Komatsu shifts IT up a gear

Web-based applications streamline processes

Mining and construction distributor Komatsu Australia is overhauling its application infrastructure to drive efficiency and keep pace with more modern technology.

Komatsu's general manager of IT, Ian Harvison, said the company's Internet solution, based on a BroadVision environment, had been in place since 2001 and hadn't changed its look or feel.

"We wanted to redesign the Web site and BroadVision only had three people that could support the product locally, which we saw as high-risk," Harvison said. "We needed to change to a product that was much more streamlined."

This led Komatsu to look at Microsoft's SharePoint 2007 server for the external Web site.

A project to prototype the solution began in August and was completed in October.

"We were part of the rapid deployment program with Microsoft and UniqueWorld and are currently in process of populating the web site now and will go live at the end of January," Harvison said.

Komatsu also runs an e-business environment where customers can log onto a parts ordering system. SharePoint is purely the portal which leads to e-business site, which is based on SAP.

"In October last year went live with SAP ECC 5 and have a separate project looking at rest of our business with system requirements," he said.

The immediate benefit of SharePoint was workflow, where previously the Internet was provided by IT to supply the business now it is under more control of the business.

"All of the desktop publishing and articles and technical information will now be done by the business and there is a workflow system in place," Harvison said.

One example of this workflow is with Komatsu's external PR agency, which can now draft articles and send to the marketing manager for approval.

This streamlines the old process of creating and distributing Word documents and then sending them to IT for publication.

Komatsu's marketing manager Wafaa Ghali said the new system is Web-based and very flexible, and does "so much more" than a Word processor.

Next year the company will look at converting its intranet onto SharePoint 2007.

On the desktop, Komatsu is looking at becoming an early adopter of Vista and Office 2007 next year.

The move to Vista will require a hardware upgrade but Harvison is not phased by this, saying the move to Vista will give the company an opportunity to fully deploy an SOE for the first time which is expected to lower security and management support costs.

"From a TCO perspective it is always an issue for any CIO on how you balance hardware refresh cycles and software licences," he said.

Next year Komatsu will also review its supply chain infrastructure to facilitate more collaboration with partners.

"The parts ordering system sits on a legacy mainframe," Harvison said. "We need a solution that meets the business needs and then we will look at how to migrate off. The mainframe was bought in 1997 from Fujitsu. We have a full DR solution and Fujitsu has a migration path for us as well."

With 42 branches across Australia and New Zealand, Komatsu voice and data contract with Telstra expires in May next year and it is evaluating a move to an MPLS network for VoIP in the future.

Now it is looking at using Microsoft's Live Communications server with its Ericsson PABX to deploy a point of presence solution for company. This will allow people to see the availability of others and call from their desktop and phone.

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