Family-owned pie and savoury foods manufacturer Ashworths Foods is buying into the Tropos ERP suite from developer SSI (Chelford) to handle production control, sales and distribution. SSI consultants are now installing the system, along with Coda financials, at Ashworths’ HQ in Lancashire. It looks like being an unusual application. Once largely a local supplier, Ashworths is now moving up the size league, selling to supermarkets and other large customers. This, says Ashworths managing director Brian Ashworth, means that IT systems need to be flexible. “We didn’t really have any production control system, or at least nothing that could be said to work properly,” says Ashworth. “We were using spreadsheets we’d designed ourselves, and things were getting extremely difficult to manage.” So Tropos is replacing all that. But the firm did have IT for its mobile sales operations. Ashworths earns a substantial proportion of its revenue from van sales, with vehicles visiting customers to take and fulfil orders. Here, this is being augmented, with SSI staff developing an add-on module to integrate Tropos with hand-held computers in the vans. These will record transactions and print invoice notes for customers, with the data being uploaded to the main Tropos system when the driver returns to base and replaces the handset in its docking station. Dale Barrington, SSI development director, says that whereas the van drivers already carry equipment to print invoices this will now automate the reconciliation process. And there’s scope for further development. “With bigger customers, it’s very likely that we will have to move into electronic exchange of orders and the like in the near future. We know we can do so with SSI… We see system development as an ongoing process.”