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John Jones artSauce


Navision Integrated financial solution with bespoke manufacturing application development provides John Jones with a significant competitive advantage.


Industry : Art Supplies & Framing Services
Scenarios : Business Operations

Operating in the art world and providing an original mix of artist materials, conservation framing and photographic services, John Jones realised that targeted technology was the key to successful growth. The requirement was a solution that provided a flow of information across the company about what was really happening to their customers and products. The key was to ensure that the selected system supported all operations from sales to production in ensuring timely deliveries of quality products. Navision, a totally integrated Windows based solution, operating on a Windows platform was selected. The system helped to radically improve the company’s effectiveness leading to a significant increase in efficiency within a year of implementation.

Company background

John Jones was established over thirty years ago and is one of London’s biggest art suppliers and framing services. Its client base includes art galleries, artists, photographers, museums, private collectors as well as the general public. The company operates from 10,000 square feet of retail space in Finsbury Park. It also occupies four factory warehouses providing on-site frame manufacturing, restoration, conservation and gilding services. The company is growing fast on the back of its reputation as a responsive supplier of high quality products and services and already employs over eighty people.

The business need

The primary requirement was for an information system that assisted in managing the company’s ambitious growth plans by reducing the administrative workload of its staff while providing up to date and accurate management information.

As John Jones Managing Director, Matt Jones explained “We felt that the company had tremendous potential if we could reduce the paperwork and release the energies of our people to focus on developing the business. Our old systems simply didn’t talk to each other and we were duplicating information all over the place. One example was the quotation process where it was taking an average of three days to produce an estimate. On receipt of an order, we then had to enter the details on separate paperwork to instruct the factory. We needed to work smarter rather than harder to take advantage of our reputation in the art world and meet our growth objectives”. 

The Selection Process

The company management team recognised that they lacked the necessary technical skills to carry out a thorough evaluation of the available systems. It therefore appointed Mansol, a management consultancy specialising in assisting small to medium sized organisations in their selection process. The brief was to shortlist solutions that not only met current needs but that also would expand to meet the future requirements of the organisation.

Part of the process of selecting a new system involved defining the specific tasks to be tackled by the new solution. This involved interviewing the various heads of departments and understanding the various processes undertaken on a daily basis. Mike Pierce of Mansol carried out this task and produced an agreed wish list of facilities to be provided by the new system.

 The team spent some time evaluating the various systems on offer prior to settling on Navision as its system of choice. “What influenced us towards Navision was the fact that the system could provide us with one core solution that could meet the needs of all of the departments” said Matt Jones.

“We were particularly taken by the fact that the system had an integrated development environment that could be used to meet the very special requirements that we had in mind. We needed a system that worked the way we did rather than having to compromise our well-proven methods.

We were also most impressed with the approach taken by Anglia Business Solutions who came across as being extremely professional and competent. We had no doubts that they fully understood our business processes and were capable of undertaking the project”.

Prior to proceeding with the project, the company commissioned a Solution Model from Microsoft Solution Provider Gold Partner Anglia Business Solutions. The solution model process was devised by Anglia in 1998 as a means of ensuring that both parties had a clear understanding of scope and objectives of integrated business system projects.

It also identifies the key business drivers tackled by the solution together with an outline implementation plan and costs. The deliverable is a blueprint defining the information flow across the enterprise. Once the scope of the system outlined in the document was agreed, a plan was defined and resources committed by both parties to the project.

Infrastructure Upgrade

One of the first issues defined within the solution model was the deficiency in the existing infrastructure as the company had yet to deploy a modern PC based infrastructure. This involved the installation of an enterprise wide Windows client server solution. Once deployed, users were provided with one easy to use common platform designed to enable the sharing of relevant documents across various departments. It also provided access to the central system by the retail outlet to facilitate inventory management via point of sale equipment installed to manage cash sales transactions. This meant that, apart from sharing common documents, files would be secured and backed up on a regular basis.

The Business System Solution

The complete solution consisted of a number of discrete but integrated systems across the John Jones enterprise. These included finance, mail order, retail sales, frame estimating and frame production. Work on the Navision deployment commenced with the financial solution and the new system began to take shape very quickly due to the preparatory work invested by both teams in planning the rollout.

The core Navision Financial software was installed and all of the relevant information was transferred from the old system using data ports created by Anglia Business Solutions. This allowed the training of key users on the technology concepts using familiar data prior to embarking on the tailoring elements. The approach meant that, as users gained an understanding on how the system worked, they were able to make informed decisions on the functionality required from the bespoke aspects.

