Heavy equipment maker digs deep for defunct software

Earthmoving equipment maker Hastings Deering was in a risky situation. The company was reliant on a single IT support employee to maintain a sales forecasting tool provided by a vendor which ceased operations years ago.

If the technical support person met with a misadventure, the company would be in real trouble.

"We had an employee from the now-defunct software developer who was still supporting us, but if anything happened to him we'd have no technical support," said John Birch, Hastings Deering IT group manager.

"It was becoming too risky to continue on that path."

Moreover, a PC DOS-based modelling tool was used to forecast sales which, because it wasn't Web or server-based, was labour intensive to operate, Birch said.

"Not only was it based on one person from a support point of view, but the application also resided on one PC," Birch said.

"The central person had to manually gather information across the business and then key it into the system; it took a couple of weeks in elapsed time each month just to keep the system up to date."

With operations in Queensland, the Northern Territory, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia, the company had to forecast equipment sales on a rolling, 18-month basis and consolidate the data for management reports.

As well as earthmoving equipment the company provides Driltech blast hole drills for the mining, construction, forestry, agricultural, materials handling and government sectors.

"There could be a lead time of up to nine months between when we receive the customer order and delivery of the equipment; we knew we could shorten this time if we could accurately predict when to order equipment," Birch said.

Not surprisingly, the company replaced the old software with Cognos Enterprise Planning.

Because it is browser-based, each country or business unit can input data to a centrally managed environment.

"If a change is made everyone can view the updated forecast straight away, whereas previously it took a number of days to see what impact the change had on the working model," he said.

Hastings Deering is now looking to transition its financial budgeting function to Cognos as well.

"We're finalizing the budget model at this stage. We're also looking to incorporate the ongoing process after the point-of-sale into enterprise planning as well, including monitoring orders, assembly, delivery and customer invoices," Birch said.

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