W.C. Wood tackles legacy data islands

Streamlining business is a top priority for one Canadian manufacturer as it revamps its ERP systems over the next seven months, according to Ted Sehl.

Sehl, vice-president of finance at W.C. Wood, a home appliance manufacturer based in Guelph, Ont., said the way the company handles customer and business requests should improve with this new implementation.

W.C. Wood had been using a legacy system that, over the years, had mushroomed into a unique system developed by its programmers.

The legacy system was limited, Sehl explained, because the company was required to do a lot of offline reporting in various spreadsheet and data programs, causing staff to spend extra time organizing several islands of data. Software difficulties meant solutions had to be found in-house. This prompted W.C. Wood to go looking for a much more integrated system.

The company chose J.D. Edwards 5 – a family of modular, integrated, Web-enabled applications designed for large- and medium-sized companies. It includes enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM), supplier relationship management (SRM), business intelligence, collaboration and integration and a toolset for infrastructure and development.

Sehl said the software solution will provide more control to the front line of the company. “We are also looking for better inventory management and better forecasting demand, ultimately trying to become easier to do business with and to be more responsive to our customers.”

The decision to switch software was “not a case of not being able to handle the current demands on our legacy system. It was a fear that were weren’t going to be able to handle future demands,” Sehl said.

For example, one of his IT staff likened the software change to driving a vehicle from 1985. “You love the car, you know everything about the car, but in the back of your mind there’s a nagging suspicion that you are going to have to buy a new one.”

W.C. Wood has decided to “buy that new car,” and the company has been having a successful transition, Sehl added. Even with only one module operational, he said the J.D. Edwards software is more intuitive than the legacy system.

“It is easier to train people in; it’s easier to move around in [and it’s] a tremendous benefit,” he said.

W.C. Wood already has the financial module – the first stage of the ERP and SCM implementation – up and running and will be following that with the sales and distribution module. It will wrap-up with the manufacturing module by the end of the year.

Many companies elect to implement ERP and SCM applications in stages starting at the back-end, thereby allowing business to continue to operate and ensure less disruption to daily services, said Toronto-based Alison Wheeler, country manager for J.D. Edwards.

This is “not an insignificant project and I think W.C. Wood understands that, so that’s why they’ve bitten it off in chunks,” Wheeler said. “It touches every area of their business and they want to do it in pieces, and make sure the process isn’t rushed.”

Wheeler said the J.D. Edwards 5 Software and Services for W.C. Wood was tailored for the company but not customized for its needs.

The fact that the software is not customized for W.C. Wood is fairly standard, said Alister Sutherland, director of software research with IDC in Toronto.

“Companies like J.D. Edwards have developed deep expertise in specific industries and mid-market manufacturing is one of them,” Sutherland said. “So they already have a lot of industry expertise for what a mid-market manufacturer like W. C. Wood requires operationally…and have good insight into the kinds of challenges [W.C. Wood] faces on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis.”

Sutherland said there is a trend happening with mid-market companies turning to ERP and SCM solutions.

“If you can improve systems and improve operational capability by leveraging the capability that you already have and unifying it with next generation solutions, why wouldn’t you do it?” Sutherland said.

Wheeler said the only issues facing W.C. Wood was deciding which data should be moved into the new software, which is fairly typical when dealing with older systems. The data from the legacy system was “not in as good shape as it would be with a more advanced system,” she said.

The company didn’t have to upgrade any hardware, except the purchase of the system backbone and while Sehl wouldn’t disclose financial details of the agreement, he did say W.C. Wood was under budget for the first phase.

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