SAN FRANCISCO — A Canadian paint manufacturer is preparing to add a few more coats to an overhaul of its sales and plant management applications.

SICO Paints, based in Longeuil, Que., has already rolled out several modules of Oracle‘s 11i E-Business Suite, but executives attending this week’s OpenWorld user conference said the critical work will happen over the next two years as it implements software to automate accounts receivables, advanced pricing and ordering. The project will involve replacing a legacy sales management system built on BBX and dating back to 1982.

“”There’s no database behind it,”” said Jean-Pierre Beaulieu, SICO’s director of IT. “”No referential integrity, no data validation . . . parts are batched, but not online. It costs a lot to maintain.””

SICO became an Oracle customer in 1995, after Oracle bought Datalogix International for US$81 million. Datalogix had supplied SICO with its Global Enterprise Manufacturing Management System (GEMMS). Although GEMMS has since been discontinued, Beaulieu said the conversion to Oracle Process Manufacturing (OPM) has introduced a richer feature set to SICO, which manages more than 10,000 formulas for paints, adhesives, stains and caulking.

“”We could only handle raw materials, not goods and services (data),”” said Daniel Grondin, SICO’s director of systems development. “”There was a lot of manual work for requisitions.””

SICO started the E-Business Suite implementation in 1999 and finished up the first phase in 2001. The biggest hurdle, according to Beaulieu, was rewriting some of the old GEMMS reports in the Oracle toolsets. Instead of handing over the project to outside consultants, SICO has used its own 20-person IT staff to manage the job.

“”I guess we believe in our staff,”” he said. “”We have business analysts, and with new tools, you have to know the business. This way, staff will be happy, retention will be great, and there’ll be no knowledge transfer necessary.””

Some of the experience gained through the initial implementation has already paid off, Beaulieu said. Late last year, for example, SICO acquired Para Paints, becoming Canada’s largest manufacturer of architectural paints. Converting Para’s mostly manual process manufacturing systems to the Oracle platform only took four months, Grondin said. “”The easiest part was putting them on OPM,”” he said. “”The hard part was getting them on our legacy sales system.””

Oracle is using OpenWorld to tout a slew of additional features to its 11i E-Business portfolio, in particular its business intelligence software. In a late afternoon keynote on Monday, for example, Oracle executive vice-president Ron Wohl demonstrated components he said were designed specifically for business-to-business clients.

“”Sales and marketing systems have traditionally been focused only on controlling one flow (of information) — what sales (people) are doing,”” he said. “”We know that at least half of all B2B sales are to existing clients, so you know an enormous amount about them.””

The business intelligence features in 11i are intended to highlight cross-sell and up-sell opportunities within those clients, Wohl said, and expand on key performance indicators by showing to what extent sales staff have capitalized on their leads, conversion rates and the number of leads generated from each marketing campaign. HR screens provide up-to-date information on headcount, salaries and turnover rates, while the expense screen offers a list of top 10 spenders in an organization. “”This is not a list you want to be on,”” Wohl joked.

Grondin said SICO, which employs about 1,000 people and runs four plants, was an early adopter of business intelligence, and has been running Business Objects software on its Oracle database since 1996. The company is now examining the Oracle business intelligence tools, but it hasn’t committed to anything.

“”There will be a transition eventually . . . but it’s not a priority for us right now,”” said Beaulieu.

Oracle OpenWorld 2004 wraps up Thursday.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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