Effective operations

Saudi Fal Company has rolled out an ERP application at two of its operations in an attempt to integrate its islands of information and help users get the data they require.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  May 2, 2004

|~|BME1003M.jpg|~|Saudi Fal Company has rolled out an enterprise resource planning application at two of its operations in an attempt to integrate its islands of information and help users get the data they require to work more effectively.|~|Saudi Fal Company has completed a mammoth enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation that has seen it install a suite of products from IFS at its Saudi Fal Controls Division, which acts as a representative for Fisher-Rosemount’s process-automation products in the Kingdom, and Albilad Fire Fighting Systems, a company specialising in integrated fire fighting systems for large organisations such as Saudi Aramco and Sabic. At Albilad, the Saudi Fal Company IT team has worked with IFS consultants to roll out a number of modules, including project management, service management, financials and distribution. Following IFS’ implementation methodology, the team started by documenting Albilad’s business processes before mapping them to the ERP suite. The actual deployment was carried out in two phases, with phase one witnessing the implementation of finance and distribution and the second stage covering the outstanding modules. The first phase of the project began in September 2003 and was completed in early January 2004. The second stage was completed at the end of March and is already delivering benefits to the fire fighting equipment firm and the 15 concurrent users who access the ERP app over Albilad Fire Fighting Systems’ local area network (LAN). For example, it has allowed the Saudi company to standardise its operational procedures and information throughout departments and business units, which in turn has created a greater level of transparency. In particular, it has helped Albilad gain a clear view of the stock held by the company across the Kingdom and facilitated a tightening of the Saudi firm’s supply chain. “Previously we were using a manual system to collect this information, which lead to inaccuracies and considerable time was wasted to get the necessary information, making it very hard to get a clear view of the business,” says Mohammed Kabbani, Saudi Fal Company’s IT manager. “However, the IFS ERP solution has helped us standardise our processes and information. It is now very easy to analyse our business data. Our new system enables us to make quick decisions and react to the changing market quickly and accurately,” he adds. In addition to sharpening the company’s competitive edge, the IFS system has reduced the company’s operating expenses. Key to this has been the separating out of Albilad Fire Fighting Systems’ IT budget from its usual operating costs, which in turn has allowed the company to carry out detailed cost analysis and highlight the hidden expense of running its collection of standalone and manual systems. “The expense of our existing system had been hidden by other overhead costs. But our analysis showed us where we could make some savings,” says Kabbani. ||**|||~||~||~|Reduced costs and improved access to information have also been achieved at Saudi Fal Controls Division, where the IFS application has replaced a number of standalone legacy applications that operated in isolation within each of the firm’s departments. For instance, the finance department ran an MCBA application while the sales division used an inhouse programme developed on Visual Basic for SQL server. “Because finance, warehousing and sales were not integrated, someone who wanted to find something often could not get it. Everything didn’t work smoothly and mistakes could occur, like a customer being billed twice,” explains Kabbani. “Users wanted better systems to handle everything and the management wanted to be able to get reports and the information they needed when they wanted it. In the past when they wanted a report it could take weeks. Because of this we implemented IFS,” he explains. The Saudi Fal Controls Division project began concurrent to the Albilad project. A new ProLiant server from HP was added to the company’s hardware environment to run the ERP application. IFS consultants assisted in the data migration processes and ensured that the legacy data matched the new formats. “We also did some data cleansing, both manual and automatic, to check if it [our data] was right or wrong,” Kabbani adds. In addition to handling the data migration, the implementation team carried out a business process review to match the one carried out at the fire fighting equipment company. According to Kabbani, the project team also spent time with the business users to find out what they wanted from the system. “Although we included everyone’s feedback we tried to change little and adapt to the IFS application. Little customisation was needed and this helped keep the implementation simple,” says Kabbani. In fact, Kabbani himself carried out the one piece of customisation required by the Saudi Fal Controls Division and wrote a programme so that entering items into the ERP application was made easier for a back office team that has to deal with millions of parts. “We have many different parts and we have more than three million options. In the IFS system, to buy an item it must be [entered as] an inventory item, a sales part and purchasing part. However, I made it so we could enter the data just the once,” explains Kabbani. As the IFS solution has been live at Saudi Fal Controls Division for longer than at Albilad, the benefits of the system have been more widely felt and the smooth processes facilitated by the ERP application well bedded down. “We now have control over everything and we have made the processes smooth so we are not running around chasing orders and we can see what everyone is doing in the company,” says Kabbani. Moving forward, Saudi Fal Company is investigating how to maximise its new IFS implementation and looking at other, extended ERP modules such as customer relationship management (CRM). At Albilad, users are also considering a workplace portal for its management team and investigating how best to integrate its application access, e-mail and relevant business data into one interface. “We are also looking at how we can use this system to improve our communications with our existing customers,” says Kabbani. “We’re also talking with our suppliers and seeing how we can improve communication with our partners. We’re looking to see if we can start some form of business-to-business (B2B) transactions,” he adds. ||**||

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