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Dec 21

4 Questions to help you assess HR software costs

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, December 21, 2017

Guest Post by Employment Hero

To manage people in fast-growing small businesses like yours, you need to streamline all areas of HR administration – which would be hard to do without HR software.

But how much will an all-in-one system cost your business? There are huge variations in HR software costs, and it all depends on what your business needs.

A good way to zero in on what matters most is to ask yourself a few pertinent questions. Here’s a few to get you started: 

  • How is the pricing based?

Conducting an HR software cost comparison based on pricing alone is difficult because not all HR software is priced in the same way. With SaaS HR software, rather than buying a one-time licence and housing an HR system onsite, you typically pay a subscription fee (per month or per year) in order to use the software. This means you don’t have to fund a major software investment up-front.

Common forms of pricing include per-employee subscriptions, plan-based subscriptions, and freemium models. Each of these models is usually based on the number of people that the business employs.

With a per employee-based structure, you pay a fee for each employee in your business. This pricing structure can be highly beneficial for smaller businesses as you have full access to all the HR functionality – but because of your size, it’s highly affordable, and it gives you the flexibility to scale as your business grows.

In the case of the plan-based pricing, you pay a set monthly subscription fee which remains the same until you go over the employee threshold set within your plan. The tools and functionality provided for a company on a 20 employee plan are generally more limited than those provided to a company on a plan for more than 100 employees.  

Freemium models allow you to access core HR functionality free of charge, with limited features. The idea is you’ll get a taste of what it can do, start to rely on it, and upgrade to a paid plan once you’ve seen the value.  

  • Does it integrate with other software / is it an all-in-one solution? 

All-in-one HR solutions include a full suite of HR management tools, so that you aren’t stuck with multiple systems that don’t talk to each other, forcing you to waste time on double data entry. For example, if your HR system doesn’t talk to your payroll system, you’ll have to key in the data twice – wasting your precious time and leaving room for human error.

So it’s important that the software you choose is interoperable, meaning it integrates seamlessly with your other business software to enable whole of business reporting. Instead of having multiple standalone databases, you want to be sure that information is consistent across your business systems. 

  • Are features constantly being added so that you pay the same but get more for no extra cost?

HR software, like every other piece of technology, is continually evolving. So, it’s important to choose a vendor that has a well-defined roadmap so that the platform’s features are regularly enhanced, at no additional cost. 

  • How much is YOUR time worth? What’s the ROI and value to the business?

A new HR system will help you maximize your time at work by eliminating all of the unnecessary admin tasks that come with manual HR and payroll management. This frees up your time to make more strategic decisions.

In terms of ROI, with subscription-based monthly pricing, and no capital outlay, time to value is immediate. You’ll be vastly more productive and efficient, and have time for more strategic thinking from the get-go.

Dec 21

5 Retail Store Design Upgrades That Won’t Break the Bank

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, December 21, 2017

Guest Post by Unleashed

Take a moment to put yourself in your target customer’s shoes. Now, pretend you’re someone who’s walking into your store for the first time.

What’s it like? Does the store excite you and encourage you to look around? Or do you feel uninspired because there’s nothing new or innovative about the shop’s look and feel?

If it’s the latter, then your store may be due for an upgrade. The bar is set really high for brick-and-mortar retailers these days. You need to provide compelling shopping experiences to entice people to shop at your store instead of walking over to your competitors or doing it online.

And amazing shopping experiences start with a great-looking store. That’s why if your shop is looking pretty bland, you should consider sprucing up your location.

Not sure if you can afford it? Here are five simple and affordable retail store improvements that will help you attract more customers without breaking the bank.

1. Zone your items properly

Before placing your merchandise, think of the flow or the path that you want customers to take through your store. The idea is to lead people in deeper, not to turn them away at the entrance. So, it makes sense to put things near the entrance that will get their attention and make them want to see more. That said, space is at a premium at most retail locations. You don’t want to lose valuable retail areas for things that are low cost, but meant to drive people inside.

