Australasia’s number-one supplier of vital permanent magnets says Cin7 is a rare find
To most people, magnets are just what you use to pin your child’s latest artistic effort to the fridge. But there’s a lot more to these mysterious objects. Magnets, it turns out, make the world go round. They are integral everywhere, in pretty much every electronic device that exists, from headphones to computers to MRI machines.
AMF Magnetics is an Australian company that specializes in selling permanent — or “rare earth” — magnets. They’re now the largest supplier in Australia, with a range of something like 1500 products”
“It’s a very niche product, but it’s needed by all segments of society in one facet or another,” says Mark Kapo, owner of AMF. “ We’re very fortunate that we’re in this space.”
Mark wasn’t always in the magnet market. Before AMF, he owned restaurants. But after ten years in the hospitality industry, he wanted to try working on something less intensive. “We wanted a business that didn’t operate on the weekend, and was closed over the Christmas break.” Mark says. This, he reckons, made the rare-earth magnet business particularly attractive.
AMF was an established business that had been running since the early 1980s, when Mark bought it in 2006. Back then, it was very much an “analog outfit,” as Mark puts it.
“I’m from the analog era. I’m old school. But I decided that we had to push the online side of things — we were running blind. It wasn’t easy to decide what to do.” Mark’s desire for a digital transformation was complicated by the fact that the magnet business was inherently complex. AMF supplies all kinds of customers — from enormous B2B orders of hundreds of thousands of items, to specialist medical equipment with extremely high quality requirements and tight deadlines, to casual D2C customers who just want some magnets to play with. On the supply side, there are multiple suppliers in several different locations. And the complexity grows even greater with AMF’s uncompromising approach to customer service.
“We deal with everyone equally, and we take it pretty seriously. Being from a family that’s very hospitable, service is important to me. That’s not just a word, it’s not made up. We actually do care. If the customer’s not happy, we’re not happy, and that attitude just runs through the whole business.”
Over seven years, Mark managed to grow the business, but he found that inefficient operational processes were holding things back. They had managed to digitize to some extent, and were working with MYOB desktop software to manage inventory and accounting — but they found it wasn’t up to the task.
“We had MYOB, and we deal in multi-currencies, and frankly, MYOB’s management was too slow to go into the cloud and work with multi-currencies. That really held us back,” Mark says.
“But all that said, I was very comfortable with it, and it’s pretty scary transitioning from a system that you know, to one that you don’t know how to navigate.”
Even though he didn’t know for sure what the business needed in terms of its digital transformation, Mark knew how to find out. He made two particularly smart choices: hiring an exceptionally talented in-house marketing and IT team with modern software skills, including a new Marketing Manager (later CEO) — and working with external experts, including SMB Consultants.
As the CEO of AMF Magnetics, Catalina Rodríguez is responsible for every aspect of business’ day-to-day operations. With an impressive resume including Deloitte Colombia, Catalina says she didn’t know much about the magnet business to start with.
“Before joining AMF I didn’t know that almost everything in this world had magnets — airpods, doors, medical devices, cars, speakers and even the superhero costumes in Marvel movies!” Catalina says.
But after sticking around a bit, Catalina learned quickly. She led a crack squad of developers, IT professionals, customer service team members, and external consultants to get AMF running as well as it possibly could, and one of the main steps she took was building a team to transition the business from MYOB to Xero.
With Xero as the accounting system of record, things were already running more smoothly across much of the business, with one exception: inventory management. Xero, by design, is not inventory management software, and Catalina and Mark both knew that to really power up the business they’d need to couple Xero’s powerful accounting capabilities with a best-of-breed inventory management solution.
To find the right one, they turned to SMB Consultants, who recommended Cin7 after an in-depth scoping session where they took time to understand AMF’s particular business requirements.
“AMF were using a server-based system called FileMaker before they came to us,” says Deepak Stevens, an integration expert at SMB Consultants. “Our job was to understand their needs, and recommend a platform that would set them up for the next ten years at least. It was quite clear that Cin7 would be a good fit for AMF Magnetics, because we were confident the system would be able to adapt to any specific needs they have.”
After the initial scoping session, SMB Consultants put together a proof-of-concept — Cin7 running to AMF’s specific requirements.
“SMB advised us that Cin7 was a perfect fit for where we wanted to take the business in the future,” Mark says. “We wanted to optimize email marketing, social media, and paid advertising, and we needed our websites to work at their very best in order to do that. And we needed the inventory system live and helping us with the accounting side of things. Cin7 covered a multitude of these areas, which other systems we looked at didn’t do.”
Working with the SMB team, Catalina and the AMF team hit on a hybrid solution. Together with another consultant out of Sydney, they integrated Cin7 with Xero, and built a custom integration between Cin7 and Shopify that suits AMFs diverse customer base and specific operational requirements. Thanks to SMB’s expert guidance, and the understanding gained through the interactive proof-of-concept, all the moving parts fit together seamlessly.
