The electrician of tomorrow takes a PDA with him out to the job, registers on site his use of cables, contacts, dimmers, brackets, etc. and sends the information direct to the company’s finance system, where the same information will be used for invoicing the customer, stock control, the purchasing process – and in all the accounts.
All in all, the future means precision in accounts and reporting – even in small businesses. And this future is just around the corner. In an electrical store like Agerbæk El-Service in South-west Jutland, the whole foundation is already in place in the form of the SAP Business One solution which was implemented just before Christmas 2003. In only a few months, this solution has given the business a totally new, accurate basis on which to assess consumption of articles on individual jobs, issue invoices, monitor creditors and balance the cash account.
“If I were to give a brief outline of the challenges we face, a small business like ours has something between 90,000 and 100,000 product numbers. Most people probably don’t realize how many types of contacts, screws, cable lugs and much more besides an electrician needs in his daily work. And it’s just here that a small business used to find it difficult to keep up with the big firms as far as efficient administration was concerned. But a modern finance system like SAP Business One actually automates the cumbersome part of administration and allows us to be efficient and competitive,” explains Ruth Nielsen, whose job involves responsibility for accounts and reporting at Agerbæk El-Service.
“SAP Business One now runs all our accounts. We write quotations in the system. We invoice. We call up the product card file from the wholesaler. And we update prices electronically. When we send the customer a bill, the prices are therefore always up-to-date. We’ll soon also have the electronic invoice from the wholesaler installed in the system, which means we’ll be able to import information about payments received from our customers electronically from the bank. This means that I’ll no longer have to enter information about receipts to our account manually to balance the cash account, as I do today. In other words, the system has almost put me out of a job,” says Ruth Nielsen, a twinkle in her eye indicating that the last part of her comment is meant as a joke.
“When we’ve got the last module in place – which we’re working on at the moment – I’ll be able to run our cash account at the push of a button every morning, and be in a much better position to keep track of things in the company.”
“Financial trends are changing all the time – and we notice that too. We can see signs of increasing activity this year, and expect a growth in turnover of 10 per cent. But we’ve also issued quotations to a number of customers who are waiting to see what happens – not least until they’ve seen the results of the EU expansion to the east. Luckily I can write quotations directly in the SAP system, so it’s easy for me to call them up.”
“I’ve got our customers entered in the system, and I can now follow up on creditors. I can write and send reminders from the system. And if necessary I can put a mark against individual customers and define a credit limit. If a customer who hasn’t yet paid his last bill phones to order an electrician, I can quickly check the situation and maybe bring the customer’s attention to the situation,” points out Ruth Nielsen.
One significant benefit of automated communication with the wholesaler is that Agerbæk El-Service now has much reduced waste levels. “When we take stock in the warehouse, every year we notice that there may be some things that are missing, or things that we can no longer use and have to scrap. In future we’ll have far more accurate follow-up on our consumption – broken right down to the individual order.”
Agerbæk El-Service chose SAP Business One because the system is Windows-based – and also because of the solution’s tremendous flexibility. As mentioned above, one of the major plans for the system is to extend it to include PDAs, so that the business can streamline its accounts with consumption of goods from the very moment that the electrician keys in the information when out on the job, all the way through invoicing to placing orders with the wholesaler.
Agerbæk El-Service also expects to develop the use of the CRM module which is included with SAP Business One to keep customer records. As Ruth Nielsen explains, so far the CRM module has only been used to register sales and deliveries of white goods, in order to check whether the guarantee has expired in case of complaints.