Consider starting your store’s front zone with some hanging merchandise in the windows and some racks of other eye-catching items just inside. Rods and hooks are inexpensive ways to swap things out quickly, allowing you to create new scenes every few weeks to keep things fresh.

For example, a trendy fashion boutique may take a look at the calendar and update hanging merchandise with things that would look great at an upcoming holiday party, while gift shops may pay attention to things like tourist season, and update their look according to who’s most likely to walk by.

From there, it’s possible to group the rest of your merchandise in a way that will focus the way people move through your store from those initial items to the register, increasing the likelihood of bigger sales.

Cost:

Double hanging rods add a lot of space to your store, while costing around $10 a piece, while wall hooks cost around $15 to $32. To really maximize the space, treat your walls and front display like a custom closet, with moving parts that will allow you to keep things fresh.

Money saving tip:

To make it more budget-friendly, install the rods DIY. Or invest in wall boards that allow you to shift around the pegs and rods without needing to install new hardware each time.

2. Invest in good lighting

Every retail location should be making use of the three types of lighting – ambient, task, and accent. Ambient lighting ensures that your customers can see everything clearly, while task lights help ensure they can find exactly what they need quickly and easily. Use accent lights sparingly to help put the spotlight on areas with products want you want to move more quickly, or to attract additional attention to them.

There are many ways you can incorporate lighting into your retail location, including tracks, recessed lights, spotlights, and even lamps. The more sources of light you use, the better the final outcome. If your shop has no natural light, include extra ambient lighting through well-spaced recessed lights to help illuminate more evenly.

To highlight sale items or promotional items, consider using an accent light in a slightly different lighting color directly overhead. Make sure that registers and areas that contain small items are covered by bright task lighting to make it easier for shoppers to see what’s available and to find items like their wallets and credit cards more easily.

Cost:

Maximize your lighting update by investing in LED bulbs and fixtures, instead of CFL or incandescent.  LED lights can cost around $30 per pack of 6 bulbs, but can last for years, while lowering energy costs.  The labor cost for electricians to install your new lights costs around $65 to $85 per hour, so plan your upgrade accordingly, and have the plan and fixtures ready to go to avoid additional costs and wasted time.

Money saving tip:

Don’t upgrade everything at once; take the project on in phases to ensure you’re getting maximum impact. Upgrade your ambient lighting first, then add the task and accent lights sparingly. You may find that you don’t need as many as you first thought, which can save you hundreds.

3. Paint an accent wall

One simple way of getting your customer’s attention is through the color of your walls. Color has a major impact on how people perceive a space. In fact, studies have shown that people have very specific reactions to certain colors, with red getting the most attention, followed by green, blue, and yellow. Select one of these colors in a shade that blends well with your logo and brand, and paint an accent wall that faces the door or that frames out some of your merchandise to capture these reactions for yourself.

Cost:

Primer – $20 to 25 per gallon

Paint – depending on the quality and different colors you want, can cost around $25 to $50

Labor –  $20 to $35 per hour

Money saving tip:

If you want to save on the labor cost, paint the wall yourself DIY. Make sure that the walls are clean, and take steps to protect your floors and furnishings. Get creative and add freehand designs on your walls; this a great way of showcasing the branding you want for your store.

4. Upgrade your flooring

Upgrading your flooring can improve the design of your store and help direct the flow of traffic. By mixing various flooring types, you can highlight different sections and make it easier for customers to move around the store.

Keep in mind, that you want to install flooring designed for commercial traffic. This means tile floors rated 4 or 5 on the Mohs scale, or hardwood floors that have been engineered with an acrylic finish to withstand the number of people that will pass over them each day.

 

Cost:

Costs will vary depending on what type of flooring you want to install.

Porcelain tile is a great choice for retail locations, often with a hardness rating of 5. Porcelain costs around $5 – $10 a square foot.

Hardwood designed for commercial use is another great choice, as it has a warm appearance that attracts people. Expect to pay $12 to $20 a foot.

Money saving tip:

Invest in quality flooring that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. While more expensive up front, you’ll save over its lifetime with less upkeep and associated costs.

