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Standardizing business processes

As engineering and support services provider to the nuclear industry, BNS Nuclear services were struggling to keep pace with customer demands having inherited numerous legacy applications.

BNS Nuclear Services, is a project based engineering company operating in business areas requiring specialist mechanical handling solutions. The headquarters are in Leicestershire and the company has operating sites all over the world.

BNS is part of the Babcock International Group. Today, BNS provides services for Airports, Logistics,Defence, Nuclear and Thermal Power industries. These markets have small customer bases which necessitates working closely with customers, often in partnership arrangements. The quality requirements for BNS’s products are high, demanding close attention to detail and accuracy of information. It is essential that the company’s processes are compatible with, and can communicate with those of their customers.


This trading environment necessitates the continual development of technology in order to put the company ahead of its competitors and make BNS the first choice for customers.

The new company had inherited dysfunctional operating systems with over 100 legacy applications based on a 20-year old mainframe system with numerous databases.

The new BNS management team knew that this infrastructure would not enable them to compete in today’s market. The replacement of the existing infrastructure with automated business processes based on one single platform was essential to improving efficiency, productivity, service and response times.

The objective was to find a replacement system that would enable BNS to improve services and become better placed to secure new business. In parallel BNS would continue to develop internal and external processes in order to improve competitiveness and customer service.

The project was to replace all Accounting, Project Management, Time Recording, Purchasing, Goods Receiving, Stock Management and Reporting software. The criteria were that the new solution should:

  • Provide detailed yet flexible financial and project functionality.
  • Maximise electronic data availability and eliminate paper transactions and reports.
  • Have functionality available out-of-the-box wherever possible.
  • Be on a platform that could be further developed by BNS’s own IT Department.
  • Be based on Microsoft technology.
  • Include web functionality to support remote users.

BNS had an initial selection list of 8 Value Added Resellers (VAR’s) offering a variety of software solutions.

Evaluation of potential operating platforms was completed by early 2001, with a target implementation date, including training of 60 key employees, of October 2001.


Columbus was the ideal VAR for the project as they had experience in implementing similar projects, on time and to budget.

Columbus specialises in the implementation of Microsoft Business Solutions – Microsoft Dynamics AX and Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Furthermore the company focuses on providing solutions for project companies and had already developed functionality to meet the unique needs of project accounting and time recording.

Following detailed solution demonstrations, BNS visited some of Columbus’s existing customers and were impressed with the professionalism of the company and the high levels of long-term support that were evident.

Further confidence came from the knowledge that Columbus is an International solution provider with thousands of global reference sites.

Many of the software solutions that BNS had considered seemed similar in their functionality, but Microsoft Dynamics AX was the only solution that met all of the criteria for the project.


A Modular Platform. The business platform was modular and could therefore be readily structured to match BNS’s individual business needs.

A Flexible Interface. Microsoft Dynamics AX provides a flexible interface, which allows access to the same business logic using browser, application client, machine-to-machine or remote device. This provides significant advantages and enables the operation of many diverse projects, often in remote locations.

BNS and Columbus jointly evaluated the company’s current business processes, removed unnecessary processes wherever possible and developed a detailed specification as to how the Microsoft Dynamics AX Platform could satisfy BNS’s operational needs.

Microsoft Dynamics AX has unique version layer technology that enables customers to invest in customisations without the risk of losing them in future upgrades. This provided the opportunity for Columbus to modify the solution to create a perfect fit between functionality and BNS’s key business processes.

Modifications were made around the Web Browser and time recording module for BNS’s fee earning engineers to record time remotely. Further functionality was added around ‘OLAP’ On Line Analytical Processing, a technology that enables management to reference and analyse data at all levels and in all directions in Microsoft Dynamics AX, but specifically for project costing.

Particular attention has been given to ensuring online communication was enabled for remote users. This was achieved through the unique Microsoft Dynamics AX Object Server that enables connection without the requirement for third party software.

The platform is already showing efficiency improvements within purchasing and finance, with longer term gains also expected in projects.

Microsoft Dynamics AX is enabling all of BNS’s business sectors to work closer and more efficiently with their customers. They are using this in the first instance to secure existing business and maximise their position to generate new work. The speed of access to information and reduction in waste now allows them to maintain a competitive edge in their target markets.

The company has also secured new business within service areas, assisted by their information systems, their willingness to use this in partnership with their customers and the improved responsiveness that this brings. The innovative use of web technology allows them to make daily performance information on projects available to their customers.

On a departmental level, the electronic purchasing process will eliminate duplication and transcription errors, whilst at the same time reducing the purchasing process time.

The reporting flexibility is such that BNS are now able to readily satisfy their customers varied demands for reports and analysis.

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