Anyone who doesn’t reminisce about popping into the local newsagents and lusting over the retro sweets encased in jars upon jars on the counter shelves is either lying, or they’re a dentist.
Tom Hannah Agencies have been in the confectionery business since 1963, when the late Tom Hannah began importing and distributing sweets with his team of three.
The business expanded rapidly over the years, now employing 60 people, and has added a manufacturing arm to their base in Johnstone, Scotland.
Tom Hannah Agencies now ships across the UK, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Poland and as far away as Australia and New Zealand. 50% of the business is now import and distribution, and 50% is manufacturing (interesting fact: the company has gone from producing 1.5 tonnes of chocolate per week, to 60 tonnes per week. And turns out no less than 10 million white mice each week!)
However, for a company that markets itself as the makers of old fashioned favourites, there is nothing old fashioned about the way the business is run.
Hannah's relationship with TSG
In his role as Joint Managing Director of Tom Hannah Agencies, Tom Munro is consistently seeking ways to use technology to make the business more efficient and productive. In fact, he’s ensured that the business is very open to new and inventive solutions that will eliminate time consuming manual processes.
To meet this need however, Tom wanted to work with a technology partner that could be continually counted upon to throw creative, solution driven ideas into the pot, and not be afraid of a challenge. He found that partner in TSG.
TSG has been working closely with Tom Hannah Agencies on their technology strategy for over 10 years. Initially brought in to install Sage payroll software, the relationship has gone from strength to strength. The experts of TSG were able to offer (and continue to do so) ideas and resolutions to tackle the challenges Tom Hannah Agencies faced with automating their processes.
One of the most critical processes within the company has always been traceability. Being a food manufacturer, Tom Hannah Agencies needs to be able to trace each and every ingredient of each of their sweets, from crop to customer.
This involves overseeing and analysing a huge amount of data, and therefore they needed a system which would allow them to pinpoint and trace each component (over a quarter of a million of them each week) quickly and easily.
TSG found the answer in Sage’s Bill of Materials software, which is a module available within the Sage 200 suite. Tom Hannah Agencies now have a fully automated system which has traceability on everything they produce and import. This is especially important so that they can maintain their BRC certification; accreditation which most retailers and supermarket chains demand.
Previously Tom was keeping many things on an Excel spreadsheet. He used it to identify quantities of stock and items to be written off, but this was prone to user error and was a very time consuming process.
Additionally, all the company data (across the sites) is available in real time (rather than manually updating and checking a spreadsheet once a month). At any point Tom can pick out when the cost price of something could increase, and the information he is relying on is accurate up to the second.
The devil is in the detail however, and with the initial introduction of Bill of Materials this brought some specific issues for Tom Hannah Agencies.
TSG Proactive Visits
One of them was that they needed staff to view information on a single page sheet, due to the fact that paper clips and staples are forbidden in the factory, due to strict hygiene and food safety rules.
TSG’s Sage Implementation Team Leader Yvonne McEwan worked on the reports’ functionality and layout so that all the information could fit onto one page, without compromising readability.
Like many of TSG’s customers, Tom Hannah Agencies chooses to take up TSG’s proactive services bundle, which allows half day site visits from a familiar TSG face who understands their business and their IT environment.
Yvonne is Tom Hannah Agencies’ proactive consultant, visiting their site every one to two months in order to advise them on where technology could take them next, and go over any current issues or training needs they may have.
“The proactive days at Tom Hannah have really helped me build a great relationship with them over the years,” says Yvonne. “The great thing is that the company is open to new ideas, and I know the system inside and out and can therefore respond quickly to any questions they may have – they don’t have to go round the houses with a new person every time.”
And the improvements keep on coming. TSG designed a manipulation of the stock module within Bill of Materials to hold records for the overheads and labour used in the manufacturing process.
There were other ways to do this in the system, but they were over-complicated and time-consuming (two words forbidden in TSG) and so we were able to adapt the stock items to provide a standard cost per minute of labour or machine time.
Tom says, “I constantly throw challenges at Yvonne and the team but they always find a solution. Everyone I’ve dealt with at TSG have been truly excellent; they really know their stuff. The proactive days which we utilise for the development and improvement of our systems continue to be worth their weight in gold.”
Barcode scanning became a major part of improving the production process in the factory. This was a bespoke solution that included adding calculated fields to the list views in Bill of Materials and additional reporting functionality.
This has helped Tom Hannah Agencies to reduce time within processing, and helps them forward plan the manufacturing.
Powerful IT Support
In addition to bespoke software delivery, Tom Hannah Agencies use TSG SystemCare; a powerful and incredibly intelligent proactive monitoring tool which is designed to ensure that your IT system is protected against catastrophic system failure and data loss. It also helps companies like Tom Hannah Agencies to minimise the frustrating and costly downtime that can prevent teams from undertaking their day-to-day tasks and performing at their best.
TSG also deployed a bespoke BTL back-up solution for Tom Hannah Agencies. Since the business cannot have any downtime, TSG Online Backup provides a fully automated, encrypted and secure service to ensure that everything is backed up off-site reliably. We worked with the business to build a full Disaster Recovery plan, including a full risk assessment, business impact analysis and business continuity plan.
Of TSG’s support services, Tom said, “The best thing about TSG’s back-up services and SystemCare is that it gives you real peace of mind. You know the experts at TSG are looking after your system and will get to work on anything that might threaten it.”
TSG and the Future with Tom Hannah Agencies
Tom says the company will continue to use their proactive days with TSG in the future, stating, “We’re really only at the beginning with the barcode system. We’re looking at extending this and looking to technology and TSG to help us become even more efficient and productive.”
Tom continued, “In TSG we have found a true technology partner.”