Mike’s Hard Lemonade maker puts data on tap

ORLANDO – A Canadian firm that specializes in fine wines and beers is putting the finishing touches on an electronic data interchange system that will help make sure no one’s glass goes empty.

The Mark Anthony Group is one of several Canadian firms attending this year’s Information Builders Inc. (IBI) annual Summit conference, which explores the most recent upgrades to its flagship iWay integration software and WebFocus business intelligence platform. Based in Vancouver, The Mark Anthony Group – which is probably best known for Mike’s Hard Lemonade – has most recently worked with IBI to bring greater efficiency to its warehouse operation.

Ray Cooper, a developer and analyst for the Mark Anthony Group, told ComputerWorld Canada the company began looking at iWay software about a year ago, when issues around a four-year-old, custom-built Windows application meant it was no longer capable of dealing with information about sales orders, shipments and internal transfers of products. It was also proving difficult and expensive to maintain over time.

“There were also issues around data integrity,” he said. “If the ERP system needed more information or different information, it would mean more coding.”

Although the Mark Anthony Group already had Microsoft’s BizTalk server in house and explored products from rival companies such as CastIron, Cooper said he felt iWay held more long-term promise from a development and support standpoint. From a pricing standpoint most of the software needed was about the same, he added.

Implementing iWay meant almost completely redoing the company’s warehouse application, Cooper said. iWay Service Manager  is now used to control receiving stock, identifying non-registered products, managing inventory, picking orders, shipping goods to retailers, and invoicing those retailers.

“Before, the data was all hidden,” he said. “Now all the data sets are in the warehouse, where the guys are.” This literally means employees will know whether they can get to something before they take a coffee break or not, he said. The Mark Anthony Group estimates that iWay has helped process about half a million transactions since it launched last November, said Cooper.

While iWay has been a major part of IBI’s business for many years, the company has more recently been putting more emphasis on its WebFocus product, the eighth version of which is expected to be generally available in the fourth quarter of this year. Cooper said The Mark Anthony Group will be closely examining the BI tool to see how increased analytics could improve the way it manages the business.

In a presentation at IBI’s Summit, TWDI Research analyst Wayne Eckerson suggested that the move towards BI involves first being able to report information, then analyzing and monitoring before forecasting what will come next.

“It’s this area of predictive analytics – that’s the sexy stuff, the reason most people are probably here,” he said.

For the moment, however, Cooper is concentrating on the EDI system, which will be used to manage information around invoicing, inventory and other transactions between The Mark Anthony Group and its partners in the United States. These include firms that produce crates or bottles. Cooper said the EDI system involved close collaboration with the firm’s Toronto office and has opened his eyes to new opportunities for further refinements.
IBI’s Summit continues on Tuesday.

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