Seamless systems the goal at lingerie manufacturer

Borne out of the 1994 merger between lingerie manufacturers Playtex and Formfit, Sara Lee Intimates has plunged into an enterprise resource planning project to push up its IT capabilities.

Prior to the project's launch in June this year, according to Paul Eriksson, the company's IT manager, Sara Lee was operating in a two-way computing environment that was a legacy from the 1994 amalgamation. This systems infrastructure, he said, was confusing to say the least, and hampered the organisation's ability to extract the most use out of its corporate information.

"Previously we had a dual platform system that arose because of the merger between the Playtex and Formfit organisations," Eriksson said.

"We had Formfit that had a homegrown Unix system and we had Playtex that had a System 34-cum-36. Neither was large enough to actually run the merged organisation. So they effectively split the functionality and they ran manufacturing and manufacturing resource planning on the Unix system, while sales forecasting, distribution, sales order entry and financials was done on the 36. Both were homegrown, both were batch-oriented and neither system talked to each other."

Underpinning the move to an integrated computing environment, Sara Lee invested more than $1 million - including implementation and training - in the Movex ERP solution from Intentia International. Listing the shortcomings of its previous IT infrastructure, Eriksson said the company had battled to achieve some semblance of interoperability between the two systems - a problem he claims is under control through the use of Movex.

"What we did with the change to Movex was get something that gives us consistent information. We were perpetually two days out of whack [due to non-communication between previous systems]," Eriksson said. "We knew what orders we'd taken for the day, but we didn't know what impact that would have on the stockholding until the next day, because orders weren't updated. The batch system was killing us, literally.

On top of these integration-enabling features, Eriksson said the software was chosen due to its ability to conform to Sara Lee's business requirements. "Movex has what's called a fashion vertical," Eriksson said. "It's one of a few systems that actually addresses apparel manufacturing. Apparel manufacturing is different from other manufacturing in that you've got four dimensions; style, colour, size, fit. Most manufacturing systems can deal with two or three, but not the four. With Movex, it's been designed to handle the four dimensions instead of just two or three."

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