Keeping Pace With GrowthBy Andrew Hess | Posted 2009-09-22 Email Print
How Real-World Numbers Make the Case for SSDs in the Data Center
Global retailer Fossil improves job processing and speeds up customer orders with a workload automation system.
Keeping Pace With Growth
Our business had simply grown too fast for our IT operations to keep up. Though expansion was a good problem to have, we knew that we needed to manage our processing more effectively. So, after nearly 20 years of double-digit growth, we decided it was time to implement a global ERP system.
In 2002, we selected an SAP system, which enabled us to deploy the ERP over time. We started with three systems: SAP R/3 AFS (Apparel and Footwear Industry Solution), SAP APO (Advanced Planning and Optimization) and SAP BW (Business Warehouse).
We used SAP AFS running on an IBM AIX platform for F&A, sales analysis and customer service management, but we still used PkMS to manage order processing, packaging and product distribution at our U.S. distribution center. These processes had to balance orders received through the Website, via electronic data interchange (EDI) or from the retail network, and supply customers from worldwide distribution centers located in Dallas and Eggstätt, Germany.
Though we had to manage processes across applications and computing platforms, the ERP’s internal job scheduling tools didn’t offer the functionality we needed to handle high-volume batch loads and avoid processing overruns. It also couldn’t integrate with legacy applications, meaning a lot of manual interventions were required for certain job chains. We had to build slack time into our processing to ensure that one job didn’t start before another finished, and that cost us a lot of time.
To deal with this challenge, we decided to evaluate three vendors’ products that would improve processing. Eventually, we selected UC4 Software’s UC4 Workload Automation Suite, which dynamically links processes across applications, allows jobs to be prioritized based on system availability and gives us an end-to-end view of all processes to easily identify breakdowns. In addition, the system can configure and control Unix and OS/400 jobs and manage many-to-one dependencies and parent/child relationships using a single tool.
Now when orders are booked into SAP AFS and then allocated to PkMS for fulfillment and distribution, UC4 manages the dependencies between these applications. Our orders always get picked up for processing by PkMS, and tracking numbers for order shipments get passed back to SAP.
By automating these manual handoffs, we’ve eliminated both order latency and human error. Information is easily exchanged across the entire enterprise, and this has increased our overall productivity. Even though we have upgraded to the newest version of SAP, our UC4 jobs are still working for us.
Currently, we use workload automation software to support our wholesale business, run jobs on separate SAP Retail and HR systems, and automate the demand planning workload generated by SAP’s Supply Chain Management software and SAP Business Intelligence enterprise reporting. We also use UC4 to perform maintenance tasks, such as health-checking AS/400 systems and the nightly transfer of orders to our Hong Kong facility. In addition, we use UC4 to run jobs on separate SAP Retail and HR systems, eliminating unnecessary slack on those systems.
In the future, we’d like to use automation tools to manage iDOC transfers between our other subsidiary SAP and non-SAP systems, as well as to manage master data interfaces to these systems.