Business scents

Two perfume companies in the region have recently found that adopting new IT solutions has helped to improve the efficiency and transparency of their business processes. Daniel Stanton finds out more.

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By  Daniel Stanton Published  June 1, 2006

|~|naith200.jpg|~|Naith: Focus is far quicker to implement than other ERP systems.|~|A growing number of businesses in the Middle East are finding that although new IT systems can involve a large initial outlay, the savings they can provide are nothing to be sniffed at.

White House Perfumes, a UAE manufacturer, needed an ERP that could be easily customised to improve its business efficiency. the company, which is part of the multinational Odéon Parfums group, has a manufacturing facility in Sharjah, where it produces the group's entire range of perfumes and other products.

It has a production capacity of two million bottles per month with in-house printing and coating facilities. All these parts of the operation needed to be brought under one system.White House found that information and reports were being unnecessarily duplicated during some activities, slowing down processes and tying up staff.

It decided to look at ERP systems in an effort to streamline its processes and enhance the speed of its operations. “We did a lot of research and studies on different software,” says Firoz Ali Sayed, systems analyst at White House Perfumes. “Some software we found very bulky - it's very difficult to change or customise and maybe will cost more in customisation than the purchase price.”

White House opted for Focus RT, a real time ERP that combines the functionality of Customer Relationship Management and Supply Chain Management. Above all, it is easy to adapt to the needs of a particular business.

“These kinds of features were a competitive combination that made us go for Focus, which is very customisable,” says Sayed. “That's a very strong point for it.”

Sayed is aware that products that are not easy to customise can result in frequent call-outs for minor alterations. “With others, I'd have to call them up and fix an appointment,” he says. “That means one week or one month for changes to one field. If you have all the features in your ERP, like customisation of your forms, reports and workflow management, you can drive your own car.”

Nisith Naith, executive vice president of Focus Softnet, believes that the product's ease of customisation enables it to be implemented more quickly. “Establishing the requirements for the ERP took less than a month,” he says. “We finished the whole implementation in 75-90 days.”

Naith adds: “It's very flexible. That's the biggest advantage that Focus holds. To implement other products could take years. With Focus you could probably do it in less than 50 days.”

Sayed is confident of Focus fulfilling the needs of his company. “This is the full corporate system with all the functionalities of business like sales, commercial, manufacturing, full financial accounting, logistics, procurement, warehousing, etc.,” says Sayed.

“It gives you exactly what the market needs.” The ERP has cut out any duplication that happened within the previous system, and any problems can be corrected easily. Sayed says: “Because it's customisable I can always tell them to make some changes, or I can even do a lot of changes required on the customer document level. That's not a big problem.”

Another UAE perfume company, Rasasi Perfumes Industry, had a different dilemma. It wanted to ensure the security of its communications with the outside world, without compromising efficiency or cost.

Rasasi assembles more than 100 brands at its factory in Jebel Ali and operates under a complex network of distributors in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, East Africa and Asia. It also deals with suppliers across the world: designers, bottle manufacturers and concentrate suppliers, among others.

As a family business, the owners wanted to ensure that users did not damage the business by misusing the internet or sending out emails containing confidential information. “The success of our business today depends entirely on perfection and in-depth research, with the average lead time for new perfume launches taking anywhere from 12 to 18 months from the time of product concept to actual production,” says Saleem Kalsekar, managing director, Rasasi Perfumes Industry.

“Quality is also a very important factor - we make sure that we test our products at every stage of production. This is a very time-consuming and elaborate process where effective communication and confidentiality are vital.”

Rasasi opted for the IBM Lotus Domino platform to support all aspects of its internal and external communications. Information Systems Design (ISD), an IBM business partner, implemented it.

ISD completely replaced the existing systems, which were based around a Microsoft Exchange environment. “We didn't have to replace any of the hardware because they had quite a good, solid infrastructure there,” says Abdul Caffoor, managing director of Information Systems Design.

However, ISD also had to write specific applications for Rasasi. Caffoor says: “We customised the whole email system to take into account what they want. They wanted everything to be routed through their managers and only then the emails get approved and get sent out. Incoming is the same way. It's a family business and they felt that security was of the essence.”

Internet access for business users was also restricted. “They've got all kinds of trade secrets and they don't want any of this information to go out,” Caffoor says.

“We wrote two more applications in the back to support their fax and email automated system, where they can check what correspondence goes in and out.”

Return on investment will come from savings in human resources. Instead of a particular person monitoring emails as a full-time job, the emails are either approved or rejected by a chain of managers, meaning that each person spends less time on the task.

So far, Rasasi's management is happy with Domino. Salim Kalsekar, MD of Rasasi Perfumes, says: “Decision making is faster, therefore saving time; a quick response is received with online messages; the approval process is simplified; and user productivity is enhanced.”

He adds that the company's aims include trying to reduce the total cost of ownership of its IT systems by more efficiently using CPU resources, bandwidth and storage space, and says that these objectives have been successfully met.

With IT providing streamlined, accountable business processes, both Rasasi and White House can enjoy the sweet smell of success.||**||

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