TORONTO — A Bayer Inc. rubber factory in Sarnia, Ont., squeezed every last ounce of functionality out of its legacy enterprise asset management system before they were forced to upgrade.

Bayer IS business systems manager for the Sarnia site Des Somers was in Toronto Tuesday to talk about the upgrade at the 13th annual Canadian Maintenance Management Congress.

In 1999, the Sarnia site took a long look at its aging EAM system, but by April 2000, Somers realized the upgrade wasn’t going to happen as soon as he thought. Based on a disk storage analysis, they could keep the old system operational until Oct. 2000 — but no longer.

A global Bayer initiative to implement an ERP package had been deferred until 2003, so the Sarnia site required a product that could be implemented in a hurry and last until at least 2003. The legacy system was supplied by Indus International Inc. in 1994, so Bayer returned to Indus for an updated EAM suite. Indus would no longer provide support for the old software and those that supported it internally were coming up for retirement age.

That left a nine-month window to get a new package installed and operational. “The true measure of a piece of software is the time it takes to get it (installed),” said Somers. “If it doesn’t satisfy the customers’ needs, you’re already back where you started.”

Bayer wanted the old functionality of its legacy system plus extras like procurement, purchasing and maintenance. To keep installation headaches to a minimum, Bayer opted for the full suite of Indus’ EAM software Empac, plus use the recommended installation package of Compaq servers and an Oracle database running on Windows NT.

Somers and his IT team tinkered with the Empac software on Compaq servers for three months before signing a deal with Indus for the complete package. The installation cost Bayer approximately $2 million.

Co-project manager and Indus consultant Jim Sawyer was on site to oversee the installation. Bayer handpicked Sawyer since he was a Bayer employee before joining Indus. The installation team had to truncate traditional implementation steps in order to meet the tight deadline, he said, and interfaces with other software in the Sarnia facility were kept to a minimum. “Because they were going to implement all the modules, it made it easier,” he said.

Somers said he had to be careful not to fall prey to “scope creep” in order to keep on schedule. “The temptation is to change it all,” he said. “If you expand the scope, you’ll never get it done.”

The implementation was operational three weeks ahead of schedule on Oct. 2, 2000.The Sarnia plant was able to move from 14 EAM interfaces with the old system down to four. One-third of the 14 million records on the legacy system were moved over, the rest — including duplicates and “suspect” files — were backed up in a data warehouse.

Eight IT specialists inside the Sarnia plant were tagged to oversee the installation, as well as four Indus consultants. “If it doesn’t hurt the department to give up that person, then you haven’t got the right person,” said Somers. Staff worked long hours — sometimes 180 hours of overtime in a period of a month. He warned other project managers to be wary of employee burnout, though he said he didn’t hear any complaints from his staff, many of whom volunteered to work on weekends.

All of the Indus modules were rolled out at once — a so-called “big bang.” But “it was the quietest big bang we ever had — a very smooth rollout,” said Sawyer.

Two hundred employees were trained on the software prior to installation and another 250 have been trained since.Too much training is not a good thing, said Somers, since not every employee needs to know every facet of the software and the company has to pay them double-time for training sessions. But, he said, the software is ultimately the provinence of the user and its up to them to take an interest. The IT department may have installed it, but “it’s your system, it doesn’t belong to us.”

The Canadian Maintenance Management Congress continues Wednesday.

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