The Westons Cider Story

Deep in the heart of the Herefordshire countryside, Westons Cider Mill is secreted away in the old village of Much Marcle. The Westons story started in 1878 when Mr Henry Weston started farming at ‘The Bounds’, a farmhouse nestled amongst apple and perry pear orchards. He started making cider and perry from fruit collected in his orchards and used his own shire horses to turn the mills. He made sure there was always cider for the family and farm workers, who at the start of everyday brought their wooden ‘costrels’ to the cider house to be filled with the day’s allowance. The cider and perry was so good that people encouraged him to start selling it and thus, Weston’s Cider was born!

Weston’s is now one of the best known cider and perry makers in the UK (they still have shire horses at the Mill but they live a life of leisure nowadays!) They export to more than 40 countries worldwide, employ more than 200 people, produce over 30 different ciders and perries, sell approximately 46 million pints a year and have a turnover of over £58 million. Not bad for something that started out as home-brew!

Weston’s Business Requirement

When Westons Cider were told that the software they used for their accounting needs would no longer be supported it offered the perfect opportunity to undertake a full review. Knowing they had some very specific needs as a producer and exporter of beverages, the search for a flexible platform began. They wanted more than an accounting solution, the need extended to a solution that could connect the many moving parts within the organisation and could be used internationally, supporting their export business in Australia (from Much Marcle to Australia – who’d have thought it!)

"...[they] had extensive expertise and knowledge of not only Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central but also the Drink-It® modules"

The Solution

The end result? Westons Cider selected Microsoft Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central as their ERP platform because it integrated seamlessly with Drink-IT, an integrated solution that delivers specific beverage industry functionality. They deployed Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central successfully in 2010 and engaged the services of The NAV / 365 People to further enhance the platform to and deliver on-going support.

Paddy Smith is the Company Accountant at Westons Cider.  He says; ‘We were looking for a new technology partner that had a focus in the brewery sector and understood the unique business challenges.  The NAV / 365 People offered the support levels we wanted and had extensive expertise and knowledge of not only Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central but also the Drink-IT modules. This was key and became the deciding factor in choosing to work with them.’

Building on a solid foundation

Westons Cider were using a number of Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central modules across their organisation within the following departments and functions:
• Finance including credit control, purchasing and payroll
• Sales and Marketing
• Human Resources
• Warehouse
• Supply Management and Logistics
• Manufacturing

However, always looking to develop and expand, Westons were keen to further extend the solution and maximise on the possibilities that could be achieved through broader integration with Drink-IT.

Paddy explains: ‘We had been using the solution for three years and it had already made a difference to business efficiency but we felt we could be doing more with it … In step The NAV / 365 People; the team’s knowledge of the solution is phenomenal and they were very proactive in taking the time to understand our business and always keen to come to our offices. The fact that we are a brewery is purely coincidental I’m told by our Account Manager!’

"the team’s knowledge of the solution is phenomenal"

Drink-IT Integration

Drink-IT is based on Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central and extends the core solution to deliver sector specific functionality and process management for the beverage market. This includes several individual modules supporting quality and recipe management, management of returnable packaging, sales agreements and marketing, distribution and tax management.

The Drink-IT solution was built in conjunction with the beverage industry, covering all areas involved in the supply chain of a brewery including detailed product costing and profitability analysis, optimised scheduling and forecasting. 

Paddy comments: ‘The NAV / 365 People have helped us to tailor the workflows in the Production and Quality Control modules so they meet our exact requirements. All the cider and perries produced by Westons Cider are made using the workflow processes within the Production module. We then ensure the drinks have been correctly produced by testing using the workflow processes within the Quality Control modules.’

Jet Reports

From their humble beginnings Westons products are now exported all around the World and sold through supermarkets, off licences, hotels, restaurants, pubs and clubs. This diverse range of distribution channels means that it has always been important that detailed reports could be produced providing visibility across all aspects of their business. The reporting function within Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central was good for producing quick, simplistic reports but was less agile when it came to creating the more detailed reports. The magic solution was not far away for Westons; The NAV / 365 People introduced Paddy and his team to Jet Reports, an integrated reporting solution for Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central based on Excel. Jet Reports enabled the business to automate the process of producing the regular detailed reports, while at the same time greatly simplifying the process of producing the ad-hoc reports. Hallelujah!

Paddy explains: ‘The manual process of producing reports would feel like one long hangover (something we’re sure has featured somewhere in the Westons history!); Jet Reports has changed this. The time saved through using this one function alone is almost immeasurable. The finance team produce approximately 100 reports each week and we have automated virtually the entire process, with the reports being sent automatically at various times during the week. We have also set up templates for ad-hoc reporting, it is so straightforward that anyone can produce a report.’

"the manual process of producing reports would feel like one long hangover"

Future Projects

Westons Cider love Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central and as such use it extensively throughout their business. They want to ensure that any software used in other departments can be integrated with NAV / Business Central where possible. Key projects identified for the future include the integration of Exceedra, a business-planning tool specific to the consumer industry.

Also in the pipeline is the deployment of the Dynamics NAV CRM module across the sales and marketing teams so that they can use it for their campaign and opportunity management.

Paddy comments: ‘By carrying out the planned projects, we will have a single source of information across the entire business. All business activity will be mainly conducted on or through, Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central, enabling us to produce reports with one version of the truth. For strategic planning purposes this level of clarity is invaluable.’

Business Benefits

• Operational efficiency: Westons Cider has almost doubled turnover in the last five years, while managing the increased workload with the same headcount. This has been achieved with Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central driving efficiencies within the finance department and automating previously manual tasks.

• Production Management: Increased insight has enabled Westons Cider to reduce stock shortages and surpluses as a result of production planning and forecasting

• Business Clarity: Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central is used across the entire organisation, including its Australian export business. This insight provides Westons Cider with a detailed understanding of business operations across all regions and enables improved decision making.

Paddy concludes: ‘The NAV / 365 People have helped us to augment the solution to our needs because they understand the way the brewery sector works. They are a really great team and although we were already using Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central when we partnered with The NAV / 365 People, the team has helped us to take the solution to another level. Today, over a third of the Westons Cider workforce use Dynamics NAV / 365 Business Central at any given time.  Within the finance department we have maintained the same headcount for the last few years despite almost doubling turnover across the company, I think that says it all about the efficiencies we have been able to achieve.’

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