Signature Refinish Supplies is one of Queensland’s largest distributors of automotive and industrial paints. Founded in 1995 and based in Thorneside, just east of Brisbane, Signature has a head office, four distribution warehouses and a team of more than 30 staff comprised of management, technical support, customer care consulting, courier drivers and administration. The company is a leading distributor of Valspar Automotive and industrial products manufactured in the United States and Holland.
Throughout 2015 and 2016 Signature experienced significant growth, with new office branches and new product lines being introduced to the company. It was around this time that the company’s financial management system was starting to show its limitations, leading to the decision to invest in a replacement solution.
“Our previous system was a solid accounting program but it was failing to keep up with our evolving needs”, said John Killgour, Inventory/Financial Manager, Signature Refinish. “With new branch offices opening up, and with the establishment of a new head office, the time was right for us to seek out a new system – one that would serve as an integrated, all-in-one accounting and business management solution.”
“In terms of return on investment, the solution has already paid for itself.”
The features they needed:
- User Friendly
- Improved Purchasing
- Reduced Inventory
- Better Reporting and Analysis
- Streamlined Customer Pricing
After evaluating a few of the market-leading ERP systems Signature decided on Jiwa. As well as being able to meet the company’s accounting, warehousing, purchasing, inventory and reporting needs, Jiwa also stood out for its ease of use, as John explains.
“There are some very good ERP solutions out there that do a lot but are quite difficult to use. This would have been an issue for us because the typical user of our new system was not going to be someone who is very tech-savvy. What we didn’t want was a new system with plenty of great functionality which doesn’t get used because it’s too hard. With Jiwa we knew we weren’t going to be faced with that problem – the Jiwa front end is quite user friendly and the processes for getting information in and out of the system is relatively straightforward. For us this was a great selling point; we were quite confident we were on a winner with Jiwa.”
The Jiwa solution is now used on a day-to-day basis in each of the company’s five locations. Managers, purchasing staff, sales people and administrative personnel all use Jiwa to keep the Signature team performing at the top of their game. In a number of areas, Jiwa has significantly improved the way Signature Refinish operates, with considerable benefits in terms of efficiency, productivity, cost-savings and, indeed, profitability.
Prior to the deployment of Jiwa, Signature’s procedures for maintaining inventory and purchasing stock were inefficient, prone to error and even a little antiquated. But all that has now changed for the better.
John Killgour: “Before we installed Jiwa our managers would spend up to a full day walking around their warehouse with a pen and paper, jotting down stock levels and basing their purchasing decisions on what they saw on the shelves. As well as being quite time-consuming this way not a foolproof way for us to get the products we need when we need them.
“Since we installed Jiwa that’s now a thing of the past, with the process now fully automated. With the press of a button Jiwa tells us what we have in stock, what we need to order and in what quantities. Jiwa essentially tells us, ‘You’ve sold this many of that paint product, you now need to buy this many of it, and this is how much it’s going to cost.’ Importantly, Jiwa also tells us what products we shouldn’t be carrying.
“By continually analysing what has been sold and what products are not moving, we’ve virtually eliminated over-purchasing, which used to be a big problem for us. The resultant cost savings have been significant, and have been great for our bottom line. This was all simply unachievable prior to Jiwa.”
The unnecessary duplication of business tasks is a real risk when a company operates from multiple locations which are not properly hooked up to each other. At Signature Refinish, branch managers would order new inventory using the stock levels at their branch as their sole guide. But what if product X is in short supply at one branch, but is well-stocked in another of Signature’s offices? The branch manager would have no idea, and would go ahead and order that product from a supplier, not realising that it could have been obtained from within the company. This is one of many internal problems Jiwa was able to solve.
