Custom Pistol Manufacturer Ditches QuickBooks, Manages Growth with NetSuite

Jenni Moseley, Alliance Marketing Manager

December 15, 2021

A spike in Nighthawk Custom Firearms’ business during the past two years necessitated a reevaluation of the capabilities of its QuickBooks accounting system, because it just couldn’t keep up with that growth.

Founded in in Berryville, Ark. in 2004, Nighthawk Custom Firearms designs, produces and sells high-end, custom-built pistols. The 80-employee company is perhaps best known for making firearms based on the “Colt 1911” semiautomatic pistol that was created for the military. The company offers about 40 different customizable base models and also builds custom pistols according to its customers’ specifications.

What sets us apart is the way we produce pistols. We don't have assembly lines or mass production. Everything is built by a single gunsmith,” said William Goodwin, Nighthawk’s IT project manager.

Playing Catch Up

Nighthawk produces roughly 3,600 pistols annually, and sells through a network of dealers that include retailers, sporting goods stores and specialty firearm stores. When the pandemic hit, gun manufacturers saw a surge in demand. After increasing by 40%(opens in new tab) in 2020, firearm sales in the U.S. remained strong in 2021 and are on track to set another record this year, according to the FBI.

“The firearms industry has been trying to play catch up,” Goodwin said.

Recognizing that its existing QuickBooks accounting system couldn’t keep up with its growth, the company began searching for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and selected NetSuite, implementing it in March 2021. Nighthawk liked the cloud-based platform’s extensive functionality. In addition to the core financial management features, it’s using the Advanced Manufacturing(opens in new tab), Bill of Materials (BOM) and Work-in-Process modules, and plans to add NetSuite’s payroll(opens in new tab) module and integrate it with a third-party billing app.

“NetSuite pretty much encompasses anything that we'll ever need to grow the business and to make things easier,” said Goodwin, who worked with NetSuite Alliance Partner BTM Global(opens in new tab) to implement the system. “Having all of that in one package was a big reason behind our decision to implement NetSuite.”

Here are some of the key benefits that Nighthawk has seen from its NetSuite implementation:

  • Better visibility into production processes. Nighthawk’s pistols are highly customized, which means a lot of steps go into the end-to-end sales process, from order to production to shipping. Before implementing NetSuite, employees used spreadsheets and clipboards to track order progress and give customers updated delivery times. Using the Advanced Manufacturing module, account managers can easily look up work orders, find out where pistols are in the production process, track that progress and provide accurate lead times to customers. NetSuite also helps Nighthawk understand the time and effort spent on every pistol, and allows it to more accurately plan and schedule builds based on available parts and components.  
  • A central data repository to work with. Nighthawk also wanted a centralized location to store its financial and manufacturing data. NetSuite provides that within a single database. The company’s previous approach relied heavily on spreadsheets and folders spread across various siloed departments. Any company-wide analysis required a lot of manual work to merge the data in order to make it useful. “We even had some departments that were using paper logs for checking things in and out,” said Goodwin. “We were definitely excited to have all of that in one place and take a lot of the load off of our employees.”
  • Advanced demand planning and forecasting. With QuickBooks as its accounting platform, Nighthawk couldn’t do much demand planning for parts or forecasting its future needs. “We made it work, but the process still required a lot of manual work,” said Goodwin. With the current supply chain shortages, being able to more accurately perform demand planning and forecasting has been a major “win” for Nighthawk. “We needed a higher level of automation and forecasting tools to help our purchasing department,” he added.
  • A scalable enterprise solution. Even prior to 2020, Goodwin said Nighthawk had outgrown QuickBooks, which it has been using since 2014. Today, it has a scalable, cloud-based enterprise solution that will support future corporate growth.

“There wasn’t a day that we didn’t have an issue to work through with QuickBooks,” Goodwin continued. “We're very excited to have NetSuite in place and to know it's going to be reliable. We can actually use the system for what it's designed to do, rather than trying to fix it every day.”

NetSuite has packaged the experience gained from tens of thousands of worldwide deployments over two decades into a set of leading practices that pave a clear path to success and are proven to deliver rapid business value. With NetSuite, you go live in a predictable timeframe — smart, stepped implementations begin with sales and span the entire customer lifecycle, so there's continuity from sales to services to support.