Southern Implants | Medical Devices

The SituationSouthern Implants, Blue Link client

Established in 2002, Southern Implants develops, manufactures and markets dental implants, and related components. It is a recognized leader of innovative and proprietary implants. Innovative solutions and superior service are key success factors in the business.

Dental implants are sold direct to implant surgeons and restorative dentists in the USA and Canada. The company sells through distributors in Chile, Columbia, Guatemala, Mexico, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Middle East.

Southern Implants has expanded its operations, evolving from a small, two-person office in Fairfax, Virginia to a global, investor-backed business. Headquarters is now in a new facility in Irvine, Southern California USA, supporting a manufacturing operation and more than 10 sales agents in the USA and Canada; the company operates multiple remote locations.

The Challenge

The company expansion was undertaken in a relatively short time period, simultaneously opening its new facility in Irvine, supporting a manufacturing operation and more than 10 sales agents, arranging support for the multiple remote locations, while also maintaining the existing Fairfax site. Management would require 24/7 access to system data from multiple locations and while traveling.

Originally, the Fairfax VA office took care of all activities: stock control (receipt, storage and shipping); telephone orders received and entered in the books; and all accounting. One person controlled invoicing and accounting entries while another individual took the telephone orders, pulled product from the shelves, and shipped orders. There were 3 sales reps on the road.

The company expansion meant that the accounting system would need to handle multi users, track lot numbers, and deal with multiple stock locations (consignments). Additional challenges included geographically dispersed users; the need for multiple languages for products and terms; manufacturing; and control of user access rights.

In addition, the proposed employment of Canadian sales reps meant the system would have to deal with multiple currencies; international sales would be handled in $US. And in an extremely competitive market, the sales reps would need to access real-time knowledge (customer accounts, product information, and trends) through a multi-server system allowing multiple and simultaneous user log in.

Purchases and all operating expenses were incurred in $US, although expenses would be incurred in $CAN when a Canadian office was opened.

Pricing would be from a standard price list with customers receiving discounts that might not apply to all products but to groups of products; the separate Canadian price list would be in $CAN, and dealers and other large customers would have unique pricing. In addition, customers and products would have different taxes, varying by jurisdiction.

Product tracking, using lot control, would need to track sales by lots in the event of a recall of product; with dental products, every batch produced must carry its individual batch number. Inventory control had to cover various situations: individual tools with separate part numbers would be sold separately, and bundled in defined kits and shipped as such; major customers would carry large inventory consignments; and the sales representatives’ saleable car stock would also be included as part of the company’s overall inventory.

The existing accounting system was QuickBooks, which was quite inadequate for the expanding company’s needs, while the need for financial statement reports (income statement, balance sheet) threatened to overwhelm the built-in financial report generator. Exporting data to Excel and manually manipulating some financial statements from there was extremely time-consuming.

As a multi-location company, Southern Implants needed to develop a user-friendly system enabling it to rely on the accuracy, detail, and speedy delivery of business information.

The Next Step

Mike Nealon, Southern Implants CFO, set a target of six to twelve months to find the right system and get it implemented and working seamlessly. He made a list, and started searching.

His list of needs included the following:

  • Quick learning curve
  • Highly intuitive
  • Good GUI – graphical (rather than just textual) user interface
  • Efficient data conversion process for rolling existing data into a new system
  • Fully integrated; minimal need for 3rd party add-ins
  • Few workarounds
  • Proven program, low likelihood of problems
  • Minimal need for custom work
  • Good data transfer in and out
  • Good user and group access control features
  • Good multiple pricing options for sales

More specifics system requirements included:

  • Multi Currency (as Canadian business could be substantial);
  • Multi Warehouse to accommodate the consignments, car stock with representatives, and additional company locations;
  • Departmental tracking of revenue, costs of sale, and expenses for each sales territory;
  • Ability to select either open item or balance forward methods for individual customers;
  • The ability to deal with instances of temporary negative stock; and
  • Good back-order tracking on both the purchasing and selling.

In addition, it was necessary to generate a good selection of both financial and operations reports, plus the ability to modify reports with relative ease, handle budget data (preferably multiple versions and multiple years), and keep legacy data open for access by report writing programs.