5. Create comfort and ambiance

If your customers are comfortable being in your store, they’re more likely to want to stay a while and spend more money. Creating a comfortable atmosphere where people will want to be can go a long way toward improving sales.

Thankfully, this is also easy to do. In addition to great lighting and easy to follow merchandise paths, be sure to add some places for people to relax. This may mean chairs or benches near the changing rooms, quiet areas for conversation, or small nooks where someone could sit for a minute before continuing on with their day.

This type of experience will change depending on the type of store you have. For instance, some bookstores include little reading nooks that patrons can curl up in while they determine whether or not to buy a book. Meanwhile, many boutiques have comfortable seats outside changing rooms for a spouse to rest on while their significant other tries things on. In both cases, you’re invited to stay a while, which helps improve the experience.

Cost:

Reuse any bench or chair in your home, and have them refinished to match your store’s decor for around $300.

Have an acoustic ceiling installed, or put in speakers or other home theater items for around $100 to $150 per pair to add ambient music to the room. Labor costs for electricians can run around $65 to $85 per hour.

Money saving tip:

Refinish old furnishings yourself, add curtains to soften the walls, or bring in a Bluetooth speaker to add quiet music for less to help create the atmosphere you’re after.

Get more from your retail location

While your store’s contents should speak for themselves, it’s getting the customers in their to see it that should be your first concern. Use these tips to help increase customer attraction to your location, and start getting more out of the experience for everyone involved.

Dec 21

Automation: Changing the Face of Inventory Management

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, December 21, 2017

Guest Post by Unleashed

Inventory control and supply chain management has evolved on a near continuous basis since the 1980s.

Although the tools and technology that back the supply chain have constantly changed, the aim of supply chain planning has remained constant: to get the right product to customers in a timely manner, and to safeguard against stock outs and other inventory issues. Having picked the low hanging fruit over three decades of continuous improvement, inventory management leaders are now turning to automation to bring even greater efficiency and visibility to the supply chain. What does greater supply chain automation mean for your business?

Automation: A Primer

Individual aspects of the supply chain have been automated previously, such as procurement, inventory receipt, warehousing, stock taking and order fulfilment. Although automating these tasks, or parts of these tasks, generally reduces lead times, the time needed to link up each stage of the supply chain remains a liability. Additionally, where people working in different areas of the business fail to communicate well, any efficiency gains can be quickly lost.

Supply chain automation involves connecting automation at each stage of the supply chain, running the supply chain as one interdependent process. For example, an obvious approach to automation involves linking manufacturing with procurement; when a manufacturer creates an assembly in inventory management software, business rules can define whether the inventory management software should initiate a new order to replace the used inventory. If inventory is below a certain level of safety stock, the inventory management software may generate a purchase order and send it to the procurement manager for approval. In the past, stock may only have been ordered in response to a stock take.

Potential Gains from Increasing Automation

All too often, businesses are slow to respond to inventory management issues that need an urgent response. This is understandable – inventory managers are busy and often have to manage a number of competing priorities. Automation can relieve some of this pressure, making it possible to run a number of inventory control tasks in parallel. By automating core inventory management tasks, issues are spotted and dealt with immediately instead of waiting to be caught at the next scheduled stock take.

By linking the entire supply chain together, supply chain automation makes it easier to make strategic decisions that affect the entire supply chain. Modelling the impact of a given change to one aspect of the supply chain is much easier when data from each stage are linked up. For example, if your business is considering reducing order frequency to take advantage of off peak transport, a full suite of inventory management data would make it easier to understand the impact on production, sales and order fulfilment.

In the same vein, automation may soon be used to manage the impact of adverse inventory control events with minimal staff intervention. If a supplier runs out of inventory, a highly automated system may be able to identify which other suppliers have capacity and modify procurement plans to compensate. For many businesses, increasing automation may reduce supply chain vulnerability and improve their ability to respond to adverse events. This is likely to smooth out lead times and make it easier to adopt a lean approach to inventory management.

