Sierra Pacific Crafts had a problem familiar to many growing businesses. Their need for information was evolving, but their data control and manipulation tools were stagnant. Ten years ago, this member-owned cooperative that serves over 60 independent stores was operating on divided systems. They managed their financials in Sage Peachtree while tracking thousands of inventory items on a cluster of sophisticated – though increasingly cumbersome – spreadsheets. Recognizing the limitations of this approach, Sierra Pacific constructed a homegrown SQL/Access database over the next few years for inventory management (financials remained segregated, bridged only by inconvenient imports). As is typical when development is not an organization’s specialty, design issues that plagued the system began to draw resources and increase operational costs. By the time SPC approached Bennett/Porter for help, the company was routinely losing, and having to recreate, at great time and expense, large portions of data. SPC President and CEO, Miranda Gould, described the situation as “a house of cards.”
Standard features provide individualized solutions
For over 40 years, SPC has been sustaining a vibrant community of family-owned retailers in creative industries by enabling the individual success of its membership. Together, those member stores represent nearly one million square feet of retail space and conduct over 150 million dollars in annual retail sales.
Because they operate as a cooperative, their business model is unique in that every member (i.e. customer) must be able to see every other member’s ordering patterns, thereby affording opportunities to group seasonal orders together and obtain volume pricing. SPC then consolidates these orders and purchases from vendors on behalf of their members. Other ERP options they evaluated, including Epicor, were too functionally rigid to accommodate this fundamental business requirement of cross-order transparency. Only Acumatica, with its innate capacity for tailoring, was able to fulfill the need without extensive customization.
Because SPC deals with approximately 3,500 unique inventory items per season – and over 25,000 items cumulatively – they were also seeking an efficient way to track and present the nuances between product offerings available to their members. Acumatica’s standard attributes feature, simple-to-create user defined fields, and image attachment ability, collectively, allowed them to express the material differences between inventory items in ways unmatched by other ERP systems – or in their homegrown database.
Moreover, the built-in ability to create generic inquiries opened up an entire world of reporting on all of this categorization. Acumatica’s essential functionality added precision and immense benefit to the members’ ordering experience. Miranda noted that, once one learns to use the tools that Acumatica offers, everything becomes possible.
Serving the Cooperative’s members, more often but in less time
Thanks to Acumatica’s true cloud-based design, SPC staff members now regularly access all of this raw data and refined information wherever they happen to be. Whether at one of the several trade shows or member meetings they attend each year, the information needed to obtain and place orders is always at their fingertips. Consequently, they are able to fulfill their mission as a cooperative by serving members better, faster, and more accurately than ever before.
The painful divide between inventory and accounting functions was erased with the advent of Acumatica. Yet that turned out to be the most basic benefit, given all the efficiencies that SPC has gained with regard to inventory management and reporting. Perhaps the most remarkable result of deploying Acumatica is the time that SPC staff saves by using this advanced cloud ERP system. Miranda’s individual experience is indicative of the group. Prior to implementing Acumatica, she typically worked past 8:00pm each day and up to 20 weekends per year simply recreating or authenticating data, as the organization had little confidence in its accuracy (or sometimes its very existence). Since deploying Acumatica, she works no overtime for these purposes and just four weekends per year focused on more productive tasks. In stark contrast to their previous condition, they have experienced zero data loss and have absolute confidence in the information gleaned from the system. Acumatica has helped SPC break the chain reaction of loss that results from poorly managed data, and it has allowed the company to get on with the business of growth. As Miranda summarized it, “I feel like Acumatica is the way ERP systems should be going.”