York-based software development company RedBlack was set up by managing director Jane Tyler in 1998 to design bespoke applications for customers in the food industry as well as in health and safety, NHS management and online learning.
It also works with travel agents; car park management; clubs and charities; stock control systems for book distributors, garage chains and engineering firms as well as helping track and distribute web leads to sales agents. It has built such a strong reputation in the food sector that RedBlack is now working with perhaps the country’s most high-profile food brand – Marks & Spencer.
“We are delighted to be working with M&S,” said Jane. “It’s one of Britain’s best-loved brands and I am really pleased that we can put our experience with automated sales-based ordering to the test at an enterprise level.”
RedBlack has four key products in use at wholesalers and retailers around the country.
Cybake is its flagship bakery management software, controlling everything from goods in to orders, production, invoicing, deliveries as well as reports and analysis. Instore is the sales-based predictive ordering system for retail bakers that eliminates unplanned waste and cuts admin. SG Systems V5 is used for precision shop-floor recipe control, product labelling and mobile warehouse management systems. And Infood is a cloud-based solution that uses recipes to generate regulation-compliant allergen and nutritional information.
“The fundamental problem bakers have is that every day they are trading in products from scratch,” explained Jane. “They are taking loads of ingredients and turning them into a couple of hundred lines, but the challenge is to know what to produce. So we take the orders from their customers, do the number crunching and use their recipes to let the bakers know exactly what they need to do – how many hot cross buns or dough types to make. Doing it manually would be really time-consuming.
“Most of our clients are craft bakers and we deal with the likes of Thomas the Baker and have a couple of other ‘biggies’ which is a great thing for us.
“We have been trying to grow the business, but these big names are certainly a game-changer for us and I like to think it will open even more doors for us.”
The company now has 23 staff and has taken on six as result of the work with Let’s Grow. “I think the confidence we got from winning the grant meant we are pushing ahead even more than we said we would,” adds Jane. “It was a good process with Let’s Grow and the handholding was very efficient which meant that there were no problems and we got around £45,000. That’s important money for the company because our main product, Cybake, is server-based and we need it on the cloud.
“It is a really big job to move it because it is 18 or 19 years since I first wrote it and it has been under development all that time, so it is quite a beast. We had moved one or two of the modules like Infood and Instore and converted to the Cloud one small bite at a time.
“But it is a huge ‘elephant’ to bite and we really need more developers, which can be quite expensive, so we couldn’t really commit to taking them on because there were too many unknowns for us. So we turned to Let’s Grow for help.
“It really helped to have that commitment from them because it can be scary to think of us taking on those developers, and it gives you confidence to progress.”
RedBlack all started for Jane while she was on maternity leave and her uncle, who was selling bakery software, needed a Windows version writing. As one of the first generation of Windows programmers she was the obvious choice.
For the future, the move to the Cloud will give them a crucial global reach and create many more opportunities for the software to be accessed. “We will still target the smaller baker because they don’t seem to be very well served and they could pay per month to use the system.”