Muller Martini makes machinery for the printing and print finishing industries, including book binding, stitching and both soft and hard cover production. It has battled with one other company in each sector to be market leader since the company’s inception in 1947. In fact, if you’ve ever picked up a quality book, there’s a very good chance the finishing will have been performed by a Muller Martini machine.
With around 3,200 employees worldwide, Muller Martini is a truly international company. It manufactures in Switzerland, Germany and the US, and has sales bases all over the world. The machines can cost anywhere between £100,000 and £15m – the top end forming a full factory kit out. The customers are equally as varied, ranging from start-up businesses with a handful of employees to multi-national blue chip firms.
Commercial manager Michael Mortiboys says a shift has occurred within the industry in recent years. Often, firms are looking to make their machinery last longer rather than replace it, and many may now look to buy second hand as well as new. “This is a trend which the global downturn appears to have cemented into place,” he says.
Muller Martini has adapted its business model accordingly. It still sells new machines and installed around 30 last year. However, with 25 expert field engineers the firm has made service a key focus. It now has over 50 maintenance contracts in place across the UK and Ireland. Two years ago it had just five.
In addition, the firm uses its knowledge of the market to find used machines via its own global network and extensive industry contacts. The machines can be refurbished and then sold on to its customers. Where appropriate, machines can also be extended when more functionality is required.
In terms of its own machines, almost all are built bespoke to customer specifications, with around a three month lead time. However, it is not rare for a customer to need a machine within as little as two weeks to carry out a contract. To this end, Muller Martini keeps some of its lower end machines stocked in the UK as ‘off-the-shelf’ products for quick distribution.
All of this means the business needs to know its customers better than ever before, if it is to be able to identify the solutions they need.
“We have to be properly flexible to accommodate our customers’ needs,” says Mortiboys. “Whatever the customer wants to do we can usually find a solution. That’s our bag, that’s what we’re here for.”
To satisfy this demand, the company turned to Enterprise Resource Planning software and, specifically, Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Before, Muller had two disparate IT systems running – one for service planning and one for spares and accountancy. This was hugely inefficient in terms of time and left plenty of margin for error. Manual re-entries for example, were frustratingly repetitive task which held much potential for inaccuracy.
“We needed to be more organised,” says Mortiboys. “Our goal was to integrate all of our processes and gain transparency across the business, the agenda wasn’t really to gain more customers, it was to become more organised. We need streamlining and visibility.”
The system had already been chosen when Mortiboys joined the company six years ago. However, a vendor was still to be identified. The global nature of Muller Martini’s operations was a key consideration to this regard. With the Spanish sales office already having successfully implemented an earlier version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV, the plan now was for a joint roll out of the system for the UK and the Netherlands.
Columbus was chosen because, unlike many of its peers, it too has international offices and is therefore able to provide the support for both countries. “We were also very impressed with their implementation methodology,” says Mortiboys.
The two companies then worked together for two and half years building the bespoke elements that Muller required, based around the KPIs it had identified.
Mortiboys says the switch to Dynamics NAV has not only saved the company time and reduced the margins for error across a number of processes but has allowed it complete visibility over its customer’s needs and habits and let’s it see which services it can provide.
"We can now answer customer queries quickly and authoritatively: once we have technical clarification we can produce quotes in minutes rather than hours.” Michael Mortiboys, Commercial manager, Muller Martini
Muller has always considered itself an innovative company, providing the latest technological solutions to the industry it serves, but now, with Dynamics NAV, it can ascertain which areas are most beneficial to develop because it knows what its customers want and what they use.
Likewise, when a new product has been developed, the company can easily select who it should market it too, rather than blanket covering its entire customer base. When a customer rings through to the service team, their contact name, service items, warranties, when they last phoned in, the machinery they have, what ages it is, what services Muller Martini can offer them is presented on the screen to the operative.
“We can now answer customer queries quickly and authoritatively; once we have technical clarification we can produce quotes in minutes rather than hours, that are in a standard format, easier to read and easier to understand,” says Mortiboys. “If you need a spare part we have the information at our fingertips.”
The company also now has functionality for its customers to order over the web. Data is transferred from Dynamics NAV on an hourly basis around the clock meaning stock availability is always up-to-date and customers can order at any time. Previously, customers’ night shift workers would have to rely on their daytime colleagues to place orders with Muller’s phone operatives.
Regular machine servicing is being enhanced where field engineers can report back to the office on how long repairs may take and what parts they need. This information all gets added automatically to follow up quotation directly into Dynamics NAV.
“If a customer asks for how much money they’ve spent in their history with us, it’s just a case of calling up the customer number and we have the information, properly and professionally presented. It used to be a painstaking task of finding and collating all of the individual invoices.”
Overall, Mortiboys says Dynamics NAV gives Muller Martini visibility, flexibility and control. The company can take advantage of opportunities that it formerly could not have known were there and it can do so significantly quicker, easier and more professionally that was possible before. It’s about working smarter, not harder,” he says. “Reporting is simple and, we can present data professionally and we can call up a huge wealth of historical information in an instant. As most of the systems are Windows-based, the usability is extremely high. In a world where time is money, this earns us lots.”
Dynamics NAV allows Muller to understand its customers and understand how it can help them to grow. In turn, as Muller grows itself, it knows it has a partner that can support it every step of the way.