Optimising operations and customer relationships with Phocas 18 June 2024

Profast Group, a distributor of fasteners and fixings, headquartered in Ireland, has used Business Intelligence and data analytics software from Phocas Software to revolutionise its sales methodologies; optimise its inventory management practices; and enhance its customer interactions.

Committed to delivering high-quality products and exceptional customer service, Profast set out to enhance its operational efficiency and strengthen customer relationships in the face of evolving market dynamics. Acknowledging the need for data-driven insights and increased operational efficiency, the company sought the expertise of Phocas Software, a well established provider of Cloud-based Business Intelligence and Financial Planning & Analysis solutions in the fastener and fixing industry. 

Phocas integrates seamlessly with Profast’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, Merlin Business Software from Aptean, and through the combined use of Phocas Analytics and CRM, has united the company’s sales, stock and purchasing data.

Profast now has ‘real time’ visibility into its sales performance, pipeline forecasts and inventory levels to help better manage sales teams. Profast can also easily see what customers are buying, and not buying, to increase ‘share of wallet’. For example, thanks to unlocking customer insights through Phocas, Profast can now adopt a more consultative sales approach; embedding itself into its customers’ projects and timelines. By better anticipating demand and offering proactive solutions, the Profast team have positioned themselves as strategic partners rather than mere suppliers.

“Data is very important because if you’re not reviewing your performance, how do you actually know how you’re performing? It allows you to be able to identify where extra resources and support are required,” comments Stephen Clarke, head of sales at Profast Ltd.

Fastener and fixing distributors handle thousands of SKUs and generate huge sums of data throughout their supply chains, in particular logistics and eCommerce. Whilst this data is invaluable, too much data can result in information overload, which can be counterproductive. Another challenge is that this plethora of data traditionally sits across multiple siloed systems, which potentially includes the business’ ERP, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, Warehouse Management System (WMS) and Human Resource Management System (HMRS). 

Due to the complexities this presents for tasks like sales forecasting, management teams have traditionally had to rely on finance or IT to build bespoke reports for them. Not only is this time-consuming, but these reports are typically static spreadsheets that quickly become outdated and can pose a risk to business decision making. 

Modern Business Intelligence and data analytics software, such as Phocas, helps businesses to relieve these common data challenges by bringing data together from different sources to monitor KPIs in ‘real time’. “Whether it’s sales revenue, margins, dead stock, or OTIF. Phocas really does simplify the complex spreadsheets and information that we could present it with from our ERP or CRM systems, and compiles it on the one dashboard,” says Stephen. “Phocas provides instant access to transaction level data in an easy to use tool that can be relied upon to build a comprehensive picture of what’s happening across the business.” 

With technology, companies need to continually adapt and adopt, so when Phocas launched AI-powered databases with natural language queries this year, the company immediately saw the potential for the novice user. Business Intelligence solutions that offer the added benefit of integrated AI functionality, make data-driven insights even more accessible to people across the business. This is especially the case for newcomers to the world of analytics who can use natural language prompts to query their specific sales, purchasing and operations databases without needing to rely on technical support. 

Leveraging the AI-powered Business Intelligence and dashboarding capabilities of Phocas, Profast has successfully navigated economic challenges, optimised operations and strengthened customer relationships. By embracing new technology, Profast continues to evolve within an ever-changing business landscape and raise the bar for service excellence.

“We’re always great at identifying our strengths and maybe not as good at identifying what we need to improve on. The dashboards and the data in Phocas definitely help make that very real, in black and white,” concludes Stephen.

To survive and thrive in today’s economic climate, manufacturers and distributors need a deeper understanding of their business data. If they are not willing, or able, to set-up and run an in-house Business Intelligence team, but seek all the benefits it can provide, the next best alternative is investing in dedicated software. Armed with the right information, at the right time, businesses can eliminate chance and gut feeling in decision making, once and for all.

Deputy Editor

Claire Aldridge Deputy Editor t: +44 (0) 1727 743 889


Having spent a decade in the fastener industry experiencing every facet – from steel mills, fastener manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, as well as machinery builders and plating + coating companies, Claire has developed an in-depth knowledge of all things fasteners.

Alongside visiting numerous companies, exhibitions and conferences around the world, Claire has also interviewed high profile figures – focusing on key topics impacting the sector and making sure readers stay up to date with the latest developments within the industry.