Whether or not your business has automated its inventory control, it is worth staying up to date with the latest trends. As more businesses move to managing multiple inventory tasks in a parallel process, small businesses will need to work hard to manage inventory efficiently and keep up.

Dec 21

Buy Now, Pay Later Services

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, December 21, 2017

Guest Post by ASIC

Buy now, pay later payment services allow you to delay payment or pay by instalments (often fortnightly) over a period of time.

Here we explain how these payment services work, what fees you'll pay and how to avoid getting into financial trouble if you're using these services.

What is buy now, pay later?

Buy now, pay later services such as Afterpay, Certegy and zipPay are offered by approved retailers and allow you to order or purchase a product immediately and delay payment. You then pay off the product in instalments over several weeks - or, with some service providers, over a longer period of time.

How do these payment services work?

Buy now, pay later services are available when you shop online or in store through approved retailers and is simply another payment option at the time of checkout.

You will need to provide your banking or credit card details the first time you use these services so your payments can be deducted. You may also be required to pay either a deposit or the first instalment up-front.

Depending on the provider, you may need to generate a barcode or unique 6-digit number using the provider's mobile application or website. The retailer can then scan the barcode or type the number into their system to set up your payment.

Are buy now, pay later services worth it?

Buy now, pay later services are often advertised as 'interest-free' or '0% interest', but the cost will add up if you can't make the repayments on time.

Smart tip

Always check the terms and conditions before you sign up, as they can be different for each buy now, pay later service.

Here are some things to look out for before using these services.

  • Late fees - There's usually a late fee every time you miss a payment or pay late. These fees can add up over time and are charged each time you don't make a payment.
  • Monthly account-keeping fees - Some of these services charge you a fixed amount for every month you continue to use their service.
  • Payment processing fees - You may be required to pay a fee for each payment, on top of your set repayment.

Case study: Mai struggles to make ends meet after using buy now, pay later services

Mai loves her online shopping. In the lead-up to Christmas, she decided to take advantage of some markdowns by buying a couple of items online.

She found a new pair of designer sneakers worth $150. As Mai was a bit tight on money, she signed up to a buy now, pay later service to split her repayments. She then found a hair straightener at a reduced price of $300 at another online store. Mai used a different buy now, pay later service to buy the hair straightener and stretch out her repayments.

A fortnight later, Mai discovered that her bank account was overdrawn. She then realised she had not checked before buying the items if she would have enough money in her account to make both repayments.

Mai was not only charged default fees by both buy now, pay later providers, but her bank also charged her an overdrawn fee.

Is your credit history or ability to repay checked?

Most buy now, pay later providers do not check your ability to make repayments or your credit history. This means you could end up taking on more credit than you can afford and could have trouble making your repayments.

Making a complaint about buy now, pay later services

Most buy now, pay later providers have dedicated complaints and hardship services. You should contact your provider to discuss your complaint.

Some providers do not belong to an approved external dispute resolution scheme, so if something goes wrong you may not be able to have your complaint heard by an independent party.

Dec 21

Happy Customers, Thriving Company: The Role of Inventory Management

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, December 21, 2017

Guest Post by Unleashed

If there were no customers, there would be no business. And with no business, there is no income. So, it would be safe to summarise that customers should be the point of business, would it not?

Since we have ascertained that customers are important and therefore their satisfaction should be paramount, how can inventory management both create and negate happy customers?

What comprises satisfaction with a service?

Let us first define what comprises a customer’s satisfaction. A customer wants to order the product when they choose to (with respect to time of day and ease of access), at the best possible price, with the lowest shipping cost and in the shortest space of time. The customer’s satisfaction is also based on enjoyable interactions with the company. Under broad terms these are accessibility, affordability, reliability, speedy shipping and service. Therefore, by endeavouring to meet these needs you will help to ensure a happy customer, which equates to loyalty and guaranteed custom in the future. Let us take a look at how inventory management can impact on these aspects of customer satisfaction.

