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Thinking about buying new software, any advice?

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We have a large-ish sawmill, we buy trees or logs from forests and process them to make usable timber which is supplied to builders merchants etc.

Currently we use Sage 200 for the financials and a weighbridge software package for the goods in and out. We are looking to replace the whole lot with an integrated packge called BC4Timber which is powered by Microsoft 365 Dynamics.

Does anyone have any experience of this software or any clients using it? Maybe you have come accross some other software in the timber trade that would also be worth looking into? 

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By paul.benny
27th Apr 2021 13:10

Advice:
Define your needs and requirements.
In detail.

And think about how they might change in the medium term (eg if you don't have online sales now, do you think you might in the future)

Only then start shortlisting products - and when you do, compare their functionality with your needs and requirements.

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Replying to paul.benny:
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By Jimmythehat
27th Apr 2021 13:56

We are pretty unlikely to use on line sales, due to our customers largely be allergic to technology and would prefer a sales rep turning up at their yard.
As for a short list, at the moment it is the current situation or the one I have mentioned.
We will just need to keep track of which suppliers we've used and which location the logs have come from and if a new system can integrate that with the financials that'll be a bonus.
Stock management tends to have to be hands on physical counting. Each log may well be a different volume and you can't say there will be certain end products from all logs either due to curves of the log and the position of knots.

Really I'm after anyone's advice relating to Microsoft dynamics 365 experience. It'll cost us around £1,000 per month I think, so its quite an expense unless its actually any good.

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Replying to Jimmythehat:
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By paul.benny
27th Apr 2021 14:17

Jimmythehat wrote:

We are pretty unlikely to use on line sales ..

That was an example to illustrate the point rather than suggesting an actual requirement.

How have you arrived at your shortlist of one product to replace your existing software? Many businesses think their sector has unique needs but in reality they are often very similar to others.

It's not obvious to me why you need to track the source of each individual log but I'll take your word for it. All sorts of industries need that kind of traceability - food and pharma being the first that come to mind. Variable yields are also commonplace - some pharma, anything involving animal products.

But if you've made up your mind already...

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Replying to paul.benny:
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By Jimmythehat
27th Apr 2021 15:35

I haven't really come across any other software solutions that claim to do the job. That's why I'm wondering if there's anyone else in a similar industry or with a client in a similar industry that may have any ideas.
Logs are bought long before they are harvested, usually around 30,000 tons worth of timber whilst its still growing. It is harvested over the next few months and delivered in batches of say 25 tons on each lorry load. The 30,000 tons worth has a price per ton agreed upon, and can vary depending on the species, quality and diameter of the tree. so the location determines the price.
There is also a need to trace the log back to its source for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to ensure they come from a renewable and well managed source.

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By Moonbeam
27th Apr 2021 13:59

Over the years I've found specialist bookkeeping software for different industries is usually underwhelming on the accounts side.

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Replying to Moonbeam:
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By Jimmythehat
27th Apr 2021 14:14

Very true. In a previous role we had a bespoke software package that cost us £300,000 and then annul license and support fees of around £140,000 p.a. The stock, BOM, manufacturing scheduling was brilliant, but the financial side was terrible. I used to download data into excel and use complicated spreadsheets and pivot tables for the management accounts.
I don't want to end up in that situation again.

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By tom123
27th Apr 2021 16:05

Is there a reason why you are binning off Sage 200?

I use it, and quite like it personally - admittedly in low volume manufacturing.

We have around 1000 stock lines of raw material, but don't use the manufacturing modules.

I think the accounting on Sage 200 is quite strong - and I have used some horrible pigs of systems in the past.

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Replying to tom123:
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By Jimmythehat
27th Apr 2021 16:39

I've only been with this company about 5 months, the directors had already decided they wanted an all in one integrated package. The system works fine as it is at the moment. I only really look at the financial side at the moment but I think the purchasing director is keen to have his side of things a bit easier to use. Especially when he's on a remote Welsh hill side, deciding if he should spend a couple of million quid on just the bottom half of a load of trees.

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By Calculatorboy
27th Apr 2021 22:46

sounds really interesting , i remember in 1990 developing a relational database for this very same industry in ms dos to estimate timber volume , including what I thought was a decent financial reporting package,

Best of luck

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By tom123
28th Apr 2021 10:21

Whatever you do try to ensure you are not trying to duplicate or replicate entries in two systems or you will be buried forever.

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By paul.k2
02nd May 2021 09:52

I make my living by helping companies to specify, select and implement IT systems, primarily business software.

I often find there is a tension between the accounting and the operational requirements of the business.

Whilst the accounting function plays an essential role in protecting the assets of the owner, something that must never be overlooked or trivialised, the owners will always prioritise the operational.

In my experience, accountants often lead IT projects, and the accounting requirements often receive more attention than the operational needs of the business. This leads to widespread frustration.

Over the years we have seen an increase in specialist systems. Moonbeam is right in saying that often the accounting side of these systems is quite poor.

In the late 80s early 90s, a number of products such as Tetra Chameleon presented itself as a ledger system for specialist software providers / users.

I am not sure this ever really took off as an idea and the accounting side of specialist systems still tends to be a mixed bag.

But the bottom line is that the owner will always prioritise the operational side of the system, how orders are processed, stock is managed and the reports they get. If it takes the accountants a little longer to produce a balance sheet, that is the price they are prepared to pay.

But I am not sure it has to be that way.

With respect to your query about D365.

I am assuming this is built on what I call Navision (I have given up trying to keep track of Microsoft’s and Sage’s rebranding of products).

I have only worked briefly with Navision, and unfortunately have never been able to select it for a client, but as a financial system it has always impressed me.

In particular, I think it is an easy system for non-accounting budget holders to use.

A number of years ago an old client of ours (building supplies company) was complaining how little investment was being made by his supplier in the core ledgers, Sales. Purchase and Nominal, relative to e.g. Sales Order Processing.

He heard I had been looking at Navision and asked me for my opinion before he had a presentation of it. He called me back a few days later to tell me he agreed and he had ordered it for his new employer, a large abattoir and meat processor.

Since then then Navision has expanded its operational systems, e.g., SOP and POP, but it is also used by other companies as a platform to create specialist Line of Business products.

I would suggest you break your project down into two parts, your operational and your financial requirements.

Only if your are happy with it as an operational system, should you consider the financial side, but if its Navision, I would be surprised if it won’t meet your accounting needs.

I suspect your choice of specialist suppliers will be very small.

Paul

www.kellysolutions.co.uk

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Noel Fraser
By noelfraser
11th May 2021 14:28

Hi Jimmy

I don't have any knowledge of the solution you mentioned but I have heard that dynamics can be expensive and take a lot of implementation. I guess you'll need to have a good look at the offering to decide if it's right for you. If it isn't, our software is very configurable and can easily be integrated with other solutions so might be worth taking a look at as a viable alternative. Regards Noel

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