It was a Friday morning, and I made my way to the offices of Focus Software Solutions in Birkirkara. Like many others, my preconceived impression is that IT people and IT systems are generally a boring combination. I can tell you, therefore, that the prospect of an IT review for an Inventory Management System did not seem to offer much in the way of excitement. But the Focus 360 Suite has proven to be far more encompassing than that.
Anthony Lupi and James Gatt proceeded to take me through the Focus 360 Suite, sprinkling their demonstration with a number of anecdotes from the distant and recent past, exposing the real reasons for which they have implemented some of the features of the system.
I must confess that I had originally budgeted a much shorter time for the interview, but it soon became apparent early into the meeting that:
- both my hosts showed off their system not as “just another task”, but as a product they believed in, that fulfilled real needs to manage a company’s inventory and financial matters;
- it was NOT going to be a boring meeting;
- I was going to be there for a while.
The Focus 360 Suite is formed of 4 modules that integrate tightly together to provide a comprehensive solution: Inventory, Retail, e-Shop, and Financials.
Architecture is multi-tier, with a back-end database to host the transaction records, a business logic engine, and a front-end which delivers the user interface.
This multi-tiered approach allows the Focus solution to present different user interfaces depending on the specific need or the particular industry. As an example, keep in mind that a bar’s point-of-sale interface needs to be optimised for the touchscreen, and should look and feel different to the interface that supports the creation of an invoice in the wholesale industry.
FOCUS 360 INVENTORY
The Inventory Management module allows you to manage your stocks-in-trade or materials for internal consumption, either directly, or as part of a manufacturing process.
STOCK ITEMS MANAGEMENT
Stock items are handled with flexibility, allowing you to define details such as:
- components (where a stock item can be created by consuming pre-defined quantities of other items)
- grouping of items to facilitate reporting:
> minimum levels and reorder quantities
> variants of an item to handle, for example:
>> different colours
>> different sizes
>> different packing units
> barcode labels
The Inventory Management module will allow you to allocate stock items to production jobs via Bill of Materials functionality.
MULTIPLE WAREHOUSE AND LOCATIONS
Focus 360 Inventory allows you to define a virtually unlimited number of different location, as well as the possibility to subdivide locations and stores into bins or shelves to quickly locate items, and to keep track of quantities of stock on a per-location basis.
PURCHASE ORDER PROCESSING
The Inventory Management module contains a Purchase Order Processing system, allowing you to manage the entire costing process, even in the more complex scenarios such as importing goods from outside the EU. Excellent handling of partially received orders.
REQUISITIONS AND LOCATION TRANSFERS
Stocks can be issued from stores for internal consumption or to record a transfer of stock quantities from one location to another to replenish the destination store.
STOCK TAKE PROCEDURES
The Stocktaking functionality is extensive, allowing for periodical or cyclic stock checks, as well as per-location stocktakes - all this designed to minimise impact on day-to-day operations while the stocktake is being performed.
You can also revalue stocks to a cost base, typically either average weighted cost or last received cost, to more accurately reflect stock value.
FOCUS 360 RETAIL
The Retail Module directly takes care of the sales function and acts as a bridge linking the Inventory Management module and the Financials module. This is the module that posts invoices into the Sales Ledger, where your Finance Department can manage debtors’ collection of receivables. Book-keeping entries for cost and revenue are posted automatically to the Nominal Ledger.
The Retail Module includes two main sections:
WHOLESALE & DISTRIBUTION
This section allows you to exploit the pricing functionalities to create multiple price lists and apply prices to product groups calculated by cost-based mark-ups, and trigger price changes when there are variances over a certain percentage to the unit cost. The system also contemplates a stage to build a quotation, which can then be converted into a sales order and eventually into an invoice. This obviously avoids a lot of double work and potential human error.
The day-to-day process is automated, fulfilling needs such as pick-list printing for loading purposes, and preparation of delivery notes and invoices to prepare a vehicle for a day’s deliveries.
POINT OF SALE SYSTEM
The Point-of-Sale system handles over-the-counter sales, including search functionality to quickly locate stock for clients within any store or outlet, Barcode scanner integration with cash registers and chit printers, and other devices are supported. The system provides for the reconciliation of the daily takings via X-Read and Z-Read procedures. It is also geared up for the provision of loyalty cards and gift vouchers which in turn therefore feed your sales data and statistics. Focus have also paid special attention to providing controls to counter pilferages and similar abuses.
FOCUS 360 E-SHOP
The e-Shop module is a breath of fresh air, in that it provides you with a ready-made web infrastructure that binds to your inventory and retail modules to create a web shop that can showcase your products and allow your online clients to place online orders. You can also categorise “featured” items to give them extra visibility. It also features an advanced search option which is user defined according to product specifications.
The web shop has been designed with SEO tactics in mind, preparing it for favourable search engine ranking.
FOCUS 360 FINANCIALS
The Financials module is the back-office glue, providing a full-featured Nominal Ledger infrastructure, complete with advanced features such as cost-centre and departmental analysis, group consolidation, and multi-currency support. The Sales and Purchases Ledgers provide the controls on amounts receivable and payable and provide seamless integration between the various modules in the Suite.
Manual generation of invoices in the Sales and Purchases Ledger are possible, as well as facilities for recording settlements and allocations of receivable and payable invoices. Automatic emailing of statements to customers is another welcome tool in your Accounting Department’s armoury.
FOCUS 360 – REPORTING FEATURES
All the modules have been furnished with extensive reporting possibilities, such as Aged Debtors Analysis reports for controlling your receivable accounts, Sales Analysis reports to evaluate the performance of your different Product Lines or your different Outlets, and Stock Life Expectancy reports to help you control the order in which stock items are released from stores to sales or production.
FOCUS 360 - CUSTOMISATION AND INTEGRATION
The Focus 360 Suite is part of the product portfolio being offered by Focus Software Solutions. Apart from the packaged products, which Focus develop in-house, the company also offers bespoke software development in their list of services.
This means that if you have a specific requirement to integrate this solution with another system, or require some additional module to extend the functionality in some way to suite your particular business model, you have access to the development team that build your system to do exactly that.
At the end of this review it became very evident that the system is designed with a high level of attention to detail, offering special attention to the quick availability of stock on receipt of goods; necessary controls to counter pilferage and other losses, and an interface that provides a lighter learning curve through the new state of the art ribbon design.
Apart from offering niceties such as seamless integration for multiple organisations, the system offers an impressively effective SEO structure, thus making sure that it lives up to what its name suggests; that of being a 360-degrees complete product.
If you are looking for a home-grown solution, targeted for the needs of the Maltese typical business, with possibilities to extend or customise the functionality to fit into your already-existing infrastructure, and where support is not only just a phone call away, but located within a 10-mile radius, Focus Software puts forward a very compelling offering.