Laying the groundwork for transformation with Dynamics 365.
Cavalier Bremworth has been a household name in New Zealand for the last 50 years. The company is synonymous with quality, style and new product innovation, and has been voted NZ's Most Trusted Brand in the carpet category of the annual Readers' Digest poll for the last six years.
Cavalier Bremworth is a fully owned subsidiary of Cavalier Corporation, and is listed on the NZX.
Part of the company’s heritage is an inhouse ‘stock and sales’ solution called Wintergrate, which supported the business for some 30 years.
Three of the original developers made up the team internally maintaining Wintergrate, and their irreplaceable specialist knowledge kept the system running. However, no employee can be expected to stay forever, and any outdated technology creates a level of risk to a business.
Wintergrate’s lack of financial and operational capabilities in particular indicated that it was end-of-days for the system.
In anticipation of eventually replacing Wintergrate, Cavalier adopted the financially savvy Microsoft AX in the early 2000s and subsequently moved through several upgrades.
“When I joined Cavalier about six years ago,” says Trevor Jones, Group IT Manager for Cavalier Bremworth, “it was obvious that Wintergrate presented all sort of issues for us. It was a mission-critical system, so if we’d lost the resources to support it, or it failed, we’d have lost all of our sales, production and stock records. We wouldn’t have known what to make, how to make it, who owed what, and what we owed them.”
Jones prepared a three-year technology road map for the business in 2014, starting with an upgrade to Dynamics AX 2012 (on-premises) and the implementation of Dynamics CRM in its Australian operations. After a busy five years, which saw Cavalier divest itself of several subsidiaries and renew focus on other areas of the business, the company reviewed its ‘where to from here’ plan for AX 2012.
While upgrading to Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations was the next logical step, the Cavalier team was hesitant to make the move.
“We’d seen several Dynamics 365 demos from other partners,” says Jones, “but weren’t convinced that the time was right, or that there was enough local experience or knowledge to make the upgrade a success. It took a Fusion5 demo of Dynamics 365 at Microsoft to convince me. The Fusion5 Dynamics’ team really knew their stuff and presented clear and compelling reasons why we should upgrade. And why we should do it with them.”
Fusion5 and Cavalier decided on a technical upgrade rather than a from scratch reimplementation.
“While a technical upgrade sounds like a small job,” says Jones, “there were lots of moving parts. We had to set up the new environment in Dynamics 365, set up companies within it, and there were some things that just wouldn’t translate from one version to the next. I was keen to ditch a significant number of modifications as well.”
Once the solution was in place (sans the majority of the old modifications), Fusion5 implemented the procurement and accounts payable (AP) functions.
Previously, Cavalier’s AP team manually scanned incoming invoices and then emailed them out for approval. Or even sent the physical invoice, complete with a handwritten pink slip, to the authorising manager. They tracked the progress of each invoice through the AP process on a spreadsheet.
Fusion5 recommended the adoption of SignUp ExFlow to automate the business’s document-heavy invoice process, and to deliver the incoming data directly into Dynamics 365. Once implemented, ExFlow was a genuine hit with the business users.
“Now our vendors all email their invoices. ExFlow detects PDF attachments sent to AP email addresses, reads the invoice and pulls the vendor name, invoice number, and due date data into Dynamics 365 and automatically routes the invoice for approval to the right person,” says Jones.
“It’s a wonderful piece of software. It really does have a wow factor to it. It used to take three or four people to code invoice data, manage approvals and pay vendors at month’s end. Now it’s easy for one person to manage.”
Cavalier took a carefully staged approach to implementing Dynamics 365 and phasing out Wintergrate.
And now, with financials and procurement firmly in place, the next step is to roll out Dynamics 365’s manufacturing capabilities at Cavalier Spinners in Napier and Whanganui. A sizeable company with two large factories, they procure raw wool from another Cavalier subsidiary, which they dye, blend and spin, before sending it back to the parent company to be made into carpets.
Cavalier’s goal is to create a foundational model for how inventory will be processed to decrease the complexity when Dynamics 365 is implemented into other parts of the business.
Dynamics 365 gives Cavalier a single unified platform which reduces the need for costly and complex integration to other solutions. Their data accuracy improved, as did supply chain visibility, while operational lead times reduced.
And as a 100% cloud-based solution, it aligns with the company’s move to Microsoft Office 365 and Azure.
“We’ve adopted a complete and modern desktop environment with the Microsoft always-on VPN,” says Jones. “Our exchange servers and file servers are in the cloud, as are most of our business applications. Office 365 comes with so many new apps, it’s difficult to keep up. But the beauty is that everything truly integrates with Dynamics 365. Very, very well.”
Jones has worked with a variety of Microsoft partners over the year, but enjoys the open, personal and less corporate style of Fusion5.
“I’ve found them to be consistently upfront, honest and transparent in everything they do,” he says. “They’re careful to set fair expectations, rather than overpromising outcomes.
“One of the critical things about implementing an ERP system is having a partner put the system through all the hoops for you first, so you don’t have to make modifications later. They could do this because they know Dynamics 365 really, really well.
“Their support services work well for us too. It’s a comfort to know we have a team of experts on hand to clear up any post implementation issues and tasks.”
“Size-, price- and performance-wise, Fusion5 is proving to be the right partner for us.”