ZIFFPAGE TITLEShifting Gears Faster

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2005-05-23 Print this article Print

The goal: Squeeze more data out of existing systems, and do it faster and more efficiently:

Shifting Gears Faster

Pacific Cycle, which makes Schwinn and other bicycles, adopted a different strategy. The Madison, Wis., company has consolidated as much of its business data as possible into SAP's enterprise resource planning system.

Where it's necessary to link to another vendor's application, Pacific Cycle relies on SAP's NetWeaver, which uses common standards such as Java to exchange data. For example, the manufacturer used it to hook its supply chain data in SAP to Peak Technologies' radio frequency identification tracking application. "We've slowly been killing off the rest of the interfaces to older systems and moving them to SAP," says Ed Matthews, Pacific Cycle's director of information systems.

The change has helped Pacific Cycle respond much more swiftly to partners' requests to receive order and inventory information in different formats.

Before moving to SAP in 2002, the company ran a mainframe-based enterprise resource planning application from SSA Global Technologies. Every time a retail customer, such as Wal-Mart, wanted to change the way it received data from Pacific Cycle, Matthews would need to hire an outside consultant to make the change, because no one on his staff was familiar with the SSA system's Cobol programming language. The process could take a month or longer. Now, Matthews says, if a retailer requests a change, his team can do it in one or two days using SAP's tools.

But with any application integration project, it's important to consider—up front—how it will affect your business processes, says Kevin Brown, information systems manager at Daisy Brand, which makes sour cream.

In 2003, the Dallas company deployed Tibco Software's workflow management product to automate the ordering process for retailers, from placing initial orders through to invoice handling and shipping out crates of product. The Tibco software exchanges information (such as inventory levels) with Daisy Brand's Invensys enterprise resource planning system as well as a homegrown warehouse and logistics management application.

The biggest "gotcha"? Brown and his team hadn't anticipated that by delivering orders immediately as they were placed, Daisy Brand's existing business practices would be disrupted.

For example, the company's accounting department previously went through the day's orders all at once, because that's how the system had submitted them. But the Tibco system sent the orders along the instant they were placed, and accounts receivable managers weren't sure if they should tell the shipping department to fulfill the orders right then or wait until an invoice had been issued.

"If you increase the speed with which data spans the organization, you might create more chaos than before," Brown says. "You can take business process bottlenecks and shove them to another part of the business without knowing it."


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