Filling Gaps

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Brady Corporation CEO Katherine Hudson knew that before she overhauled the "high performance" label-making company she had to look at the people who ran the operation first.

Filling Gaps

In September 1999, Brady made the decision to use planning and operations software from SAP as the platform for the massive digitization effort. Kaczanowski says the company considered Baan and JD Edwards, but finally chose SAP because of its long history in enterprise resource planning and its leadership in that market.

For integration help, Brady tapped IBM Global Services, but there was never any intention of keeping consultants on hand to run Eclipse in perpetuity.

Kaczanowski made sure the staff at IBM's SAP practice, led in Milwaukee by executive consultant Ray Bogart, trained Brady personnel to the point where the company could run the SAP platform by itself. Today, the company runs Eclipse in-house on four IBM AS400 machines.

Figuring out how the company's processes would fit into SAP's building-block approach to companywide software would take 15 "fit-gap" workshops across the company. To stay on track, the Eclipse team gave the workshops a five-week time limit.

Here's how they worked:

Individuals from the company's divisions were picked as "subject matter experts," whether on how to cut signs or apply new layers of adhesives. They would be brought to workshops in Milwaukee where the Eclipse team would spend a week examining the business processes, and break each down into its component parts.

In the first two days, the experts would diagram each process, with large sheets of paper taped to the walls.

"We would look at the sequential activities, going horizontally, and then, vertically, we would identify their roles in the businesses," Cullen recalls.

From there, they began designing the new processes, bringing in consultants from IBM Global who were specialists on SAP.

In examining the sales and marketing process, several things quickly became apparent about pricing to Brady's distributors: Brady was remarkably inefficient in handling orders, with little consistency in methods across divisions and too many information handoffs. Brady also found its average order size was just $250. Not bad, given they're selling labels and signage; but it meant they were selling to lots of customers in small volume.

Their new processes would centralize price lists, eliminate the use of isolated computer systems and make prices available electronically. Many of these new "To Be" practices would be worked into the Sales and Distribution module of SAP.

The goal was to customize SAP as little as possible, to avoid additional expense and headaches, even in the heart of what Brady calls its "cash conversion cycle."

This is the process of moving a product from raw material, to production, to delivery, to paid invoice. Before Eclipse, the cycle was disjointed. Since its different information systems could not communicate with each other, data needed for billing couldn't be drawn from manufacturing and delivery systems. The result was missed orders, late orders and often the duplicated manufacturing of the same labels under different part numbers.

The global process team focused diligently on how to convert orders into cash and streamlined the process into six phases: order management, plan, source, make, repair, and move.

Kaczanowski pushed his senior team to ignore information systems and bear down on the actual processes involved in making a Brady label. Unifying processes for SAP had a simplifying effect, cutting out steps—and phone calls, since sales reps didn't have to call factories to get answers for customers. They were simply on screen.

This article was originally published on 2002-05-15
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