IT systems to help you do business

Spending less time on admin and more time on the things that matter to your business is the kind of offer that appeals to every business owner and manager. Thankfully there are IT systems out there designed to do exactly that. Torque compiles some of the efficiency-boosting options available...

Specifically designed for merchants, stockists, distributors and wholesalers, Merlin is a fully integrated software solution for all business processes. Features include stock management, sales order processing, financials, purchase order processing, contact management, a personalised dashboard – providing an at-a-glance view of the business’ performance in real time – and a customisable report module.

The Stock Management aspect of the system allows users to easily action, track and update stock movements between suppliers, depots, locations and customers. Real-time stock level information, electronic import of suppliers price books and product lists as well as a single stock file feeding your in-house sales functions and website are just some of the key features within the Stock Management module.

Sales Order Processing is another key aspect of Merlin’s system, allowing users to create sales orders and quotations quickly and easily via the web, trade counter and back office telesales. For more detailed information on the Merlin software solution, head to the official site.

Suffolk-based E R Supplies is a major provider of fixings, sealants and engineering supplies in the Cambridgeshire and Suffolk area. Managing Director, Alec Bishop, realised that if he was going to grow the business he needed a more sophisticated software system than the basic Sage product he was currently using.

The new software needed to free him from the grind of personally checking customer pricing continuity and allow him to create flexible customer terms that met customer expectations and yet retained the maximum margin. It was also essential that any new system incorporated the latest Windows technology and provided him with the sort of management information and controls that allowed him to delegate more responsibilities that would free him up to manage the expansion of his company.

ER Supplies started looking at software systems during 2015 and had virtually decided on an alternative system, indeed Alec had gone as far as buying the Windows server they recommended. It was on his visit to the Torque Exhibition at Silverstone that October that he came across the ECi Spruce Computer’s stand. In the short time he soon appreciated that ECi’s SpruceWare.NET software was a powerful competitor, indeed offering more features at a  more competitive price than any of the distribution systems he had looked at.

After arranging for Spruce Computer’s people to follow up with a visit to Suffolk where he and his key staff could look in depth at the system, the decision was made to go with the ECi SpruceWare.NET system. Fortunately Spruce could use the new Window server, only needing to add a Microsoft SQL database. The software was installed and both on-site and online training began in late November using ER Supplies’ own customer and product data. Over the Christmas break, the Sage accounts and product data was transferred to the SpruceWare.NET system and E R Supplies went live with their new software on 4 January.

ER Supplies have been operating the ECi SpruceWare.NET system for over six months and have found it very beneficial. Alex Bishop commented: “It was fortunate I visited the Silverstone Torque-Expo. I was expecting to see the major players in our industry but to discover the ECi Spruce Computers stand has turned out to be very opportune. We now have a modern sophisticated system to take us forward.”

ForgeFix is a long-standing customer of OGL Computer which has been using prof.ITplus since 2008 when it upgraded from the predecessor, Prof.IT. The upgrade came about following ForgeFix’s recognition that it needed a new business software system to accommodate and manage its business growth and improve efficiency. Furthermore, the company’s increase in its range and stock quantity, plus the need for rapid turnaround times, also demanded it. During the time that prof.ITplus has been in place, it has brought about significant improvements for the company.

Jason Whelan, ForgeFix National Sales Manager, explains: “Upgrading from Prof.IT to prof.ITplus has proven to be a highly beneficial commercial decision for Forge-Fix. In particular, the use of the warehouse management scanners combined with the stock management features in prof.ITplus has led to significant gains in efficiency as well as a marked reduction in costs.”

The warehouse management facility is one of the software’s most powerful features because, when deployed intelligently, it has the power to auto-manage stock levels so expensive stock is not being needlessly held whilst ensuring that popular lines are always at optimum stock levels, which is calculated by prof.ITplus using historical sales data. Another significant business benefit has been ForgeFix’s ability to expand its sales whilst maintaining the same staffing levels, a considerable achievement bearing in mind the economic conditions experienced since 2008.

“We use the mobile scanner to confirm the picking list in our warehouse, which had previously been a manual job,” says Whelan. “In fact, it was a two-man job but now it’s achieved by one person, which saves important resources and it has also reduced mistakes made by human error, thereby improving our customer service.”

