Is uncertainty the key to success?

The traditional view is that business abhors uncertainty. Stability allows companies to plan and grow, whereas unpredictability makes them hunker down, avoid spending - and wait. But for MACS Software in Lutterworth, the opposite seems to be the case. In fact, for some of MACS’ customers it might be that very uncertainty that helps them to expand their operation.

1
Photo: Esther Dutton

MACS Software supplies warehouse management systems to some of the country’s most successful warehouses and distribution companies. But rather than pause, for some customers, Brexit and the economic and operational uncertainty that it has created, have sparked a much more proactive response.

“It’s true that immediately after the referendum vote last June some companies were shocked,” said Esther Dutton, from MACS. “The vote to leave the EU was unexpected and it seemed that people didn’t know how to react at first. But, although some did initially batten down the hatches and in an effort to ride out any storm, they soon realised that doing nothing was not an option.”

“If you have certainty, the decisions about what sort of warehouse management system best meets your current and future needs is relatively easy,” said Esther. “But when you are not sure what your needs will be, even in the relatively near future, it’s much more difficult.”

According to Esther, that’s when flexibility becomes crucial. It’s not change that’s the enemy, it’s rigidity. “Companies are having to reassess their operational processes because nobody knows what the changes will be in the future,” she explained. “They are looking for suppliers that can react quickly and are able to provide systems that can be adapted over time to meet changing circumstances. Today it’s the independent software provider, such as MACS Software, that have the edge because we are not rigid in our approach and can design and configure our warehouse management systems to be flexible.”

Esther said that it’s the most successful companies that are adapting their systems to focus on flexibility. “I believe that’s why we have seen extraordinary interest in our WMS products in the last few months,” she said. “People need to know that their system is right for their needs now but can be changed should the market change in the future. That way they feel secure in making the decision to invest.”

It appears that many progressive organisations have made that very choice. In recent months, MACS Software has handled the relocation of a complete WMS system to operate in a warehouse that’s twice the size of its previous location for a homeware e-commerce company in Manchester. MACS is also in the process of streamlining an e-commerce installation with an upgrade to Radio Frequency (RF) and pick/pack stations for a company in Gloucestershire; upgrading a large jewellery retailer from paper-based to RF operation; and is converting a major cold storage warehouse from RF to Voice control.

“These are all very good examples of how existing customers and new customers are adapting their software systems to meet the challenges of their businesses to maximise profit,” said Esther. “By being proactive, they are carving out a greater market share yet retaining the opportunity to react quickly and efficiently when circumstances change.”

MACS has had similar successes overseas where it continues to work closely with aid agencies and government organisations that distribute drugs and other vitally important medical equipment to the people of Uganda, Mozambique, Guyana and Haiti. The MACS technology ensures that the most up to date systems are used to get the supplies to the people who need them, without delay. “We will soon be welcoming a delegation from Mozambique who will be joining us for training on RF systems,” said Esther. “This will help them to keep their systems current for their own changing needs.”

Although business has always preferred certainty, times are changing. Ironically, it is possible that the very uncertainty of the modern business world becomes the catalyst that allows the difference between the excellent and the ordinary to become increasingly evident. It will be the companies that demonstrate their flexibility, their ability to follow trends and adapt quickly to market demands, that thrive.