Real business story

The scale of the task

Dunsters Farm is a third generation family business in Bury. After starting out in 1963 as a milkround it now offers a full food service

When brother and sister Tom and Hannah joined the business five years ago they made changes to help them take it forward for another generation. We spoke to them about their new ERP system, if you want to hear more you can listen to a podcast or watch a longer video below

When we were going for the install of the ERP we were reminded of the scale of the task. Someone described it to me as a heart and lung transplant at the same time, and it really is!

Tom Mathew - Dunsters Farm

Setting your objective

Dunsters already had an ERP, but the system wasn't giving them what they needed. They wanted better performance data to help them run the business, and to help them to take advantage of the opportunities to be nimble and agile which come with being small. They also wanted to increase their efficiency and deliver better customer service. Any system would have to deliver on those objectives to be considered

We’d class ourselves as advocates for implementing tech, but we’re very strict on what we’ll implement. People see it as the answer to all their prayers but it’s not necessarily unless it works for your business

Hannah Barlow - Dunsters Farm

Justifying your budget

The system has given Dunsters huge benefits in the areas they were trying to address.

On customer service the new system helps ensure they get orders right first time, so they give better customer service and don't need to work so hard to resolve issues which come from mistakes. This also drives large cost savings.

In terms of efficiency, their team can get lots more done, with picking speeds in the warehouse roughly doubling. In its first year the ERP system helped them double profitability, with later integrations with a CRM system opening up further improvements

When we approach any decision now on technology, we look at first, will it benefit our customers? Is there experience going to be improved? And second, is it good for us? Does it help us improve efficiency and productivity? If it gets both of those, then we'll look at it

Hannah and Tom - Dunsters Farm

Creating your shopping list

Tom and Hannah started with lots of online research. They didn't really know what an ERP was and they weren't sure what they needed, but they knew they needed to get it right first time. After narrowing it down to five or six by asking lots of questions to get the right fit for them, they realised they would have to choose between two different types of product and supplier. They could go with a big household name product which would need to be customised to fit their business, and where they would have to work through a third party provider, or they could go with a smaller providers which had a specific solution for their industry. In the end they opted for a smaller player as it meant they had a direct contact with the people designing the software, but they were very careful to ensure that the provider was stable, and well equipped to be a long term partner of theirs.

Once they had gotten down to the last two potential suppliers, Tom and Hannah went all around the country looking at the systems in action to see how it could work for them. Crucially they wanted to see it being used by businesses just like theirs which had similar requirements. It's all very well seeing how it could work in another warehouse, but they needed to see how it would perform in another business which specifically dealt with food, which also had to deal with issues like weighted products, refrigeration, and temperature control

You can download our free requirements checklist here

There’s a lot of shiny nice products out there, but it might not be the right fit for you. It might not be the products fault, it’s the right fit for someone out there, but it might not be the right fit for you

Tom Mathew - Dunsters Farm

Buying with confidence

When it came down to the final decision, Dunsters went with the partner who they felt they could work with the best. They don’t have an in-house IT team so they needed someone who could work with closely to implement the solution, and who wouldn't charge them for every minute of what was likely to be a challenging implementation process. The provider team was a key part of the decision process. They felt sure they could get the support they needed without going over budget

The key thing was the team at the provider that we went with, they said they’d give us as much support as we needed, it wouldn’t be chargeable by the hour

Tom Mathew - Dunsters Farm

Making it work for the team

The new system meant a lot of changes for the team. After a long time of working the same way this system required a new way of doing things. It was difficult at first, but once the team were on board and some of the benefits became apparent, it was a revelation. People couldn't believe the problems the system solved, how much time they were saving, and the way in which things were done to a higher standard. Tom had a warehouse picker come to him on the second day and describe how he had just picked a large order in half the time it would normally take.

But there were teething problems. It was a very large change for their workforce and they had to make it overnight. There were issues on day one when the signal for the voice picking system failed and the warehouse team were unable to work until it was fixed. This put a lot of pressure on Tom and Hannah as new leaders in the business who had led this change.

I had to go into the canteen and tell the pickers who were ready to start their first pick shift using the new voice headsets, and who were very dubious about these voice headsets, that they had to stay in the canteen for the rest of the day until we could sort the problem, because the RF signal which was required to run the system had completely failed… so that was quite a stressful time!

Tom Mathew - Dunsters Farm

Download our free guide to getting your team on board

Getting your money's worth

After successfully implementing the ERP, Dunsters are now looking for opportunities to extract further benefits from it. They have now integrated it with a new Customer Relationship Management system, allowing for further improvements in data and efficiency and also opening up new sales opportunities.

Watch the full video

Listen to the full discussion

We carried on our discussion with Hannah and Tom once the cameras stopped rolling. You can listen to the rest of the discussion here.

  • location: Greater Manchester
  • business size: 50-99 People
  • business type: Food service
  • technology implemented: ERP

Tom and Hannah's top takeaways

Dunsters ask themselves two questions when considering a new piece of technology: Will it improve the experience of their customers? And will it provide a return and improve their productivity? If it meets both of those criteria than it will allow them to deliver value to their customers and remain competitive

Dunsters spent a long time researching different systems, and insisted on providers showing them the systems in use in business similar to theirs. This gave them confidence that the system could do what they needed it to do

Use the system “off the shelf” if you can, without customisation. Whenever they have issues it’s the customization that causes those issues. If that means changing your processes then really focus on doing that, only consider the customisation if you can’t change your processes

As Tom says, an ERP system is like a heart and lung transplant for your business. You need a true partner who you are confident you can work with over a long time and through challenging situations

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