Colin Relph, the founder of Ontrak, says that his company is very much living up to its name as it approaches its 25th birthday next year – even if it appears to have just done a complete U-turn. Next month, the company will cease to be known as The Green Printer Company, as it has been since 2009, because, as Relph explains: “These days, printers are only part of what we do and other areas of our business are actually growing much faster”.
Indeed, while the environmentally friendly core of Ontrak’s business remains the same, the company now collects, refurbishes and supplies an ever-growing range of IT hardware, including scanners and laptops. This is precisely why Relph says Liberty Accounts’ stock management system is vital to the diversifying company.
As well as providing firms all over the country with complete machines, Ontrak stocks more than ten thousand individual spare parts, encompassing all the major manufacturers, including HP, Dell, Brother and IBM. The company has engineers who are constantly breaking down machines to create a supply of motherboards, power supplies, fusers and many more parts throughout the UK and Europe on a next day or even timed delivery to site.
“We’ve had to expand the non-printer side of our business through customer demand,” explains Relph. “I don’t know if it is because of environmental considerations or the downturn in the economy but the message finally seems to be getting through to people that they don’t always need to throw a particular piece of equipment away.” He says that he also thinks several businesses are realising that many of the printers being produced today are nowhere near as well made as they were a few years ago. “The upshot is that a great many businesses are suddenly keener on refurbishing equipment. So we have to be a lot more vigilant when it comes to sourcing parts and super-efficient in organising our stock.”
Relph says that when he first discovered Liberty we had been using an off-the-shelf Sage package, “changing a few things around because not everything suited us”. He says that not only is Liberty’s system simpler to use in terms of stock management and payments, its back-office service is second to none. “The accounting function is very strong but if we do have a technical or operational query Liberty always has someone immediately available to talk to and explain everything”.
What Relph finds particularly impressive about Liberty, he says, is that it listens to its customers carefully and quickly attempts to come up with suggestions to improve their processes or even bespoke solutions. “In fact, they actively encourage you to give your feedback,” he says. “They seem genuinely committed to always trying to improve every aspect of the product, even if its just something as something a keystroke shortcut that enables you to return to an earlier point in the sequence”.
But for Relph, it was taking advantage of Liberty’s cloud-based services that has resulted in the biggest transformation of his business since its launch in 1991. “Being able to access all our information from wherever we want and then being able act on it remotely has redefined our whole business,” he enthuses. “Liberty gave us the confidence and the back-up to manage this transition.”
Being in the cloud doesn’t only mean that Relph can work remotely from Ontrak’s headquarters in Chorley, Lancashire on the day that the cricket is on TV. It means that his engineers visiting clients can manage the flow of stock and orders onsite. “If an engineer is onsite and needs to know if a specific part is in stock they can consult our inventory online instantly. If we don’t have the part, he can then immediately put a purchase order on the system and so the part could be delivered tomorrow. Obviously that enables us to offer our clients a speedier, and often more convenient, service. It can also save us a lot of money in petrol, which, of course, can help us to reinforce its environmental message” .
But the best thing about having the remote services, says Relph, is how much time it saves the company on a daily basis. “This process of going back to using our old name has really brought that home to us. Right now, we’re up to our elbows in all the paperwork and promotional materials that are involved in a company name change. It makes you appreciate just how lucky we are that so many of our forms and documents are safe in the cloud with Liberty”.