Search software helps manufacturer merge data

When Weatherford International Ltd. began deploying an enterprise-wide ERP system, the company wanted to make sure it gained maximum benefit from the massive migration project. The oil field products and services company wanted to develop advanced search capabilities that would expose the information in its J.D. Edwards OneWorld ERP software and the Parametric Technology Corp. (PTC) Windchill product data management (PDM) system installed with it, says Bill Droke, Weatherford’s ERP manager. So, the company brought in ProFind, an enterprise version of the Endeca Navigation Engine from Endeca Technologies Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

Weatherford is a US$6 billion corporation that has grown largely through mergers and acquisitions, a process that left it with a patchwork of IT systems across 440 locations in more than 100 countries. “We identified 60 different systems that people were using to run the business, and a lot of them didn’t talk to each other,” says Droke. It had become nearly impossible to track orders, assets and inventories. Many of the disparate IT systems came from acquired companies that used part-numbering systems that were different from the one Weatherford used.

“We had multiple part numbers for the same item and the same part number for different items in various parts of the company,” says Droke. That meant that sales staff was sometimes unsure of the availability and location of products. Purchasers for Weatherford’s manufacturing operations sometimes bought components that were already in stock.

Weatherford needed to cleanse and rationalize data going into its PDM and ERP systems and make the information quickly available to the company. Weatherford first approached Endeca for tools to help with the indexing and classification necessary for the data transformation and cleansing, and it later selected the vendor to provide the integrated search function.

As the ERP deployment rolls out incrementally, project teams identify products that have had business activity within the past 24 months. Each item is then designated with a part number and classified based on its technical attributes. When two different numbers are associated with parts that have identical technical attributes, one of the numbers is eliminated.

The cleansed and rationalized parts data, along with product structure data for anything Weatherford manufactures, is then inserted into the Windchill system, which provides the engineering staff with control over the information. Windchill then publishes the data to the ERP system renamed EnterpriseOne by PeopleSoft Inc. Since both systems have limited search capabilities, ProFind links to each of them, exposing the data, including technical attributes and legacy part numbers.

Dave Colley, vice-president of manufacturing and global procurement at Weatherford, says ProFind has solved the “inherent data presentation” problems that have arisen from the ERP deployment. “Each business discipline focuses on different attributes relating to a product, and with the Endeca tool, we are able to solve this accessing issue for the entire business by presenting a combined view,” he says.

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