In parallel with the rollout of the financial system, the installation of the retail back office was tackled. This was designed to provide John Jones with a sophisticated sales analysis tool that analysed sales by individuals, by tiered groupings of products and by physical areas of the shop. Sales are processed by Epos tills equipped with bar code scanners and credit card readers. These are linked to Navision to facilitate inventory and cash management. At the same time, the mail order system was deployed which shared inventory files with the retail system. The availability of accurate inventory has had a major improvement in efficiency as mail order personnel can now confirm each order on the telephone with confidence.

While the finance, mail order and retail operation solution produced many tangible benefits from operating with an integrated business management system, the major issue facing the company was how to optimise its efforts in the frame making aspect of the business. The process of making a specialist picture frame is a costly and complex task as there are a lot of variables to consider.

The frame itself must be sized to take account of the image and mount (if any). Frames are priced per linear inch based upon the internal frame dimensions, and the rate varies depending upon the profile. The basic price would include all labour to build and frame plus hangers, tape and standard glass. Additional costs are then incurred for: mounting, fillets, staining, spraying, and special finishes (wax, matt, gilding, gesso, bleach, colour wash etc.). Some of these costs are charged per linear meter, some are fixed prices, some are based upon area (sq. inch or foot) and some are applied as percentage uplifts to the moulding price.

There are exceptions to these pricing rules for larger accounts. In some cases special pricing may have been agreed for a select number of finished mouldings, but not for others. A different special arrangement exists for specific contracts where fixed prices are charged for a particular frame specification based upon image size.

The major challenge from a systems viewpoint was to incorporate all of these rules into a highly sophisticated but easy to use configuration system. The key was to accurately capture the requirements and devise a solution that covered every possible eventuality. As Matt Jones explained, “what we were really trying to achieve was to capture our knowledge of frame making within the system while making it easy for our staff to use. Given the complexity and variety of our processes, this was no easy task”

Once the tailored requirements were defined and agreed, the functionality was developed using the Navision Rapid Application Development (RAD) environment. The approach divides projects into short, quickly achievable phases, each of which produces a deliverable based on prototyping and iterative, incremental development.

Users are allowed to test and refine the solution using their data prior to going live. “This technique is excellent from a client viewpoint,” said Anglia’s Development Consultant, Mark Waller.

“During the development phase, users have an important say in how the system should work for them and are therefore much more comfortable with the final operational system. This was an important factor as we had several attempts to ensure that every eventuality was covered. This rules based configurator is easily the most complex development we have undertaken to date and really showed the power and flexibility of the Navision development environment.”

The system now in operation captures every possible combination of dimensions and materials in a picture frame. Using drop down menus linked to a client and a materials database, the configurator assists sales consultants to accurately and quickly price new client requests for bespoke frames. The built in rules quickly detect any illogical dimensions entered and allow corrections prior to quotation.

On receiving the authority to proceed, the system issues all of the works order information associated with the specific job. On entering the order, the system allocates the work involved across the various work centres. In addition, it proportions the costs of each process to the individual work centres thus enabling the daily yield from each centre to be dynamically viewed.


screenshot showing powerful rules based configurator

Fig 1. A powerful rules based configurator at the heart of the solution

Business Benefits

Shortly after going live the potential benefits of the new system quickly became apparent. As Matt Jones explained “We previously had a combination of manual and legacy systems with little integration between them. This led to a considerable duplication of administration effort throughout the company. We had major issues on the management of the sales quotation process as it took three days on average to accurately price a job.

With the new configurator, this is now down to three hours. Furthermore, once we receive the order to proceed, the system automatically issues the works order documentation. This has saved an enormous amount of time and administration costs.

In addition, we can now easily manage the order workflow through the factory as we can view the loading on each centre. This also means that it is an easy task to reschedule an order to meet an urgent client order.


An additional major benefit has been the ability to recall the full details of a previous client order within seconds. This used to be a major headache, as we had to dig out all of the quotation and manufacturing paperwork to deal with a repeat order. We can now get rid of the paperwork, as all of this information is instantly available across the company. Furthermore, we know that the manufacturing details are correct thus avoiding costly reworking.

We have already shown the new system to a number of our major clients who were most impressed. We believe that the solution will prove invaluable in providing our existing clients with an improved service while enabling us to compete more effectively in winning new business.”

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