Aluminium Balustrade North Coast (ABnc) has been operating on the Sunshine Coast since 1981, manufacturing and supplying aluminium products for commercial and residential applications.

The company introduced an IT strategy about five years ago and currently runs eight ‘best in class’ programs, including Cloud-based project management software which captures lead information, processes quotes, shop drawings, workflow collaboration and financial data.

“Digital technology is my passion and hobby, and it’s something which has given the business a real competitive edge. It’s about leveraging technology to get the best results…”

General Manager Sam Bevis says the technology has allowed ABnc to implement better quality assurance, especially in the initial stages of a project so staff can check work as it progresses.

“It also provides massive efficiency gains regarding transparency in terms of stock management and production scheduling. If we’re on a job site, for example, we can access information live and tell the project manager how the job is progressing, and check on the flow of stock and materials,” he said.

“We now have an audit trail where everything is trackable and searchable, compared to four years ago when the management side of the business was about paper trails.”

Sam says the advantages of being based on the Sunshine Coast include the lifestyle, the “less stressful” attitude towards work, close proximity to Brisbane, and the availability of suppliers based here.

“However, in the last couple of years there’s been a lack of work, especially in construction projects, plus the increased competition in our market sector.

“And broadband is atrocious on the Sunshine Coast. We’re lucky, though, as we’re pretty close to an exchange and get good internet speeds. It’s doing the job, but it’s not as efficient as I’d like it to be.”

A competitive edge

Sam says he’s very IT-savvy about where he wants to take the business and believes the introduction of technology has put ABnc “ahead of the game” in the industry.

The company first switched from MYOB to Net Suite, a Cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system which it trialled for two years, but found it wasn’t the right fit.

“Two years ago we started looking for an alternative and switched to Xero (accounting), then added software products relevant to our industry. We now have eight systems running concurrently which all link back to Xero,” he said.

These include:

  • Google Docs for emails, documents and calendars, contacts, intranet, which can be accessed from anywhere.

  • Procision Plus program, which handles everything from project management, purchase orders, and timesheets which can be submitted via mobile phones and sent back to Xero for payroll.

  • Redbooth (formerly Teambox) task management system, used as a ‘stop-go’ for process management, such as ordering materials, production and progress. It’s an overall checklist of where our projects are, with information available live on the internet.

  • Nutshell CRM for client information, quote requests, future projects, values of quotes, potential leads, which allows us to track jobs.

  • Quote Roller for creating, sending, organising and tracking business proposals. It provides a catalogue of templates, such as quotes, which can be sent digitally to clients.

  • Xero for payroll, invoicing, reporting, accounting, and compliance.

  • Enable HR system which provides documents for setting up new employees, tracking performance management reviews, injuries, sick days, and annual leave.

  • Zoho Creator, a custom database to track all work in progress.

“It’s a real benefit having best-in-class programs rather than an all-in-one system. We can upgrade an individual program when a new version is available without having to change the whole system.

“I also look for programs which don’t require a particular operating system; I want programs that can run off a web page and can be accessed from any phone, tablet or computer,” Sam said.

“Digital technology is my passion and hobby, and it’s something which has given the business a real competitive edge. It’s about leveraging technology to get the best results out of it.”

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