Harvest gold

20 Apr 2006

Software, like clothing, is not a one-size-fits-all trade. In the case of the agribusiness firm Charles R Wynne some clever tailoring to an off-the-shelf solution means the company now has a financial system that’s tightly woven to its needs and the joins aren’t even visible.

Charles R Wynne operates one of a small number of toasting plants in Ireland used in the manufacture of enhanced flaked ingredients for animal and poultry feed products. Some 30 office, warehousing and driving staff are employed at its headquarters near Castledermot, Co Kildare with an additional sales and warehousing facility in Tullow, Co Carlow.

Rising turnover in the past few years, to €18m, meant the company outgrew its previous system so the agricultural product supplier and animal feed processor went to the market for a new financial package in 2003.

It chose Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains Edition, since rebranded as Microsoft Dynamics GP, to support its accounting and stock management operations. The software was supplied by the Microsoft partner Mentec International.

The installation comprised the full set of Dynamics GP financial accounting and sales order processing modules, which are now used by the seven office staff at the company.

Morgan O’Reilly, office manager with Charles R Wynne, estimates that the company’s workload has been cut by 25pc because the new system has eliminated so much duplication of work.

Previously, staff had to look at one screen, write down information on paper and transcribe this into another document on a different computer. “Now you can export data or import it — everything’s done at the touch of a button,” O’Reilly reports.

It also allows the company to have individual product pricing on a per-customer basis. This is a significant development, as the company distributes more than 300 products to a cross-section of more than 1,000 customers.

The system is searchable by a range of variables such as product name or customer number, eliminating the need for staff to have to remember a certain discount offer or to ask a salesperson if a particular customer is entitled to special pricing.

Although the Microsoft software met most of its needs, some business requirements specific to the agriculture industry meant some bespoke development was essential.

Harvest season is the busiest time for Wynne, when it purchases and handles around 30,000 tonnes of grain — most of its ingredients for the year. The transactions during this time are complex and, adding to the mix, Wynne also has to comply with traceability requirements set down by the Department of Agriculture.

It was this element that turned the tender in Mentec’s favour, he adds. Having evaluated several other suppliers when casting for its new financial system, Wynne found that the Dublin firm was best able to understand its requirements.

“Mentec had to design a harvest system from scratch. That had to be done as an add-on [to the software]. It was a big project,” says O’Reilly. Mentec had supplied Wynne’s previous system so it was aware of what customisation was necessary to meet its needs.

The IT industry is fond of using the word ‘seamless’ but, according to O’Reilly, the adjustments made to the original software package really are invisible to the user. “You would never know the harvest system is not part of Great Plains,” he says.

Faster processing of stock information means that farmers and meal suppliers are now paid more promptly, adds O’Reilly.

“At harvest time everyone is working long hours but last year was the easiest harvest we’ve ever had. It was a pleasure. Our workload was cut by 30-35pc and I would imagine it will be more [this year] because we’ll be more familiar with the system.”

By Gordon Smith

Pictured: Paul Hennessy, Irish sales director, Mentec International, and Morgan O’Reilly, office manager, Charles R Wynne Ltd