Performance is the priority
Team Software has only been a reseller of IBS's distribution software for a short time, but already it has landed one of Australia's largest wholesale companies as its first major local deal. ARN's Naomi Jackson finds out how they did it.
When Cork International, one of Australia's largest wholesale companies, chose IBS Software's Application SoftWare (ASW) supply chain package it helped that the company already had a previous relationship with the local reseller of the product.
But it was transactional capacity that set ASW apart from the other packages Cork's IT department had been evaluating over a two-year period.
"We were doing some network technical support for Cork at the time and the most significant thing they needed was very high volume transaction throughput, and as they weren't getting that from a lot of the other software they were evaluating, we suggested they should look at ASW," Tony Maher, managing director of IBS's Australian reseller, Team Software, told ARN. "Then they heard about a large Swiss pharmaceutical company who had done benchmark testing on a number of products through IBM and found that most, including SAP, only had a throughput of about 40,000 transactions per hour, while the IBS product was able to handle 75,000 transactions an hour.
"Once Cork heard about those transactional throughput facilities, they looked a lot more closely at IBS."
According to Maher, the secret to ASW's success is that it eliminates many of the functional overheads that slow other packages down.
"The most important part of the transaction throughput is not that any of the other products are poor in any way or that their throughput is low for any other reason except that most of them are [sophisticated] manufacturing-based products and therefore have those overheads," Maher said. Instead "ASW just has a production control module that caters for small-to-medium manufacturing companies - we call them assemblers - that have fairly simple manufacturing requirements.
"A lot of Australian companies import and assemble rather than import and fully manufacture so it makes the product suitable for the local market."
Cork's IT manager, George Kinsella, agreed with Maher's assessment. "After extensive research, we found ASW met Australian wholesale distribution needs best," he said. "Most of the other software seemed to be designed for manufacturing with overheads that wholesale, distribution and assembly-type companies simply don't need."
Focusing on requirements
ASW instead focuses on the requirements of companies like Cork who operate in the wholesale distribution and light manufacturing market.
Its core application is sales order processing - with inventory control, warehouse management and a fully integrated financials package also available - which makes it ideal for Cork, who distribute many of Australia's best-known brands in the personal care market.
Going forward, Maher anticipates demand for core function, high-throughput products like ASW will multiply.
"A lot of people interpret transactions simply as order lines, but it's much more than that because as companies move out to the Internet and system demands increase, the future will hold so many more transactions in it for everybody than those that are currently being processed," he said.
ASW is currently being rolled out to about 75 users across Cork's Australian operations, as part of a project worth an estimated $800,000.
Running on the IBM AS/400 platform, the package is being integrated with a new electronic-commerce solution being adopted in parallel.
Cork is Team Software's first major deal with an Australian-based company, after it became the local reseller for IBS last year.
A new solution
Team Software and its Melbourne-based partner Network 400 were previously resellers for the AS/400-based IMAS solution. But in the wake of IBM's decision last year to no longer develop the product, both companies were forced to look for a new solution to centre their businesses on.
After searching the IBM database without success, Maher and his colleagues began checking international magazines in the distribution field.
"That search happened to coincide with IBS making a big attack on the US market and that was where we first learnt about ASW," Maher said. "We couldn't believe that it wasn't being supported by anyone in Australia at that time so we approached IBS."
After IBS checked a number of Team Software's customer sites and got a reference from IBM, it awarded local reseller agreements to both Team Software and Network 400.
But despite their delight, it meant a lot of hard work for the resellers.
"All the IT people talk from a great height about re-engineering and we had to do a fair bit of that sort of thing ourselves because the ASW package was substantially more comprehensive than IMAS ever was," Maher claims.
"We decided that if IBS already had 2800 sites worldwide, the best clients we could get and the easiest would be those we could get from that base," Maher said. "So we got deals with companies like Miele and United Paper Mills (UPM) first, because we felt if we could get a few installations from international sales it would be much easier for us to learn what we were doing."
IBS representatives from overseas assisted Team Software and Network 400 with these initial implementations and, together with product training in Singapore and Sweden, the resellers developed its ASW skills.
Team Software, in conjunction with Network 400, was then sufficiently experienced to be able to handle the Cork project themselves.
Scheduled for completion in January 1999, the full ASW installation at Cork will take less than eight months to implement if the deadline is met.
Maher said Team Software and Network 400 have a number of other projects due to start by the end of the year. The two resellers, whose combined workforce currently totals about 40, also plan to double their headcount over the next couple of years, with new agencies in Brisbane, Adelaide and New Zealand expected to fuel that growth.