“We have full visibility on the system of both our raw material cloth stocks across all supplier locations overseas and our own finished goods stocks at home. So, when a sales order comes in, we can check whether we have the items in place to fulfil the order from stock. If not, we can check if we have the materials at a supplier to see if the item can be made in time to fulfil the order. If we cannot immediately meet the customers’ requirements, we have information to hand on which alternatives to suggest.”
Starting life in 1866 as a small draper’s shop in Donegal, today Magee specialises in luxurious fabrics and stylish garments with a unique Irish identity. The company still has a specialist mill and its headquarters in Donegal, with a distribution centre in Ballymena. It owns three shops and is also a wholesale supplier to high quality independent retailers across Ireland, the UK and Europe.
While staying true to its core values of supplying quality clothing and fabrics, the company has an innovative approach to business. A couple of years ago, for example, it launched an on-line website for personal shoppers and has extended its range to include home accessories.
Clothing is, of course, a seasonal business. Twice a year, the company designs and manufactures new ranges to sell from stock and to fulfil forward orders from retailers planning for the forthcoming season.
Below, Chairman of the Magee Group, Lynn Temple explains how a system developed by Datel helped to update the technology underlying the clothing company’s management processes. Since writing this success story Magee and Datel have celebrated 20 years of business together. To read about how it begun and how both companies have worked together over those years click here.
You offer an impressive range of options to both retail and private customers: what demands does this place on the business?
We’re certainly committed to providing freedom of choice: some of our jackets are available in over a hundred different cloths. We have a personal tailoring service, too, offering a number of customisable features, such as different buttons, an extra pocket or a choice of lining.
This makes our production sourcing operation complex. The variety of fabrics, style and trim translates into a huge amount of work in managing bills of materials, costings and pricing from season to season to ensure that we have the right quantity and combination of stock in place to supply our different selling channels.
Chairman of the Magee Group, Lynn Temple explains how a system developed by Datel helped to update the technology underlying the clothing company’s management processes.
What were the business drivers that led you to look to update your business software?
We had been using a very old version of the Datel Protex ERP system, originally installed back in the late nineties. In addition to the modifications that Datel made to tailor it to our requirements, we’d adapted it ourselves over time. It got us by but was becoming difficult to manage.
Our business had evolved, too: in recent years, we have become more of a design-led, sourcing and logistics operation, rather than a manufacturer, whereas our existing system set-up was quite heavily biased towards production.
We wanted to remove some of the convolutions that had crept into the software over the years and base our business going forward on a streamlined system that would align closely with our new business model.
Why did you choose to stay with Datel?
It certainly wasn’t a foregone conclusion and we did review other systems. However, Datel had acquired a very good knowledge of our business over the previous ten years or so. At the time we were considering our options, they were in the process of releasing a new version of the Protex ERP System. It seemed comparatively straightforward and was integrated into the widely used Sage 200 Financials accounting software.
We decided to go ahead with the new version of Protex. Inevitably with a project on the scale of ours, there were bound to be some bugs to iron out, especially as we were ‘early adopters’, but Datel were responsive in providing solutions. We know we can always pick up the phone for help in fine-tuning the ‘last bits’.
What would you say are the main functions supported by the new system?
We enter style information onto the Protex system and it calculates requirements for the multiplicity of fabrics and trims we need to order and send to manufacturing sources.
Our Stock service replenishment is also integrated into the system and works well. We keep a selection of garments in stock from which retail customers from Kerry to Cornwall can be supplied within 24 hours. Supporting this function is vital as it accounts for a significant volume of sales and assists in delivering good service to our customers. By the way, we supply our own stores as we would any other retail customer, at arm’s length.
Again, we have full visibility on the system of both our raw material cloth stocks across all supplier locations overseas and our own finished goods stocks at home. So, when a sales order comes in, we can check whether we have the items in place to fulfil the order from stock. If not, we can check if we have the materials at a supplier to see if the item can be made in time to fulfil the order. If we cannot immediately meet the customers’ requirements, we have information to hand on which alternatives to suggest.
Reporting facilities are simpler, too, as reports can be downloaded into Microsoft Excel and tailored to requirements.
It’s worth noting that the system accommodates our personal tailoring service, too. All the details of the customer’s preferences are captured in a document, which is then electronically forwarded to our manufacturers.
How have your employees reacted to the new system?
One of our priorities was to have a system which any user would be able to pick up quickly. The new version of the Protex system has an updated look and feel, very similar to the familiar Microsoft Office products. It’s definitely more user- friendly and we continue to fine-tune it to our needs.
Our aim is to reduce reliance on individuals’ knowledge and standardise our processes, making it easier to maintain staff cover.