From powder-coated pieces to aluminium cuts and a raft of textiles sprawled across the workshop, Sunshade is a whirlwind of activity. With so much going on, it could get gusty, so how do they keep things under control?
In search of the answer, three members of the Tidy team headed to Sunshade’s showroom and workshop in the beautiful Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand.
Sunshade Group Ltd (the home of three brands - Sunshade, Douglas Innovation and Rainbow Shade) is an import, light manufacturing, and distribution business, with wholesale customers around New Zealand. They import and distribute Ziptrak® outdoor blind systems, shade sails, and outdoor fabric and textile products across the country.
Based in Hastings, they also supply and install various products for direct retail and commercial customers within the Hawkes Bay. If you’ve sat down at a bar or café in New Zealand, chances are that you’ve come across one of Sunshade’s Ziptrak® systems or Shade7 umbrellas.
Welcome to Sunshade
Stepping into the showroom, we’re greeted by a series of stunning outdoor living displays. Canopies and awnings fill the space above us, set against lush garden backdrops.
Rob Brady, Sunshade’s Business Advisor, has generously taken the afternoon off to show us around.
“These ones are our Ziptrak blinds. We import them from Australia, then all the pieces are cut and custom built in our workshop here,” he introduces.
He leads us past the showroom to take a glimpse behind the curtain and watch the team at work. The workshop is abuzz with activity as apprentices and tradespeople dart across the floor, sawing, sewing, cutting, and packing.
Heading upstairs, we find a fabricator carefully marking out measurements along a length of metal. Around him, there are stacks of metal offcuts lined against the walls, and a growing pile of textile pieces from various projects bundled on the floor.
Looking around, it’s clear that Sunshade is a bustling place. With 27 employees, three business units, multiple projects on the go, and a myriad of materials stocked, there’s a lot to stay on top of. So, we return to the question, how do they keep it under control?
Searching for a Solution
We flashback to early 2019, when Sunshade was still using a combination of Word documents and on-premise software. This made remote, on-the-go work difficult. They were also using two siloed systems for project management and accounting, meaning that manual intervention was required for invoicing. Hence the hunt for an integrated solution began.
As they were now users of Xero, Sunshade was searching for something cloud-based that had a seamless interface with Xero. Also on their criteria list was the ability to handle both inventory and project management in a single program.
A standout solution that fit the bill was TidyEnterprise; a project and inventory management software with built-in Xero integration.
TidyEnterprise is now a natural part of the daily routine. Everyone at Sunshade interacts with it on a day-to-day basis. From timesheet-only users to the admin team and salespeople using the inventory, quoting, ordering, sales and project management functions, TidyEnterprise plays a core role in Sunshade’s operations and management functions.
Before production commences; before the power saw whirs, or a single mark is even made, managers map out their projects. What materials do we need? Who do we assign to it? How long is it estimated to take?
This information is all planned and tracked in the Quotes and Projects sections of TidyEnterprise, where project managers allocate materials from inventory to projects and production. As projects get underway, the actual usage of time and materials can be recorded against the allocated plan and factory efficiency can be measured.
Not only does this help Sunshade keep track of information for the current project, but it also helps them to make informed decisions and adjustments to succeeding ones. The data captured is immensely valuable for future project planning.
Sunshade has gained more visibility over multiple aspects of their business with the help of TidyEnterprise’s reporting functionality.
“A positive impact we’ve seen is increased visibility on project profitability and business overhead time,” Brady says.
This helps Sunshade with project forecasting and budgeting for upcoming periods, allowing the business to optimise decision making and resource allocation.
“With the help of reports, we've gotten stock planning under control, so we can be less reactive and can make fewer, but more accurate and informed, orders.”
Additionally, when Sunshade found that they needed insights beyond what was offered by TidyEnterprise’s default reports, Tidy worked with them to build some that fit their needs.
“We needed some custom reports written to accommodate our changing reporting requirements and make use of the data,” Brady explains.
Systems That Speak
A major pain point that Sunshade originally sought to remedy, was the lack of communication between different systems. Accounting and project management being split across separate programs meant that time, materials, and expenses had to be entered twice for each project and task.
Using TidyEnterprise, information is now automatically sent between TidyEnterprise and Xero, and to their CRM system.
“A big benefit was the direct transfer of financial functions to Xero,” Brady says. “Also, the direct transfer of sales leads, contacts and quotes between the systems.”
This means that valuable hours are no longer being exhausted in the unnecessary duplication of administrative work. Effort spent re-entering and cross-checking information across systems can be reallocated elsewhere in the business.
The Wave of Learning
Adopting new software brought about many benefits for Sunshade, but it also came with an unexpected set of challenges.
“Something we weren’t anticipating was the need to educate employees on the importance of capturing accurate data, now that we had the system to do so,” Brady says.
The change in process took some time to get used to. While TidyEnterprise provided Sunshade with more ability and opportunity to collect and capitalise on data, it was a shift for the team in terms of their workflow.
Blue Skies Ahead
Sunshade’s drive for excellence continues apace as they work to improve every aspect of the business. Their relationship with Tidy also allows them to directly share desired features and enhancements.
Looking forward and with TidyEnterprise on their team, Sunshade forecasts bluer skies for their business, employees, and customers.