF. It then becomes a (relatively) simple return on investment decision.

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