L.S. Starrett Company
In August of 2009, the 130-year-old company embarked upon a substantial ERP upgrade from Oracle Applications 10.7 to Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 (R12). This upgrade would have a significant impact on the company’s operational reporting capabilities, which were highly customized. IT recognized the opportunity to overhaul Starrett’s reporting infrastructure to make use of the extended functionality available within its new ERP system and to transform and standardize the business intelligence environment. In addition, IT hoped to greatly accelerate the reporting process by significantly reducing the time to delivery and by training key end users to generate their own reports.
Prior to the R12 upgrade, Starrett used Discoverer for sales analysis reporting from a specific custom database, and all operational and financial information came from customized Oracle reports from the ERP system. To distribute this information, Starrett used what they called ‘Board Style’ reporting whereby they printed out business information on a dot matrix printer and physically tore the reports into sections by department. A mail person would then pick up the reports and deliver them by hand to each department. “We’ve got over 500,000 square feet here at the Athol headquarters, so a guy would walk quite a few miles in a day,” jokes Mark Sprague, Manager of Corporate Information Systems at Starrett. “Going into the migration, one of the things we noted was that there were much better tools on the market today to use for this type of reporting.”
Starrett initiated its upgrade by hiring IBM as an outside systems integrator. In March 2010, in the final months of the Oracle ERP upgrade, Starrett’s IT staff were struggling to find the best reporting solution. They did not want to rely on Oracle Discoverer, given that the solution is due to be phased out, but they needed content fast in order to continue to run the business.
The IT department researched several reporting tools including Cognos and Noetix. Starrett’s Manager of IS, Mark Sprague, said the key selling factor for him was Noetix’s ability to generate a report and export it to Excel. The proposed reporting solution would include Starrett’s non-Oracle point of sale (POS) data and generate 500 views and out of the box reporting templates in a guaranteed three-week timeframe. Starrett ultimately purchased Noetix Platform (Noetix QueryServer and Noetix WebQuery), Noetix Search, and NoetixViews for Financials, Discrete Manufacturing, Order Management and Purchasing.
After the three-week implementation came the end user training. Sprague assigned one of his staff as the ‘Noetix Champion’ to become the reporting lead to Starrett’s group of 25 end users. Various assigned Noetix admins and end users participated in three on-site training sessions and were then able to use Noetix WebQuery and the pre-built answer reports to get the information they needed.
Armed with new information that was not previously available to them, Starrett’s end user base was able to create new financial reports for Accounts Receivable analysis, details for invoice failures and electronic ordering. IT has created a few core reports that act as a barometer for the business including Sales reporting for Management and Sales personnel as well as daily reports that drive activity for the company’s Finance and Operations teams. The new reports have been especially beneficial to the company from an order fulfillment perspective, providing insight on orders that are stalled enabling timely corrective actions.
Prior to the Oracle upgrade and the Noetix implementation, the process to obtain this sort of information was time consuming and cumbersome. A request from the user community would first come to IT for evaluation and approval, before going into a queue for development. To build the report, IT would first go through a design process to ensure the correct fields were displayed and seek user agreement before writing the code. Then IT would write the query using SQL (not the report writing utility) to pull the relevant tables from the Oracle environment. Depending on the complexity of the report, it could take a full day to write the code for a single report. Finally it would require another three or four days to format the report to have it lined up to print out correctly.
With Noetix, Starrett has greater insight into core business processes helping them to ascertain problems and get them resolved quickly. A key report, ‘picked not shipped’, tells Starrett if they dropped the (pick) slip with allocated inventory but has not been shipped yet. The company continues to be innovative with new report creation. For example, IT has begun pulling Noetix report data through to sophisticated Excel templates where it automatically updates multiple sheets to provide details on fulfillment performance by customers, top selling SKUs, product categories.
Mark Sprague has kicked off a one year project that will measure the return on investment for the recent ERP upgrade. Part of this initiative will also focus on optimizing the new processes to strategically align with where the business needs to go.
“I don’t know if an IT job is ever done but we’re still working very hard to optimize and mature our processes and reporting where we can bring other Starrett subsidiaries online. Noetix reporting has most certainly helped streamline the reporting process.” says Sprague.
Manager of Corporate Information Systems
The L.S. Starrett Company
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