Project success isn't about generalities like "cloud is more efficient." I was reminded of that while talking to Allan Elliott, IT Manager at Belgotex Floors, about their supply chain project. In South Africa, cloud has plenty of impediments, not the least of which is lack of localized data centers. Constraints of one kind or another are a given in IT; the art of a winning project is achieving results within them.
At Inforum 2017, Infor's annual user conference, I was amongst several scribes that sat down with Elliott and Heilet Scholtz, BU Executive Infor Sales at Softworx, Belgotex's implementation partner, to learn the keys behind their Infor M3 initiatives - and how their predictive supply chain is coming together.
Belgotex Floors bills itself as "the leading soft flooring manufacturer in Africa." That means offering over 48 different indoor/outdoor flooring options. They are the largest carpet manufacturer in the southern hemisphere, and part of the Belgotex International Group of companies, comprised of seven companies on five continents. That kind of volume and variety leads to supply chain complexity spreadsheets can't handle - which is how Infor enters the picture.
Getting to a 98 percent "in stock" success rate
Belgotex Floors now runs a slew of Infor products, but as Elliott told us, it all started with their needs in supply chain management:
Because of the diverse nature of our products, we've got approximately 1,800 SKUs. It was becoming problematic to constantly monitor forecasting, making sure we had the correct stock at the correct time on manual Excel spreadsheets, etc. So we went out to marketplace, we narrowed it down, and Infor came out tops on the process.
Supply chain management was a good start, but it also brought demand planning issues to light:
As I likened it for our set of directors when I came back from Inforum 2014 in New Orleans, I said to them, "That's fantastic, guys. We've got this great product that tells us what to manufacture, when to manufacture, but we have a Rolls Royce of a carriage being pulled by a donkey because no one could look at what the forecast was going to be.
Cue another trip to the marketplace, resulting in the selection of Infor M3 Demand Planner. That did the trick. Within two months of go-live, Elliott cited an "approximately 98 percent success rate of having all our products in stock at the right time, with an eight percent reduction in overall stock holding valuation. So, it was an immediate success."
M3 Demand Planner also aided Belgotex Floors with seasonal fluctuations:
It takes into account all seasonality, trends, and it's fantastic about getting your highs and lows from your extraordinary orders.
Demand Planner went live early in 2015. "Immediate success" is not a term you hear often in our world, so we asked Elliott for more:
One of our sales directors made a very interesting comment. He said, "I have no idea what you're doing differently, just keep on doing it." So it was a success. The product paid for itself I think in two months.
Change management tips - "It did every single thing they wanted"
But not all of the salespeople have found the transition easy. As Elliott told us, there is a big difference between hitting your forecast versus assuming the entire range of carpets is in stock:
It's been an interesting change philosophy for them. What used to happen was we would have to go and manufacture everything. There was a whole thing of, "You must always have every product in stock." We finally got them to realize that for a sales person, if you're going to go out and say your forecast is that, then go out and sell your forecast.
The entire remuneration side for the sales force actually changed after this. They now get incentivized on the accuracy of their forecast.
So what's the biggest challenge in leading edge projects? Change management. After the first few Infor products, Elliott added more educational sessions. "You want to be leading edge, not bleeding edge," added Scholtz. One of Elliott's best tips: interact with users on the job. Go to where they are:
I'll give you a classic example. As I said, we've just launched the CLM (Customer Lifecycle Management) component. I did a road trip a year ago just to go and explain to all our sales reps what was coming... When I asked the question, "So where do you write down your notes?" One person proudly said, "It was a Croxley A4 lined punched paper." They were very specific on where they used to write their notes.
So, we've now gone round again. to show them what the product looks like, and they were just like, "Wow." It did every single thing that they wanted. So they can't come back now and argue.
The wrap - on cloud, sustainability, and the predictive future
I couldn't help but wonder: has Infor come knocking to talk cloud? Yes, they have - but Elliott has ruled it out for now. Slow Internet speeds and connectivity are one big obstacle:
Connectivity is always going to be even a bigger challenge. We won't move to the cloud as yet, purely because we have one manufacturing site where 95 percent of the staff are based. If we moved it all up into to cloud and the lines went down, 95 percent goes down. Whereas only five percent would stay up. So, cloud would not work for us just yet.
As his country's infrastructure improves, Elliott will revisit the cloud issue. For now, he's focused on tying systems together. The CLM solution they've now implemented for their salespeople will help with predicting customer needs once it's tied into the supply chain side:
[CLM] has got an opportunity section on it, so it will feed back into the demand planner, which will then feed back into the SCM product.
Sustainability is another big theme for Belgotex Floors. They are the first manufacturing company in South Africa to be awarded the six star green building rating for manufacturing. They have the largest solar installation on one roof, and they are looking to expand it. The expansion will bring them to 2.5 megawatts, which will account for almost fifty percent of their sustainability needs. Recycled materials also play a big role.
Now that they've moved their legacy financial system onto M3 also, Scholtz has been trying to get Elliott to present at Inforum. But he's not quite ready:
It's slowly starting to come together. Heilet was harassing me this year to come her and speak, but I said to her, "Let's rather wait til next year. Then we'll see all the products all come together."
Even though she didn't succeed in luring Elliott to present at Inforum this year, Scholtz believes these events have huge value for customers:
It's actually great to bring customers to events like these because it triggers what's available. Sometimes we get so bogged down in our day to day lives that we don't have the luxury to sit down and innovate in office, because we just have to catch up too much. I think this is exactly the place where we can use our imagination in terms of what would be good for our business moving forward to make us all productive, and to stay relevant in the future.