Night or Day

Accessibility is a big part of a successful sales and marketing strategy and inventory management systems play a vital role in its successful implementation. Customers generally expect everything worth purchasing to be available from an online website, which or course is accessible globally. But to operate this service, there needs to be back-end support in the form of custom-designed inventory management software. This serves to ensure there is accurate reporting of product availability which then transmits that information to the website so that when product is no longer physically available in the warehouse, the website will prevent a customer from making a purchase.

Affordable

It is important that a product is affordable or at least provides a perceived value for money. When inventory stock is erroneously manufactured, ordered or supplied, it incurs storage costs and also can be subject to obsolescence or expiration costs. These costs must either be absorbed by the company, which results in erosion of the bottom line, or alternatively, the cost must be built in to the item price where it is essentially passed on to the customer. If the customer is a savvy buyer and perceives the item to be worth less than its price, then the customer is likely to be dissatisfied and shop elsewhere.

You want it yesterday? No problem.

A big faux pas in the retail world is the inability to reliably supply a product whereby the customer needs are not met. Often, this scenario is a direct derivative of incorrect prediction and calculations of customer demand and subsequent product manufacture and/or yield. Now, whether it is inventory management of final product or of raw ingredients which precede manufacture and yield, failure to relatively accurately predict customer demand, which is also a function of inventory management, will result in inconsistency of supply. Another factor that affects this is shipping, which must be both affordable, extremely reliable and hasty. From experience, when a product arrives within one or two business days and exceeds expectations in terms of reliability, satisfaction and the likelihood of future purchases increases exponentially.

Customer Service

Sometimes things do not go well, regardless of the amount of planning. In cases like these, do not underestimate the power of exceptional customer service. That is, the honesty, friendliness and charm of company employees interacting with customers and their willingness to go to extreme lengths to help the customer. Often, a customer will overlook some of the other aspects and accept the inability to supply or expensiveness for an exceptional customer service experience that leaves them feeling worthy and valued. Of course, to be able to express stock status with honesty and reliability, good inventory management software is required. Likewise, if a customer is returning a faulty product, the ability to provide a replacement at short notice without impacting supply requires effective inventory stock management.

Inventory stock management underpins the whole company and its operations and should not be overlooked when implementing optimum operating procedures. It also can have significant direct and indirect effects on customer satisfaction which of course is paramount for the generation of business and income.

Dec 21

Making a Case for a Time and Attendance System

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, December 21, 2017

Guest Post by Goroster

Having reliable rostering software, like goRoster, means that you know who is working in your business at any given time. It’s a great tool to help you manage your staff without having to be on site 24/7.

Having reliable rostering software, like goRoster, means that you know who is working in your business at any given time. It’s a great tool to help you manage your staff without having to be on site 24/7. What it doesn’t tell you, however, is whether staff members are actually working the hours they are rostered for.

That’s where a time and attendance system comes in handy. It digitally captures the exact times that staff start and end their shifts. You then know exactly how long your staff are working, and can pay them accordingly. These systems are becoming commonplace in businesses throughout the world, as digital technology continues to make them a cost-effective solution.

Implementing such a system can have a big impact on the day-to-day running of your business, so here are a few things you should consider before taking the plunge:

Accurate payroll

If you’re unhappy with the accuracy of your payroll, upgrading your time and attendance system could be your new best friend.

Modern time and attendance systems can calculate payroll to the nearest minute, helping you to avoid spending money on unproductive hours, or errors related to staff clocking in or out incorrectly.

Trends

Implementing a time and attendance system can help find trends that you may be unaware of when just looking at a roster.

Are staff being consistently sent home early because it’s too quiet, or regularly working overtime because it is too busy? Being able to record your staff’s actual hours against the roster helps to plan shifts for the coming weeks, months and years. You may need to rethink your opening hours, increase or decrease staff at certain hours, or change the shift plan altogether.

Integration

There’s no point upgrading your time and attendance system if it isn’t going to talk to your current roster software. Having to manually compare data between two unintegrated systems is difficult, time consuming and prone to errors, so make sure the new system you choose is compatible.

