Norco looks to milk benefits of integrated network LAN/WAN

North coast dairy cooperative Norco is milking the benefits of an integrated LAN/WAN solution, delivered as a component of a new ERP system.

The network has improved communications at the company and "cut down the 'islands' of information that develop when operations are dispersed across different states and cities", said Errol Green, manager information systems, Norco.

Implemented by Netbridge Systems Integration, the network connects Norco's head office in Lismore with 250 remote terminals in 46 locations, stretching from Mackay in central Queensland down to Melbourne. Part of a tender for a networked ERP system won by ERP vendor QAD, the network incorporates an HP 9000 server, HP Net LH II servers, a Digital Alpha 2100 server, a Cisco 2926 core switch and a Digital DECHub 900, as well as part of Norco's old Digital network infrastructure.

"To minimise costs we decided to use the existing network where we could," Green said, explaining that this involved linking three technologies: IP, ISDN and Telstra's digital subscriber service (DSS).

The company has installed Microsoft Exchange as the messaging platform across the network. The cost of the new network, including the cost of servers, came in slightly over budget at just more than $500,000, Green said.

The biggest challenge of the three-month network rollout, according to Green, was to ensure a smooth transition from the old network to the new for end users. The new network was completed a fortnight before Norco began rollout of its QAD ERP system in July 1998.

Norco has experienced the "usual complications" associated with rollout of an ERP application, Green said, but the company hopes to see the application bedded down by mid 1999.

Netbridge supplies ongoing maintenance and monitoring for the network's LAN component, whilst Norco has a similar service agreement with Telstra for its WAN. In terms of future plans, Green said that Norco is looking at switching from Telstra's ISDN and OnRamp services to the telco's frame relay service in some remote regional areas.

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