As a specialist supplier of medical equipment for hospitals and nursing homes, and provider of living and mobility lifestyle products, Queensland-headquartered company, Evocare, improves the health, lifestyle and workplace of its customers and their clients.

Over the past 35 years, Evocare has not only become a major distributor for national and international brands, but also expanded its ability to manage service agreements with institutional customers to maintain the equipment it supplies. This includes everything from specialist beds and patient trolleys through to pressure reducing products and drying cabinets.

"We sell to a diverse audience ranging from people who are building a nursing home, a day surgery or a respite centre all the way to those organisations fitting and servicing equipment," explains Clive Field, Managing Director, Evocare.

As the company has expanded, so has its product range, but the core business has remained specialised. Underpinning the company’s growth has been its IT infrastructure, which has played a critical role in driving efficiency and providing robust, high levels of quality customer service.

New ownership, new technologies

In 1999, when Field acquired the company, he decided to deploy a full distribution and accounting system to replace the then 20-year old DOS-based software. With the company on a growth trajectory and set for interstate expansion, it was clearly unable to scale with the company’s new strategic plans for success.

Following a market review of potential solutions to provide financial control and organisational visibility, Evocare decided to deploy BMS (Business Management Solution), a Microsoft SQL-based software solution integrating customer service, inventory and financial management.

"For a small business, the BMS solution has a modular ERP product feature set that other vendors just don’t include," says Field. "It is scalable, flexible and comes with the support of a company well versed in the needs of fast-growing companies."

Following smooth deployment, it soon became clear that BMS would provide Evocare with a stable platform for financial management. The system incorporates general ledger, purchasing, accounts receivable and accounts payable, and enables the company to manage and track all sales and inventory activity.

A major benefit is service management, which allows Evocare to manage and service individual customers’ equipment. In addition, an order entry module allows Evocare to automate order entry.

By efficiently linking customer orders to purchase orders, Evocare’s management team can keep warehouse costs down by having an efficient turnover of ready-to-be-delivered goods shipped to the customer. Understanding why goods are being ordered by certain customers, and in what frequency, enables inventory controls to be tracked more effectively.

Evocare has boosted its customer service by drilling down on the data held in BMS to measure lost and won quotes, and linking all attributes to region, customer and individual sales representative. This enables the company to implement programs to enhance market opportunities and arrest issues in real-time.

"A sales report that used to take hours, if not several days, to load and manage via a manual spreadsheet now takes minutes to put together. At the same time, it also links into a customer relationship database and BMS sales history. Automated batch runs can now take place on the fly," says Field.

BMS has been so successful that Evocare has been able to triple its turnover over the past ten years, yet refrain from hiring new people in clerical functions.

All product-related activity such as shipping, stock-take and tracking is managed by the BMS inventory control module.

E-enabling Evocare

Armed with this initial IT success, the company then set its sights on further growth, underpinned by the deployment of eCom. The eCom solution is a Progress-based online catalogue complete with product images and specifications, and includes a robust search capability to help companies quickly and easily find the products they need and then place an order. eCom is fully integrated to BMS, providing instant access to stock availability and customer-specific pricing.

"We wanted to give our resellers and large nursing home groups the capability to buy online and over the past few years, we have gradually deployed the entire eCom suite," says Field. The customised online catalogue enables Evocare to define individual ranges of products that can be made available, selectively if required, to resellers and customers.

A "Pending Order Approval" system also allows orders to be saved by customers as requisitions and then later approved by an authorised person, before being automatically converted into an order. A trail of email acknowledgements accompanies the process, while customers can pay for their order by credit card. The entire transaction is completed by eCom online, then passes seamlessly into BMS for immediate picking, packing and delivery.

Field plans to e-enable the company further, by allowing customers to enter and review service calls for their registered equipment. This will interface directly with the company’s BMS service management module.

"Each item becomes a job in service management," says Field. "The aim is for the customer to receive one invoice for all equipment serviced, but still to be able to see which job has been undertaken for each and every piece of equipment. In the future, we will use our eCommerce functionality to manage the entire service management process."

Also on the e-enabling drawing board are plans for customers to be able to view and reprint online copies of their previous invoices, statements and other documents created in the company’s financial management system.

"eCommerce is all about automating customer service. Previously, customers would call our offices and obtain prices over the phone. Now, they can do this in their own time and purchase at their own moment of need. Not only is this fast, efficient and negates any potential for human error, it also generates savings for us in staff overheads. If the reseller knows what they want, we can supply the product faster, leading to an improved customer experience.

"The aim is to supply and service high quality products and services in the most efficient way possible. Customers are our first priority, and these systems are critical in enabling us to ensure that we meet user requirements all the way from the reseller to the institutional client," says Field.