A Vancouver-based graphic arts equipment supplier is preparing to unify its information systems in 30 offices across 27 countries.

CreoScitex Wednesday said it would use a customer relationship management (CRM) solution to streamline its supply chain operations by the end of next year. CreoScitex, which was formed following the purchase by Creo Product Inc. of Israel-based Scitex in April 2000, makes and services image capture systems, ink-jet proofers and other products for the printing industry.

Dave Pritchard, CreoScitex’s ERP/CRM program manager, said the first priority in the project will be to improve its North American service business. About one quarter of the combined companies’ employee base are service technicians.

“After the merger our costs are higher than we would like them to be,” he said. “We think there are substantial gains to be made there over a period of years.” The payback of the project is justified over two years on cash flow savings alone. The gravy on top of that, Pritchard said, includes increased market share or better leverage of the company’s intellectual capital.

While the integration of two companies’ data presents some obvious challenges, Pritchard said unified CRM is critical in the service operation because the company wants to base much of its value to customers on quickly matching the right products with the right technicians.

“We want to make sure we don’t do it and build up increased customer expectations before we’re ready to deliver,” he said.

About 18 months ago, for example, Creo began offering a service to customers whereby they can use a section on its Web site, E-Central, to look at outstanding issues and enter new ones. “The problem with it is, first of all, if you’re a global customer with operations all over the place — which some of our customers are — you can’t see all of your sites,” he said. “The functionality is also kind of limited because when it starts getting into the back end and driving other pieces of information or looking for more data, it’s not there.”

The CRM project was further complicated by the platforms already in place.

Before the merger, Creo employed about 1,500 people, running its business on SAP for four years. Scitex, with 2,500, was running a mix of Oracle, MSG Pro and other niche products and had already been looking at simplifying its infrastructure, Pritchard said. “After the merger we sort of combined those two projects,” he said. “The front-runners really were Oracle and SAP, because we had substantial implementations of both in various parts of company.”

Richard Elliot, SAP director of field operations for Western Canada, said CreoScitex did not choose SAP the first time around.

“They struggled with the fact that they did have a number of systems that they were trying to pull together,” he said. “Their objective was to have a single-instance system that could manage their supply chain on a global basis. They were far away from that.”

Pritchard admitted Oracle had been the initial front-runner but said that SAP was its final choice as implementation partner as of last month.

“We took maybe a long time in that whole process, because there were a lot of issues for people around the company who were either wedded to one solution or the other,” he said. “Let me put it this way: if you just looked at the number of people around the company that were using Oracle, we had more using Oracle than SAP. In some ways, Oracle was the preferred solution for a while.”

Spokespeople for Oracle Canada could not be reached for comment at press time.

Besides mySAP CRM, the CreoScitex project will include the company’s mySAP Supply Chain Management, Financials, Product Lifecycle Management, Business Intelligence and an enterprise portal solution.

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