Trading as Wildcat Australia, Elstern Imports is the distributor of the world’s largest range of high quality piercing jewellery – The Wildcat Collection. The Brisbane-based company has been in the jewellery industry for more than 30 years and has specialised in body jewellery since 2003. Elstern sources its products from overseas suppliers, selling primarily to retailers and wholesalers.
Up until 2009 Elstern managed its accounts with a small business accounting software program, while other core business processes such as purchasing, stock control and pricing were handled using pen-and-paper and lots of informed guesswork. With the company growing at a steady clip, this was not a sustainable way to run the business.
It was around that time that Elstern hired a business consultant to recommend changes to the way the company operated. That consultant advised Elstern to install an ERP system capable of managing all the company’s key business functions. Largely due to the strengths of its inventory management and foreign exchange capabilities, Jiwa was recommended and installed.
“Before we deployed Jiwa the process of maintaining our high volumes of SKUs was time-consuming, inefficient and less accurate than it should have been, but that’s all now a thing of the past.”
“Several of the ERP solutions on the market don’t have the robustness and in-depth functionality of Jiwa, and of those that do, many are excessively complex and not very affordable”, said Mark Weir, owner of Elstern Imports. “When I got introduced to Jiwa I could see that it would meet our needs when it came to both our central business process requirements and our budget.”
Inventory management has become a big and complex task at Elstern. Many of Elstern’s jewellery products come in a wide range of variants – up to 150, in fact – mainly relating to size, colour and shape. With up to 18,00 stock keeping units (SKUs) being managed at any given time, and hundreds of products moving out the door every day, the need to keep on top if it all is critical. Jiwa has met the challenge, as Mark explains:
“For each of our products we have a lot of different data sets that need to be inputted and managed, with each code linked to the main product code”, he said. “Jiwa’s strong inventory capabilities mean that this doesn’t have to be a complex activity for us, even though the task Jiwa performs is complex. Before we deployed Jiwa the process of maintaining our high volumes of SKUs was time-consuming, inefficient and less accurate than it should have been, but that’s all now a thing of the past.”
Using Jiwa Mark and his team can easily track all inventory, including cost of goods for all sales. They can know at a glance which products are selling well and which are under-performing, thereby enabling the company to streamline inventory management while continuing to meet customer demands. From both an operational and cashflow perspective, this has proved a great benefit.
Mark commented: “Prior to Jiwa we couldn’t easily identify slow-moving stock or inventory that we’ve over-ordered, but now that we can we’ve been able to reduce our overall stock value to a third of what it used to be, all without compromising customer service. This in turn has enabled us to divert cash that would otherwise have been spent on unnecessary stock to other parts of our business. The end result is improved cash flow and reduced operational costs – something that any small business needs to stay competitive.”
Elstern’s suppliers are predominantly jewellery manufacturers from such countries as Germany, the UK, France, Thailand and the United States. The currencies the company deals in include the US dollar, the Euro, the British pound the Thai Baht. Jiwa boasts some robust foreign exchange capabilities, enabling users to automate transactions in as many different currencies as required. While many other ERP solutions are limited in their ability to accommodate fluctuations in an exchange rate as purchase orders move through the order-to-delivery cycle, Jiwa has no such constraint. This capability has proven to be a valuable asset at Elstern.
“When ordering from our overseas suppliers it’s sometimes several months between when we place and order and when we receive the inventory”, said Mark. “During that time the foreign exchange rate can move up or down and we need to be able to factor that in to our transactions. With some other ERP solutions once you’ve placed your order you’re locked in to whatever exchange rate there was at the time, however with Jiwa we can easily make adjustments in line with fluctuating rates. This is a good thing for us because it allows us to make better landed cost calculations while ensuring that we’re paying the right price for our imported goods.”
For a lot of distribution businesses forecasting what quantities of what products should be ordered can get fairly tricky. The key to managing it successfully is to take the guesswork out of the process. At Elstern, Mark and his team have made use of Jiwa’s purchasing functionality to make accurate projections when it comes to what items they should stock and in what volumes.
Mark said, “Jiwa makes it easy for us to make sales projections based on whatever criteria we enter into the system, for example sales of a particular product over the previous year. We use a customised formula to arrive at an order amount and, even though the process can get quite complicated, Jiwa has a way of getting it right. This has made our purchasing more efficient and our sales forecasts more accurate than ever before.”
Every Jiwa user is different, and a high proportion of Jiwa customers tweak the system to provide functionality that extends beyond what’s available ‘out of the box.’ One of the customisations Elstern made to Jiwa is a plug-in that notifies the user when a sales order requires pre-payment from the customer.
“We’ve made a few customisations to Jiwa and we’re pleased that the system enables these to be created fairly easily”, said Mark. “For customers from whom we require pre-payment on their orders we created a plug-in in the form of a pop-up window that tells us that we need to acquire the customer’s credit card details before we fulfil the order. It’s not a huge customisation but it’s one that has enhanced the efficiency of our sales process.”
Into the Future
For close to ten years Jiwa has proven its worth at Elstern Imports. The solution has delivered a number of benefits to the company that have had a positive impact on the company’s bottom line. And even though Elstern is a seasoned Jiwa customer, there is still more for Mark and his team to explore:
“Even though we’ve had Jiwa for quite a while we know that we haven’t yet used it to its full potential”, Mark said. “For example there’s more we can do with bin locations, bill of materials and barcoding, and down the track we’ll be looking to dig deep into these. What we know for sure is that whatever we ask of Jiwa the system will deliver, just as it has for us in the past. ”