Sklar Peppler gets comfy with Web tools

Sklar Peppler is saying goodbye to green screens. You could say it’s magic.

The Canadian furniture manufacturer is flipping the switch on a live beta test of an extranet for its retail customers and sales reps after only three weeks in development thanks to the help of Irvine, Calif.-based Magic


When Whitby, Ont.-based Sklar Peppler Furniture Corp.’s marketing department requested the extranet, the company had an important choice to make: replace its heavily customized manufacturing resource planning system (MRP) or find a way to build a Web-based interface on its mid-range AS400 computing infrastructure.

Marg Allen, MIS director for Sklar Peppler, says the company seriously mulled over a new ERP system.

“”There’s a lot of good stuff out there, but a key issue for us was going to be timing because to implement a full ERP system you’re looking at six months minimum — more likely a year — of having the intense work of moving from an existing system to a totally different system.””

Through planning discussions, says Allen, the furniture maker decided it would go back to its original plan — find some Web-enabling tools it could use to interface with its current system.

Allen says Sklar Peppler initially set up some green screen programs so its customers and sales reps could dial in through a VPN and get access to the AS400 — not the Windows point and click the general public is used to. There was a huge learning curve for users, she says.

More than a year ago, Allen attended a users conference in Toronto and gathered some information on tool providers who could bridge the gap between the Web and its AS400-based MRP. One of the things that sold her on using Magic’s eDeveloper tool was a major customer reference — Adidas.

“”Its IT manager couldn’t say enough good things about it,”” she says. “”Adidas does everything with Magic.””

Sklar Peppler didn’t just want to provide Web access to customers — which include major retailers such as Leon’s and The Brick — but also provide real-time information.

“”If an order was entered . . . we wanted the customer to see it right away, in an effort to try to cut down on calls to our customer service department,”” says Allen.

The extranet has gone live for sales reps and customers who were already using the green screen access.

“”We’re starting out very slowly,”” says Allen.

Lee Sutton, systems engineer with Magic, says building extranets is a popular use for the company’s tools, especially for organizations wanting to leverage their existing infrastructure.

“”(Sklar) wanted to do it very quickly and inexpensively,”” he says. “”We were able to do a small proof of concept with them and prove we could do things quickly.””

Magic provided training and kick-started the conversion, but Sutton says it wants customers to learn the tools themselves and be able to support it internally.

“”We need to make sure when we leave Sklar they not only know how to use eDeveloper, but they understand their application.””

Understanding how to use eDeveloper is Allen’s task. “”It’s a step by step process,”” she says. “”But it’s no different than any other language, any software you get. You have to learn it. Even if we got a new ERP system, we would be in the same boat.””

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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