Agricultural overhaul

Radwa Food Production Company has built an entire network infrastructure and data centre to facilitate the deployment of PeopleSoft’s enterprise resource planning application.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  January 25, 2004

|~|eggs_m.jpg|~|The changes at the egg and poultry producer should mean greater efficiency in getting their time-sensitive produce to market.|~|Radwa Food Production Company has overhauled its legacy-computing environment, created a comprehensive network infrastructure and deployed PeopleSoft’s EnterpriseOne application. The Saudi Arabian egg and poultry producer’s new network facilitates realtime information access for its geographically dispersed staff, while the enterprise resource planning (ERP) package has helped Radwa reduce operating costs and improve its sales performance. Before deciding to implement an ERP application, Radwa had survived with basic hardware and ad hoc communications that were both unreliable and difficult to manage due to the remote location of some its facilities. According to Mudhitha Welihinda, Radwa’s IT manager, this set up would have been unable to carry EnterpriseOne. “We had only the basic hardware and no real network infrastructure. We had lower capacity servers, which we could use to run just basic modules,” he says. “Also, we had [network] problems because we are in quite remote locations — up to 60 kilometres away from the city,” Welihinda adds. To rectify its hardware situation, the Radwa team built a data centre containing PowerEdge servers from Dell and thin clients from Citrix. On the network front, a combination of leased lines, frame relay and wireless technologies were used from the likes of Cisco and Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC). A point-to-point satellite connection was also created to link the firm’s data centre and head office. “Today we have a real network infrastructure and downtime is now 0.001%,” says Welihinda. As for EnterpriseOne, a combined team from Radwa and BT Applied Technologies deployed the solution in just four months. It replaced Radwa’s aging FoxPro-based applications, which were not only limited in terms of functionality, but also decentralised. This, in turn, meant users had to waste time transferring data from one application to another. “Because we had lots of different modules and things like general ledger were running as a standalone application, users would have to complete the sales invoices in one system and then move it into the general ledger,” says Welihinda. “This meant there was not the availability of information [we required] and that there could be problems with the accuracy of the data. Users would have to keep checking it from one system to another,” he explains. The detached nature of Radwa’s FoxPro application stack also meant data migration to EnterpriseOne was problematic and had to be carried out manually by the implementation team. “It was difficult to transfer [data] for various reasons, including some of the file formats. Some of the data couldn’t be reused and we had one module running on Netware so we could not transfer in a format that was compatible for both systems. Because we had to do a lot of manual entry it was hardly a data transfer as such,” explains Welihinda. “However, because most of the data was migrated manually we were able to get rid of a lot of the garbage data and do lots of [data] cleansing,” he adds. Concurrent to the data cleansing activity, BT Applied Technologies also helped Radwa train its key end users, so that they in turn could teach the application’s 40-plus users how to best use the software. “We followed the prescribed methodology of PeopleSoft and carried out key end user training. Once the users had been trained to a deep level on each module they then gave the other end users training,” explains Welihinda. Radwa’s clean data and EnterpriseOne application can be accessed from PCs and workstations throughout the company. In addition, the egg and poultry producer has armed its sales representatives with Symbol devices. Utilising Z files in the PeopleSoft application and the handhelds’ onboard database, end users can make requests, check inventory and reroute orders according to the needs of customers while on the move. This allows sales people to provide a better service. “If a customer wants to change their order, we can feed this into the system and respond immediately,” says Ahmed Basoudan, sales manager, Radwa Food Production Company. In addition to improving information access for its roving sales team, the implementation of EnterpriseOne has allowed Radwa to automate its back office operations, thus boosting efficiency throughout the organisation. Additionally, the use of PeopleSoft’s inventory and manufacturing modules means Radwa is better able to track sales performance, assess current stock levels and respond to immediate market demand, something that is key in an industry that typically dedicates 10-15% of its operating costs to managing returns. “Radwa deals with the freshest produce on the market — eggs, chickens and feed — and we need a solution that enables us to manage our stock levels in realtime,” says Basoudan. “[EnterpriseOne] allows us to calculate the exact numbers and availability of our inventory, track where our stocks are and process orders accordingly,” he explains. Beyond the specific sales team and inventory benefits, EnterpriseOne has brought other, more general advantages to Radwa. For instance, the ability to access realtime information has facilitated greater unity within the firm and accelerated decision making throughout the egg and poultry producer’s organisation. “Getting information from our legacy system took a long time and it didn’t always come in the manner that the users wanted. So, compared to our legacy system, we have much greater information availability with [EnterpriseOne],” says Welihinda. “For example, we can see an invoice generated in Jeddah in realtime in Riyadh. Also, users do not have to print reports out because they are online and can be seen immediately. The implementation has also encouraged our senior management to get online and allowed us to build an automated workflow into our business,” he adds. Moving forward, Radwa is looking to open its EnterpriseOne application up to the web to give its main customers throughout the Kingdom the ability to access personalised inventories online. “The business-to-business (B2B) project is going on now at an aggressive pace,” says Welihinda. “We are continuously improving. The next step is customer relationship management (CRM) and e-commerce,” he explains. ||**||

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