The upgrade in 2008 also allowed ForgeFix to take its business online with an ecommerce website where customers could browse products, place orders and pay for them online. Fast forward to 2015 and ForgeFix is the proud new owner of a completely bespoke eShop website that features the latest in ecommerce technology together with full integration with prof.ITplus for online sales management.

ForgeFix’s new website ( was a prestigious project for OGL’s web developers because ForgeFix demanded the very highest standards for their new online platform which gave the team the chance to showcase the power of eShop and prof.ITplus. ForgeFix was clear that the end result was to be far more than a simple shop window for its 3,000 product lines. It had to offer customers a quicker and simpler way to purchase fixings and fastenings coupled with maximum levels of customer satisfaction.

Dario Brenni, WebServices Manager at OGL, recalls: “ForgeFix came to us with a clear brief about what they wanted to achieve with their new website which was an excellent starting point for the project. We took this and added in our own ideas and were able to present them with a site plan which had vast functionality for the customer.”

Recognising the growing trend towards mobile, the new ForgeFix website is also optimised for use across all browsing devices – including desktop computers, tablets and smartphones. This enables users to create and place orders on handheld devices as they walk through their premises or warehouses, checking stock levels as they go.

Mike Smith, Sales and Marketing Director at ForgeFix, says: “We worked closely with OGL to get the brief for the project exactly right. We had very strong ideas ourselves but it was down to the expertise of the web developers at OGL that these ideas could be made reality.

“The result is a site of which we’re immensely proud. We’re confident it will make a very real difference to the success of ForgeFix. We looked at and learnt from some of the world’s biggest names in online retailing. We combined this with our own first-hand experience of the specific needs and demands of those involved in selling or using fixings and fastenings to come up with a digital resource that we have every faith will propel us forward to the next level of business.

“Innovation has always been central to ForgeFix’s approach and this applies as much to our service and support as it does to the products we offer. The launch of our new website reflects that. It can inform and assist our customers at every stage – from product specification and ordering through to after-sales support.”

Abacus has been an established point-of-sale provider for over 30 years, and is amongst the best-known providers of EPOS systems. Abacus is especially well-known in the bicycle industry helping business owners to reduce stock holdings and maximise profit.

The firm explains: “Abacus EPOS software has been built from the ground up; we do not use third party platforms and therefore we are able to customise our software to our client’s needs. Abacus Online provides first class support to customers, hence why so many customers have stayed with us for over 30 years.

“Unlike other EPOS suppliers, our customers have our tech team’s direct mobile phone numbers and our customers are always able to get a hold of someone without waiting in a queue. Abacus is able to work with both single and multi-site retailers, and we are also able to handle up to 30 satellite stores with ease. We have integrated website, SMS marketing and sales data direct to your smartphone, integrated workshop/repair, hire/rental, stock control, EPOS, B2B purchase ordering directly to suppliers, full accounts package including sales, purchase and nominal ledgers.

“So if you are looking for a fully-featured EPOS system, Abacus Online is your solution. We have customers all over the United Kingdom so if you are interested in a demonstration or want further information about Abacus Online, get in touch with us.”

Benjamin Dyer is co-founder and CEO of Powered Now, the mobile trade admin app that has one aim, typified by the company’s motto: ‘Paperwork, simplified’.

Dyer believes that trade businesses have a lot to gain from using mobile technology. He says: “I’ll never forget an article someone sent me in 2008, the headline seemed so ridiculous I nearly dismissed it out of hand – ‘Mobile to overtake fixed Internet access by 2014’.

“At the time it was a bold prediction but in hindsight it was obvious. Let’s not forget this was in an age where a mobile phone was a thing you spoke to people on!

“In 2016 however we’re now way past the mobile Tipping Point. It’s no longer a case of asking whether mobile technology is important to the field trade industry, we know it is!

“As an industry we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of it. Without being too stereotypical we are typically mobile and (although I hate to say it) generally adverse to complicated computer systems that tie you to a desk. Mobile makes technology much more relevant.

“The app store on your phone is full of low cost products that can help you run your business. My company, Powered Now is one – we help companies with their paperwork, team organisation, projects and appointments. However, we are not alone, apps such as Evernote can store documents and specialist products like Expensify are designed to make it easy to submit expenses.

“IT and technology can give you a huge advantage, but mobile for our industry is a game changer.”

For more on Powered Now, head to