True stories: Building on success with Carroll Joinery

8 Mar 2004

Carroll Joinery has been supplying the Irish building trade for almost 40 years, first as a manufacturer of prefabricated system buildings and more recently as a manufacturer of doors and door sets — the complete door system including frame, hinges, locks and so on — to both the trade and general public. In addition to manufacturing, the company imports doors and door sets from South Africa, Denmark, the Far East and the UK.

“The past few years have been very successful for us,” says Michael Delaney, finance director of Carroll Joinery. “There has been significant growth in that period and our IT needs have grown accordingly.” The company has grown to the point where it occupies five locations and employs a total of 230 people.

The company’s HQ is located in a new building in Park West in Dublin. Manufacturing of doors and door sets takes place at the company’s Kilkenny and Kells plants while the Santry facility is responsible for producing doors with specialist finishes. A retail outlet is located in the Bluebell area of Dublin and a 5,000sq ft architectural showroom is currently being constructed at that location.

Carroll Joinery’s march towards modernisation began in 2000 when the company installed Exchequer Enterprise. However, the process was completed with the upgrade of the company’s wide area network in mid-2003, which coincided with the relocation of the management and administration function from Bluebell to Park West.

“This involved upgrading our server hardware,” recalls Delaney. The company now has three servers: a main server, which hosts the Exchequer Enterprise application; a Microsoft Exchange Server to handle all internal and external email communication; and a Mobile Desktop Server. This last one is particularly important as it is the key to allowing the outlying locations gain access to the network.

“There is a web-enabled version of Exchequer Enterprise on our main server,” explains Delaney. “The Mobile Desktop Server handles this and interfaces it with the external locations. This means that the Kilkenny, Kells and Santry factories can simply log onto the internet and then connect with the server in Park West.” According to Delaney, this method is reasonably fast, quite stable and easy to use. Kilkenny and Kells both use ISDN while the Santry facility has broadband.

Ironically, Park West has neither, at least not for data communications. Instead, the Park West building is linked to the Bluebell site via a tsunami Quickbridge. “This is a wireless connectivity solution that connects the local area networks at Park West and Bluebell. As far as the users are concerned they see a single network that is connected to the internet via Bluebell’s DSL connection.

The network upgrade took a total of eight weeks: six weeks of planning and two weeks of actual implementation. The job was handled by Vision 2000, an IT solutions provider with experience in network design and implementation. The implementation phase took place during a two-week window in 2003 when Carroll Joinery closed for its annual summer holiday.

Vision 2000 fitted out the servers beforehand and then installed them along with new PCs with liquid crystal display flat-panel monitors. Existing PCs were upgraded to a minimum of Windows 2000. The company also set up a backup internet connectivity system using satellite service from Digiweb.

All of this took place while other contractors were installing telephones, carpets, furniture, lighting and so on in the new building. At the end of the two-week period, Carroll Joinery employees who had previously been based in Bluebell turned up at the new offices and went straight to work. “The new system worked from day one,” recalls Delaney.

According to Delaney, the new system has many advantages. “Firstly, it has connected Kells and Santry to our HQ. Before then, those two facilities operated stand-alone systems. Secondly, information from all of our locations can be accessed from the centre and orders received at Park West can be entered into the system here and processed in other manufacturing units. It also means that reports can be run in one location and printed in another location. But most importantly it means we now have one single, stable system rather than two or three unstable ones,” he explains.

The company has also been able to achieve cost efficiencies by dispensing with a €5,000 per year leased line connecting Kilkenny to Bluebell.

“Just as importantly, the new system provides a structure for future growth. If we were to acquire another building we only need to set up a connection to the internet. We don’t have to install the Exchequer system locally. Also it enables reps and managers to connect into the system from home or on the road,” Delaney concludes.

By David Stewart

Pictured are John Sweeney, IT manager, and Michael Delaney, financial director, both with Carroll Joinery; and Gordon O’Neill, IT manager, Vision2000