Testing the parameters

Testing more than half the country’s $1 billion wool clip, the New Zealand Wool Testing Authority Ltd is Abel’s first and oldest customer – using Abel® to reliably streamline its accounting and keep up with changing customer needs over 14 years.

For as long as there has been a wool trade, buyers and sellers have needed some way of agreeing on quality. The finer a fleece, the better it is for high fashion. Coarser wools will end up as carpet. Once making judgments was a matter of feel and smell. But you only need look around the laboratories of the New Zealand Wool Testing Authority (NZWTA) in Napier to see how much has changed.

Staff man banks of computer screens recording tests for every gradation of strength or usability. Infra-red scans measure sample purity while a carding machine teases out strands of newly shorn samples to test how they stand being stretched. The care taken reflects how much is at stake. An assessment can affect the price of a bale by ten percent; and the company is liable for any mistake.

Founded in 1964 and growing out of the old Department of Agriculture, NZWTA has branches in Dunedin, Christchurch, Invercargill and Wellington. It accounts for the majority of testing on the roughly 220,000 tonnes of wool, worth $1 billion, that make up New Zealand’s wool clip every year. Working with a significant number of farmers, brokers, merchants and exporters, as well as its own agents, NZWTA collects up to 600 samples a day. And just as its success has been built on consistency and quality, Tom Ryan, its Manager Accounts, says these have defining features of its relationship with Abel as well.

Beginning work for NZWTA in 1998, Abel’s first task was to complete a unique integration with the company’s in-house system so that all financial management processes would flow automatically into and be managed on Abel. Says Mr Ryan: “It just works and does everything we need.”

By simply switching on more capacity as required, Abel has enabled the company to adapt to changing business or customer requirements. In many ways the life blood of the business, agents are paid for each sample they send in. But they do not bill uniformly, some waiting weeks to send in clusters of invoices, with all of them previously aggregated manually. Now however Abel auto-generates, and balances the accounts, for every payment due as it comes in, sending agents a self invoicing docket (pro forma invoicing docket).

The importing of the budgets used to take two days, Mr Ryan says, but Abel now loads them with a push of a button. Exporting data from Abel into specialised reports for Management and the Board, where information is also sought from our MACs wool testing system, also saves us time, we also have the ability to write customized reports easily which we can then use as prime reporting tools.

A year and a half ago we changed the nature of our General Ledger to capture the wool types (Merino, Crossbred, Scoured wool etc) this has lead to better insights into our core business as well as improved budgeting. Late last year we added the Textile Testing business. The reporting requirements were both easily incorporated into Abel, the core reporting comes from Abel and I can then export directly to our Management and Board reports, where we can undertake further analysis.

An Abel automatic debit facility means that with many customers chasing up accounts is now a thing of the past. “It’s one of those systems where everything just stays nicely in balance. It is all so nicely integrated. I have worked with other systems where items in your general ledger go out of synch. But with Abel all the sub-ledgers stay in balance, which saves a lot of headaches,” Mr Ryan says.

Abel also emails many documents to customers and suppliers. And by giving them easier control over the business Abel means they can serve customers better, Duane Knowles, NZWTA’s Chief Executive Officer, says. Recent innovations include automatic reimbursement of agents and enabling customers to select their own billing frequency so they can manage their accounts as they want.

“I’ve always believed that if you can measure it you can manage it,” Mr Knowles says. “Abel gives us the ability to enhance what we offer, not just in testing services, but in our other features that make life easier for our customers.” And in doing so it helps ensure NZWTA will continue to serve a huge part of New Zealand’s economy for a good time yet.