AT A GLANCE
- Improve information accessibility/visibility
- Eliminate manual data extraction and analysis
- Align products costs with revenue
- Introduce a modern, maintainable ERP solution
- InforCloudSuite Industrial (SyteLine) implemented by EMDA
- Strong core ERP system allows addition of additional functions in future
- Standardisation of core business processes has improved information exchange and visibility
- Improved governance and decision-making, along with improved collaboration and information sharing using Ming.le
- Automation of manual financial management/reporting tasks
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Canterbury sheepskin manufacturer’s ERP implementation has set it on a firm footing for future generations…
Faced with an ageing enterprise resource planning system which saw staff working around instead of within it, Canterbury’s Bowron Sheepskins realised that maintaining its competitiveness depended on accurate, consolidated information. With an implementation of Infor’s CloudSuite Industrial (SyteLine) delivered by manufacturing and distribution software specialist EMDA, the company is ready for the future with a system that delivers clarity across the business.
Bowron Sheepskins traces its history back to 1879. During the late 1990’s, the company introduced a new benchmark in tanning, known as the ‘Whitan Process’. This became internationally recognised, resulting in improved quality sheepskins and significantly reduced environmental impact. A company that never rests on its laurels, Bowron’s ethos is to focus on the future without forgetting the path it has already travelled.
With some 200 people at its Christchurch head office, Bowron initiates sheepskin processing in New Zealand, with two more facilities in Vietnam employing another 400 for further finishing before products are exported to the world.
Victoria Sergel, Bowron’saccounting manager, explains why the company was ready for a new ERP solution. “The primary motivation was that we had a very old system that hadn’t beensufficiently maintained for an extended period. Added to that, the hardware which hosted it was coming to the end of its life.”
As a result, more and more decisions were being made using spreadsheets. “Critical data was being created and exchanged outside of the ERP system; everyone had their own idea of what was going on, with no single, standardised or consolidated view of the company performance at any given time,” adds Sergel.
Operating in a highly competitive environment, says Bowron business manager Neil Shewan, meant these issues were impacting on operations. “Accurate and timely information is absolutely critical to maintain competitiveness. If we don’t know the product costing and other variables, we cannot make correct decisions. This was a serious issue with the old system; it was necessary to extract data into Excel to workout what something was really costing us – and, when you started looking at overheads and the full cost cycle, your head would start spinning.”
Shewan adds that Bowron depends on close management of a wide range of variables to produce attractively priced, market-appropriate products. “Efficiency and optimal production volumes are critical. With raw materials, which change from year to year, not all are fit for every product. That adds more layers to the difficulty of accurate management and drives up the need for detailed, timely information to make sound business decisions.”
Sergel notes that an ERP project starts long before any software is implemented or even selected – and this was certainly the case for Bowron. Appreciating the magnitude of the exercise, and aware that this choice could determine the long-term success of the business, they engaged consultants to identify potential software providers. “Over a four to five month process, functional descriptions of processes were drawn up. A clearly defined template of requirements meant we could more accurately assess the fit of any potential solution.”
Shewan adds that this process alone was valuable. “It delivered extremely useful outcomes by identifying disciplines which were not adequately in place, and without which we would not have coped. Getting that ironed out before the ERP implementation was important to ensure success.”
Given its design around industrial processes and comprehensive functionality for manufacturing sites, InforCloudSuite (SyteLine), demonstrated by EMDA, emerged as the best solution for Bowron. “SyteLine could be implemented with minimal customisation as the solution was a very close fit to our requirements. The few customisations required would have no impact on our ability to easily upgrade to future versions,”Shewan explains.
Onenoteworthy feature planned for implementation is the social collaboration tool Ming.le. Fully embedded with SyteLine and Business Analytics, it will allow employees to communicate, collaborate, and share documents, plans, photos, and videos from a centralised location, with all activity captured and easily searchable.
Shewan says there is some irony behind the demise of the old system. “It was implemented as ‘vanilla’ as possible – but it was so standardised in that form that it simply didn’t work. It had to be horribly customised and that’s why maintenance ground to a halt, because it became too complex.”
Implementations of ERP are disruptive to the business, requiring significant additional effort from internal resources; however, Sergel and Shewanboth agree that EMDA eased the pain through demonstrable knowledge and experience. They say EMDA’s approach focused on working with people, while time was taken to understand Bowron’s business processes, drivers and priorities. “This is not something you can rush into, and having knowledgeable people committed to working through solutions to problems is wonderful.”
Sergel commented that there are no short-cuts to the process required to get a system in place and tested to ensure a trouble free go-live.
With the implementation of SyteLine marking the completion of Phase One of the project, Bowron is now looking at extending the solution by implementing Infor’sbusiness intelligence, asset management and quality control solutions. In due course, it will also seek to make the most of the social collaboration tool Ming.le.
One of the biggest improvements is the introduction of systems to the factory floor, with real time entry and logging of production data rather than monthly backflush.
Shewansays that while it is early days yet, Bowron is already seeing the benefit of all business information remaining inside the system. “That’s the biggest win. Everyone is reporting on the same data. As we go down the line, the data becomes a platform and becomes more meaningful in supporting business decisions.”
Importantly, Sergel notes that the solution is future-proofed and, with minimal customisations, they won’t stand in the way of upgrades taking place. “There is confidence that we can keep up with ERP and technology upgrades; two years ago, we were just so far behind.”
And, adds Shewan, the business managers now have confidence in information, too. “We can readily understand where and what our costs are across a diverse product mix and manage that more closely.”
He adds that the first month end for the company has gone ‘very well’. “We can see that the system makes sense. More than that, the future looks good as we can see the signs that we’re headed in the right direction.”
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