Integrity

As solid as your staff management processes may be, it is impossible to keep an eye on everything your staff are doing. The time and attendance system you choose needs to help seal loopholes that allow staff to bypass procedures. If, for example, staff are using swipe cards or pass words to clock in, these can easily shared with colleagues to use if they are running late. It’s an awful thought, and one that businesses with great staff never have to worry about, but it does happen.

Gotcha!

If you are considering implementing a time and attendance system to assist in catching out staff members that you believe to be shirking hours, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

You’re most likely already aware of your staff’s shortcomings, so a new system will only tell you – albeit in plain black and white – what you already know. And in our experience, it won’t change the behaviour of staff member X anyway.

This is an issue that needs to be handled by management, and is not a good reason to implement new technology.

Dec 21

Shipping Musts and Must-Nots

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, December 21, 2017

Guest Post by Unleashed

Online purchasing has not-so-slowly and very surely become the way people shop. It is efficient, convenient and best of all can be done without any concern for traffic or trying to find dreaded car-parking at a mall.

But in this age of ultra-convenience, a downside to online shopping is that we have to wait for our purchases to arrive in the mail which, of course, is not a concern with traditional retail. This provides the opportunity for online retailers to be competitive with their shipping policies and to use them to create a point of difference. Let us look specifically at what shipping best practice entails.

Make shipping info easy to obtain

A big faux pas in shipping practices is to make it impossible for customers to view the accurate cost of shipping without logging in. Shipping is a key consideration when deciding on a purchase and if customers feel like they are committing (by creating a account) before they have had all the information to decide if they want the product, they will feel pressured which often makes people run a mile in the opposite direction. Enable customers to obtain a relatively accurate shipping quote based on their postcode on the product’s webpage so that they can make an informed decision easily. Ease-of-use is a component of a sale which should not be underestimated.

Pricing shipping correctly

Another big faux pas is when shipping rates are artificially inflated by the retailer to create a profit margin. Customers are capable of ascertaining what is a reasonable shipping quote given the time frame and distance and they will be quite content to search elsewhere for cheaper shipping options if they feel yours are too costly. By the same token, if your shipping prices are more reasonable than the customer would expect which results in a reduced ordering cost compared to competitors, you are more likely to guarantee a sale.

Use shipping to incentivise sales

An effective use of shipping to encourage sales is to offer free shipping above your average order value. The company obviously then covers the shipping costs, which is an added operational overhead, however it encourages sales volumes to increase which increases the profits. This also makes customers feel rewarded for their custom, which creates a sense of loyalty, ensuring future sales. It is a win-win for everyone!

Get things ship-shape and out-the-door

Create a company policy where normal shipping practice will be to get inventory stock out the door the next business day. If customers choose the express shipping option, then ship these items the same day. By creating such high standards, the customer will feel that their custom is valued not to mention they will be far more likely to enlist the company’s services in the future. An added bonus of this is that you effectively clear the decks to receive more inventory stock into storage which is a sign of healthy inventory management.

Beat the targets

Given shipping is such a large component of a sale, it is important to see it right through to the end and ensure the shipping is efficient, cost-effective and reliable. One way to ensure efficiency in shipping is to under-promise to the customer and then over-deliver. This ensures the customer will be pleasantly surprised when their shipments arrive early and again, this ensures the company will be very strong against their competitors with respect to future orders. The additional bonus of setting realistic targets and aiming to beat them is that if indeed there is a delay with the shipping which is out of your control, it may be possible to absorb the error and still deliver the product on time to the customer rather than it resulting in an instant delay.

Accept responsibility

A concern of online shopping is which party bears responsibility for the item if it is lost in transit. Is it the shipping company, the retailer or must the customer simply write it off as a risk of online shopping? If the retailer quickly responds to any concerns over shipping delays and potential losses by reshipping an item quickly, customer satisfaction increases. However, if the retailer avoids taking responsibility, citing the shipping company as responsible and not acting quickly, the customer will feel frustrated and dejected and will most likely avoid any future purchases with the company. Look after your customer and their purchases right up until the point they are united together. Anything less than this is poor customer service and will not do the company any favours. Although holding copious excess inventory stock is a poor inventory management practice, replacing lost product in transit could be a reason for holding inventory over and above what may be required for customer orders.

