“We didn’t have a methodology to record lot numbers or
manufacturing numbers automatically,” explains Kelly Kutz,
director of IT, Life Data Labs. “We didn’t have an integrated
method of tracking inventory through the warehouse and then
again back out into shipping.”
On the customer-facing side, none of the customer touch-points were connected to each other. The Web ordering and fulfillment systems were separate from the order entry system, and
the company’s distributors and sales reps weren’t tied into the
system either. This meant that distributors had to fax in orders,
which were then manually input. Someone in customer service
would then have to create and print an invoice and then fax it
back to the customers.
Kutz stuck with what he had because he thought that
finding and implementing a product to alleviate all these problems would be as labor-intensive and difficult as hand-keying
data. For one thing, although participating in both the business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets is great for the
bottom line, it was, at the time, an impediment for a company
looking to install a new ERP system. But the even bigger
problem was resources. Kutz is the only IT person at Life Data
Labs. As far as he knew, there simply wasn’t a software solution
that would be easy enough for one person to install and maintain but full-featured enough to do what the company needed—
fully automate its customer service processes.
“Most of the tier-two, small-business-oriented ERP systems
really have a narrow focus,” explains Kutz. “They service either
a business-to-business or business-to-customer relationship, or
they’re strictly Web-based, or they focus on just one aspect of
what we needed to do—customer service, for example. After a
year and a half of hacking, choosing, and test-driving, we were
worried we’d never find the right software.”
Two years ago, Larry Barrett, director of operations and technology for specialty retailer Sage Manufacturing, was having similar
growing pains. When Sage Manufacturing set out to upgrade its
current IT infrastructure, it was using a commercial product to
handle all of its accounts payable and inventory management
tasks, but it wasn’t a stable IT environment. The company’s
manufacturing, order management, and financial processes
were handled by what Barrett calls “a hodgepodge” of software
modules and manpower. And the software it did have wasn’t
working particularly well. As the company’s fishing rod business
continued to grow, it wasn’t uncommon for the system to fail
on peak shipping days. “The old system was really fragile,” he
says. “It needed a lot of technical attention. People were spending their days just trying to reboot databases, reboot boxes, just
trying to keep the system moving forward.”
Sage’s IT staff was too busy managing the existing infrastructure to even begin to think about installing a new one, and
adding to the overall headcount wasn’t an option.
Larry Barrett, director of operations and technology for Sage
Manufacturing, is pleased that his IT team members are spending
only about 25 percent of their time on support, leaving more time for
operations projects and improvements.
Experiencing the same kinds of problems as Sage, Life Data
Labs’ Kutz decided to turn to one vendor. So he took a chance
and contacted Oracle. In turn, Oracle connected him with
a Marietta, Georgia–based consulting firm called SkyBridge
Global. Almost immediately, Todd Murphy, vice president of
business development at SkyBridge, confirmed that Oracle
E-Business Suite could solve their software problems. The best
part: everything would be integrated.
The Oracle E-Business Suite implementation has allowed
the company to increase production without adding staff. For
example, in the past the shipping process was so intense that
even though the shipping cutoff was 10 a.m., there were days
when the UPS truck had to wait for orders to be completed.
Orders were hand-recorded on paper and keyed in manually.
Then someone in the warehouse had to find and pull products,
package them up, and put labels on them.
Today, the shipping cutoff is as late as 11 a.m., but because
production has been speeded up, the UPS person arrives to find
a pallet of packages labeled, shrink-wrapped, and ready to go.
“Because I’m using mobile warehouse applications, the production hits the end of the production line and barcode labels
are printed on everything. We’ve got license plates on all our
pallets. I’ve got license plates on all my bin locations, so there’s
no more hand-keying,” explains Kutz.
And no more hand-wringing, either, because Oracle helped
every step of the way. The first step: figuring out what the
company needed and how it could best solve its IT and process
problems. The second step: using Oracle Business Accelerators,
business implementation tools that help decrease cost and risk