Car parts firm switches database in supply chain project

A new supply-chain management system is helping put a Windsor, Ont.-based maker of automobile parts in the driver’s seat.

Schukra, a subsidiary of Leggett & Platt Automotive Group, was running Version 6.04 of the BPCS enterprise

resource planning (ERP) software from Chicago-based SSA Global Technologies, Inc., on hardware from Hewlett-Packard Co. equipped with the Unix operating system and Oracle Corp. database software. The company has upgraded to BPCS 8.2, switching in the process to IBM’s iSeries hardware with the DB2 database software.

Laura Ryall, director of management information systems at Schukra, said her company’s existing hardware was “maxed out. I couldn’t add any more hard drives, I couldn’t add any more CPU.” BPCS was designed and written for the iSeries, she said, so Schukra decided to move to the IBM hardware. “I wanted to put it on the right platform.”

Richard Barzdenis, senior account manager for SSA in Canada, said about 90 per cent of the BPCS installed base runs on IBM hardware. It also takes advantage of DB2’s integration with IBM’s operating system, he noted.

Ryall said she faced a challenge because Schukra’s Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system was not integrated with the previous version of BPCS. Instead, it fed a standalone system from Peartree Software Inc.. “Those two systems didn’t talk to each other,” she explained. Employees had to transfer information manually between the systems, which was time-consuming and opened up an opportunity for errors.

Schukra’s implementation was divided into two phases. In the first, which began in September 2003, the company moved from BPICS 6.04 running on the HP Unix platform to BPICS 8.2 on the iSeries. That took about six months.

In the second phase, the old Peartree software was eliminated and Schukra began feeding EDI data directly into BPCS. That phase also took about six months, and was completed in September 2004, Ryall said. 

“We had not one problem,” she added. “Both phases went perfectly.”

Ryall said the combined hardware and software upgrade has brought substantial performance improvements. For instance, she said, a material planning run that took three hours with the old system now takes only a couple of minutes, backups have been cut from four or five hours to about 90 minutes, and a complex sales forecast written in-house for the company’s sales team now takes 10 minutes or so to run versus three to eight hours previously.

Leslie Givens, program director for independent software vendor and developer relations at IBM Canada Ltd. in Markham, Ont., said the company encourages partners such as SSA to write applications to take advantage of both IBM’s hardware and its middleware.

Since exiting the applications business about five years ago, she noted, IBM has depended heavily on its relationships with software partners such as SSA. “We specialize in middleware and hardware,” said Givens. “They’re critical components to a solution, but so much of that industry functionality and capability is delivered through the applications.”

Givens said IBM’s relationship with SSA is a premier-level partnership, the highest level of co-operation IBM has with independent software vendors. The company has less than 200 such partners, she said.

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Grant Buckler
Grant Buckler
Freelance journalist specializing in information technology, telecommunications, energy & clean tech. Theatre-lover & trainee hobby farmer.

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