Farmers love Wrightson's LAMS

Wrightson's use of information technology is one of the factors credited for the agricultural services company's profit jump.

Wrightson's use of information technology is one of the factors credited for the agricultural services company's profit jump.

Wrightson reported a $10.65 million profit for the year ending June 2001, a 41% increase over $7.54 million last year. While Wrightson executives say the company has benefited from the rural boom, they also acknowledge work done to strengthen client relationships, increase market share and improve margins.

One of those initiatives is a $2.2 million Livestock Auction Management System (LAMS) which has been installed at 22 saleyards and is now being rolled out to livestock reps around the country.

LAMS allows Wrightson to process saleyard transactions on-site and give clients' their tax invoices, sales accounts, delivery dockets and on-the-spot market reports.

In October 1998 the Wrightson board approved a $2.2 million IT investment to support the livestock unit's drive to become the market leader for "anywhere, anytime, livestock processing". Other goals were to achieve lower-cost processing, provide critical information to Wrightson itself and to clients, and improve client satisfaction.

The company carried out an international tender and chose UK-based Newline ASP, which specialises in auction software and has 18 years' experience in the livestock industry.

A gradual rollout began in 1999 and by November 2000 LAMS was operating in 22 saleyards within time and under budget, says project manager Peter Horrocks. Horrocks says so far the company has spent $1.5 million of the funds allocated. Although no return on investment figures have been done, he says LAMS has reduced transaction costs and mistakes and improved client satisfaction. "We believe that this also lead to enhanced market share and a more professional operation."

LAMS can also be taken to on-farm auctions on notebook computers and is now being implemented by livestock reps, with 40 using it from home offices to input and process private sales as well as electronically book stock for auction sales. The ultimate aim is to have all 200 reps using the system, says Horrocks.

In most cases each saleyard had to be fitted with an office to house a server. All servers and PCs for the system come from Dell.

Prior to an auction, each saleyard downloads an updated client database to its local server which allows real-time access to client details including credit status. All vendor and stock details are also entered prior to sale from which a catalogue and sales sheets are produced. As each lot is sold the purchaser's buyer number and the price is entered and the system is ready to produce invoices as required. Sale batches are downloaded and uploaded to the central server via the internet with VPN access to the central server.

The LAMS database is held on the central server at the Wrightson head office in Porirua and information on the company's 102,000 clients is updated daily. On a daily basis all saleyard batches are automatically uploaded from the LAMS central server to the Wrightson corporate computer system WISARD.

Karyn Blake, who administers LAMS at the Tuakau saleyard south of Auckland, says clients "love it" and the system is very flexible.

Wrightson general manager of business services Josie Swan says LAMS is part of phase one of the company's information services strategic plan. The company is about to go to the board with the next phase which will include supply chain management and B2B projects.

Last month online rural retailer RD1.com, owned by New Zealand Dairy Group, gained a 19.9% share of Wrightson after buying out Guinness Peat Group for $26.7 million.

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