K3 help Cottage Delight merge tradition with technology

When successful niche market manufacturer Cottage Delight recognised that they had to develop a smarter approach to its every day operations the company engaged the services of K3 who stepped up to the plate delivering an industry specific Microsoft Dynamics AX solution.

 

Cottage Delight is a well established business that delivers high quality speciality foods to retail outlets, garden centres, farm shops and delicatessens throughout the UK. Established in Leek, Staffordshire in 1974 the company is a small, medium enterprise and is a family run operation with 150 staff.

 

The company is owned by Nigel Cope who believes in producing the highest quality product at the keenest price. This philosophy has grown the reputation of Cottage Delight throughout the UK where its sauces, relishes, jams, honeys and packaged gift boxes take pride of place on many food retailers’ display shelves.

 

 

Using manufacturing and business software

 

Jason Moody, Cottage Delight’s Managing Director, shines a little light on the business end of the operation.” There is a steady demand for our products from many well established retail channels,” explains Moody.

 

“In order to keep up with constant demand and create new customer experiences we have to be on top of our game. The way in which we produce our products, using many ingredients and custom order, batch driven manufacturing means that we will always need a good set of manufacturing and business status software tools that give us immediate reporting.

 

“This is a company that believes in the power of IT within its business and the alarm bells first rang in 2010, when we realised that our, then, 15 year old business system needed to be upgraded.”

 

As early as 2012, the business started to use Microsoft Dynamics AX and immediately started realising improvements within all process areas of its business.

 

Functional areas of this initial application included;
• Financial Management
• Supply Chain Management
• Trade and Logistics
• Production
• Master Planning
• Project Accounting

 

With help and guidance from K3’s consultancy team , Cottage Delight were able to configure the system to the way they wanted to do business rather than forcing them to change their working model to fit the software system.

“In order to keep up with constant demand and create new customer experiences we have to be on top of our game…”

Improving existing process

This approach allowed Cottage Delight to be able to use Microsoft Dynamics AX to support their existing processes whilst taking advantage of best practice processes and improve existing processes where relevant.

“The company’s IT manager Gary Bowcock confirmed that we had to change our business process and we knew that this would mean a big culture change for our workforce,” explains Moody. Moody and Bowcock concluded that further change would have to come at Cottage Delight and that although it may prove to be painful it had to be done.

In order to take the business to the next level it was agreed they needed to further expand their business management process and make even more of AX’s capabilities. Also a new range of products including gift boxed sets was growing in popularity and the business had to streamline its whole process in order to run with this new demand.

“We got together a project team who ensured that we kept our production schedule intact as we grew with the new Dynamics AX solution which was very capably implemented by K3. Gary had drawn up a short list of three to four business solutions providers but it soon became obvious to all that our previous service provider could not give us what we required.

“K3’s hands-on approach to our demands and their alignment to Microsoft’s development strategies proved to be exactly what we needed. This and the fact that they have the knowledge and expertise to keep our system up to date and working to the levels of functionality that our various departments need cemented the fact that we made the right choice in working with K3.”

K3 provides solutions to a broad range of customers. The company has developed vertical market solutions that simplify implementation, reduce costs and guarantee a rapid return on investment (ROI).

The size, breadth and depth of K3’s skills means that they can share best practice with new clients with knowledge already gained from hundreds of implementations at companies from across the globe covering all the element to make up a proven Business Management System.

Making better informed business decisions

“The way in which our business runs can be very seasonal. In the ramp up to Christmas we do 50% of our annual business and the scheduling gets hectic,” explains Moody. “Our warehousing status and reporting, inventory control, sales and forecasting needed to be slicker. Fast reporting and immediate information that we can act upon is what this business needs.

“We need a slice and dice approach to the way in which we view our information reporting and this is in order to make better informed business decisions throughout our operation. Production planning, inventory control and forecasting are all areas that have been under review and these are now blossoming.

Moody believes that the way in which the business now operates has been governed by a better understanding of how Dynamics AX draws together the different phases of the manufacturing, sales and the dispatch journey and highlights a more comprehensive reporting process that enables cost savings in key areas of the business.

“We are now in a better position to review simple issues like managing our procurement channels and planning for less waste used in our batch manufacturing. Our hope is that every phase of the business will blossom and eventually see a benefit.”

An example of this new found confidence, born from the freedom that AX allows, is the fact that Cottage Delight is now able to automatically place certain items “on stop”. This function proved very useful during the Christmas ramp-up period.

“During this period it is imperative that sales orders should not be placed for more than the quantity of products available,” explains Moody. “Now by using the default order settings form in AX we can place orders on stop when the available quantity has been reached whilst still allowing orders that have already been placed to be picked, packed, dispatched and invoiced even though the product code has been put “on stop”.

Another very simple, but highly important improvement to the way in which the business operated has been in the labelling operation.

“We use traditional cooking methods in manufacturing our products and they are governed by batches and often custom or seasonal order scheduling. Our products have a durable but carefully monitored shelf life,” confirms Moody

“K3’s hands-on approach to our demands and their alignment to Microsoft’s development strategies proved to be exactly what we needed.”

“Already we are entering the blossoming stage earlier than expected and we are convinced that we can get even more out of the system.”

A better understanding

The new system includes process functionality suitable for the food industry and therefore handles batch expiry date, shelf life and best before dates whereas our previous system did not. This is proving a benefit to Cottage Delight as they must have specific control over batch expiry.

“When we went live in April 2012 with the new AX system we believed that we would see the first year of operation as being challenging, the second as a making up period as we thought there may be internal friction within the business and the third year as our blossoming period.

“Already we are entering the blossoming stage earlier than exp

A very positive experience for all

According to Moody the lightening speed at which the business has seen benefits from Microsoft Dynamics AX is down to the fact that there is a strong liaison between K3’s consultancy team and the Cottage Delight project team. Moody sees the working partnership forged with K3 as not just a B2B project but more one operating on a MD to MD level as he has built up a strong rapport with K3 MD Gary Vincent.

“Throughout our period of culture change K3, and in particular Gary Vincent, have been tremendous in their planning, execution and encouragement. There is no question about this as the whole process of selecting, installing and growing with the system was a very serious step for us. We could not have afforded to get this decision wrong as it would have been catastrophic for the business.

“Thankfully we chose a good system integrator to work with. K3 is willing to grow with us at our pace and this is helping make the period of change a very positive experience for us all,” concludes Moody.