Butler And Tanner
Company: FourFrontCustomer: Butler And TannerSubmitted by: MCC InternationalDate: August 2000New York, Paris, Munich, Frome – everyone’s talking about Butler ; Tanner. Based in Frome, Somerset, Butler ; Tanner Limited has been manufacturing high quality books for over one hundred and fifty years. If you have ever you have picked up one of those glossy hard backs which accompany the BBC series showing Jamie Oliver’s perfect soufflé or Alan Titchmarsh’s latest gardening book of the series in glorious technicolour, then you have seen some of Butler ; Tanner’s work.In the past ten years, the company has progressed from the top tier of British printers, to a major world player. Butler & Tanner now produces some 30 million books each year from its Frome printing facility, and is a good representation of the printing and publishing industry’s demand for high-volume production.
As many as 30% of its books are shipped overseas, and regional sales offices now include the high-profile locations listed above.As with many companies that experience exponential growth, Butler ; Tanner’s IT infrastructure had been developed on an ad hoc basis. The accounting system had been built up from AXIS Plus and three other separate systems, which Butler and Tanner had developed in-house to accommodate its own specific requirements. This system had served its purpose well, but as the company grew to meet the demands for high-volume printing, so did the complexity of its workload.Butler & Tanner needed an effective and integrated accounting system, but at the same time this system had to incorporate some of the more useful elements of the in-house developed systems.
More importantly, Butler and Tanner needed a system that matched industry’s way of doing things as well as Butler ; Tanner’s own methods. The last thing needed was an inflexible, packaged product that would dictate how they had to work – no matter what the cost benefits were supposed to be.”In a company like ours much or our competitive advantage comes from the small idiosyncrasies in our business and production processes which really add to the quality and value of our products,” explains David Mills, finance manager at Butler & Tanner. “The mainstream accountancy software providers were only prepared to offer us their off-the-shelf package which simply couldn’t accommodate what we or this industry require. They were simply not interested in the individual needs of their customers.
Even on a purely financial level, implementing this kind of a package was likely to involve massive hidden costs associated with upheaval and restructuring. It would inevitably have led to teething problems in implementing an entirely new system, not to mention the costs of retraining all the staff who would be working with this new system.”One of the features that Butler & Tanner specifically required was the ability to track the profitability of each book through the production process. “Ours is a fast-paced, fast-moving industry,” continues Mills. “We need to track hundreds of titles per week, as well as assess the performance of the machines from a cost analysis point of view.
And we need to have an accounts ledger for this over a 52-week period, rather than over a 12-week period. Off-the-shelf packages simply couldn’t or wouldn’t offer this.”The ability to track the profitability of each book as well as the performance of each machine allows Butler & Tanner to measure and compare them against standard times to provide a much more reliable and meaningful cost-per-job analysis. This is key to being able to deliver accurate quotes to customers and thereby maximise profit opportunity for Butler & Tanner.The company decided to look at specialist and bespoke accountancy software providers. The choice was limited, and having considered Interactive and FourFront as potential suppliers, the company’s selection process opted for FourFront’s Copyright system.
Copyright is FourFront’s flagship accountancy software suite. Launched in 1992, the product is built around a database engine using tables and a powerful calculation system. Unlike traditional software packages, which would require re-coding, FourFront’s table-based structure allows for changes to be incorporated quickly and reliably.Mills explains Butler and Tanner’s choice. “FourFront’s experience in providing bespoke solutions was apparent from the start. They also demonstrated a breadth of understanding of the dynamics of the printing and publishing industry – yet they listened to what we needed rather than try to tell us.
I really felt that Butler & Tanner was able to provide significant input to what became the final implementation of the solution. And we got the best of both worlds, as they used the tried and tested core of the Copyright system to provide a solid, reliable base on top of which they built streamlined and tailored front-end functionality.”He continues, “In fact, the screen editor – built into Copyright – enables users to tailor an interface to their own individual ways of working, rearranging or even removing input fields to rationalise their input screens and reduce on screen clutter. Anyone who works in printing and publishing costing will readily appreciate that”For Butler & Tanner, the benefits of a smaller software provider extended far beyond the development of a bespoke solution. Mills explains, “FourFront was able to integrate Copyright with the elements of our existing software that were worth saving.
Their installation team also meant that the change-over period went without a hitch.” Following on from this Mills has also been impressed with the standards of service and support provided by FourFront, “When we phone up Chris Sharp [MD of FourFront] and his team, we know we will get the response we need and not just an anonymous voice asking us to hold.””We now have the printers costing system that this company needs, and everyday we make informed strategic decisions based on the cost data now available to us – we are well impressed,” concludes Mills. Butler & Tanner’s sister company Selwood Printing, has also recognised the expertise that FourFront is bringing to this sector. “Selwood is going down the Web-based online ordering route, so I imagine their requirements are even more complicated than ours.
They are the next to challenge FourFront’s flexible approach to printers’ accounting and costing needs.”