Nealon started looking at various accounting systems, concentrating mostly on the larger names. But his search was disappointing: “I did find a lot of systems,” he says, but adds “they were systems that cost a lot of money, and they were all missing at least one or two vital things on my list.”

Nealon felt very confused with the similarity between all the mid-market systems, and by their inability to match up to all of his requirements.

The Solution

Then a business writer recommended him to Blue Link.

“Michael Burns said I’d be making a big mistake if I didn’t consider Blue Link,” says Nealon.

He’d never heard of the company, but was soon convinced this was the solution to his problem – “I was amazed at the capability, it covered all the bases, with nothing wanting.” And the price was right too. As Nealon says, “We knew we had to pay whatever we had to pay, but we didn’t want to overpay!”
In fact, Nealon found that the Blue Link cost was reasonable, making it both cost effective and cost efficient.

Implementation

The system now had to be implemented – both remotely and simultaneously.

“We had a two-person office in Fairfax, VA, and we needed to set up in Irvine, CA; we didn’t have a hub; we needed to train people; and Blue Link’s office is in Toronto – quite a challenge,” says Nealon.

However, he adds, “Blue Link Elite was immediately useful, right out of the box. Darren is just a master, he knows what he’s doing, understood what we needed, and how the data is stored, and put it all together.”

Reports (including automated ones) were created around sales, margins, products, and inventory (historical data was extracted from QuickBooks and loaded into the Blue Link system) using SQL Reporting Services, a powerful utility built in the SQL-Server.

It can be complex to use, but Nealon found that with Blue Link’s expert advice, “I had nothing to worry about in the end. I had no worries or concerns or problems, other than giving Blue Link the data and answering a number of questions about how it would work. It was all very smooth.”

Results

The decision to use Blue Link was taken in November 2007, going ‘live’ in February 2008. However, as it was implemented before users were hired, Nealon found he wanted to delay things a little, while more people were hired: “As it was, training on the system had to go on at multiple locations, and at multiple times, with Blue Link assisting in the training process. An added functionality is the ‘webinars’ that Darren recorded for future users to watch.”

Benefits

For Southern Implants, installing and integrating Blue Link Elite PLUS Microsoft’s SQL Reporting Services PLUS Global Software’s Spreadsheet Server is allowing the company to get the information to the people who need it, whenever they need it – which will help the company to expand and deal with the challenges of a global business. Report generation using these tools takes a fraction of the time and effort previously required.

Other benefits that Nealon highlighted were:

Multi-tasking: it allows better customer service, as CSR’s can navigate to multiple areas, and can look up customer balances and activity while in order entry or to go to other customers accounts while dealing with one customer.

Accurate data tracking: it allows for efficient transaction processing, with the multilingual, multi currency abilities matching company growth.

Efficient inventory control: this is managed through real-time Queries/Lookups of customer activity by product, noting pricing, inventory on hand at each location.

Good functionality for backorders: including multiple back orders from the initial sales order, with the ability to generate analysis of continuity of inventory quantities by transaction over a stated period of time.

Time savings: As Nealon comments, “I don’t spend any time at all now on the basic reporting – and I have time to design and distribute unique reports to my specifications.”
Previously, for financial statement reports (income statement, balance sheet) Nealon used the built-in Financial Report Generator, transposing/ exporting data to Excel and manually manipulating some financial statements from there. He now uses Spreadsheet Server.

Efficient report distribution: with automated daily reports detailing product information updates, analysis, total sales, and projected needs, sent out to every sales representative at 7pm. Weekly accounts receivable aging reports are automatically sent weekly to all customer service representatives and all territory sales agents.

Nealon adds, “Marketing information such as new customers and new products is also generated and distributed in this manner, and it is turning out to be very useful.”

The system is customizable and accessible by the sales force remotely.

Conclusion

Nealon says the Blue Link system saves time, money, and is accurate.

“It used to be,” he says, “that I had to stop what I was doing just to do some basic reports. My boss would call me up and ask me for something, and it would take a long time – now, it’s all automated, it’s wonderful.”

With the Blue Link Elite system in place, business intelligence can be gathered, consolidated and used efficiently across the entire company – no matter how far expansion plans takes it.

Nealon concludes, with obvious satisfaction, “Everyone now has the information they need to do their job”.