Case Study: Beef + Lamb New Zealand

Across the Universe – Migrating a 2.5 million-record database from Access to Universe

While not a lot of people know it, it’s illegal to export meat from New Zealand unless you are a registered meat exporter, and to become registered you have to meet minimum standards of food safety.

New Zealand has a proud record of supplying safe food to the world, and that reputation must be protected. Make’s sense. Here’s the complex bit. In 2011, the number of records relating to meat exports ran to about 2.5 million dating back to 1997 and was housed in various unsupported Access databases in different locations within the New Zealand Meat Board databases.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s  Economic Service (B+LNZ), who manage the Exports Database on behalf of the New Zealand Meat Board, recognised the potential business and security risks. They engaged Fisheye to transfer the database from Access to U2 Universe, a more stable, flexible platform aligned with other internal systems. In the process, Fisheye was to also:

  • Develop a new user interface that aligned with the B+LNZ system, ensuring security and restricted user access for the New Zealand Meat Board function and at the same making the database easy to use and removing the additional costs of duplicated systems
  • Enhance the database from a list of exporters to a database that provided an economic service to users
  • Formalise a number of processes that had become ad hoc over the years
  • Develop new user tools to replace systems that had become outmoded
  • Build in scalability
  • Automate processes where possible, including the capture of data from NZ Customs (who collect the data before forwarding it to Beef + Lamb for storing on the database) using security management tools
  • Allow users to generate reports based on a variety of queries.

Not one task, but many

While migrating a database sounds like a single task, in fact it’s made up of a multitude of sub-tasks, each with its own demands. Migrating the Meat Exports Database included:

  • Setting up new tables and fields in Universe
  • Setting up the database environment to allow strictly permission-based access for authorised personnel only
  • Importing data from NZ Customs and checking for accuracy and consistency
  • Importing ISO data from UN authorities
  • Importing historical data from the Access system from as far back as 1997 – a total of 2,500,000 records in the main tables
  • Creating browser-based data input forms that were consistent with other computer applications familiar to Beef + Lamb Economic Service staff. The input forms included Help buttons and documentation to assist users through each step of the process.
  • Creating routines to verify and import monthly data transfers from Customs
  • Creating extra dictionary items as required for reporting
  • Creating approximately 20 new reports
  • Creating an ad hoc report creation system
  • User testing
  • User documentation

Adding to the complexity of the task was that data came from multiple sources, sometimes with different data sets within each.

Cros Spooner, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ltd Chief Operating Officer, says “Fisheye had to understand the existing database, then set up a database that replicated all the previous data from Customs, along with security around access to the database and validation checks and enhancements where they made sense.”

Validation checks mean that all data transferred from Customs must be checked for errors using a robust set of protocols. If an error is found, it is reported to the user who can then take remedial action before accepting the data into the database.


This complex and demanding project was delivered on time and within budget. More to the point, “Fisheye have helped us remove risk from the equation,” says Cros Spooner. “There is little chance of the database falling over, the database is included in a secure area of a larger database platform that provide significant system synergies, we now have a better standard reports, along with the potential for further enhancements.”

The key? “Fisheye had a good project plan and costs were managed well. Regular project meetings ensured things stayed on track. I was very happy with how they managed communications and also pleased that they stayed on budget.”

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