Software upgrade brings new functionality to Naim Audio

Taking advantage of continuous software improvement is always a good idea. Thanks to Exel Computer Systems plc, Naim Audio has upgraded its EFACS E/8 ERP system, introduced powerful new functionality and is achieving business growth.

Based in Salisbury, Naim Audio designs and manufactures advanced music systems. In 2014 the company won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in Innovation for its network music players, all-in-one players, hard disk players/servers and digital to analogue converters. Naim employs 170 people.

An EFACS user since 2004, Naim enjoys an excellent working relationship with Exel.

"There were no problems with EFACS E/8 8.2 but newer versions offered functionality that we did not have – this was enticing. The main issue was with our old versions of Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Windows Server," says Systems Development Engineer, Ben Marchington.

New Infrastructure

The company decided to upgrade its IT infrastructure and introduce virtualisation. A review of business processes was also conducted, comparing old and new versions of EFACS.

"We had various bespoke elements that had been written by Exel as well as other systems added around EFACS. It was everything from Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to custom software."

Naim quickly found that earlier bespoke work could be duplicated with the new EFACS Customisation Toolkit. EFACS' Workflow module promised help with other business requirements too.

A project to implement new hardware platforms, the latest versions of Microsoft SQL Server and Windows Server along with VMware virtualisation was completed first. Naim's attention then turned to upgrading EFACS.

"Because of our working relationship with Exel, they knew our business processes. They also offered us a good deal on upgrading to the latest version of EFACS," says Marchington.

Smooth Upgrade

Exel gave expert help with project management, development and training. An Exel consultant copied the ‘live' database and developed some upgrade scripts. These were thoroughly tested on a development platform.

Much work was done to create new reports, messages, screens, other customisations and workflows. Exel provided technical support throughout, including the customisation in key areas like deliveries. Working alongside the consultants helped Naim acquire key knowledge for future projects.

A high priority was given to training the company's 60 users. Although some might see little change, others had to learn new functionality. Exel ran in-depth training sessions and process reminder sheets were given to everyone.

The upgrade to the live system took place during the company's annual holiday shutdown in August 2013. Its move into a virtual environment also improved scalability, redundancy and disaster recovery.

"The training was delivered in a very good way with examples relating to the real world. When the users came back, we were live on 8.5. We had an Exel consultant with us for a few days just for confidence," says Marchington.

Automated Processes

Naim has since continually expanded its use of EFACS E/8. The ability to customise the system is important to Naim so that it can offer the best possible customer experience. New custom fields are now stored in the EFACS database, enabling built-in reports or third-party reporting tools to have access.

From a day-to-day perspective, the Workflow module ensures the right work is done at the right time. A new workflow may be set by schedule or triggered by events inside EFACS. Custom screen messages help focus user attention on particular tasks too.

"The Workflow system is fantastic. We have a whole variety of alerts. For example, the Quality department can be alerted when a certain part comes in and requires inspection."

Production area staff now view large screens showing management KPI dashboards. Using Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services, these colourful displays extract details of sales and works orders from the EFACS database.

"It gives the production managers a much better idea of when they are going to get which materials through."

Another useful development involved the company's first wireless music system, Mu-so. These are now tracked worldwide by serial number which previously needed manual entry to EFACS for each location change. Another workflow technique, using XML, links customer web ordering to EFACS and automatically raises Mu-so sales orders.

Extending the intuitive EFACS system for new business requirements like these has fully met expectations. The work has been so successful that the number of users across the company has increased.

"EFACS E/8 was going to allow us to grow, which is what we have done." says Marchington. "Exel is really good at supporting you and the knowledge of their consultants is amazing."