“When we did Cin7, I was a bit scared. It was going to be a big change. But to be honest, the transition was very easy,” Catalina says. “The proof-of-concept was really good, because it helped us mitigate the risks, and showed us the impact the new platform would have for the business. It was done on a weekend, and in one or two days, we were operating.”
Mark Kapo, Owner, AMF Magnetics
In just over a year since adopting Cin7, and implementing their custom-built Shopify integration, life has gotten a lot easier for both the owners and operators of AMF Magnetics.
“It’s all seamless,” Mark says. “Suddenly, we’d gone from this clunky system of typing all the invoices and printing them out. Now, orders are coming in 24 hours a day. While I’m sleeping, wherever I am in the world, there’s an order popping through. And the staff just go to work, pick it up, and start packaging it. It was really transformational”
Working with international orders, multiple currencies, and multiple websites is now effortless. Cin7’s flexibility means that they can tweak their inventory system of record to work the way they need it to. Catalina and Mark talk about the multiple successes Cin7 has enabled, in everything from using its Bill of Materials and virtual stock functionality to push products to Ebay, to changing their inventory accounting method from LIFO to FIFO.
“What I like with Cin7 is the flexibility,” Catalina says. “We did look at other inventory management systems, but they didn’t have that flexibility that Cin7 gives you.”
AMF says their move to Cin7, and the powerful automations they’ve put in place with SMB’s help, have saved them hundreds of hours, made their systems more efficient, and enabled them to move more product and grow faster.
“Reconciliation used to be quite a painful process, when dealing with multiple websites and sales channels, but getting that into one system has saved at least an hour a day,” Mark says. “Cin7 has allowed us to put more products on more sales channels. And the connections between Cin7, Shopify, Xero and Hubdoc are fantastic for accounting.”
Moving to this modern software stack with Cin7 at the center has added up quantifiable time savings across the business.
“In terms of the savings we made, we’ve almost doubled our sales without really increasing our headcount,” Mark says. “And we’ve done that because of this fantastic software, which I might add, is itself always evolving.”
CEO Catalina agrees. She says that before Cin7, simply reconciling sales across two brands, multiple Shopify websites, and other sales channels like Ebay would have taken a full half-day. “With Cin7 we can do all the reconciliation of all the websites and marketplaces in one hour. Also, before we were manually updating the inventory on the websites, needing to export and import spreadsheet files. Now, it all happens automatically.”
Mark says that thanks to Cin7’s deep level of integration with Shopify, they’ve been able to swiftly spin up new websites with almost no effort or time required.
“The beauty of Cin7 is that it integrates so well with Shopify,” Mark says. “When we moved to Shopify Plus, we could automatically put seven or eight websites straight into that platform, integrated with Cin7. And the time saved there, in terms of getting to market, was just phenomenal.”
Support, too, has been stellar. Whenever AMF Magnetics needs something, they have multiple sources of help to hand. Deepak’s depth of expertise is always there, and so is the Cin7 support team.
“I think I speak to Deepak every week!” Catalina says. “I have him in Slack. There’s always something we want or need to know. And the Cin7 call center is really, really fast and very helpful.”
Mark and Catalina say that having a system like Cin7 to power your inventory isn’t just a nice-to-have. Today, it’s business-critical. Mark, with decades of pre-digital business experience behind him, says that if you’re a product seller without inventory management software, you’ll be left behind.
“This transformation from the analog world to the digital world is so amazing, but if you don’t make an effort to understand it, you’re going to be left behind and your business will be less and less viable.”
In fact, Mark says his only regret is not going with Cin7 sooner.
“Several years ago, we actually got someone in who advised us that we were looking for a Xero and Cin7 based system, and I wasn’t ready to go down that road, because I’m old school,” Mark says. “I didn’t have the experience. But if I’d listened to him, we’d have been far further down the road of digitization.
Likewise, Catalina says that an inventory management system — like Cin7, DEAR Systems, or Cin7 Orderhive — is a requirement for efficient business. And she wholeheartedly recommends taking on a Cin7 Expert like SMB Consultants to help make it a smooth move.
“If you want to grow the business, if you want to do Amazon, Ebay, you really need that level of integration,” Catalina says. “And if you’re deciding to migrate to an inventory system like Cin7, accept it’s going to be a big project, and having an external consultant is going to make that transition smooth.”
At the end of the day, AMF Magnetics say they’ll definitely be sticking with Cin7, and they’ve got a list of reasons why other companies should find the platform attractive.
“From my point of view, all these various platforms and services — Cin7, Shopify, Xero, Hubdoc, SMB Consultants, they’re all integral,” Mark says.
“They’ve allowed us to create a seamless system where a client can place an order on their phone, their computer, wherever, and we just pick it up and start putting it together. The freight company turns up, picks it up, and it’s gone. And we do that every day. We don’t wait a week to do an order — it’s done on the day. With Cin7, everything’s instant.”