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Finance IT case study: Loch Lomond Group

15th Apr 2015
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Going to work as the financial controller for a whisky company would be a dream come true for many accountants, but when Laura Cummings took that role with the Loch Lomond Group last year, she didn’t have much time to celebrate. She tells John Stokdyk about her cloud software journey since then.

The Loch Lomond Group is an independent distiller and blender of some of the finest and rarest Scotch whiskies in the world. 

In March 2014, the group acquired the assets of the Loch Lomond distillery, the Glen Scotia distillery and the Glen Catrine bottling plant, and with them, a history that is believed to go back to at least 1772 with the founding of the Littlemill distillery.

In 1814, the original site of the Loch Lomond distillery was established near Tarbet towards the northwest end of Loch Lomond. In 1832, the Glen Scotia distillery was founded in Campbeltown. The area was known in the Victorian era as the “whisky capital of the world”, but Glen Scotia is one of only three distilleries that remain.

The group’s portfolio also includes the Loch Lomond Single Malt, which is distilled and matured close by the ‘bonnie banks’, and several high quality blends.

At the time Cummings joined in June 2014, the group’s three locations ran separate financial systems. Her first task was to put a new financial system in place for the start of the financial year in October. 

“The legacy systems were appropriate for meeting the previous owner’s reporting requirements, but there was not a lot of visibility over sales volumes or other key performance indicators,” she said.

Having used Twinfield at her previous company, Cummings was confident it could cope with Loch Lomond Group’s requirements.

“The biggest benefit is that we can combine all the accounting systems together and connect all our locations. We don’t have a large IT department, so having a cloud based system means we didn’t have to invest in IT infrastructure,” she says.

As well has her Twinfield expertise, Cummings says she and her colleagues have “a reasonable amount of Excel knowledge” that enabled them to build import tools to bring details from customer invoices into the new software.

A significant proportion of the price of a bottle of spirits goes to the government in the form of VAT and excise duty, so it was important for Loch Lomond group to be able to track the volumes, discounts and margins of the spirits it was selling to different customers.

In addition to a three tier coding structure (nominal, cost centre and project), Twinfield includes three free text fields that users can adapt to their own needs.  Cummings devised a system to capture the sales information and other key metrics using these free text fields.

“The business had this information before, but summarising it was a time-consuming exercise.”

With the general ledger accounts, cost centres and free text formats all set up in Twinfield and the invoice/journal import routine up and running, the Loch Lomond finance team has been able to capture the sales invoice and other key performance metrics at source since the system went live on 1 October.

“We can now report on key performance indicators every week. We didn’t have that capability before.”

Monthly management reporting has been completely redesigned since Twinfield went live in the autumn. “Since then I’ve spent time working with the team on how to build reports,” says Cummings.

Twinfield has an Excel plug-in that lets users download data cubes for all financial periods on the different accounts and summarise the totals in PivotTables.

“We use GETPIVOTDATA formulas that allows us to refresh management reports at the touch of button. I love it,” she says.

Investors in the company will sometimes ask the finance team to tweak the management accounts, which is relatively easy with the Excel-based reporting tool. “I’ve used other accounts preparation software and business intelligence (BI) reports - but you just don’t have the same sort of flexibility as Excel. It allows us to keep up as the business grows and requirements change,” she says.

Better quality data makes it possible to compile new performance measures, Cummings explains.

The new regime also makes it possible to track how much is lost to what the industry calls the “angel’s share” - evaporation from the storage barrels. 

“If you put 100 litres of alcohol in a barrel, the angel’s share means you don’t get 100 litres back out again,” Cummings explains. “It’s an incredibly important measure. If it goes up above a certain percentage, for example, it might indicate something is going wrong. Maybe someone has left the heating on too high.”

With just a few days’ training, the new system was “surprisingly easy” for the finance team to pick up, and has brought about a few other changes.

“They’re much better at the reporting side of thing - pulling reports off, designing them themselves and changing the information. That gives them a whole new level of empowerment and they aren’t just inputting data all of the time. They’ve grown and bonded together as a team which was more difficult before because they were at different sites using different systems.”

“Now if some of the team are on holiday, other members of the team can cover their work for them, regardless of what location they are based at, before they simply wouldn’t have been able to help each other in this way. There’s definitely a team spirit now. We’re on the phone to each other constantly and get together regularly. That makes a big difference.”

Replies (2)

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By Big_Al
16th Apr 2015 13:35


Sounds reminiscent of watching a lady driver at a roundabout.  

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By AndrewV12
17th Apr 2015 09:08

Reporting- make your mind up

When it suits financial folk they advise 'real time up to date information for accurate decision making. '


On the Other hand when things go wrong (Banking crisis) 'We only report on historic data its impossible for it to give a true and fair position of the Company'.

Its what I always say do you need financial reports to tell you how your business is doing surely your Bank balance (or overdraft/loans) is a better indicator. You can get financial software to report what ever you want.

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