Now that you know what to do and what to avoid when getting your inventory stock out the door, check out these tips on how to optimise shipping for improved customer satisfaction.

Dec 21

The Dance of Technology and Business

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, December 21, 2017

Guest Post by Unleashed

Conducting business is no longer as simple, and dare we say primitive, as being present in the store at the point of sale, making said sale, recording said sale and replenishing inventory stock – all in a very hands-on manner.

The technology sector, which has grown in and of itself in the last decade at least, has had a massive impact on business and continues to shape the evolution of business in the near future. Here are the up and coming technological trends which will impact businesses.

Environmentally sustainable

Environmental sustainability seems to be the name of the game in most industries and if a company wishes to be successful and make a big impact, they have no choice but to get on board. Therefore, any technologies that have a low environmental impact themselves or enable production of better, more ‘green’ products, will likely be a huge hit in the market. Consumers, thanks to awareness and the internet, have a far superior understanding now more than ever about methods of production and how their choices impact their environment. When conducting business, it pays to cater to this trend.

Connect

The internet has changed everything for human connection over the last few years. Both professionally and personally, the internet enables connections between people that might ordinarily not have occurred, albeit facilitated by an LCD screen. ‘Cyber’ connections have become so frequent and popular that they have even become a precursor to a physical connection. For example, when applying for a job with a company, it is not unusual for the prospective employee’s personal Facebook page to be viewed and the hiring company may well ask for the link to a LinkedIn page. Therefore, one can even go as far as to say it is beneficial to buy into this trend and ensure social media is utilised effectively for optimal business opportunities.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is a massive area of development in the technological world and being used by a variety of companies for training and educating employees and customers. It allows realistic simulation of situations that may only happen on occasion in reality, thereby reaching a superior level of training and expertise. It also facilitates cost-savings and ease of use as experts are not required to be in many places at once, training users all over the world.

Drones

The use of drones is spilling over from the home hobbyists arena to the business world. Companies such as Villaway are using drones to do vacation home property tours with film companies making use of the size and accessibility of drones to capture hard-to-get camera shots and angles. Most recently, Amazon is investigating the use of drones to do home deliveries so they can reach a sub-30 minute delivery target. This has been dubbed ‘Prime Air’ and is still in investigative phases but is set to be very promising indeed.

Dec 21

The Five Elements of a Lean Business

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, December 21, 2017

Guest Post by Unleashed

If your business is doing well and you’re looking to expand, that can be a sign of success. However, moving to the next stage of business development can be a risky endeavour.

The transition can cause instability and the decisions made can impact the way a business operates, for better or worse. So, there is greater demand for your business, but how do you solve it? Do you decide to invest a substantial amount of money into new equipment? Do you hire new people for the job, or do you ask your staff to take on more hours and work overtime? How you approach questions like these can make or break a business. Fortunately, that’s where “lean” comes into play.

What is a lean business?

Initially practiced by Japanese industrial giants such as Toyota, it has come to be widely adopted by British and European startups in industries as diverse as manufacturing and software development. The concept of lean is a business philosophy and framework that focuses on delivering value from a customer’s point of view, eliminating waste and continuously and actively improving a company’s processes. It prompts businesses to think about what they need to do to be an effective organisation. In turn, lean can drastically change how a company does business. The lean business model is made up of five elements. These elements help you understand what you are trying to achieve in terms of making a successful and sustainable change in a business.

Specify value from the customer’s perspective

The customer identifies values, so initially you need to revisit who the target customer is for your business. Customers know what adds values to their experience during their interaction with a business and it’s important to find out how we create value for our customers.

Value stream

The value stream is how we provide value to the customer. The value stream includes all the actions that a business takes on to deliver a specific product or service to a customer. This process can be mapped out so there is a visual representation of the flow. From there, this allows sources of waste to be identified and removed.

