Ship shape systems

Luxury yacht builder Gulf Craft has completed upgrading its Focus ERP package to the latest version in record time - and in the process, found a whole new way to work. Imthishan Giado reports.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  November 18, 2007

Every company craves success.

The financial benefits of a bulging order book allow a company to surge through the ranks of its competitors with new staff and facilities and eventually, increased opportunities.

For Ajman-based luxury yacht builder Gulf Craft, however, success brought with it several drawbacks as the firm found that its existing ERP software could no longer handle the firm's rapidly expanding business.After considering solutions from other vendors, the company upgraded its existing system to the new version, Focus RT.

The company currently employs 1400 staff in four UAE factories with an additional facility in the Maldives. Gulf Craft is powered by Windows Server 2003 running Exchange server, with the new Focus implementation acting as the system front end while SQL 2005 handles backend duties.

According to Gulf Craft's general manager Erwin Bamps, when he joined six years ago the firm had just eight PCs in use throughout the company. Over time, Bamps found that that the firm's ERP package, Focus 5.1, was unable to keep pace with the company's growth and provide the depth of automation and reporting that he desired.

"5.1 does not have the ambition to be an ERP package for a large organisation, so we quickly outgrew it. But we don't require the software to run huge retail operations. We felt that Focus RT would offer us the best of a number of worlds, including the understanding of how the human resources work specifically in this part of the world and the ability to customise the software to our needs," he says.

In Bamps' view, the impact of implementing Focus RT has been nothing less than a cultural change. The introduction of live data has meant that users no longer have to perform constant physical inventories, while costing - traditionally done after the boat had been delivered - has been revamped, with the most current figures available at each stage of production.

Bamps also notes that the speed and ease of the implementation has been remarkable considering its scale: "We did too many things at the same time. We have upgraded our ERP software, changed the past four years worth of financial statements to IFRS compliance, introduced a bar code system and revamped our whole stores management system. There are people who have done a lot less than this and suffered much more. So we have not done badly - although it needed courage, and a good team."

"The biggest problem we had with Focus 5.1 was the space limitations and the proprietary database. Another was that the external interface could not interface with barcodes - I could not get an automated report from the warehouse," explains A.Kalyan, Gulf Craft's network administrator.

Two factors played a key role in Bamp's decision to remain with Focus for the new system. The first was to minimise the learning curve of his users with a new system that maintained visual similarities with the earlier version. The second was a need to make the firm's financial reports compliant to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), in preparation for the firm's upcoming IPO.

Although the initial study estimated that the implementation would take in the region of six to eight months, Kalyan's team went live in just three. He also managed to migrate the data in a scant two months.

"Focus has done a very good job compared to other companies that have migrated the data and had hiccups. Our data loss was virtually negligible," says Kalyan.

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