Sometimes it’s the seemingly simple things that can be the trickiest to achieve. That’s what Graeme Wright of Barnes Oysters discovered when he set out to automate the invoicing process at the Bluff oyster processing business he manages in Invercargill.
“I needed a system that could handle multiple delivery addresses for one order,” says Wright. “For us this was a ‘must-have’, but I was surprised at how many systems out there couldn’t do it or required costly customisation to achieve it.”
Wright is responsible for managing the cooperative that processes around 70% of the Bluff oyster quota each season. The company’s boats harvest the Bluff oysters and bring them back to the processing plant where the briny delicacy is packed and shipped to wholesalers and retailers around the country.
“We process and sell on behalf of other quota owners as well and in a season, which runs between March and August, we typically process around 600,000 dozen Bluff oysters.”
Barnes Oysters outsources its basic bookkeeping duties to its local accounting firm. But nine months ago, the lack of support for its legacy in-house system sent Wright looking for a more flexible invoicing solution.
“Our accounting firm handles the general ledger and other compliance accounting tasks, but we like to have the flexibility to invoice in-house, as there are a lot of variables in play when it comes to fulfilling each customer order. Invoicing is always done ‘just in time’ and I wanted a system that could meet those needs.”
More importantly, Wright needed a system that could split one invoice across multiple shipments to different parties. “Some of our big supermarket customers require invoicing to be done in a very specific way and I was struggling to find a new solution that could accommodate those needs.”
Enter Accredo and local Accredo support person Andrew Joll. “I happened to meet Barnes Oysters’ IT support person at a local Microsoft conference. He told me about the company’s specific need and I suggested Accredo would provide the perfect solution.”
Nine months after implementation and having just finished its first season invoicing using Accredo, Joll says, Barnes Oysters couldn’t be happier with the solution.
“Solving unique business process problems is a strength of Accredo, because the scripting lets you tailor the software according to customer needs. Many customers need multiple invoices on one statement, but Barnes wanted to send one invoice to head office that detailed the cost and allocation to individual supermarkets, line by line. It was a unique demand they needed fulfilling.”
Wright uses a spreadsheet to calculate what he can send to each customer based on the desired amount they ask for and what the day’s oyster harvest looks like. “The quantity and quality can vary greatly from day to day, depending on where the boats go and how much they find.”
He then enters the information into Accredo to start building the invoices. “It’s a dynamic process as we have people ringing us on a daily basis trying to find out exactly what they are likely to get. Once the processing is underway I have a better idea of what we are likely to end up with and then the invoicing and printing of the packing slips all has to come together quite quickly.”
Being at the bottom of the South Island, Wright says he has some strict courier deadlines to meet if the product is to hit the upper reaches of the North Island on time. “Product that is going to specific regions has to be packaged in batches to ensure it all heads out the door at the same time.”
Accredo generates the invoices and prints the despatch labels. The packing slips have as much or as little information on them as the customer requires, says Wright. “It’s that flexibility that comes in handy, especially when you are dealing with big customers who have strict rules about what they want detailed.”
Multiple delivery addresses for his supermarket customers are now no problem. “Andrew has been brilliant,” says Wright. “He has tailored Accredo to generate one invoice which records multiple allocations to each of the supermarket stores. That gets sent to head office detailing where all the despatches have gone and Accredo also prints off all the different individual packing slips.
“I was amazed that what we do was so particular to us, but that’s why we love Accredo, it provides us with the flexibility we need to manage what is always a very fluid billing and packing process.”
Accredo has also helped Wright simplify his reporting. The Bluff oyster quota is strictly monitored by Government compliance officers and Wright says he needs to keep a close eye on the number they are processing. “At the end of the day I want to know we are getting the numbers right, and, thanks to Accredo, I can print off a report that shows how many oysters have been despatched. Again, that was something that was surprisingly hard to achieve with some of our previous systems.”
Wright can now obtain a day-by-day breakdown of numbers and grades of oyster processed. Reporting to his shareholders is done weekly and with Accredo, he says, it’s easy to assemble all the key data on one report. “I just tell Andrew how I want it and he makes it so with relative ease.”
When the harvesting season is in full swing, Wright says monitoring order delivery, keeping on top of compliance and working out staff pay based on what has been invoiced out to customers makes for a hectic working day.
“Luckily Accredo helps me in all those areas. It’s gold for me. The software and Andrew have been a huge breath of fresh air. He understands our business and has implemented Accredo in such a way that it makes our daily business processing a lot simpler. And, it gives me the peace of mind that the small but important details are being looked after.”