Electrocraft’s Microsoft Dynamics AX global roll-out in three continentsYou are here: >
Electrocraft’s Microsoft Dynamics AX global roll-out in three continents
A manufacturer of electric motors and motor controls with operations in the United States, China, Germany and the UK, America’s ElectroCraft realised in late 2009 that its legacy ERP system—a ‘green screen’ implementation of Infor’s MANMAN suite—was no longer adequate for its needs.
“We wanted to consolidate our entire operation on one system—a system that wasn’t MANMAN, or any of the other systems that we’d found ourselves running as the business had grown through acquisition,” says John Arico, ElectroCraft’s vice-president of finance and administration. “Consolidating information from across the company had become a complex challenge, and we saw that moving to one system—and ideally one instance of that system—was the way to go.”
But which ERP system, precisely? The market was crowded, with competing offerings from a number of vendors all appearing on paper to be offering a reasonable fit for ElectroCraft’s needs.
Spotting an ‘ERP shootout event’ being held in Orlando, Florida, at which it would be possible to compare and contrast the offerings of a number of these vendors, ElectroCraft management decided to fly down from their New Hampshire headquarters to attend it.
Ahead of the event, Microsoft Dynamics AX hadn’t been the front-runner, concedes Arico. And matters weren’t helped by the fact that the session at which a Microsoft partner presented Microsoft Dynamics AX turned out to be marred by members of the presentation team disagreeing with each other.
On the other hand, some of the other solutions on offer had only patchy support for lean manufacturing, which was an important ElectroCraft requirement. Still others could only point to other sought-for capabilities as being at the planning stage, rather than currently ‘live’ features.
The turning point came towards the end of the three-day event, explains Arico. Although eBECS wasn’t formally present at the event, ElectroCraft had earlier attended an eBECS lean manufacturing webinar and the eBECS executive who had presented it had volunteered to fly down to Florida to meet the ElectroCraft team for dinner.
“One thing we’ve come to discover is that eBECS goes the extra mile, and this was our first glimpse of that,” says Arico. “The more we thought about Microsoft Dynamics AX in the context of an eBECS implementation, the more we liked the idea. Microsoft Dynamics AX appeared a better fit for our needs, and eBECS appeared a better fit for our culture.”
Accordingly, a global rollout began, with eBECS implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX first in ElectroCraft’s Ohio manufacturing facility, followed subsequently by implementations elsewhere in the United States, as well as Europe and—through an eBECS-recommended Chinese implementation partner—China.
It’s fair to say, sums up Arico, that not everything went smoothly.
“During the Ohio implementation, for instance, our internal team was overly focused on replicating the way that things worked in MANMAN, rather than on exploiting the more modern functionality of Microsoft Dynamics AX,” he relates. “While eBECS may have advised us against that course of action, I wish we had pushed back a little harder in the design phase against our resistance to change.”
On the other hand, he explains, the European and Chinese implementations were significant successes, utilising the strengths of Microsoft Dynamics AX to the full—rather than using it to try to replicate a legacy system—and the entire business has successfully migrated from the initial Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 release to the newer Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 release.
“Cultural fit,” says Arico, simply. “Their people go the extra mile to help, and they’ve worked with us as we’ve hit problems, staying on the case until the issues were fixed.”
It’s also worth noting, he adds, that eBECS at a corporate level has an excellent relationship with Microsoft, and is very willing to leverage that relationship in its customers’ interests.
“Microsoft is huge, and might just have shrugged and said, ‘Who’s ElectroCraft?’,” he points out. “We’ve been able to piggyback on eBECS’ close relationship with Microsoft, and have a better global ERP implementation as a result.”
But most of all, says Arico, it’s the eBECS people who have made the difference.
“They’re knowledgeable, professional, easy to work with, and operate as a team—globally as well as locally. And this turns out to be a mixture that’s harder to find than you’d think,” he sums up.
For ElectroCraft, the transformation achieved by a global rollout of Microsoft Dynamics AX has been enormous, explains Arico.
To begin with, it is truly global, with complete multi-language and multi-currency support—a huge step forward from the legacy systems that preceded it.
Plus, he adds, it’s also a single global instance, meaning that headquarters has complete visibility into the operations and financial accounts of other parts of the business. Again, this wasn’t possible before, and has permitted some useful centralisation.
Reporting, too, has been strengthened, with the whole business working to a set of standard metrics, built on the same definitions.
“We’re global company, and we’ve finally got an ERP system to match,” concludes Arico.