Schukra overhauls ERP backbone

As a manufacturer of seating-support technology for the automotive and airline industry, Schukra Manufacturing Inc. (Schukra of North America) recently decided that bolstering its own ERP backbone was the way to go.

The Windsor, Ont.-based lumbar technology firm was looking to establish a standard ERP solution to assist in its expansion plan. Schukra initially implemented BPCS technology in 1998 running SSA Global’s BPCS 6.02 running on HP Unix, according to Laura Ryall, the company’s management information systems director. The firm has grown quickly in the past few years and needed a robust ERP solution to reflect that, Ryall said. But the previous implementation left the EDI portion of the old legacy system out of the ERP solution.

This led to a mixed IT environment with spreadsheets, reports and other data that staff needed to do their jobs. The Unix environment was aging and reaching capacity, so a hardware decision had to be made, Ryall said. The EDI had to be integrated since the situation was hampering future growth.

Being a long-time BPCS user, Schukra didn’t want to switch technologies, Ryall said, adding the company also wanted to take advantage of the partnership between SSA and IBM Corp. by deploying new iSeries servers. The company essentially bit the bullet, Ryall said, and stabilized the hardware and network environment on the iSeries and SSA BPCS 8.2.

The BPCS 8.2 ERP suite allows Schukra to link customer project information together for tracking, planning and control. The Web-enabled technology also features extended lean manufacturing capabilities for increased flexibility in scheduling and capacity loading. As a growing firm, having the Web-enabled functionality was key, Ryall said.

“We’re able to code BPCS on the iSeries, which makes a world of difference in how fast you can have problem resolution and generate report data,” Ryall said.

What was nice about the migration was that the switch to the latest version of BPCS could be done without a major impact on the user, Ryall said. It could be done on a thin client that could maintain the previous look and feel while still streamlining processes, she added.

The actual migration to SSA BPCS version 8.2 on the iSeries occurred this past spring. The second phase, completed a few weeks ago, included release management and e-commerce modules. The firm’s is currently implementing the standardized solution at its Europe locations, some of which had no ERP to begin with, Ryall said. With the standard ERP offering in place, the company can now look at expansion, Ryall said. This includes extending the new technology, including lean manufacturing, within the existing operations as well as new environments.

Industry observers note that organizations turn to an integrated ERP suite for convenience and faster implementation, allowing them to roll out additional modules over time.

The role of the ERP system is changing, according to Jim Shepherd, an ERP analyst with Boston-based AMR Research Inc. The current trend is toward streamlining operations and spending across all business units, including IT. But the case should still be made for investing in new or improved ERP, Shepherd said. For the majority of organizations operating within a heterogeneous environment, integration is becoming harder not easier, Shephard said. The pendulum has shifted away from best of breed and towards considering an integrated suite, which should make future expansion that much easier, he added.

For IT spending to be of the most benefit, Shepherd noted, companies should ensure their IT programs are focused on improving business processes, and ensuring consistency across the enterprise.

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