Executives at Additive-X, which serviced 2-D printers for more than 30 years in the UK, predicted the decline of its main business and began offering 3-D printers and services, a move accelerated by the Pandemic. As part of its transformation, it selected Arcus Universe to replace its legacy hardware and financial software with Acumatica Distribution Edition. With Acumatica’s flexible, open business management solution, Additive-X streamlined workflows, improved data access, and reduced costs. Arcus also upgraded Additive-X’s eCommerce platform, Magento, and forged a seamless connection to Acumatica.
“If you want a modern forward-thinking ERP that’s easy to implement, flexible, and a joy to use, put Acumatica on your evaluation shortlist.”
– Jo Young, Managing Director, Additive-X
For 30 years, Additive-X (previously Express Group Ltd.) repaired printers and provided replacement parts for HP, OKI, Brother, Lexmark, and others. In the past five years, the Ripon-based, UK company repaired more than 400 models in its printer repair centre and distribution warehouse.
With more than 4,800 different printer parts in inventory, the company provides printer part support in over 70 countries across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, which allows them to reduce lead times and delivery costs. Additive-X also holds inventory and provides logistical support for several manufacturers.
When companies around the globe embraced email and sharing documents online, the demand for printers and replacement parts declined. Additive-X executives anticipated the decline and pivoted their business to focus on 3-D printers and additive manufacturing services. The pandemic accelerated Additive-X’s transition.
“Everyone began working from home and office printing died a lot; people were not using printers,” says Jo Young, Managing Director. “Many had gone paperless where never before, and this accelerated during Covid.”
Legacy Software on Legacy Hardware
Additive-X used a legacy UNIX system called One Office for its finance, sales order processing, purchase orders, inventory, returns, and repairs. To make its internal processes work, they used a separate CRM and many spreadsheets, Young said. “Our main problem was we were running legacy software on old hardware.”
When Additive-X’s lone IT hardware technician left, the company outsourced IT support, but the firm couldn’t help with the aging server and legacy infrastructure. “When the server went down it was unbelievingly scary,” Young says. “It took more than a day to get it back up. I felt like we had a ticking time bomb. I knew the risks of moving to a new ERP but felt we had an even bigger risk if the whole thing went down, and we could be utterly stuck.”
Manually entering data into the legacy software was a big headache, she says. New printer products and price updates had to be entered manually one at a time. The legacy software was not integrated with any web store, and it had a web portal that was “horrible to work with.”
No Online Store Integration
When they needed parts to repair printers, employees had to manually enter orders. The finance team wasn’t happy; mainly because getting data out of the legacy software and into Excel wasn’t easy. Much of their time was wasted manually creating spreadsheets or hand typing online orders into the legacy financial system.
“We had massive operational challenges and needed to transform faster to focus more on the 3D side of the business,” Young says. “We started shopping for a new ERP, then Covid hit.”
Young focused on a few ERP options researching key features and reading user reviews. She met with her IT company and shared her top requirements. The new ERP had to handle multiple companies and multiple currencies, and those that didn’t were immediately excluded.
“I wanted a modern business application that was cloud-based because I was running a server here and VPN tunnels to offices in Belgium and France, and we had lots of problems with connectivity,” Young says.
“I knew SAP was a great tool but ridiculously expensive,” she adds. “I looked at Sage because our finance employee mentioned it received best-in-class marks for accounting, but I was sceptical as to whether it would fit the rest of the business.”
“Arcus’ Colin MacMillan explained that we could add more Acumatica modules in the future, and that we could buy what we needed initially to get from A to B, and start small. I felt like we were in good hands with Arcus.”
– Jo Young, Managing Director, Additive-X
Flexible and Future-Proof
Acumatica made the list and was recommended by her IT company. The business management platform also received high marks from existing customers, Young says. Getting data in and out of the cloud ERP application was easy. Further, the business management solution and native Distribution suite were future-proof and easy to use. Lastly, she had several local partners to choose from, selecting Acumatica Gold-Certified, UK-based partner Arcus Universe.
Having a strong IT partner in Arcus was a big plus, Young adds, saying she had lost confidence in her previous partner.
London-based Arcus specialises in helping wholesale and distribution firms especially B2C eCommerce companies. With more than 15 years in the ERP space, Arcus knew the importance of representing just one superior product in Acumatica. “We like the flexibility of the system. It’s a powerful ERP platform offering lots of advantages to our clients,” says Arcus’ Managing Director Colin MacMillan.
MacMillan travelled from London to Ripon to learn about Additive-X’ business, which helped Young make her decision to hire the firm. “Colin didn’t show off all these clever things Acumatica could do, but focused on our needs and showed us how Acumatica could fulfil them,” she says. “Colin explained that we could add more modules in the future, but that we could buy what we needed initially to get from A to B, and start small,” she says. “I felt like we were in good hands with Arcus.”
Arcus also provided an integration tool specific to business in the UK that allowed Additive-X to seamlessly connect to its shipping partners and eCommerce platform Magento.
“One of the bigger items that cemented our choice on Acumatica was integration with Ship Theory, providing our team with multiple carrier options,” Young says. “In addition, we felt like the robust inventory management and advanced supply chain functionality were very strong.”
“Arcus managed the project really well, “she adds. “They had great tools, used Basecamp, and a set-up tool and structure that really made sense.”
Single, Centralised Platform
Acumatica centralised Additive-X’s transactions and workflows into a single business management solution eliminating the company’s reliance on spreadsheets. Acumatica Distribution Edition significantly improved daily operations with integrated workflows providing executives with a powerful reporting tool, improved data access, and new ways to reduce costs.