Flow

The flow principle means it is important to make value “flow” by eliminating delays and reducing work-in-progress inventory. By focusing on making single components flow better, it can also help with decreasing manufacturing time, process interruption, and lead and waiting time. Flow can take on board “takt.” This is a German word that means pulse and can be used to represent the pulse of a lean manufacturing system. Takt time identifies the rate at which products or services need to be finished in the manufacturing process to ensure customer demands are met. Takt gives a company a realistic idea of how fast they need to manufacture a product to maintain demands from the marketplace, thus helping with the flow.

Pull

A customer “pulls” a product or service from a business. A pull system is when a process does not start until the customer demands it. A simple example is a coffee shop, when a customer orders a hot coffee. The hot drink making process does not start until the order is received for the hot coffee. The customer “pulls” the coffee making materials through the system when they want a coffee. Hence, if no one is ordering or “pulling” coffees, no coffees are made at the shop.

Perfection

The fifth principle is perfection, which encourages the company to seek continuous improvement and eliminate waste. By aiming for perfection, you will be creating value to your customers and staying competitive in an evolving marketplace.

Dec 21

The Happiest Time of the Year? Holiday Pressures for Food Manufacturers

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, December 21, 2017

Guest Post by Unleashed

Holiday seasons are often just as exciting for food manufacturers as they are for consumers. Holiday seasons are big business for food manufacturers.

A chance to boost revenue, build positive associations between your brand and festive times and get people talking about your business’ products. Food manufacturers routinely respond to consumers’ desire for both traditional holiday foods, as well as new twists on traditional fare.

Seasonally manufactured food products are big business, but they also create a number of unique challenges for manufacturers. Food manufacturers must produce large volumes of new products and get them to market within a short space of time. Let’s take a look at some common holiday season challenges for food manufacturers.

Manufacturing novelty

Although traditional seasonal products are an important aspect of holiday food manufacturing, it is crucial for manufacturers to produce novel products that attract attention and drive an uplift in market share. Successful holiday products will often create a consumer craze, characterised by a perceived scarcity and the fear of missing out.

For many businesses, the race to produce unique and innovative flavours every year is tiring. Food manufacturing software can take some of the burden, but the effort involved will always be significant. Some businesses even consider that the effort that goes into creating holiday season ‘craze’ products, such as tying up food technologists, marketers and senior leadership, detracts from continuous improvement and product innovation in non-seasonal lines.

Competing for scarce air

If a business is to reap the benefits of seasonal products, gaining consumer awareness and market share is critical. Without advertising heavily, food manufacturers typically struggle to rouse any real consumer interest. Unfortunately, advertising is at its most expensive during major holiday seasons – making it difficult for a typical business to get its message out.

Tight margins

Holiday pricing often departs from the pricing strategies that businesses commonly use throughout the year. Despite being a time when consumers are locked in to shop (and are less likely to put shopping off until a later date), holiday season pricing is often strongly competitive. This is particularly the case in the food and beverage sector, resulting in tighter than usual margins for businesses with higher than usual outgoings. Keeping a close eye on expenses is crucial during holiday season; inventory and food manufacturing software can help you monitor inventory and production costs during this time.

Supply chain struggles

Holiday seasons are often a brutally busy time for manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors. If one of your suppliers also services 50 of your competitors, that supplier is likely to face increased pressure from close to 50 other businesses during peak season. Unfortunately, service standards often drop in peak season and lead times typically balloon. This can make it difficult for your business to get the inventory you require to manufacture and ship product, making it difficult for you to meet customer expectations.

Production at capacity

Chances are that your business is capacity constrained from time to time. Although this means that there is no extra room on the production line on occasion, the cost to invest in excess capacity may mean doing so is not the most economic use of a limited pool of capital. Even if your business comes up with a great holiday product, successfully builds customer hype and can get enough inventory to keep production going, your foray into the seasonal market may be limited by your business’ internal capacity constraints. It pays to build this into your planning, so that you know in advance whether you may need to run a second or third production shift. Food manufacturing software should allow you to use past years’ trading performance to predict upcoming pressures. Having enough product is critically important to keep momentum going during the holiday season, so you do not want to be caught short.