Movable Type Projects

Belle Group

Belle Group is a manufacturer of equipment for the construction industry, known particularly for the ubiquitous Minimix concrete mixer. Belle uses the Syspro ERP system for manufacturing, sales, purchasing, and accounting functions.

mixerI have had a long-standing relationship with Belle Group, supplementing their internal IT team on:


Working together with Belle’s marketing agency (who were responsible for the visual styling), I designed the structure and navigation of the website, and also developed ASP pages to present a lot of dynamic content taken from Syspro or managed by Belle staff:

Corporate integration

Errut was a company acquired by Belle and in 1999 their ERP system – an outdated DOS-based system – was migrated into Syspro. This required meticulous planning, as the two systems were structured in significantly different ways (for instance, product analysis codes were configured differently, sales invoice numbers were not required to be unique with resulting conflicts, postcodes – central to Belle geographic reporting – were not held in a field of their own, foreign currencies were handled differently, etc, in addition to regular problems with smaller field lengths, new mandatory fields, and so on).

For the migration, Errut had only one day of down-time as customer details, inventory, bill-of-materials, and invoices were exported from the old MAP4 system and imported into Syspro (4,000 customers, 20,000 stock items), and they then recommenced trading successfully the following morning.

We used variety of tools to accomplish this, including MS-Access/ODBC, Excel, report writers, etc.

A second stage in this integration took place four years later, when the two ‘companies’ in Syspro were integrated together. This time, there were no system compatibility problems, but the major problem was identifying duplicated customers, suppliers, inventory, and bills-of-materials between the two companies, and removing conflicts / reconciling differences.

Management reporting

reportI have worked closely with Belle’s management team to create a wide range of management reporting to provide them with key information to assist them in running the company.

These reports have been implemented in MS-Access using ODBC connections to Syspro, enabling real-time reporting. Most reports are run by automated scheduler, on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, though other reports are created ad-hoc for specific one-off queries.

Examples of such management reporting include:

Linked systems

When Belle arranged to send electronic delivery notes to their haulage company, I devised a system where a single ‘button-press’ would extract details of all despatched orders in EDI format, including delivery address, shipping instructions, products summary and detail, and weights. This was implemented in Visual Basic.

I also developed a credit control chase-letter system, which creates mail-merge letters for all customers overdue on payment terms, informing them of each outstanding invoice.