VCC Shines a Light on the Business Benefits of ERP

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2016-02-11 Email Print this article Print
ERP benefits

A specialty lighting solutions firms deploys an ERP platform to improve business practices and plug in critical manufacturing resource planning functionality.

Today's business environment requires organizations of all shapes and sizes to dramatically streamline manufacturing processes and reduce the time required to get products to market. Of course, the devil is often in the details, including how to optimize tasks, processes and workflow for maximum impact and cost advantages. What's more, the complexity of the task is multiplied across a supply chain, as well as at partner and customer touchpoints.

For the Visual Communications Company (VCC), efficient design and manufacturing are at the center of everything. "Although the company is about 40 years old, we have expanded dramatically over the last few years, and, as a result, the complexity of the business has grown significantly," says Andy Zanelli, CEO of the VCC, which develops and manufactures LED, incandescent, neon and specialty indicator light solutions and light pipes for the aerospace, food service, transportation, medical, telecom and industrial markets.

As revenue and market demands shot upward—in some cases, due to acquisitions that instantly boosted SKU (stock-keeping unit) counts by 500 percent or more—the San Diego-based company recognized a need for a more advanced ERP framework that could support global business operations. It just wasn't possible to update or modernize the previous platform.

"We had a fairly obscure ERP system in place, and it could no longer support the business as we grew," Zanelli points out. "The clock was ticking."

Switching to a Software-as-a-Service Platform

In order to address these concerns, the company switched to SAP ByDesign. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform has illuminated a path to better business practices and has plugged in critical manufacturing resource planning (MRP) functionality.

Today, the application oversees product planning, supply chain materials management, manufacturing and operations, as well as the financials required for everything from cost management to sales. It also supports EDI integration with other key software components and delivers detailed analytics capabilities, including on mobile devices. As a bonus, the environment delivers a high level of security, Zanelli says.

The net impact? Business processes occur faster, and there are fewer problems and errors. Over the last few years—a period in which the VCC has expanded from about 10 employees to more than 120—the company has managed to stay on track, while also becoming more agile and lean in its design, manufacturing and sales processes.

For example, the firm has improved support for resellers and product distributors that sell through online storefronts, such as "The goal is to make processes easy and convenient," he says. "It's important to support the way people search for products and information."

Zanelli reports that the VCC will continue to tap the ERP platform to further expand its information technology and business capabilities. It plans to plug in SAP HANA to boost data interactions with customers and supply chain partners within a native SAP environment.

The company also has focused on integrating tasks and processes that rely on Google for Work apps into the ByDesign framework. "Our mantra is, 'We want to be easy to do business with,'" the CEO says. "The ERP and technology platform we now have in place in helping us accomplish that task."

Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).

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