Albert Bartlett & Sons — the UK’s largest grower of Root Vegetables – is a business which proves that all you really need to succeed is guts, a commitment to quality and £30 for your first beetroot boiler…
Headquartered near Glasgow and still run by the founder’s family, Albert Bartlett is now an intercontinental player in the potato and vegetable industry – and a household name as well, thanks to the famous Rooster Potato TV advertising campaign. AB’s UK business — which supplies every major supermarket chain in the country – employs 750 people across 4 sites and, as Albert himself would have approved, only closes for Christmas.
We met up with Mandy Maxwell, Albert Bartlett’s Administration Manager, a straightforward Glaswegian with a welcoming smile and a big heart. She has been at Bartlett’s for 30 years, and is as passionate about her job and the company as when she started at 16. Mandy’s pride in the business is obvious — she talks about it as if it was her own — and considers the people on the payroll her big extended family.
The history and success of Albert Bartlett’s business is plotted in pictures on the canteen wall and is as slick and clear as the environment itself. Enter the world of Albert Bartlett and you’re immediately struck by its purposeful efficiency.
People stay here for years and years, she says, and everyone knows everyone else. We look after each other, because we have grown up together.
The challenge 15 years ago was to make the process of running the payroll less time consuming and more accurate. “The old clock card system needed hours of manual input and adjustments – we struggled endlessly with holidays, sickness and even simple missed clockings — it was just taking too much time to get right, and people didn’t have confidence in the results it produced”.
Thinking Software’s Solutions
So AB set about finding a software solution to reduce the strain out and improve the process. After considering a number of alternative suppliers, AB chose Thinking Software, and in 1998, the main site (then at Cumbernauld) was chosen to pilot the first AB installation of Rota Horizon, an integrated Time & Attendance and Staff-Planning system.
Mandy admits that the change-over wasn’t without a few challenges. “The first few months were very difficult — it took time to embed the software in our business. And of course, not everyone was happy with the change from traditional clocking machines to a swipe card system, mainly because it meant that they were being paid for actual hours worked, without any ‘approximations’. But Thinking Software stuck with us through the issues, and made sure that we had all the support we needed to get through our initial difficulties.”
But the system soon came into its own, and is now central to the running of the organisation. “Over a fairly short period of time, people started to trust the data and rely on the reports – we could see that the system would help us expose lateness trends, manage exceptions, plan holidays and track sickness and time-off.”
Today the Rota Horizon solution manages the staff on all four Albert Bartlett sites and also provides central control for AB’s payroll data. Mandy doesn’t miss the old days – “Prior to the system being installed it took 2 days to run the payroll, but now this is down to just 30 minutes. The system has paid for itself many times over and is pivotal to the smooth running of the business.
Mandy says, “We rely on the exception reports, especially the one which highlights lateness and missed clockings. The system is very clear, and makes it easy to see the anomalies as displayed on the screen. We find that Rota Horizon is easy to use, and at the same time, it’s full of clever features – we’ve just started using the SMS messaging feature to communicate at short notice with our staff.”
I can’t speak highly enough of the team; we receive a level of “Service and Support” from Thinking Software which is exemplary, they’re in a “League of their own”.
Mandy also points out that the Support Team at Thinking Software is always there at the end of the phone, and extremely quick to respond to any question or query. “I can’t speak highly enough of the team; we receive a level of service and support from Thinking Software which is exemplary, in a league of its own. They are always on the ball and give you a feeling of total confidence.”
Over the years, Rota Horizon has been frequently adapted and amended to fit Albert Bartlett’s requirements, and Mandy believes that this evolution will continue as Albert Bartlett expands into other markets. “We’ve enjoyed working with Thinking Software, and we look forward to their continued help as we grow. I would recommend them anyone who needed a time recording application.“