Software is becoming easier to integrate thanks to programs based on service-oriented architecture that eases communication with other hardware and software systems on networks and in facilities. Now, companies like AET Films, Blue Bell Creameries, and TTI Instruments are moving beyond simple integrations and focusing on software strategies that improve customer service and increased margins.
Strategic software integration enables companies of all sizes to successfully compete--globally and locally. AET Films is a multi-million dollar company with locations
worldwide. TTI Instruments has 30 employees located in Vermont--both are growing thanks to successful soft ware integrations. Blue Bell Creameries, a 100-year-old ice cream manufacturer, is growing its regional business with increased supply chain visibility made possible by integrated software.
Integrating to a Higher Level
AET Films, one of the larger North American manufacturers of oriented polypropylene (OPP) films, with annual sales exceeding $275 million dollars, had a challenge. Facing stiff competition, the New Castle, Deleware-based company had to find a way to increase margins and retain customers.
"Only 5% to 10% of our business is still on patent so we are a quasi-commodity business," says Jim Burger, director of information systems at AET Films. "Anything we can do to differentiate ourselves is good."
AET sells to converters who print and customize the film for the end customers. "The more we customize our communications for our customers, the harder it is for them not to do business with us," Burger explains. "Our goal is to integrate as tightly as possible with our customers, so it is quite un comfortable for them to leave for a competitor."
StreamServe Enterprise Document Presentment (EDP) from StreamServe Inc., www.streamserve.com, tightly integrated with its existing SSA Global ERP system enables AET to offer a higher level of service than its competitors. "We didn't need to wait long to see a return on investment with StreamServe EDP. It was deployed in a week, and paid for itself in three months.
The software can automatically create business documents, simultaneously distribute documents via multiple channels, and personalize messages in mass communications.
To prepare for the integration, AET provided StreamServe with a comprehensive overview of its integration environment, including system specifications such as a list of document distribution methods (email, fax, PDF, etc.), a list of documents that needed to be created, prioritize the order in which documents should be created with the output language specified.
"One of the real value-adds StreamServe EDP provides us with is the ability to do custom labeling. With StreamServe EDP, we have the ability to quickly create and deploy a new label format for a single customer with any variety of barcodes. That's a unique capability in the marketplace and a real advantage for us," Burger says.
The software gives AET the flexibility to deal with converters large and small: "We ask our customers: How do you want to communicate; how do you want us to relate? And StreamServe supports that. We deal with very large multi-national businesses and we deal with mom-and-pop operations. StreamServe EDP gives us the flexibility to deal with companies large and small very easily."
AET ships approximately 275 million pounds of film a year. Each truck contains 25,000 pounds; 40 to 50 truckloads leave AET plants daily. All products move from the manufacturing floor to a hub warehouse that contains orders and products for multiple customers.
StreamServe enterprise document processing and publishing software lets AET generate customized manufacturing/shipping labels, packing lists, certificates of analysis (COAs), customs documents, bar codes, pallet labels, and invoices. As a result of implementing StreamServe, AET reduced its document development time from two to six months to a matter of hours.
Sweet Success: Improved Inventory Visibility & Lot Control
Much has changed since Blue Bell Creameries first opened its doors in 1907. Horse drawn buggies have been traded in for refrigerated trucks and supply chain execution software that automates data collection in its high-volume production and distribution operations.
The Brenham, Texas-based company, knows real-time data visibility and traceability are paramount in today's consumer packaged goods industry. It is achieving a closer look into its supply chain by implementing ClearOrbit's (www.clearorbit.com) Gemini mobile software for Oracle Process Manufacturing (OPM). The software has increased Blue Bell's overall operational efficiency by automating data collection, resulting in improved production lot control and traceability throughout the company's primary high-volume production and distribution center in Texas.
Long term benefits include location control and timeliness and more detailed accuracy of data entry. Blue Bell continues to improve processes and integrate more detailed data capture that will deliver the expected ROI, says Jim Kruse, controller at Blue Bell.
