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Capital Lighting Fixture Company
Located just outside Atlanta, Georgia, The Capital Lighting Fixture Company had selected and implemented Microsoft Dynamics AX as a replacement for its existing out-of-support ERP system back in May 2012, going live in January 2014.
But even at the point of go-live, critical pieces of functionality were lacking, and other important functionality—such as the order shipping functionality—were working only very slowly.
Most important of all, the chosen implementation partner had been unable to deliver the functionality required from the Microsoft Dynamics AX customer portal, forcing Capital to locate and implement a third-party solution, just weeks before go-live.
“We’d expected Microsoft Dynamics AX to make us more efficient, and instead we were working more slowly, with a lot of workarounds,” explains Jennifer Whitmire, Capital Lighting’s controller. “Unfortunately, the partner we chose for implementation didn’t seem to have enough product knowledge or manpower to handle critical aspects of the implementation, and we needed help in getting things back on track.”
In search of some form of solution, Whitmire and a couple of colleagues decided to attend Microsoft’s 2014 customer convention, Convergence.
As well as listening to presentations and demonstrations, the team also took time out to tour the exhibition hall devoted to Microsoft Dynamics’ extensive ecosystem of solution providers. There, they happened across the eBECS booth, and noticed that eBECS had something described as a Microsoft Dynamics AX ‘recovery’ capability.
“It struck an immediate chord,” recalls Whitmire. “We hadn’t realized it, but what we needed was a fresh partner with a Microsoft Dynamics AX recovery product—and here was eBECS with just that product. Having a conversation seemed to be the logical thing to do.”
It was a conversation that immediately threw up possibilities that seemed worth exploring, and an on-site visit ensued—a visit made easier by the fact that eBECS, too, was Atlanta-based.
After a number of internal discussions, the decision was made to engage eBECS, and recruit an information systems manager, Yves Grisard-Van Roey, to work with eBECS to deliver a Microsoft Dynamics AX system that was more in keeping with Capital Lighting’s requirements and expectations.
Before switching to a new partner, the Capital Lighting team needed assurance that eBECS really understood today’s wholesale business environment, as well as the most recent release of Dynamics AX, and the fast-changing world of integrated business technologies.
“Right from the first conversation with eBECS’ Charlotte McCormick and Darren Hogg, it was clear that they were coming up with solutions and alternatives that we hadn’t considered,” she recalls. “Plus, they were local, with good connections through to Georgia Tech, a recognised source of solid IT talent.
In addition, too, the eBECS team had a refreshingly different approach, bred from a long familiarity with deploying Microsoft Dynamics AX in a diverse set of businesses.
“Our original partner seemed to have focused a lot of time on making Dynamics AX behave like our previous ERP system, which had not only led to many of the problems that we were experiencing, but had left us with a lot of non-standard custom code, which we would now have to support,” sums up Whitmire. “eBECS, though, proposed going to back to basics, and using Microsoft Dynamics AX’s native functionality.”
Work began almost immediately, with eBECS’ ability to commit immediate resource to the project being an important consideration, given the fragile state of the existing Dynamics AX installation.
Progress was quickly made on a number of fronts, with separate workstreams targeting software, hardware, and business process issues.
On the hardware front, for instance, it was clear that server capacity had been calculated incorrectly, an error compounded by a flawed installation and off-site location. Brought back on-site, and reinstalled and correctly configured, hardware ceased to be a bottleneck.
Likewise, there was a need to address a number of software configuration issues, where a series of code optimization mini-projects gradually brought back on stream pieces of functionality that had been lost since the move from the previous ERP system. The shipping capability worked again, for instance, and Capital’s MRP capability was restored to an operational state.
More taxing were those issues where problems with code and business processes were intertwined—and in some cases compounded with a lack of appropriate training.
“Looking back, we realize that we didn’t have an adequate understanding of certain AX features and how they were designed to support our business processes,” says Whitmire.
Overall, she adds, it was a year before the various workstreams had achieved their various goals, delivering the Microsoft Dynamics AX experience and functionality that had originally been sought.
Turn the clock forward two years, and Capital Lighting has what Whitmire describes as a normal, stable Microsoft Dynamics AX system, with normal support and optimization issues.
“We’re where we should be, with the efficiencies and savings that we had expected, and working with Microsoft Dynamics AX in the ways in which we had expected,” she sums up. “eBECS is still around, but now they’re helping us build on what we’ve got, and create improvements—a huge step forward from where we started.”
“Since our stabilization with Dynamics AX, we have created a platform for growth to achieve our business goals,” concludes Grisard-Van Roey. “With the help of eBECS we continue to expand the scope of ERP and supply chain integration to provide true value to our customers. The robustness of AX has allowed for increased revenue with minimal continued investment.”