Acumatica’s open API strategy facilitates third-party application connectivity, making it easy for Arcus Universe to link Ship Theory with the core business system. “The quickest win was the Ship Theory integration,” says Young. “From day one, we started printing labels so no one had to key in addresses. That saved time right away. Then we were able to automatically handle customs invoices when Brexit requirements were implemented.”
Acumatica’s intuitive user interface allowed employees to be more efficient with less training, Young says. “They find customer information, invoices, payment history, and other data instantly without hunting through several programs and spending a lot of time searching. Now they can easily drill down to find more information when needed,” she says. Acumatica’s dashboards are easily configurable to individual roles with KPI preferences and real-time, actionable information.
Automated Workflows Save Time
Acumatica offers automated workflows for bank statement reconciliation, native document storage for customer warranty attachments, and seamless printing for labels and customs paperwork. Young estimates these features will off-set the equivalent of four team members, including one in the company’s warehouse operations.
Digital document storage and outsourced backups by Arcus Universe eliminated manual filing and physical storage costs and time for as many as 18 bankers’ boxes of documents annually. “We’re virtually paperless.”
The ability to add notes to invoices and other paperwork “was massive, Young says. “I can’t tell you how excited my staff is about the notes they can put in the system everywhere. They can put notes on products, customers, and transactions and everyone can see them. We no longer have to figure out why something hasn’t shipped because we can put a note on it, and everyone knows what’s happening.”
Overall, she estimates the finance team has seen a 10 to 15 percent increase in productivity due to Acumatica’s automation. Additive-X also shaved some 25 percent of the time it previously took to prepare for an audit because the information is housed in one single solution, and they no longer spend time importing and exporting information.
Going through an audit is also easier because “The auditors have access to the system and can do the research they need on their own rather than handing us a long list of the data they need,” she adds. “They can simply access Acumatica and drill down right within the system to see the document or file they need.”
Improved Inventory Management
Acumatica Distribution Edition improved Additive-X’s inventory management giving the company instant transparency. When an outsider approached the business about renting warehouse space, for example, Young was able to instantly pull an aged stock report of parts aged 40 months or more, find the stock location, talked to the warehouse manager, and authorised him to clear it to make room for the potential tenant – all within a few minutes. “I then created the inventory issue, did an adjustment of 3,300 parts, cleared it, scrapped it, released it, and it was done,” she says.
Previously that task would have taken several days and a lot of manual work.
“Acumatica is also very good for maintaining replenishment levels. New reorder levels are uploaded automatically, and we are reviewing them more frequently than ever before,” Young says. “There’s much less devaluation of stock because we’re adjusting buying profiles in real-time, so we don’t get stuck with items leftover, eliminating waste.”
When a supplier sent notice that they were closing a warehouse for the holidays, Additive-X quickly “examined inventory levels, pulled account history, estimated needs, created a purchase order, and within an hour had the right stock on order in time to meet crucial deadlines,” Young says. The business agility that Acumatica provides also helped them optimize inventory levels even during global supply chain challenges.
Improved Customer Service
Acumatica Cloud ERP helped Additive-X improve customer service with fewer stock-outs and significantly improved order fill rates, which helped elevate the company’s brand name and customer loyalty.
“I can now say yes to things that customers ask for related to their unique business,” Young says. “I can quickly find the information they want right from within Acumatica or reach out to our excellent partner resource in Arcus Universe to fulfill the requests if it’s something I can’t find on my own.”
“I used to cringe when the old system went down,” she adds. “It felt so unprofessional. Now we are projecting a much better image to our clients. We’ve linked to our Magento web store which automatically feeds orders to Acumatica, streamlining the customer’s order process and order fulfillment.”
Employees spend more time catering to customer needs thanks to workflow automation and self-service options in Acumatica. The customer refreshes reports themselves rather than waiting for a scheduled report, which they had to do previously. “We are quick to answer questions because we get timely and accurate information faster than ever before,” Young says.
Improved data accuracy and speed provide Additive-X with a competitive edge with customers and suppliers.
Boosted Staff Engagement
Acumatica’s easy-to-use and intuitive user interface coupled with improved data transparency has increased staff engagement. Employees now understand how their jobs fit and interconnect with the entire process, from selling a 3-D printer to manufacturing and fulfilling the order through to customer service after-sale support. “We’re now able to have people work in multiple areas, sometimes in the warehouse, others in finance because Acumatica is so familiar to all our staff,” Young explained.
In the past, everyone was siloed and kept in the dark about what other departments did. “People have grown in their roles since we’ve moved forward with Acumatica,” she says. “Acumatica is future-proof, and the system is reliable, so people have confidence in it, which is important.”
Easily Expand into the Future
Additive-X plans to add Acumatica’s CRM, Field Service, and other modules and create advanced workflows in the future. “We can grow with the solution by continually implementing existing features and utilising new system enhancements,” Young says. “I’ll be surprised if there ever comes a time in 5 to 10 years where I will say, ‘Oh gosh, Acumatica can’t do that.’”
If that day does arrive, Young is confident that she can ask Arcus to provide customisation if needed. ”They are happy to teach us how to do things, and, equally, if we were too busy, they are happy to do it for us, and didn’t charge ridiculously high amounts either,” she says.
Additive-X was an ideal Acumatica and Arcus customer, MacMillan says.
“We position Acumatica as a two-sided solution,” he says. “First, it can solve a set of problems a company is currently challenged with, but also they are buying a system that they are going to have for 10 years that’s flexible and integrates well with other systems. So Acumatica is aligned with your 10-year plan.”
Acumatica’s flexibility allowed Additive-X to seamlessly connect to the latest version of Magento helping the company in its transition from a traditional distribution business, MacMillan says.
Additive-X has “just scratched the surface with Acumatica,” Young says. “I know if we want to expand with more warehouses, I can easily do it; if we want to expand to new countries, I can do it easily with Acumatica and Arcus.”