A shining example

Damas brings its 100th shop online in a business-wide deployment of Microsoft’s Navision ERP system.

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By  Sarah Gain Published  December 18, 2005

|~|PHOTO-2---Tawfique-BODY.jpg|~||~|UAE-based Damas Jewellery has grown and expanded since 1907, when the first shop was established. From its humble beginnings, the company has become an international fashion jewellery retailer. Today, Damas has a trade network that spans the Middle East, USA and India, as well as all the GCC countries. “Our superb infrastructure has allowed us to house an array of internationally-acclaimed jewellery brands,” explains Tawfique Abdullah, Damas’ chairman. “The key to our success has been a visionary creativity, an inspirational leadership, a dedicated workforce and a lot of sincere hard work,” he adds. According to Abdullah, Damas has applied these same principles to its project to overhaul its IT infrastructure with the company-wide implementation of Microsoft Business Solutions’ (MBS) Navision system. With the help of Microsoft’s UAE partner, Landsteinar, Damas is now celebrating the deployment of the enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution across its 100 retail outlets throughout the UAE. “This year has been a landmark year in terms of our IT operations as it has seen our systems advance into an ERP setup,” enthuses the company chairman. Having found that the company’s legacy systems were simply too basic to cope effectively with the volume of gold, diamond and pearl wholesale trading carried out by Damas on a daily basis, the company decided there was a need to streamline and modernise business practices. “The operations at Damas are undertaken on a grand scale,” explains Nachiket Bandekar, head of the company’s IT division. “We have outlets located in major shopping malls and 5-star hotel across the UAE, and many internationally based outlets. With such volumes of trading, and such valuable products, we required greater accuracy and efficiency in our reporting processes.” Damas selected the Navision solution after an in-depth evaluation of the ERP market, which was carried out in conjunction with consultancy group KPMG. After a detailed and careful study, MBS Navision was recommended by the consultants for its complete flexibility in accounting methods that could be easily customised internally by Damas to include the ‘double entry’ typically required in the gold industry, where every piece is valued by both its weight and its monetary value. “The fact that the product was so customisation-friendly was its unique selling point, and was probably the key reason behind our choice,” confirms Bandekar. “The unique nature of the gold and jewellery industry presented some unique challenges, so we required a very flexible solution.” Because Microsoft Navision allows extensive customisations from within an integrated development environment, Damas has been able to make numerous changes to allow the company to respond more efficiently to the specific needs of its business without disrupting everyday operations. The company has worked extensively with retail systems specialist and certified Microsoft partner, Landsteinar, since August 2004 to roll out the solution. The deployment was carried out in phases, with close coordination and scheduling for activities like stock tagging, till installation and stock migration. “It has been a huge task and implementing it in 100 stores has been a great achievement. Landsteinar has played a major role in getting all our UAE outlets online,” says Abdullah. The new solution is now enabling Damas to streamline distribution processes and improve inventory management and warehouse efficiency. Employees are able to take advantage of capabilities such as item tracking, transfers, item substitutions, and warehouse management ranging from internal picking to shipping and delivery. “The new system provides shop information in terms of stock, sales and transfers to the sales and other management teams,” affirms Bandekar. “This has enhanced easing out work at the retail back office to a large extent.”||**|||~|PHOTO-1---Jewellery-BODY.jpg|~||~|With integrated functionality for financial management, supply chain collaboration, and customer relationship management (CRM), Damas has been able to synchronise sales and marketing activities. Microsoft Office productivity tools, such as Microsoft Outlook, have also simplified the ordering process. Real-time information about all the company’s business contacts can help Damas to identify key accounts and target marketing efforts. “Contact, task, meeting, and e-mail information appear directly within the Microsoft Navision screen,” enthuses Bandekar. “Having streamlined operations on to one single application also makes the system simpler to support, and this will result in lower TCO (total cost of ownership), too,” he adds. As employees are now able to gain simultaneous access to data from a single screen, Bandekar says the new solution is far easier for non-technical staff to use than the company’s legacy systems. Also, because the application’s interface mirrors that of familiar Microsoft Office applications, little staff training has been required and the transition to Navision has been relatively painless. “We used some change management processes to help with the migration, and the support we had from our top level management has also helped, so everyone has adapted very well,” confirms Bandekar. In addition to deploying the Navision software, Damas carried out an extensive bar coding of all its products in order to maximise the value of the solution. At all of the 100 stores covered in the project, every piece of jewellery was individually classified and issued with a unique barcode. Although this was a laborious task, Damas’ IT manager believes the undertaking was worth its weight in gold. “Now the bar-coding has been accomplished, the system provides excellent product information,” Bandekar states. “The software captures the entire life cycle of every single jewellery piece since it is bought, transferred in multiple shops and finally sold. All these lead to quick and informed decision making, tight control on various business health indicators and proactive resolution of issues,” he explains. As the demands of the company’s competitive retail environment are continually changing, Damas is now considering the possibility of integrating the Navision solution with business intelligence tools in order to gain added reporting flexibility. For now, however, the company’s efforts are focussed on expanding the roll out of its most recent purchase to outlets beyond the UAE. “This is an ongoing project. By the end of 2005, this system will be deployed in all the UAE outlets. Then we will look towards implementing it in our other markets,” says chairman Abdullah. “After that we will think about our next move. Improvements have to be managed one step at a time.”||**||

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