The Thatchers story

What started out in 1904 with farmer William Thatcher making cider at Myrtle Farm in Somerset, has grown into a global business, with Thatchers cider sold across the UK and in over 22 countries around the world. In pubs, supermarkets, off licence stores and from the online Thatchers shop, customers can enjoy the award-winning range of ciders which are still made using recipes and oak vats that date back a hundred years and give Thatchers cider its distinctive taste.

Thatchers remains a family owned business with Myrtle Farm at the heart of its production. The farm may have expanded to over 500 acres but their approach remains the same as it did in 1904 of using the finest local ingredients to produce a quality cider. Managing Director, Martin Thatcher is the fourth generation of the family to lead the business from strength to strength. Their ethos of investing in quality and growth has been rewarded this year with Thatchers producing a record number of litres in 2018.

Business requirement

Having grown at an enviable rate in the previous few years, by 2012 Thatchers required an enterprise grade solution that could underpin future business expansion plans. It wanted a platform with modern functionality that could support the automation of manual processes, keep pace with the evolving business operations and scale to meet future growth. Lastly, it was imperative that the new platform could integrate with other applications used within the business.

The solution

With cidermaking firmly in mind, Thatchers selected Microsoft Dynamics NAV integrated with Drink-IT®, a solution that delivers specific beverage industry functionality, going live in 2013. Eighteen month ago, the original implementation was upgraded to the 2017 executable and the latest version of nHanced NAV developed by TNP to provide greater functionality and versatility to the system.

Ian Dorling, Head of IT at Thatchers comments: ‘The NAV People have a deep understanding of the business processes within the cidermaking industry; this coupled with their expert knowledge of Drink-IT software were the deciding factors in the selection process. Since implementation The NAV People have continued to work closely with us to optimise the solution as our business has grown and evolved, enabling us to digitise business processes and maximise efficiency.’

The NAV People have a deep understanding of the business processes within the cidermaking industry

Optimising efficiency in supply chain

Creating award winning cider starts with pressing the best apples at their peak freshness. Thatchers has over 500 acres of its own orchards in Somerset as well as long term contracts with growers throughout the West Country. During peak harvesting time the presses at Thatchers run at maximum capacity, accepting on average 450 tonnes of fruit each day at the height of the season.

The additional functionality of the combined Dynamics NAV and nHanced NAV solution has enabled Thatchers to provide growers access to NAV from any device, to schedule the delivery of their apples. Growers select the date, time, variety and quantity of produce that is to be delivered, giving them full autonomy and the system uses a previously provided purchase order number to be receipted against ready for invoicing. The information supplied by the grower is sent by nOra, the automated user module, to the relevant departments such as finance, operations and the weighbridge notifying them of the impending delivery.

Once the apples are delivered, the weighbridge confirms weight and variety directly into NAV ensuring the information is available for invoicing and quality testing purposes. The entire workflow from scheduling through to payment is fully automated and managed by nOra, ensuring all departments are kept notified of updates. By efficiently scheduling deliveries, Thatchers have maximised plant efficiency, minimised delivery congestion and provided a more engaging experience for growers allowing them to harvest and deliver apples at their freshest.

Connectivity – anytime, anywhere

Using the NAV mobile client Thatchers have enabled the sales force and Quality Dispense Technicians to access Dynamics NAV remotely. This has optimised efficiency by enabling the teams to input updates directly into the system, ensuring all users have access to accurate, real-time data. Additionally, the sales team are able to use the app to identifying existing accounts and prospects within the geographical location of their customer meeting, allowing them to maximise available time between appointments.

Catching up on paperwork is never easy after time away from the office but nOra has solved this problem too. Using the app, the sales team submit expenses via a mobile device, with associated receipts photographed and uploaded against the expense claim. Then it’s over to nOra who manages the workflow process, from submission through to approvals and payment. 

Catching up on paperwork is never easy after time away from the office but nOra has solved this problem too.

Improving productivity through mobile technology

The mobile app has not only proved beneficial to the field-based sales team but also to on site employees. The Thatchers site at Myrtle farm covers a large area, employees are often on the move across the site. Providing staff with mobile access to the system has yielded immediate results in efficiency; access to accurate data has delivered greater clarity and improved decision making.

Harnessing the power of technology

In the last few years Thatchers have reinvented entire business processes, cutting the number of steps required, reducing the number of documents and developing automated decision making. The result is a more dynamic organisation that is operating at more optimal efficiency, with higher productivity levels but utilising the same resources.  

The combined solution of Dynamics NAV, nHanced NAV and Drink-IT has provided the modern functionality Thatchers required from a platform and the ability to scale with future business needs. The solution is now used across the business in areas that traditionally haven’t used computers or any form of automation. Tablets are used by non-desk based employees to access the system and record information.  Dynamics NAV is at the very heart of the organisation and is the central repository of information.

Ian explains: ‘nHanced NAV opened up a world of possibilities, we now use functionality such as planning boards, workflow and the mobile client amongst other things to visualise current events,  “what if” the future and analyse business trends. Parts of the business that previously weren’t computerised now use the Panels and Tiles feature to highlight actions and prioritise next steps. We see the possibilities that can be achieved and it has fuelled our ambitions.’

Our relationship with The NAV People extends beyond the IT system, they are an integral part of our business. Together we are driving digitisation to improve processes and maximise efficiency across the organisation. The breadth of interaction has delivered massive benefits and is bringing the Thatchers vision to life.

Business benefits

  • Future proof platform – The modern and feature rich platform has the flexibility and scalability to rapidly scale as Thatchers continues on its transformational path to full automation.
  • Greater business clarity and improved decision making – Digitising operations has enabled the company to replace paper and manual processes, allowing the business to automatically collect data that can be mined to better understand process performance, cost drivers and to mitigate the causes of risk.
  • Optimising efficiency in supply chain – Efficient scheduling of deliveries has maximised plant efficiency, minimised delivery congestion and provided a more engaging experience for growers.
  • Improved productivity on and off site – Providing staff with mobile access to the system has yielded immediate results in efficiency and productivity. Access to real-time data has improved sales processes, delivered greater clarity and improved decision making.

Ian Dorling, Head of IT at Thatchers concludes:'Our relationship with The NAV People extends beyond the IT system, they are an integral part of our business. Together we are driving digitisation to improve processes and maximise efficiency across the organisation. The breadth of interaction has delivered massive benefits and is bringing the Thatchers vision to life.'

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