Macfarlane Packaging, part of the Macfarlane Group PLC, is a leading international packaging specialist providing total packaging solutions to companies worldwide. It is the UK’s largest packaging distribution business and services around 17,000 customers from 15 strategically located RDCs. The consolidation of local branches to RDCs enabled Macfarlane Packaging to reshape its business to create a more efficient and productive distribution network in the UK.
“IT had a huge part to play in the reshaping of the business,” says Mark Selby, Macfarlane Packaging’s IT Director. He continues, “In 2001, we operated from four IT platforms, which resulted in inefficient and ineffective communications between the sites. To maximise the efficiency of our new network of modern, purpose-built distribution facilities, we wanted to implement a consistent and reliable IT infrastructure with a single ERP platform that could manage and support the entire operation.”
A thorough search
Macfarlane carried out an exhaustive search of the market to find the most appropriate ERP system for them. “As a company, we are committed to applying best practices throughout our business. For the ERP solution, we wanted an application that imposed best practices on our business through its correct use. We eventually got down to a shortlist of three applications and in the end made the decision to go with IBS, based on the commitment of the company and the capabilities of their people,” says Mark Selby.
Roll-out began in 2002 and Macfarlane set a 12-month deadline for implementation across all 15 RDCs. Selby explains, “We put together three project teams to carry out the deployment and used them in a rolling format across the UK and international sites. This technique worked very well, and we achieved our target of being live across the network inside one year. Both Macfarlane and IBS have a ‘Can Do’ attitude, which helped ensure we overcame all obstacles and delivered a complete, enterprise-wide, integrated finance and supply chain execution solution within challenging time and budget deadlines.”
Best practices as a business ethos
An important part of the selection of IBS was the quality of its core ERP software. “Macfarlane uses best practices as a business ethos, therefore the ERP system had to be a best practices solution. With the system being implemented across the whole company, we wanted, as much as possible, to manipulate our business to the practices imposed by the software. IBS ERP software has been developed over many years and has the cumulative experience of handling hundreds of businesses, so we were comfortable with allowing our operations to fit the methodologies driven by the system,” he says.
Following these best practices has allowed IBS to drive significant benefits into Macfarlane’s business. Selby explains, “The whole IBS ERP system works very smoothly, giving us an integrated real-time view of operations from finance right through the supply chain. The system imposes efficiencies that allow us to reduce overhead expenses by reducing inventory levels and increasing our customer service capabilities.”
An international ERP system
By 2004, IBS was live across Macfarlane Packaging’s entire UK network as well as international sites in Hungary and the US. Macfarlane is very comfortable with its choice of ERP system and is looking positively towards future developments in many areas of the business. Selby adds, “Over the last few years IBS has helped us to transform our business. We now have a lean and efficient network of RDCs supporting the UK and beyond, managed by a single, integrated ERP software solution that gives us best practice operations and high levels of visibility throughout the organisation. From our base in Coventry, the IT team can support offices in San Francisco just as easily as those in Sudbury thanks to the ease of access to their systems that IBS provides.”
Selby concludes, “Our relationship with IBS has been excellent. They are a progressive company that delivers business solutions, not just products, and this fits neatly into our own philosophy for IT implementation. We are continually growing into the product, using more and more of the available functionality as it becomes appropriate and we are looking forward to many more years of increased competitive advantage gained from our partnership with IBS.”