The software lets Blue Bell capture data from more than 2,000 SKUs of raw, intermediate and finished goods with the use of handheld radio-frequency scanners that record trans actions, such as receiving, inventory movements and returns, in real time on the plant floor. The new Gemini-driven procedure has increased data quality and visibility, and can process transactions in seconds instead of the minutes that previous manual methods required.
"Our use of handheld scanners enables us to take the computers where the workers are, giving users more control over inventory processing," he says. "We've seen great returns on the timeliness and accuracy of our data reporting with Gemini. The lot control and traceability we now have give us peace of mind that we can respond immediately should there be a product recall. We can't put a dollar value on that."
Because the software integrates directly with the Oracle data model, Blue Bell was able to maintain the set ups, tolerances, and profiles already defined in its Oracle deployment, which minimized implementation and training costs. Since the software meshed well with current processes only minor changes were made to the facility's processes.
The integration required one ClearOrbit consultant, who worked with Blue Bell employees through out the five-month implementation. Based on the success of the implementation at its main plant, the Blue Bell plans to expand deployment to its three remaining manufacturing and select distribution facilities in the Southeast.
TTI Instruments is a 17-year-old distributor of industrial process controllers and instrumentation that has an exclusive arrangement with Fuji Electric Systems of Japan and relationships with other manufacturers in the field. Long-term success was catching up with the company, and changes beyond TTI's control created a need for change in the company's software processes.
TTI, (Williston, Vt., www.ttiglobal.com) was juggling multiple software systems, each targeted at a specific functional aspect of the business, and each with its own pool of data. This not only slowed down the business, but made re mote access extremely cumber some. When the company was notified that its accounting software, Great Plains would no longer sup ported, Brian Leffler, vice president of TTI Instruments, knew it was time to make a change.
TTI Instruments implemented NetSuite from NetSuite Inc., www.netsuite.com, to rein in the its cluster of aging, inefficient software that had little remote-access capability, and costly, paper-bound invoicing. The consolidation and move to NetSuite improve sales visibility, both in the office and on the road.
NetSuite is an intelligent, integrated, customizable Internet-based application that handles a warehouse or DCs front and back office such as customer relationship management, shipping and accounting and more.
Leffler says NetSuite has greatly improved TTI's shipping and fulfillment efficiency with an integrated UPS solution and improved customer payment process using Net Suite credit card processing. TTI now has complete customer lifecycle management in one system and the company is saving thousands of dol lars per year using electronic billing through NetSuite. "The first thing
I found was that it used to cost us at least 80 cents to send an invoice. With NetSuite e-fax, it costs less than 20 cents, and e-mail invoices are free. I'm saving $6,000 per year on invoicing alone," he says. TTI also saves time and money integrating, customizing and managing is system by using NetSuite's Suite Flex customization and extension technology platform.
"Our customers can get their tracking information direct from NetSuite. Before, we had to get that from UPS and didn't have a great way to get that into our accounting system. Now, people are getting in voices just a few hours after shipment, and they have the tracking numbers right there. The amount of work we save to get packages out the door now is unbelievable--we're saving man-hours per day on the NetSuite solution," he says.
TTI uses VeriSign Payflow Pro payment integration with NetSuite as well as the UPS shipping link to conduct the entire customer lifecycle with NetSuite. "We're embracing NetSuite in this company as closely as we can, so from our leads to our shipment tracking numbers, we have all of our business in NetSuite."
All of TTI's employees have a NetSuite login. "Before, I had one or two people using PCAnywhere to access our in-house systems. Now, anybody can access our entire system from home, and when salespeople are traveling they can search for other customers in their area where they happen to be traveling," he says. Next for TTI is a deeper exploration of the pre-sales process, again with NetSuite at the center of operations. "Now, our director of marketing is really getting onboard. We've been doing a lot of work in the marketing module because NetSuite has all the campaign management we need, so we can start seeing how each of our advertising dollars is performing. This is functionality that we did not have before, but is included in NetSuite."