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Axminster Tools

A long-term strategic partnership with Axminster Tools sees the deployment of an extensive and collaborative solution with all their IT and communications infrastructure hosted in our data centre.


Axminster Tools is a family-run retail business based in Devon. They are a market leader in the mail order tools industry selling 15,000-plus products to trade professionals and DIY enthusiasts. Aggressive growth plans meant Axminster needed a long-term IT and communications partner to develop and support the infrastructure on which the business operates.


swcomms first supplied Axminster with a new telephone system in 1992. When they outgrew this, Axminster looked to the marketplace seeking a combined voice and data solution from a communications company that would link their head office and retail sites. Calls to the business had increased dramatically following the introduction of their mail order service and calls to customer and staff mobile phones had become an expensive outlay.


Axminster selected us to deploy an Alcatel-Lucent OmniPCX Enterprise system, hosted in our data centre, together with an OmniTouch Contact Centre. This met the needs of their warehouse facility and new headquarters, including a manufacturing division, a photography studio and a training centre. It also had the flexibility to link to and accommodate the opening of seven stores in Axminster, Cardiff, High Wycombe, Newcastle, Nuneaton, Sittingbourne and Warrington, and their business centres.


IP telephony was deployed for 300+ extensions with the installation of the OmniPCX Enterprise onto their data network. This gave Axminster more control over ongoing  moves and changes as the IP handsets can be simply unplugged and plugged in elsewhere reducing the need to call out third-party engineers.


The contact centre software for 40 agents enables them to cope with the 2,500 calls received each day from their vast customer base. Axminster uses the contact centre software to provide skills-based routing to direct callers to the most appropriate agent. Real-time visual updates on the number of calls waiting, calls answered, available agents and an array of vital call handling statistic can be clearly viewed on a wallboard.


Their contact centre supervisors use a management package to respond to call volumes by managing call queues, agent groups and announcement messages. Detailed historical call reporting also allows them to monitor calls received and response times, so they can manage staff and shift numbers.


swcomms deployed Rainbow, Alcatel-Lucent’s unified communications app, for management and warehouse staff. This integrates with the phone system and Google apps to offer one-to-one and group audio and video calling, instant messaging, screen and file sharing, and presence status indicators via PCs and mobile devices. Rainbow enables staff to take calls and communicate with colleagues and customers from wherever they are working. The warehouse staff use Rainbow to take calls on their iPhones while they are on the move on site.


A wide area network was originally implemented using traditional low capacity leased lines to connect the headquarters to its retail site in Axminster and to our data centre in Exeter. It has since been upgraded with high bandwidth ethernet private circuits to underpin a Cisco Meraki software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) solution that gives all of Axminster’s sites access to their central business systems, such as stock control and credit card verification, and all their server infrastructure that has been migrated to our data centre.


Axminster benefits from the resilience our data centre hosting facility offers, along with the support of our technical staff. We also back up their server infrastructure to a business continuity cloud service for seamless access to their IT systems in the event of a disaster.


Our data centre provides Axminster with business class internet services too, which are not always available in small market towns. Our resilient, scalable bandwidth is capable of coping with their online e-commerce catalogue, YouTube product videos and tutorials, the upload of large image files from their photography studio and providing staff internet access.


Connectivity at the stores varies from ethernet over fibre to the cabinet (EoFTTC), ethernet in the first mile (EFM) and internet leased lines, but the Meraki solution manages all these internet-facing circuits.


Our data centre hosts the core of the Meraki SD-WAN with a 1Gbps private circuit connecting to Axminster’s headquarters as well as providing 100Mbps of resilient internet breakout and security and web content filtering.

swcomms upgraded the local area network at the main Axminster site to achieve gigabit speeds and power over the ethernet to keep pace with their extensive use of voice and data traffic.


Wi-Fi was deployed throughout the warehouses with a Meraki wireless network that enables staff to use handheld scanners to keep track of products and customer orders as they pass through the automated mail order distribution process. They use the Wi-Fi for the Rainbow app and wireless handset too.


Within the stores, the Wi-Fi provides guest access that requires social media authentication. This gives the marketing team the ability to target these customers, as well as reporting on repeat visits and in-store behaviour.


Axminster monitors their wired and wireless networks via a “single pane of glass” web portal from Meraki. This gives the IT team superior visibility of devices being used and allows for in-house trouble shooting and incident resolution.


Remote working has been accommodated with the provision of virtual private network (VPN) broadband connections for members of staff who work from home, sales reps and Axminster’s buyers who operate in the Far East.


SIP trunks were trialled at the Nuneaton and Warrington stores as a cost-effective means of providing telephone lines. With the SD-WAN upgrade, Axminster has moved to SIP for all their voice services with 80+ channels and their subsequent reduced line rentals and inclusive mobile and landline minutes equates to a saving of £12,000 per year.


The migration to SIP did not mean they had to change their numbers which meant they could retain their local presence. However, if any of the stores experience unexpected high call volumes, these calls can overflow across the network and be handled by the customer service agents at head office.


We also provided Axminster with non-geographic 0300 numbers for its mail order department to give them a national identity and low-cost calls for their customers.


Axminster benefits from many years of high-level customer service and support. They have had regular contact with their account manager for more than 20 years who has proactively sought out solutions that will improve business operations and create cost savings.


swcomms has become an extension to the in-house IT department through their provision of specialist knowledge, skills and expertise.


“We have worked with swcomms for the last 20 years and during this time Axminster Tools has enjoyed an excellent and professional working relationship.


“It is an absolute pleasure to work with any member of staff, from the account and project managers to the engineers and technicians – nothing is too much trouble.


“We are very pleased with the service provided and look forward to working with them on future projects.”
Damion Norcombe, chief information officer


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