As a manufacturer of hard landscaping products, Marshalls delivers top-quality products and excellent customer service. To maintain its high standards while undergoing a sustained period of expansion, Marshalls collaborated with Microsoft Gold Partner eBECS to implement Microsoft Dynamics AX. As a result, it has reduced costs, increased productivity, and improved the service it provides to customers.
Marshalls supplies the construction, home improvement, and landscape markets. The Marshalls Group, which had an annual turnover of £323 million (U.S.$506 million) in 2010, operates a diverse portfolio of business interests—from managing its own quarries to manufacturing goods and running regional service centres. This diversity is one of the key reasons that Marshalls relies heavily on enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and, after many years of using Baan software, the company was looking for a solution that would fit better with its business strategy. Because Marshalls has achieved growth mainly through acquisition, the solution had to be scalable to accommodate new businesses quickly and efficiently into the Marshalls model. This helps the firm ensure a smooth transition and realise the financial benefit of acquisitions more rapidly.
Marshalls had a clear idea of what it wanted from a new ERP solution and assessed offerings from both SAP and Oracle, before selecting Microsoft Dynamics AX. Paul Thomas, Group Information Systems Director at Marshalls, says: “We were using the integrator eBECS to support our Baan solution, and because it understood our business, we were able to work together closely to select the best solution.”
“eBECS recommended Microsoft Dynamics AX, and, after assessing it for ourselves, we could also see that it would provide the right levels of flexibility and scalability.”
With help from eBECS, Marshalls implemented the new software. The rollout was achieved seamlessly, assisted by the partner’s knowledge of how the company worked. Steve Donnelly, Microsoft Dynamics AX Programme Manager, Marshalls, says: “eBECS got to know our company inside and out. This has been a massive benefit, because we can send it into any one of our businesses and it can talk directly to all the relevant managers and come back to us with recommendations.” The integration of Microsoft Dynamics AX was eased by its familiar interface and interoperability with other Microsoft products. This helped with the training process, allowing everyone within the company to get up to speed quickly.
“I’ve got more than 20 years’ experience using ERP packages, and I’d say that Microsoft Dynamics AX is easily the best,” says Donnelly. “This is because of its flexibility and usability—it’s simple to customise and this reduces lead times. By using more Microsoft technologies, there are clear gains to be obtained in terms of total cost of ownership and return on investment.”
Marshalls employees have found Microsoft Dynamics AX intuitive and easy-to-use, leading to good take-up of the technology. With the ability to adapt screens, menus, and forms, staff are confident using the system. And, significantly, the company has seen improvements in productivity, efficiency, and customer service.
Cost reductions. Because there’s better visibility across all companies and departments, Marshalls can assess its common suppliers and customers and negotiate better deals. As a result, it is able to take advantage of economies of scale by having centralised functions that require fewer people to manage them.
Clearer finance processes.Microsoft DynamicsAX has helped Marshalls standardise finance processes across the group, removing the task of consolidating many disparate systems and allowing the company to reduce reporting timescales and increase the accuracy of reporting.
Better sales focus and increased productivity.The solution integrates with Microsoft Business Intelligence software to provide sales analysis, detailing which products have sold, in what quantities, and with what margin—this is helping the company keep track and plan its product portfolio for the future. In addition, raising sales orders is much quicker because Microsoft Dynamics AX integrates smoothly with the Marshalls “fast quote” system, which allows the sales team to convert a quote into an order. This gives the internal sales staff more time to follow up leads, talk to customers and generate new business, rather than just processing data.
Improved document management and less paperwork.Marshalls previously had to process large amounts of paperwork, but by using Microsoft Dynamics AX all files are now held electronically and available to everyone. Information is fed into Microsoft Word documents, providing the businesses with layouts that are specific to customer needs, and instead of having to re-type documents, the information is available directly from the central files held in Microsoft Dynamics AX.
Enhanced customer service.The greater visibility that Microsoft Dynamics AX affords Marshalls has improved the customer experience, reducing errors and rectification costs. Since Marshalls implemented Microsoft Dynamics AX, it has used the technology to support its growing e-commerce activities. “We were able to put together a web company within Microsoft Dynamics AX,” says Thomas. “And we built a front-end using Microsoft .NET and integrated the two together so that pricing, stock, product descriptions, and catalogues are all driven in real-time from Microsoft Dynamics AX. It automatically completes all the confirmations, delivery notes, and picking notes without any manual keying-in from our staff.” Microsoft Dynamics AX has delivered everything that was promised in terms of flexibility, integration, and usability for Marshalls. The company is now aiming to ensure that its existing businesses and all acquisitions in the future will use Microsoft Dynamics AX. Thomas says: “Microsoft Dynamics AX provides a flexible solution that can be adapted to meet the individual needs of your business. I would recommend it to anyone.”