“Jiwa proved very effective at pulling all our inventory together and giving us a clear view of where every product is, all in real time and with complete transparency across the organisation”, said John. “What we found was that for many product items, for example a particular type of black paint, there was an over-supply in one branch – perhaps a shelf full of tins of paint that have sat idle for a year – but none in another. Jiwa gave us the information we needed to move certain products from where they are to where they most need to be. One of the benefits of this is that it has greatly reduced product write-offs, because previously we had a big issue with products that had sat so long in a warehouse that their use-by date had expired and could therefore not be sold.”
The 360 degree view of product lines and their locations that’s been made possible by Jiwa has enabled Signature to be far more sharply focused on products that deliver high gross profits, and have eliminated a number of poor-performing product categories.
John commented, “Before Jiwa we relied on calculated guesswork and incomplete, manually created inventory histories to determine which products we should be carrying and which we should discard. Jiwa showed us that we were carrying far more products than we needed, and that many of our product lines contributed so little to our bottom line that they weren’t worth our while. The end result of our Jiwa-based analysis is that we’ve reduced stock by about 35% and certain product lines by 50%.”
Better reporting and analysis
Accurate and up-to-date reporting is a must-have for any business wanting to stay ahead of the curve and respond to new and changing circumstances quickly and intelligently. At Signature Refinish this wasn’t possible with their previous financial system. However since bringing Jiwa on board the company is able to dig deep into its data and generate reports that turn information into actionable insights.
“For a long time reporting was something we really struggled with”, said John. “A lot of it was done on spreadsheets or whatever else was handy, but for the most part we couldn’t produce anything useful. And when we did it was usually out of date by the time we got it. But now that we’re equipped with Jiwa, we can generate real-time, accurate and in-depth reports on all aspects of our operations, and do it all in an instant. This in turn has enabled us to improve strategic decision-making, enhance long-range forecasting, identify areas where improvements are needed and respond faster and better to customer demands and emerging industry trends.”
As Signature expanded over time, the company’s list of suppliers also grew steadily. This had become unwieldly, with lots of doubling up of product lines and more suppliers on board than the company needed – a less-than-perfect situation that was not obvious until a Jiwa-generated analysis brought it to light.
Says John: “We did a deep dive into our supplier database to work out what suppliers we should be working with and which ones we could do without. For example, why have 12 sandpaper suppliers when we only need three? Jiwa gave us all the information we needed; as a result we were able to reduce our number of suppliers from about 100 to 60 without compromising customer satisfaction. And for us it means less paperwork, fewer invoices and less time dealing with suppliers, because we have fewer of them. It’s a far more streamlined operation now.”
Streamlined customer pricing
Giving product discounts to preferred customers is great for customers but can be a headache for back-office staff who have to manage multiple changes to product pricing in the company’s financial management system.
For a long time customised product pricing has been a thorn in the side of Signature Refinish, just as it is with plenty of other distribution companies carrying vast product lines. Not every financial solution can handle this type of thing, however at Signature Jiwa is proving to be up to the challenge.
“We were certainly not unique in our inability to manage special pricing, which had steadily gotten out of control in our business”, said John. “The whole process of discounting had become too complex and too unmanageable, resulting in invoices that don’t match quoted prices. But fortunately Jiwa has the in-built flexibility to manage such a task, enabling us to go through each product and apply a special price to a debtor. It’s a big job but Jiwa is showing that it is certainly manageable if it’s done right.”
Into the Future
Within less than two years Jiwa has transformed Signature Refinish for the better. The company’s Jiwa solution has delivered greatly improved performance in the critical areas of accounting, reporting, sales, customer service, administration and warehousing and inventory management. As the Signature team embark on their next phase of growth – with all the opportunities and challenges that come along with it – Jiwa will be there every step of the way.
“One of the best things Signature ever did was to install Jiwa”, said John. “In terms of return on investment, the solution has already paid for itself. The system is involved in virtually every aspect of our business, and has enabled us to lift our game and reach new heights. Looking towards the future, Jiwa is set to continue to play an important part in the Signature Refinish success story.” Jiwa Solution Provider – Attkey Computer Solutions