Manufacturer mends failed ERP project

Swimming pool accessories manufacturer Poolrite has turned around a failed ERP implementation by upgrading its way out of trouble instead of making a fresh start.

Poolrite implemented the Baan ERP system in 1999 for an initial cost of more than $500,000 including hardware, only to realize that "MYOB would have done a better job", according to the company's financial controller and IT manager Fred Auret.

"Baan was installed and the system basically fell over," Auret said. "It was too complex and a lot of things weren't used. Purchase orders were done manually and because they weren't linked to creditors they were all out of date."

Generally, the company wasn't using any of Baan's functionality other than "minor transactions".

Rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, Auret "took stock of what was there" and after meeting with Baan's new owner SSA Global, a decision was made to maintain the current system and fix it up.

"Some parts, like sales and debits, were good, but as far as manufacturing and stock, that part was in disarray," Auret said, adding the first move was to upgrade the application.

"We were on version 6 and the latest was version 12," he said. "The upgrade was part of the maintenance charge but there was some work in fixing databases."

Poolrite spent around $80,000, including consulting and services fees, reinstalling and upgrading the system.

Once upgraded, Poolrite staff needed to be encouraged to use the production system which "took a fair while" partly due to the amount of manual purchase orders done offline.

With a working ERP system, Poolrite then integrated the Bridgelogix distribution and barcoding application which is used to identify items via a Symbol wireless handheld scanner.

"We raise a purchase order for goods, which is entered into the device wirelessly, and then print out the barcode," Auret said. "The wireless devices have logic in them so you can monitor [item] location. The system is RFID-capable but we haven't gone down that path."

Auret said the positive outcomes are near-100 percent stock recognition, much better stock control, and live transaction processing.

"Location controls tell [the] stock numbers in all branches so we can see where every item is," he said. As a storeman picks an item it goes off the stock inventory, and as soon as a sales person sells something, the item is marked as a sale, he said.

"You can look into system and see what's been allocated to purchase orders."

Auret described the changes as "unbelievable", because the system is now automatic it has "probably saved five positions" in the company as resources are put to better use.

"Most important thing in any project is that it has to be driven," he said. "It is a big change in culture [and] this project has made a huge difference to us."

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