Who are Starplan?

Starplan are a family run business, operating in the bespoke furniture manufacturing industry. Having been a core part of the industry for over 45 years, they have experienced conservative growth in both Northern Ireland and England. With Head Quarters and five showrooms in Northern Ireland, and two subsidiary serving locations in England that feed into four more stores, Starplan is expanding.

Starplan provide everything you need in your bedroom and kitchen, all manufactured locally, using trusted material suppliers. This, combined with a personalised service from start to finish, has allowed Star Plan to grow considerably since it’s conception.

With a desire to keep up this growth and expansion, Starplan has recognised the need for a digital transformation strategy that can support their mission. Partnering with Acumatica and Cedar Bay, Starplan have started their journey. We caught up with Alan McKnight, Operations and Customer Manager at Starplan, to tell us more about the business and their experience so far.

Before making the decision to implement Acumatica, what technology were you using to support your business operations?

We had been using a legacy solution, that was around 10 to 15 years old. When we initially took it on board, it was designed for factory control and to help with translating CAD formatting into a factory machine input. Whilst it does this very well, over the years there have been lots of tweaks and additions, which has really slowed the solution down. Likewise, extracting information from it leaves us with numerous Excel documents. I spend lots of my time exporting and manipulating information, before being able to target any areas of concern. Relying on Excel so much also opens up opportunities for mistakes and this is a key area of concern.

I have worked with ERP systems for many years, so upon joining Starplan I could see there was a gap and a serious lack of business intelligence from our solutions. For example, the legacy solution couldn’t provide information surrounding the profitability of locations, something that could really help support us in our decision making. I came from a background where I’ve been able to input a piece of information once and then use this one entry for multiple functions. Aside from that, the support of our legacy solution was coming to an end, we had a real need to look elsewhere for a solution that could be supported long-term.

Once you recognised the need for a new solution, what was your journey like to finding Acumatica?

Our journey to Acumatica was not initially straight forward. I started in the company in August 2020, in November 2020 we began our change process. From November 2020 to the end of August 2022, I had conversations with every ERP software provider I knew of in the market. At this stage we hadn’t yet heard of Acumatica. However, when someone brought Acumatica to our attention, we knew that they could be a great contender.

All through this journey Acumatica have been clear and honest, they wanted to make sure we had the right partner who could work with us to achieve what we needed to. Cedar Bay shared their specialism in manufacturing and their experience in the industry. The open and honest approach from Cedar Bay really helped us favour them as a partner, as well as helping further showcase the opportunities the Acumatica platform could bring.

What benefits from the Acumatica ERP solution are you most looking forward to seeing once the solution is implemented?

For me, one of the biggest things I’m looking forward to, is gaining control over our stock. Currently we have a large level of inventory, but without knowing what we actually need for orders, we don’t have the ability to free up this capital. The MRP function in Acumatica will allow us to gain this level of insight. We’ll finally have the visibility into what we need on hand, the benefits of this will be second to none, as we usually work on a ten-week lead time. Also, over the last few years, it’s been demonstrated that supply chains are very fragile. We had various instances where we were going to multiple suppliers for products and cutting it very fine, for things that we knew that we needed. Had we been able to accurately programme what we needed to manufacture we would not have had as many issues.

It’s also the aspect of business intelligence; I am used to having dashboards highlighting key things, like profitability per serving location, or profit margins based on individual orders. We can’t successfully do these comparisons with the legacy solution. With Acumatica, we’ll be able to take into consideration all kinds of information like sales discounts and overheads, giving us an insight into what areas need attention across the business. So, there’s lots of intelligence aspects to an ERP system that are going to be vital to Starplan’s growth.

How have your teams reacted to the business change of implementing Acumatica Cloud ERP?

It’s all been about being open with the teams. I’ve been explaining how the implementation process will go, including hurdles we might face. Initially people were cautious to the change. However, once I’ve explained the benefits to them it’s been far easier. For example, our fitting team will be able to order any spare parts whilst still in the buyer’s home, enhancing their job and making their lives easier. It’s this kind of example that has made it much simpler to gain buy-in.

The Future of Starplan

Starplan are looking at increasing their product range for bedrooms and kitchens. Once fully implemented, Acumatica will not only enhance the current customer journey, but also provide extra capacity within the business to develop new and exciting products for the home.

Standardisation of processes and availability of real-time operational data will support the sustained growth of the business by bringing new products and new stores online in record time.

Cedar Bay is proud to be the partner of choice, supporting the strategy of Starplan. We look forward to helping them achieve their goals, without compromising any of the characteristics that make Starplan the trusted brand it is today.