Guernsey-based Marine & General Engineers (M&G) combines three elements in one business – a boatyard, an engineering and fabrication division, and a busy chandlery and retail store. WinMan software gives it the tools it needs to manage complex job billing and customer information, a large stores inventory and retail sales. Above all, it provides the accurate real-time information M&G needs to run its business efficiently.
With WinMan, one integrated system has replaced outdated software, paper-based systems and numerous users recording information in a haphazard way.
Finance Director David Coleman says that a major benefit was WinMan’s ability to meet all of M&G’s key requirements without the need for a bespoke system: “ What was surprising when we put together our original requirement specification, was the relative complexity we had within a fairly small business. There is an inherent flexibility in the core WinMan software that allows us to meet our needs in a pretty seamless way.”
The first of M&G’s three trading arms is the General Engineering business, which carries out a wide range of welding, fabrication and machining work. A lot of the work is for bespoke steelwork for items such as balconies and balustrades, but it can range from a £25 repair job to a £500,000 construction project.
What is key here is the ability to accurately track all the hours and materials that go into the job to ensure accurate costing and billing: “ WinMan gives us a system that can support a wide range of different needs, from a simple repair to a large structural steelwork contract.” says David Coleman.
The second main part of the business is the Boatyard. Again, the range of work and the type of work is quite varied. As a main Volvo Penta dealer, M&G sells, services and repairs engines as well as carrying out non-mechanical work such as cleaning, anti-fouling, hull repairs and storage.
M & G’s Management Accountant Steve Bougourd explains: “ In WinMan we have details on the system of the owner, the boat, some of the key measurements, the types of engines, the gearbox, serial numbers and so on.
“ Individual tasks, parts and labour costs have to be accounted for and related to the boat, the owner, the specific engine and the overall job. We also have warranty work, which is charged to Volvo rather than the owner, so there is quite a complex series of relationships that could exist.”
“ WinMan puts information in a format that is easy to analyse for future use.”says Boatyard Manager John Norman. “ That helps us, for example, when the owner wants us to do some work because we know in advance what components may be required. It also helps us when we quote on a job. I can look in WinMan and see if we have done a similar job in the past and straightaway get a full breakdown of the work that was done and what it cost. I can also see where we had sticking points and identify potential problems. It is a very good tool for comparison.”
The information also helps simplify parts requirements for servicing, he says: “ We store service kit information for specific engines on the system. So when a boat comes in for a service, rather than having to look up each of the individual components that will be needed – filters, belts and so on – and add them individually, we add the kit to the job as a single item. This is notified to the stores in advance: the goods can be picked, charged to the job and available to the engineer when he needs them to do the work.”
Steve Bougourd adds: “ Although we put the kit on the job as a single item, WinMan still itemises it at the stores level for picking that order and at the job level for customer billing. The customer doesn’t just get billed for a kit they get a complete breakdown of all the parts.”
The Stores, Parts and Chandlery business is M&G’s third main trading arm, and a service hub that not only serves the internal Boatyard and General Engineering departments, but also sells goods to third party customers – both trade and individual customers. Altogether, it stocks and tracks around 9,500 product lines.
Manager Carl Tanguy explains: “ We serve our internal customers, trade accounts and the general public, so we have a very varied brief. We sell direct, we issue to accounts and we issue parts to jobs within M&G.”
This is all channelled through two touch-screen kiosks at the sales desk that are used as tills for over-the-counter sales and to book items out of stores for internal orders. The same physical hardware is used for both functions – the difference between the two functions is that for direct sales WinMan is integrated with MYPOS point-of-sale software.
“ We have various discount arrangements that are now effectively embedded within WinMan so that we can make sure that the customer pays the appropriate discounted price for items, irrespective of whether they are used on a job or sold directly to the customer. The system makes sure that we issue the right item, it is charged to the right customer account and that an appropriate invoice or receipt is produced.”
Every five minutes MYPOS automatically synchronizes over the counter and account sales with WinMan; and administration within WinMan, such as new customer accounts, item codes, prices, etc, is synchronized back from WinMan to MYPOS.
“ The integration between the two is seamless.” says Steve Bougourd. “ At the back end, WinMan does all the administration and accounts work, but you can still have a shop at the front end. You have a touch-screen cash till, you can take credit card payments and they are all integrated through the MYPOS system. It uses the same matrix of customers and products to apply the right discounts for the sale.”
M&G can either use manufacturers’ own barcodes or generate them in WinMan. When goods are received, all the barcode price labels can be generated automatically – with or without the price.
“ Trade customers may be selling the part on and don’t want the price on the part. The flexibility of the system allows us to be in control of that.”says Carl Tanguy.
For internal orders, M&G engineers order parts and materials against a barcoded job number on their job instruction sheet. Parts are located and booked out using the touch-screen kiosks and verified using the barcode on the part. M&G knows exactly what part has been issued to which job and that it has been properly charged for.
Steve Bougourd explains: “ One of the things that is common between the Boatyard and General Engineering is the job costing system.”
Engineers record the hours they have worked on each job on a paper timesheet and this information is then fed into the payroll system. Because of Guernsey’s tax system, M&G uses third party software for this and this is automatically interfaced with WinMan to allocate labour to job numbers.
“ We would previously have had to enter that on both our payroll system and our accounting system.” says Steve Bougourd. “ But when we moved to WinMan, they incorporated an import system so that we only had to enter it once.”
This input process also validates the job number and customer name to make sure that the labour costs are correctly allocated to the job and the customer.
Likewise, when materials and parts are booked out from the stores they are charged out to the individual job. And if materials for the job are purchased from third-party suppliers, as soon as the goods receipt is processed the costs are charged direct to the job they have been purchased for. So M&G always has a fully up-to-date record of costs that have been incurred on each individual job.
This functionality is closely linked to the use of job information sheets that are issued to the shop floor engineers in both the Boatyard and General Engineering. These present clear information on what is required in a consistent format and with a job barcode.
As well as a brief description of the job, which is also carried through to the invoice, the sheet can also include more detailed information such as, for example, a list of works that need to be done, sizes and dimensions.
Steve Bougourd says: “ When the engineer goes to the stores the person at the kiosk scans the barcode on the job sheet and that ensures that the materials are charged to the right job. It is a pretty secure way of ensuring the charge goes to the right job, and it is quick.”
“ WinMan has given us significant benefits.” says Steve Bougourd. “ Within the area of ‘Stock Accuracy’, we have noticed improvements due to a combination of factors including: product barcodes, on-screen validation of details for products, jobs, and expense accounts, and the immediacy of transaction information across the system. Together these have resulted in us ensuring that we do not miss any stock items on customer invoices for work carried out, increasing our revenue. From the perspective of ‘Labour Accuracy’, having the ability to easily integrate our existing payroll software has provided parallel benefits for the allocation of direct labour charges on jobs.”
David Coleman adds: “Overall, the improved accuracy of financial information within the system has resulted in a substantial reduction in processing of corrective journals, freeing up time to explore and develop other areas. Even now, some three years after our original implementation of WinMan, the flexibility of the underlying system allows us to improve our internal processes and to start utilising additional features.
The combination of all of this has not only saved Marine & General direct costs, but has also enabled us to reduce the number of queries from our customers, hence improving our customers’ experience. There is no doubt that WinMan has made us a more efficient organisation.”