Bell Canada buys wireless data consulting firm

Bell Canada Monday said it has made an acquisition to boost its ability to deliver enterprise services around logistics, supply chain optimization and wireless data management.

Bell has purchased the assets of Montreal-based Createch Group, including its sister companies The Resolution Group and Naxxa Solutions. The acquisition has already closed, said Isabelle Courville, president of Bell’s Enterprise Group. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Courville said the transaction will fill “exactly the missing piece” in Bell’s enterprise services portfolio. Createch has expertise around radio frequency identification (RFID), field force automation, fleet management and wireless local area networks (WLANs).

Customers are looking for a provider who can jump on a logistics project early in its development and steer it to completion, she said. “This market is extremely fragmented and what we are trying to do is pull together a very new kind of offer – end to end solutions in wireless data.”

The Createch Group will act as a subsidiary of Bell Canada and retain its name. All 160 of its employees will stay with the company. “They will be part of the Bell family but I think they will see themselves as Createch employees for some time,” explained Courville.

The company will also be the foundation of a future centre of excellence around logistics management and Bell may make future acquisitions in the market to strengthen its offerings in the area, according to Createch president Jean-Marc Lebeouf. Pop-ware, an assets management software firm that Bell acquired earlier this year, will also be rolled into the centre of excellence.

Lebeouf, who will stay on as the president of Createch, said he has received numerous offers to sell his company to a larger corporate entity since he started it in 1993. The reason he decided to sell to Bell, he said, was because the telco giant would grant him to autonomy to continue to direct Createch.

“I know what it is to work in a large organization and I really see this as my third career,” said Leboeuf who worked with consulting firm Accenture (then called Andersen Consulting) before establishing Createch.

The timing is right for Bell to branch into this market, said Gartner Canada consultant Elroy Joping.

“Everybody talks a lot about wireless data but the majority of the emphasis is on voice. There hasn’t been a significant emphasis on wireless data and really, I think in essence this is what they’re doing. Quite frankly, it’s a good idea that they get into this,” he said, adding that supply chain management is also a growth market.

RFID in particular has piqued the interest of a number of service providers. Last week, IBM, along with standards body GS1 Canada and other interested parties, opened a national RFID centre in Markham, Ont., primarily to capitalize on the technology’s potential to manage the supply chain of food and livestock.

“I think it’s a bit of a race,” said Courville. “Who will be best in the best position to offer end to end solutions?”

She added that Bell would consider partnering with other providers on wireless data and logistics engagements, but the Createch aquisition is designed to strengthen the company’s market expertise and ability to bid independently on potential customer contracts.

Createch has worked with customers like Domtar, CN, and Pratt and Whitney in the past. More recently, it partnered with Bell to build a RFID warehouse solution for Quebec furniture firm Brault and Martineau.

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